Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter, “Patris corde” (“With a Father’s Heart”), highlights the 150th anniversary of the declaration of Saint Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church. To mark the occasion, the Holy Father has proclaimed a “Year of Saint Joseph” from December 8, 2020 to December 8, 2021. I am delighted with that decision. (My middle name is “Joseph”!) In the current time with all our issues around race relations, a pandemic, and political divisions, St. Joseph can stand forth to teach us as a just man, as a worker and family man, as an obedient believer, and as a quiet person with an ability to listen. All these characteristics of Joseph have meaning and application in these days, but the last emerges as most important for me right now—he knew how to be quiet and to listen. . . .
In the first reading of this past weekend, we heard the story of Samuel and his call to ministry. He was sleeping in the Temple before the ark of the Lord. Remember how his prophetic call came about:
Samuel did not yet recognize the LORD, since the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. The LORD called Samuel again, for the third time. Getting up and going to Eli, he said, “Here I am. You called me.” Then Eli understood that the LORD was calling the youth. So he said to Samuel, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’” When Samuel went to sleep in his place, the LORD came and stood there, calling out as before: Samuel, Samuel! Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” (1 Sam 3:7-10)
The key rests in first recognizing the Lord’s voice, and then being willing to listen. Samuel hears the summons three time! When we do not expect the Lord to speak to us, then we do not recognize his voice when it resonates within us. We look to more familiar voices. We can get confused and sometimes attend to that inner voice which sounds a lot like our own will, or to that convincing voice which sounds like the easy way, or to that loud voice which sounds like authority. We must learn to discern the Lord’s voice.
In the current Apostolic letter, Pope Francis emphasizes the listening of Joseph as it leads to his obedience. I love this line:
In every situation, Joseph declared his own “fiat,” like those of Mary at the Annunciation and Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. (3).
Joseph’s “fiat,” his “Yes” to what God asks, takes flesh in following the instruction that comes from the Lord.
The earlier document of Pope John Paul II on Joseph (“Guardian of the Redeemer,” 1989) unveils the inner strength of Joseph’s actions:
The same aura of silence that envelops everything else about Joseph also shrouds his work as a carpenter of Nazareth. It is, however, a silence that reveals in a special way the inner portrait of the man. The Gospels speak exclusively about what Joseph “did.” Still, they allow us to discover in his “actions”—shrouded in silence as they are—an aura of deep contemplation. (25)
As I said, the quiet and listening in St. Joseph that leads to action are very attractive to me at this difficult time. I would like to allow him to be a stronger motivator of those attitudes in my life. I can hear Joseph echoing the words of Samuel; I pray that through his intercession they can also be my response to the Lord’s call. “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”