Bishop's Column

The silent disciple of the Lord

By Bishop James Conley   

On March 19, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of St. Joseph. And this March 19, the Church will also celebrate the fifth anniversary of the papacy of Pope Francis, which began with an inauguration Mass on St. Joseph’s Day, 2013.

Pope Francis, as the 265th successor of St. Peter and the 266th pope, began the papacy, he noted that St. Joseph was called by God to be “the custos, the protector,” of Mary and Jesus, of course, but also of the entire Church.

“How does Joseph exercise his role as protector?” Pope Francis asked. “Discreetly, humbly and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand.”

The pope said that St. Joseph was “constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence, and receptive to God’s plans, not simply his own.”

“Joseph,” Pope Francis wrote, “is a ‘protector’ because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions. In him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly, but we also see the core of the Christian vocation, which is Christ!”

Each one of us, in our own ways, is called to share in St. Joseph’s vocation as a “protector.” Pope Francis, of course, is the custodian of the universal Church. I am called to be the shepherd and leader of the Diocese of Lincoln. Parents are called to be “custodians,” or protectors of their children. Pastors are called to lead their parishes. Religious sisters and brothers lead their apostolates and communities. And each one of us is called to be the guardians and protectors of our hearts, our virtue, and, as members of the Body of Christ, of one another, and of every human heart.

This means that each one of us must be able to hear God’s voice, and be guided by his will. Each one of us must place Christ in the center of our lives. Each one of us must be humble, silent, unassuming, but present and faithful, even when we don’t understand the Lord’s will. Each one of us, like St. Joseph, must seek the Lord’s will, being constantly attentive and open to the signs of the Lord’s presence.

St. Joseph is not recorded saying even one word in Sacred Scripture. He is recorded hearing God’s word, listening to it attentively, and then acting upon it. St. Joseph had discovered that silence transforms us, because it allows us to realize the word of God is more important than anything we might say. Silence disposes us to foster goodness, just as St. Joseph did, by allowing us to be transformed by God’s presence.

Pope Francis has said that St. Joseph is the man “who can tell us many things, but who does not speak.”  He can tell us, above all else, that silence allows us to more easily know Jesus Christ, to love him, and to serve him.

 May we pray together for Pope Francis on the Solemnity of St. Joseph, on the anniversary of his papal inauguration. May we ask St. Joseph to intercede for our families. And may we imitate him in silence, so that we can hear and rejoice in the voice of the Lord.

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