By Henry Walker
On Oct. 13, 1917, St. Joseph appeared to the three seers of Fatima. Holding the child Jesus in his arms, he proceeded to bless the world, in — what I hold — to be one of the most significant events that happened during those awesome apparitions.
Despite the clear significance, this aspect of the message has largely been somewhat cast aside and rarely expounded upon. Saint Joseph, in particular, blessed the world in this instance, not the Blessed Virgin, not even Christ Himself, but St. Joseph. A deeper look at this blessing may be needed if we are to unpack the message that God was trying to convey to the world.
It is clear that since these apparitions, the Catholic Church has been attacked with a new intensity and malice from all angles, as was predicted.
In 1870, Pope Pius IX proclaimed St. Joseph as the "Patron of the Universal Church." God knew that His Church was about to enter into a grievous period, a crisis and perhaps Her gruesome passion. Therefore, the Pope, moved by the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, unveiled once and for all the role of this glorious saint in the life of the Church.
This was our cue: Ite Ad Ioseph! The Holy Spirit seemed to urge us forward: "Go to Joseph!" We were being primed for action with the announcement of this patronage, we were being encouraged to seek refuge under the mantle of this glorious saint.
Maybe we did not get the message. I say this because a fiery devotion to the Pure Heart of St. Joseph does not seem to have been greatly kindled in that this devotion is not yet seen as necessary, as one second only to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Of course, no other created being should be venerated as much as Her, for She is the Queen of Heaven and of Earth.
Thus the term hyperdulia is applied to Mary and to Mary alone. The other saints are given dulia, meaning they are justly venerated. But what about St. Joseph? Protodulia is the term applied to him, meaning that his veneration is first among all the saints.
"What about Padre Pio?" some might ask, and yes, St. Joseph is venerated even above this awesome saint of the modern era.
"Everyone must know," says St. Alphonsus Liguori, "that, after the Mother of God, St. Joseph is, of all the saints, the one dearest to God. He has, therefore, great power with Him and can obtain graces for His devout clients."
This came as a great surprise to me when I first heard it. I had never imagined this humble carpenter as being the second-most beloved creature to God, the second out of all men and angels in closeness to the Divine.
A more ancient source, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, confirms this point: "The Lord has arrayed Joseph, like with a sun, in all which the saints possess together in regard to light and splendor."
I had a difficult time reconciling this idea with my conception of St. Joseph as a silent saint with no grand miracle or martyrdom to his name. He is to many an easily forgotten saint; and perhaps in Heaven, he is very happy with this fact? I'm sure he would only wish for his beloved Jesus and Mary to occupy the limelight, but the time might have come for his own exalted role to be brought evermore to the forefront.
Once I began to think of the magnitude of what St. Joseph was called to, a new grandeur emerged like a mountain under his feet. He was the descendant of King David, of a royal lineage, yet he lived humbly as a peasant and even considered himself the lowest of all men. When the appointed time came, he headed to the temple with the other descendants of David in order that the most venerable temple Virgin may find Her spouse. God was to decide, and God picked Joseph.
Each potential suitor held their rod. One might imagine these royal personages adorned in the finest raiment, and there stands Joseph: simple, silent and unassuming — perhaps at the back of the bunch with his eyes cast down.
According to one rendering of the event: All of a sudden his rod bursts forth with a beautiful lilies, a shock even to himself. His humility wouldn't have believed it. Maybe this is why the singular sign did not suffice? Or maybe the meager appearance of Joseph made the others doubt?
Because it is said that in addition to this sign, God sent a dove which perched upon the head of Joseph, causing all present to marvel. It was settled; Mary was joined with Joseph. The holy couple was formed, the couple that would usher in the savior. Joseph was deemed worthy of being the spouse of the Immaculate Conception.
Not only this, St. Joseph was plucked out of all men to be the foster father of the Son of God, truly occupying the place of the Almighty Father on earth. He even shared the spouse of the Holy Spirit, being joined to Our Lady. What an unequaled honor! To hold Jesus in his hands, to watch him grow and be the sole provider and protector of two vulnerable persons of unspeakable dignity.
Fatima warned us of the dangers which the world would be exposed to. Saint Joseph proceeded to bless the world. These two events must be linked together and devotion to this saint should be implemented as the divinely appointed remedy. Invoking St. Joseph after the Blessed Virgin in our prayers, urging him to protect and renew the Church and therefore bless the whole world.