19 March 2009

The Silence of Saint Joseph

During an Angelus speech given by Pope Benedict XVI back in December of 2005, our Holy Father spoke on the silence of Saint Joseph by saying: “His silence is steeped in contemplation of the mystery of God in an attitude of total availability to the divine desires. In other words, Saint Joseph's silence does not express an inner emptiness but, on the contrary, the fullness of the faith he bears in his heart and which guides his every thought and action. It is a silence thanks to which Joseph, in unison with Mary, watches over the Word of God, known through the Sacred Scriptures, continuously comparing it with the events of the life of Jesus; a silence woven of constant prayer, a prayer of blessing of the Lord, of the adoration of His holy will and of unreserved entrustment to His providence. It is no exaggeration to think that it was precisely from His ‘father’ Joseph that Jesus learned -- at the human level -- that steadfast interiority which is a presupposition of authentic justice, the ‘superior justice’ which He was one day to teach His disciples” (cf. Matthew 5: 20). The Holy Father concluded this Angelus by saying: “Let us allow ourselves to be ‘filled’ with Saint Joseph's silence! In a world that is often too noisy, that encourages neither recollection nor listening to God's Voice, we are in such deep need of it… let us cultivate inner recollection in order to welcome and cherish Jesus in our own lives.”

In the Apostolic Exhortation titled, “Redemptoris Custos,” Pope John Paul II writes: “The same aura of silence that envelops everything else about Joseph also shrouds his work as a carpenter in the house of Nazareth. It is, however, a silence that reveals in a special way the inner portrait of the man. The Gospels speak exclusively of what Joseph ‘did.’ Still, they allow us to discover in his ‘actions’ — shrouded in silence as they are — an aura of deep contemplation. This explains, for example, why St. Teresa of Jesus, the great reformer of the Carmelites, promoted the renewal of veneration to Saint Joseph in Western Christianity. The total sacrifice, whereby Joseph surrendered his whole existence to the demands of the Messiah's coming into his home, becomes understandable only in the light of his profound interior life. It was from this interior life that very singular commands and consolations came, bringing him also the logic and strength that belong to simple and clear souls, and giving him the power of making great decisions — such as the decision to put his liberty immediately at the disposition of the divine designs, to make over to them also his legitimate human calling, his conjugal happiness, to accept the conditions, the responsibility and the burden of a family, but, through an incomparable virginal love, to renounce that natural conjugal love that is the foundation and nourishment of the family. This submission to God, this readiness of will to dedicate oneself to all that serves Him, is really nothing less than that exercise of devotion which constitutes one expression of the virtue of religion. Furthermore, in Joseph, the apparent tension between the active and the contemplative life finds an ideal harmony that is only possible for those who possess the perfection of charity. Following Saint Augustine's well-known distinction between the love of the truth (caritas veritatis) and the practical demands of love (necessitas caritatis), we can say that Joseph experienced both love of the truth — that pure contemplative love of the divine Truth which radiated from the humanity of Christ — and the demands of love — that equally pure and selfless love required for his vocation to safeguard and develop the humanity of Jesus, which was inseparably linked to his divinity.”

In Saint Joseph we find the fulfillment of John the Baptist’s words: “He [Jesus] must increase, I must decrease” (John 3:30). And perhaps Saint Joseph already understood the words our Lord revealed to Saint Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Remember that all the beautiful words found in Sacred Scripture from cover to cover, not one of them was spoken by Saint Joseph. And considering all the sufferings in Joseph’s life as told by the Gospels, his silence proclaims more eloquently his trust and faith in God than any words ever could.