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: Searching for wisdom in a confused world

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Jordan Peterson became an overnight celebrity with the success of his book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (Random House, 2018). A viral interview from January of this year with Kathy Newman of England’s Channel 4 News brought immediate attention to Peterson’s newly released book, which has sold over two million copies since its release. The interview proved emblematic of Peterson’s popularity for attempting to retrieve common sense and to push back against the ideology overtaking our society.

Why has Peterson proved to be so popular?  A clinical psychologist, who teaches psychology at the University of Toronto, Peterson addresses issues that people care about: finding meaning, relationships, parenting, and gender, to name a few. People are looking for a guide, they desire wisdom — knowing how to order and make sense of reality — and Peterson has offered some needed insights. He tells his readers, “Don’t underestimate the power of vision and direction. These are irresistible forces, able to transform what might appear to be unconquerable obstacles into traversable pathways and expanding opportunities. Strengthen the individual. Start with yourself. Take care with yourself. Define who you are. Refine your personality. Choose your destination and articulate your Being” (63).

This quote illuminates both the allure of Peterson’s writing, helping people to seek definition for their lives, but also its limits, as the definition of self he recommends lacks mooring. Writing from the viewpoint of secular psychology, Peterson can help us to reflect, but his 12 Rules for Life can come across as sophisticated self-help devoid of deeper wisdom. He engages the Western tradition, including the Bible, and offers a fresh, but ultimately unsatisfying, reflection of the stories that define our tradition. He does bring needed common sense, such as “stop doing what you know to be wrong,” (which should not even need to be said) but fails to provide answers to the ultimate questions that define meaning and identity (157).

Greater depth and wisdom can be found in Leon Kass’ Leading a Worthy Life: Finding Meaning in Modern Times (Encounter, 2017). Kass, a Jewish medical doctor and bioethicist, draws from his lengthy experience in science and teaching the Great Books at the University of Chicago to take us deeper into the human condition and point us toward a richer understanding of the human person — body, mind and soul. Kass, like Peterson, does not write from a religious perspective, but engages the same general themes and classic works, such as the Bible, though with a more convincing explanation of their meaning.

Kass’ book has four major sections, treating themes of love, human dignity, education and our higher aspirations. Kass guides us to reconsider the importance of the foundational goods of life — finding meaning in work and married life — as well as calling us to “the cultivation in each of us of the disposition actively to seek the truth and to make the truth our own” (256). We pursue this liberation by entering into the great tradition of Western thought, which provides an “education in and for thoughtfulness. It awakens, encourages, and renders habitual thoughtful reflection about weighty human concerns, in quest of what is simply true and good” (ibid.).

The thoughtfulness encouraged by Kass is needed more than ever to address the key concerns he raises: a collapse of courtship and marriage, biomedical challenges to the integrity of human nature, and a decline of citizenship. The first two themes share a common source in the “the rejection of a teleological view of nature,” which finds no intrinsic purpose in the human body or even life itself (54). Speaking of the threat of biotechnology and transhumanism, but in a way applicable to gender as well, he relates that “only if there is a human givenness that is also good and worth respecting — either as we find it or as it could be perfected without ceasing to be itself — does the given serve as a positive guide for choosing what to alter and what to leave alone” (149). We must learn to appreciate and cultivate the good of our nature, rather than manipulating and controlling it to our own demise. The same is true of our nation, as Kass, drawing on Abraham Lincoln, points to the need for “enhancing reverence for the Constitution and its laws” (377), as we appreciate, preserve and advance the heritage of our country.

Kass, drawing on his unique background, guides us through an integrated discovery of the good and points us toward the wisdom we need to live a worthy life.