Be like St. Joseph, the strong silent type

Julie Filby

Men described as the strong silent type have a role model in St. Joseph, sometimes referred to as “Joseph the Silent.”

“The Gospels tell us very little about St. Joseph and that little in very few words,” wrote French Dominican priest and Scripture scholar, Father Michel Gasnier, in his book titled “Joseph the Silent.”

“Suddenly he appears. Nothing has been said of his birth, his early life. His death is not mentioned,” Father Gasnier wrote. “No words of his are recorded.”

It would be a mistake, however, to measure the greatness of the role Jesus’ earthly father played in salvation history “by the few allusions made to him in the New Testament,” he clarified.

“All the evangelical perfections, admirably balanced” are found in St. Joseph.

Paul Winkler, husband, father of four and founder of Attollo, an apostolate that develops Catholic business leaders in the faith, sees the strong quiet leadership of St. Joseph in many of the principles he teaches.

Adjust to setbacks
St. Joseph readily accepted variables that threw off his original plan.

“Can you imagine the day before Mary got back?” Winkler said, reflecting on the Blessed Mother’s return from visiting her cousin Elizabeth. “He’s in love, he’s happily making a new home in anticipation of Mary coming back, he’s making furniture (and thinking) ‘This is the best thing ever.’”

Then when she arrives home, he realizes she’s pregnant.

“OK, now he needed to adjust the plan,” Winkler said, a concept he teaches Attollo participants.

As relayed in the Gospel of Matthew, Joseph adjusted by resolving to divorce Mary quietly. Then an angel appeared and told him, “do not fear to take Mary your wife.”

He asked no questions, it was enough that his help had been asked, Father Gasnier wrote.

“The angel opened up his mind in a dream that this was all part of the big plan, part of God’s plan,” Winkler said, “and he accepted it, he adjusted his plan (again).”

“What you see in St. Joseph is complete obedience,” he said, “and a love of God and a love for his spouse.”

Provide and protect
Joseph, as a new husband and adoptive father to Jesus, embraced his role as head of the household.

“St. Joseph was the leader of his family,” said Winkler, also an adoptive father. “He had to learn how to lead.”

When the angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to flee to Egypt and “remain there till I tell you” to escape Herod, “he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt” (Mt 2: 13-15).

“(He must have been thinking) my mother-in law’s going to kill me. I’m taking Mary to Egypt, that at the time was a pretty nasty place, fraught with dangers along the way,” Winkler said. “But one, he listened to God, and two, he trusted in the Lord.”

He always listened, always obeyed, Father Gasnier wrote.

“He did not know where God would lead him; it was enough that God knew,” he shared. “He did not argue; he did not look back; he did not object; he did not ask for explanation.”

The Blessed Mother understood his role as well.

“She trusted in the Lord,” Winkler said, “and trusted in her husband to provide and protect her.”

Walk the walk
St. Joseph’s actions showed his character and strength as a humble leader.

In all the strange situations God placed him in, he remained calm and silent, according to Father Gasnier.

“He knew the Father had confided a secret in trust to him…,” he wrote. “He did not want anyone who saw him to think him other than a simple workman trying to earn his daily bread.”

That fidelity and humility is a model for Christian men.

“The universal vocation—to know, love and serve God—and the primary vocation of marriage, and even his secondary vocation from 9 to 5 as a carpenter, he did them all perfectly,” Winkler said.

“What a great man to emulate,” he added. “It’s a brave thing to want to be like St. Joseph.”

