What does the convergence of the feast of St. Joseph and the Thursday in the third week of Lent have to do with Fatima, much less the novel coronavirus pandemic we are currently undergoing? Quite a bit!
Today, Thursday in the third week of Lent, is called "mid-Lent Thursday." As the name suggests, it is exactly the middle of Lent for the Roman Church. Traditionally, it's a day of rejoicing (although the official day of rejoicing was moved to this coming Sunday). What's interesting about this year is that it coincides with the Feast of St. Joseph, a big day of rejoicing indeed! For our parish at least, we are dispensed from all fasting and abstinence, and a big party with St. Joseph's Altar is custom (obviously this is not happening as normal this year). Even in places where fasting is not dispensed, the St. Joseph's altar and celebration are common, only it's filled with meatless dishes (pastas, bread—it's an old Sicilian tradition). So, the first connection with St. Joseph's feast and mid-week Lent converging: rejoicing!
However, there is more. On mid-week Lent, the station of the Church in Rome (there is a different one each day) is Ss. Cosmas and Damian, two physician martyrs. For a while, it was commonly believed that the Church chose this station because today she offers up her prayers not only for her children's souls, but their physical bodies as well, by invoking the protection of these martyrs. A lot of that has to do with already spending 20 days in fasting and abstinence—with 20 more to go—and how that weakens the body. Although we don't know if this is the reason, we are taught not to reject this possible motive, and the Gospel itself seems to support it. Taken from Luke 4, it is all about our Lord healing the diseases of the people, one by one.
The interesting thing about this converging with the feast of St. Joseph during a global pandemic relates to Fatima. If you remember, St. Joseph blessed the world three times on the day of the miracle of the sun. We are told later by St. Jacinta that, although this blessing was extremely efficacious, and saved the world from an even worse fate, if the government had not kidnapped the three children, this blessing alone would have stopped World War I (but as punishment for the cruelty to the children it didn't). What would have also most likely stopped had World War I not happened? The Spanish flu! The Spanish flu has a big Fatima connection already because of when it happened (it either started in 1917 or 1918) and because that's how Ss. Jacinta and Francesco died (interestingly, during the account of St. Joseph's blessing and the other events of that day, at one point just the two of them were bathed in light, not Lucia). This suggests that God wanted to save the world from all of the coming carnage (I would lump Spanish flu deaths into the WWI carnage, though that could be debated) through St. Joseph and in particular his blessing.
I am amazed that the Church gives us a day where she always prays for the bodily health of her people that falls right smack in the middle of a global pandemic, and that this is the year it falls on the feast of St. Joseph. It is almost like the Church is asking us to turn to his powerful intercession, in general, but also for protection and deliverance from this pestilence. It is certainly something amazing to think about either way!
Maybe we could pray that he will bless the world again, and this time avert the just wrath of God and deliver us from the global pandemic (or whatever disruptive economic/social consequences that could be coming as a result)? I'd love to hear what you think—am I making too much of this connection? Is there more there? Either way—
St. Joseph, Terror of Demons, ora pro nobis!