As part of the Year of St. Joseph declared by Pope Francis, the U.S. Catholic…
Editorial: St. Joseph offers a model of silent service in defense of life
“What we need most in order to make progress is to be silent before this great God with our appetite and with our tongue, for the language he best hears is silent love.” — St. John of the Cross
It is hard for us to comprehend that the silence of which St. John of the Cross speaks might have been difficult to come by in his day and age (the late 16th century). In our minds, we might assume there was nothing but silence — no constant hum of cars, no cellphone notifications, no TVs constantly blaring in the background, no talk radio trying to pull you further to one political side or the other, no podcasts with which to while away the hours, no TikTok or YouTube or 24-hour cable news.
Today, we are inundated by all of these and more. And while too much of our dialogue, discussions and debates are now quietly tapped out on phones and computers via social media, the noise that these means of communication produces in our lives can be deafening. Too often, our advocacy for policies or positions to which we (and the Church) hold dear are typed out on a post or a tweet that likely will only reach our carefully curated circle of friends. It’s easier to fight about the evils of abortion on Facebook than it is to spend time volunteering at a women’s care center, or calling elected officials to advocate for policies that protect the unborn, or spending time in prayer outside of an abortion clinic. These quiet actions speak louder than any angry rant on Facebook possibly can.
Thankfully, our faith provides us with an excellent model of silent service in defense of the most vulnerable — one whom we are called to imitate in a special way during this Year of St. Joseph, and especially during Respect Life Month, which the Church celebrates every October. In his message marking the beginning of Respect Life Month, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, called on the faithful to “imitate St. Joseph’s faithful trust and courage as we work to uphold the dignity of every human life.”
Archbishop Naumann wrote: “As the faithful protector of both Jesus and Mary, we find in St. Joseph a profound reminder of our own call to welcome, safeguard and defend God’s precious gift of human life. Despite the mysterious circumstances surrounding Mary’s pregnancy, St. Joseph took her into his home at the word of the angel. He guided their journey to Bethlehem, found shelter, and welcomed the infant Jesus as his son. When Herod threatened the life of the Christ Child, St. Joseph left his homeland behind and fled with Jesus and Mary to Egypt.”
Because of his faith and trust in God, St. Joseph didn’t question the message delivered by the angel. He didn’t protest or debate or try to change God’s mind. He simply trusted, stayed silent, and then he acted.
How can we incorporate the silent but trusting actions of St. Joseph into our own lives? Archbishop Naumann proposes the following: “We can follow in the footsteps of St. Joseph as protector by advocating against taxpayer-funded abortion, which targets the lives of millions of poor children and their mothers here in the United States. We can imitate his care and provision by helping to start Walking with Moms in Need at our parishes, ‘walking in the shoes’ of mothers experiencing a difficult pregnancy, especially low-income mothers in our communities.”
It is certainly easier to contribute to the noise of the world — to safely sit back and punch out Facebook posts (even well-intended ones). “But,” Archbishop Naumann continues, “[God] invites us to faithfully respond, despite our own fears or weaknesses.”
During this Respect Life Month — as this Year of St. Joseph continues — may we find the courage to imitate the foster father of Jesus by discerning the will of God and serving the most vulnerable. It is in these quiet actions — this “silent love,” as St. John of the Cross calls it — that we will truly serve God and remind the world of the value of all human life.
Our Sunday Visitor Editorial Board: Gretchen R. Crowe, Scott P. Richert, Scott Warden, York Young