by Barb Ernster –
Editor’s Note: Portions of this article are taken from Sign of Her Heart by John M. Haffert.
The family is the foundation of society. As no chain is stronger than its links, society is no stronger than the permanent unity of the families of which it is composed. Every irreligious force in the world that seeks to destroy society directs its attacks against the Christian home.
Our present society, with its high degree of civilization, is the result of the value of the family having been proclaimed at Nazareth. Before Nazareth, the family was almost universally barbaric: woman was a slave and the life of the child was at the disposition of the father. As a result, society was barbaric. However, God — obedient to a human father and a human mother at Nazareth — changed the status of woman and raised the family to its proper place of glory. The moral conquests of the Church, which then rose out of Nazareth were conquests for a firm family and they brought forth a strong society.
Today the Christian family totters, largely from decades of godless, anti-life/family ideologies, relativism and other forces pressing against it. Thousands of divorces rend the bonds of matrimony and defile the sacredness of the home — the domestic church. Many children find themselves bewildered by having parents other than those who begot them. Some must try to understand a home with two mothers or two fathers. Stories of immigrants and refugees fleeing their countries abound; many of the parents find themselves in situations so desperate, they hand their children to strangers across borders and barriers in hopes they will grow up in a better world. The pro-abortion mentality leaves many women feeling hopeless in the face of an unplanned pregnancy and hard-pressed into getting rid of the evidence — the “Scarlet Letter” of our times. The father figure has been denigrated and mocked in media and entertainment, weakening his resolve to embrace his God-given vocation.
ST. JOSEPH — A MAN FOR OUR TIMES
The 2021 Year of St. Joseph was a bright light in this dark environment, a beacon of hope for gaining some serious help from heaven. Many people have reflected this year on the meaning of St. Joseph’s appearance at Fatima during the Oct. 13, 1917, miracle of the sun.
The timing of his appearance there is not inconsequential. Just days after the miracle, the Bolshevik Revolution occurred in Russia and thus began the destruction of the family under atheistic Communism that has spread significantly, even to our own country. The destruction began at the top with the head of the family — the father.
Satan knows the strength of the domestic Church and he knows that “no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man.” (Mk 3:27) He has been successful in binding many a strong man and plundering the family.
The vision of the Holy Family during the miracle reinforces the importance of St. Joseph in the family at Nazareth, especially to Mary who stands by his side. He is the man God called father — the father of His only begotten Son. St. Joseph and the Child Jesus blessed the crowds, imparting graces that were desperately needed in the world, which was about to undergo an unprecedented time of evil.
In the Litany of St. Joseph, we acclaim St. Joseph as Spouse of the Mother of God, Guardian of the Virgin, Foster-Father of the Son of God, Head of the Holy Family, Pillar of Families and Protector of the Holy Church. He is faithful, prudent, chaste, obedient and just, all virtues that every father needs to fulfill his God-given mission on earth.
Pope Francis added seven new invocations to the litany during the Year of St. Joseph: Guardian of the Redeemer, Servant of Christ, Minister of salvation, Support in difficulties, Patron of exiles, Patron of afflicted and Patron of the poor.
These reflect the modern papal text about St. Joseph, namely Pope Francis’ apostolic letter Patris corde (2020) and St. John Paul II’s 1989 apostolic exhortation Redemptoris Custos (Protector of the Redeemer). They serve as encouragement for the faithful to seek St. Joseph’s intercession, imitate his virtues and adopt his zeal in our times.
THE UNIVERSAL CRY FOR NAZARETH
From his appearance at Fatima and his prominent role in Church history through this Year of St. Joseph, Joseph invites us back to Nazareth. During his years at Nazareth Jesus filled the heart of St. Joseph with a more tender love than has ever been felt by any created father before or since, “not only that Joseph might love Him as a Son, but that he might love all men as his sons, for we are all the children of Mary, so also is Joseph our father.” (Father R.P. Huguet, The Power of St. Joseph)
If Joseph was so close to Mary on that journey to Bethlehem; at the birth of the Savior in a cattle shelter; at the Presentation; in their flight to Egypt and during the three-day loss and finding of the Child in the Temple when Jesus went back to Nazareth and was subject to him; then can we possibly believe he is not with Mary now, when the world needs his guidance and protection the most.
He is here among us to help us rebuild family and lead our civilization back to right order with God. He is here to remind us that we are made beautifully in God’s image as male and female, equal and complimentary as he and Mary demonstrated in their earthly lives centered on marriage and family.
Our Lady of Fatima reminds us powerfully that she desires St. Joseph by her side always and especially in these desperate times. He is still the protector, guardian and head of her family, and with him, she will usher in the triumph of her Immaculate Heart. She will not do it without him!
Back to Nazareth is and must be our cry, where God Himself — under Mary and Joseph — set an example to the world. We can acquire the force to come forth over the entire world to defend our Christian families with the arms of humility, prayer, chastity and fidelity.
Barb Ernster is Communications Manager and Editor for the World Apostolate of Fatima, USA. She wrote this article for the Fall 2021 issue of Soul Magazine.