> St. Joseph
The month of March is dedicated to St. Joseph | Solemnity: March 19
Patronage: universal Church, families, fathers, expectant women, workers, craftsmen, happy death, travelers, immigrants, house sellers and buyers

> Novena to St. Joseph
March 11-March 19 | www.ewtn.com/Devotionals/novena/joseph.htm

“I do not remember ever having asked anything of St. Joseph that he did not grant me, nor can I think without wonder of the graces God has given me through his intercession, nor of the dangers of soul or body from which he has delivered me.” —St. Teresa of Avila

> Ministries for men

That Man Is You | Addresses pressures men face in modern culture
In 30 parishes in the Archdiocese of Denver, find one here

Knights of Columbus  | Men’s fraternal and charitable organization
Get more information here

Attollo (men and women) | Business leadership development
Apply for the program here

Families of Character (parents) | Small group discussion to build virtues in families
Order a free trial here

COMING UP: Navigating major cultural challenges

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We’re navigating through a true rock and a hard place right now: moral relativism and the oversaturation of technology. In fact, they are related. Moral relativism leaves us without a compass to discern the proper use of technology. And technological oversaturation leads to a decreased ability to think clearly about what matters most and how to achieve it.

Fortunately, we have some Odysseus-like heroes to guide our navigation. Edward Sri’s book Who Am I to Judge?: Responding to Relativism with Logic and Love (Augustine Institute, 2017) provides a practical guide for thinking through the moral life and how to communicate to others the truth in love. Christopher Blum and Joshua Hochschild take on the second challenge with their book A Mind at Peace: Reclaiming an Ordered Soul in the Age of Distraction (Sophia, 2017).

Sri’s book describes conversations that have become quite common. When discussing moral issues, we hear too often, “this is true for me,” “I feel this is right,” or “who am I to judge?” We are losing our ability both to think about and discuss moral problems in a coherent fashion. Morality has become an expression of individual and subjective feeling, rather than clear reasoning based on the truth. In fact, many, or even most, young people would say there is no clear truth when it comes to morality—the very definition of relativism.

Beyond this inability to reason clearly, Christians also face pressure to remain silent in the face of immoral action, shamed into a corner with the label of bigotry. In response to our moral crisis, Sri encourages us to learn more about our own great tradition of morality focused on virtue and happiness. He also provides excellent guidance on how to engage others in a loving conversation to help them consider that our actions relate not only to our own fulfillment, but to our relationships with others.

Sri points out that it’s hard to “win” an argument with relativists, because “relativistic tendencies are rooted in various assumptions they have absorbed from the culture an in habits of thinking and living they have formed over a lifetime” (13). Rather than “winning,” Sri advises us to accompany others through moral and spiritual growth with seven keys, described in the second half of the book. These keys help us to see others through the heart of Christ, with mercy, and to reframe discussions about morality, turning more toward love and addressing underlying wounds. Ultimately, he asks us, “will you be Jesus?” to those struggling with relativism. (155).

Blum and Hochschild’s book complements Sri’s by focusing on the virtues we need to address our cultural challenges. They point to another common concern we all face: a “crisis of attention” as our minds wander, preoccupied with social media (2). More positively, they encourage us to “be consoled” as “there are remedies” to help us “regain an ordered and peaceful mind, which thinks more clearly and attends more steadily” (ibid.). The path they point out can be found in a virtuous and ordered life guided by wisdom.

To achieve peace, we need virtues and other good habits, which create order within us. “With order, our attention is focused, directed, clear, trustworthy, and fruitful” (10). The book encourages us to rediscover fundamental realities of life, such as being attune to our senses and to aspire to higher and noble things. The authors, with the help of the saints, provide a guidebook to forming important dispositions to overcome the addiction and distraction that come with the omnipresence of media and technology.

The book’s chapters address topics such as self-awareness, steadfastness, resilience, watchfulness, creativity, purposefulness, and decisiveness.  These dispositions will create order in how we use our tools and within our inner faculties. They will help us to be more intentional in our action so that we do not succumb to passivity and distraction.  Overall, the book leads us to consider how we can rediscover simple and profound realities, such as a good conversation, periods of silence, and a rightly ordered imagination.

Both books help us to navigate our culture, equipping us to respond more intentionally to the interior and exterior challenges we face.