Be like St. Joseph, the strong silent type

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: Moral courage and the many cultures of death

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CRACOW. Thanks to the pandemic, it’s been two years since I was last in Cracow, where for three decades I’ve done extensive research and taught great students while forming friendships with many remarkable people. It was wonderful to be back in one of the world’s greatest cities, and soon after I arrived in late June, I took a long walk to see what had changed. The first major difference I noticed was that the plaza in front of the central railway station (named for my late friend Jan Nowak-Jeziorański, a World War II courier for the Polish Home Army and the man from whom the future John Paul II got real news via Radio Free Europe’s Polish service) has a new, strikingly modern memorial, dedicated to the memory of Colonel Ryszard Kukliński.

That name is not well-known throughout a western world that has largely forgotten the meaning and lessons of the Cold War. But if Jan Nowak-Jeziorański was right when he spoke about the Polish colonel in the mid-1990s, Ryszard Kuklinski was a genuine hero of the long, twilight struggle against communist totalitarianism — the man who helped prevent a bloody Soviet invasion of Poland to crush the nascent Solidarity movement.

An accomplished officer in the communist-era Polish Army, Ryszard Kukliński began to doubt the truth of what he had been told about the West when, as a member of an international commission, he met American military men in Vietnam in the mid-1960s. His doubts about communism and its purposes intensified by orders of magnitude in 1968, when the brutal Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia ground the Prague Spring to dust under the treads of Soviet tanks, and in 1970, when the Polish army shot Polish workers during labor strife. Privy to some of the Warsaw Pact’s most confidential strategic plans, he became convinced that, if the Cold War turned hot and the east bloc attacked the West, the Soviets would sacrifice Poland as retaliatory western tactical nuclear strikes hit the second wave of Warsaw Pact troops pushing west. So, in 1972, Kukliński, risking his life and his family’s safety, offered his services to the United States and for the next nine years was the West’s most important intelligence asset behind the iron curtain.

His greatest service to Poland and the cause of freedom came in the later months of 1980. Thanks to his efforts, the United States knew the entire order-of-battle the Soviet Union had organized to stamp out Solidarity, which had held its first formal congress in September 1980. With that information, and working in concert with the incoming Reagan administration, outgoing national security adviser Zbigniew Brzeziński, with the help of the AFL-CIO’s Lane Kirkland, was able to organize a comprehensive western response to a potential Soviet invasion of Poland: an international economic blockade that would have severely damaged the already-staggering Soviet economy. Faced with economic ruin, the Soviet leadership backed down and the Warsaw Pact divisions that had surrounded Poland withdrew.

Colonel Kukliński and his family were exfiltrated to the West; two of his sons later died under dubious circumstances that may have involved Russian retribution, and Kukliński lived out his life under an assumed name in the United States, dying in 2004. There was public controversy when he returned to his native Poland for a 1998 visit, with some charging that he had violated his officer’s oath by working for American intelligence for a decade. John Paul II, through various intermediaries, quietly passed the word that Kukliński was to be regarded in Poland as a national hero. Zbigniew Brzeziński, who held the exact same view, put it brilliantly, in a comment that appears on the Kukliński Memorial in Cracow: Colonel Kukliński was “the first Polish officer in NATO.” 

Communism was a distinctive form of the culture of death, for the effort to create “Homo Sovieticus” was a lethal assault on souls. Colonel Ryszard Kukliński took a courageous stand against that particular culture of death, knowing as he did that freedom is never cost-free: freedom lived nobly always requires sacrifice. His example should be pondered by Catholic citizens and Catholic public officials throughout the West today, who are called to resist, with similar moral courage and effect, that form of the culture of death that masquerades as the ideology of “choice.” May we and our elected officials be as principled and brave as the Polish officer who took what John Paul II described at the United Nations in 1995 as the “the risk of freedom.”