This particular novena dedicated to St Joseph, which this year bears a special importance since it is dedicated to him, initiates with a very powerful reflection on his silence. But why Joseph’s silence is so powerful and very attractive to us?
Recently I have been having the joy of reading Cardinal Robert Sarah’s book, The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise. In a very telling quote he says: Words often bring with them the illusion of transparency, as though they allowed us to understand everything, control everything, put everything in order. Modernity is talkative because it is proud, unless the converse is true. Is our incessant talking perhaps what makes us proud? Joseph’s life is diametrically opposite to this. In fact, his entire life is one wherein the illusion of transparency is completely absent. Joseph’s life is a perfect example of a life wherein everything is put in a splendid order of grace. The Gospel always extols his virtue of obedience. When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus (Matt 1:24-25). In another instance, we find: And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt (Mt 2:14).
Joseph wakes up from his sleep and does what he is commanded to do by the Lord’s angel precisely because he listens. Thanks to his attentive listening Joseph executes with great detail and precision God’s will. Even if this will requires him to wake up from the night and, with Jesus and Mary, become a refugee in a foreign land in the middle of the night. How far does Joseph’s obedience take him!
That is why Mother Church entrusts herself into his most caring patronage. She is confidently sure that as he took great care of the two greatest treasures that world history has ever known, Jesus and Mary, likewise he would nowadays take care of Christ’s mystical Body, the Church. Here is the famous prayer of Pope Leo XIII dedicated to St Joseph:
To you, O Blessed Joseph, O most watchful guardian of the Holy Family
To you, O blessed Joseph, do we come in our tribulation, and having implored the help of your Most Holy Spouse, we confidently invoke your patronage also.
Through that charity which bound you to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God and through the paternal love with which you embraced the Child Jesus, we humbly beg you graciously to regard the inheritance which Jesus Christ has purchased by his Blood, and with your power and strength to aid us in our necessities.
O most watchful guardian of the Holy Family – defend the chosen children of Jesus Christ; O most loving father, ward off from us every contagion of error and corrupting influence; O our most mighty protector, be kind to us and from heaven assist us in our struggle with the power of darkness.
As once you rescued the Child Jesus from deadly peril, so now protect God’s Holy Church from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity; shield, too, each one of us by your constant protection, so that, supported by your example and your aid, we may be able to live piously, to die in holiness, and to obtain eternal happiness in heaven. Amen.
Joseph teaches us to be people of contemplation. He managed to savour God’s mystery simply because he was subject to Christ’s will. In a certain sense, Joseph’s life magnificently echoed the prayer of abandonment written by Blessed Charles de Faocauld. Joseph’s holy life is a living and persuasive icon of full trust and surrender into the hands of Our loving Father in Heaven. In every word and action the Light of the Patriarchs sang to the Lord Most High:
I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to you
with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.
Joseph was able to live this prayer because he made room for God in his life. Thus, his silence is full of meaning! His silence is active and gives its attention to small gestures of love which transform and create communion! His silence, motivated by great care for God and for Jesus and Mary, made Joseph a man of continuous prayer. His contact with God had no time but beautifully spread throughout his whole days. How beautiful is the meditation which Pope Emeritus Benedict XI gave us on the Head of the Holy Family in his Angelus address of December 18, 2005:
Saint Joseph’s silence is a silence full of contemplation of God’s mystery, being entirely subject to God’s will. In other words, St 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; silence, woven from constant prayer, prayer of blessing from the Lord, worship of His holy will and unconditional trust in His providence. Let us allow ourselves to be “infected” by the silence of St Joseph! We have much need of it in a world which is often too noisy, which does not encourage reflection and listening to the voice of God. (…) Let us give priority to inner recollection so we may let Jesus come and stay in our life.
St Joseph, the responsible spouse and father, is of a great solace and support to different people in our society and the Church too. His holy example is of huge strength to those who are leaders; to scientists; entrepreneurs and workers; to the Church, her ministers and consecrated people; families; the elderly; the poor and the suffering; the sick and to those who suffer from every sort of pandemic. Pope Francis’ prayer marvelously portrays these aspects of St Joseph’s loving protection.
Protect, O Holy Guardian, this our nation.
Enlighten those responsible for the common good, so that they might know — like you do —how to care for those entrusted to their responsibility.
Grant intelligence of knowledge to those seeking adequate means for the health and physical well-being of their brothers.
Sustain those who are spending themselves for those in need, even at the cost of their own safety: volunteers, nurses, doctors who are on the front lines in curing the sick.
Bless, O St Joseph, the Church: beginning with her ministers, make her the sign and instrument of your light and your goodness.
Accompany, O St Joseph, our families: with your prayerful silence, create harmony between parents and their children, in a special way with the youngest.
Preserve the elderly from loneliness: grant that no one might be left in desperation from abandonment and discouragement.
Comfort those who are the frailest, encourage those who falter, intercede for the poor.
With the Virgin Mother, beg the Lord to liberate the world from every form of pandemic. Amen.
Let us appreciate St Joseph’s silence thanks to the beautiful words written on the Diligent protector of Christ by Cardinal Pius:
The veil over the name and the force of the Venerable Joseph in the early Christian ages appears as an extension of the silence in which he enveloped his mortal life; it’s an extension of this hidden life, the splendor of which should have amazed the minds and hearts of believers even more, as the revelation hasn’t taken place for a long time.
As a conclusion to these simple reflections on the Chaste Guardian of the Virgin you will agree with me in seeing the beautiful and salutary holy custom of memorizing Joseph’s silence, and adopting it as our lifestyle and then generously sharing it with others in the way we deal with them! Saint Joseph, spouse of the Virgin Mary, pray for us. Saint Joseph, protector of the Holy Church, pray for us.
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap