St. Joseph—A Man of Few Words

St. Joseph and the Christ-Child, Belmont Abbey


All of us are familiar with the brief biblical accounts of the life of Joseph, the foster father of Jesus. But I wonder how many of us know exactly how many words were spoken by Joseph in the New Testament. Well, let’s look at four of the most significant biblical accounts in Joseph’s life.

We all know the story about how Mary, when she was betrothed to Joseph, was found to be with child. We also, no doubt, recall how Joseph’s initial intention was to divorce Mary quietly, but then…

“Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.’” (Matthew 1:20)

And Joseph said…

“When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.” (Matthew 1:24)

Apparently in this case Joseph let his actions do the talking. Well then, let’s look at another story about Joseph.

Only a short time after the Magi from the East visited the Christ Child, and Joseph had settled into his new home life, there was another surprise for him to deal with.

“When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.’” (Matthew 2:13)

And Joseph said…

“Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt.” (Matthew 2:14)

Not exactly a Chatty Cathy so far, is he? Joseph does appear to be a man of few words. Well, let’s see what happened next in Joseph’s life.

During their exile in Egypt, Joseph and Mary must have been very anxious to return to their homeland of Israel, and God seemed to understand their desire as well.

“When Herod had died, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.’” (Matthew 2:19-20)

And Joseph said…

“He rose, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.” (Matthew 2:21)

Uh, well, hmm, I guess Joseph just really missed Israel, no questions asked. Hey, wait a minute! Joseph must have had a significant hand in raising Jesus. Let’s look finally at one of those teachable moments for a Father; certainly, Joseph must have verbally counseled Jesus.

You all recall the incident when Joseph, Mary and Jesus (age twelve at the time), went to Jerusalem for a Feast. On the way back to Nazareth, the parents realized that their young son was not actually with them or their relatives. They of course rushed back to Jerusalem and three full days later found the child in the Temple among the Teachers.

“When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, ‘Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.’” (Luke 2:48)

Jesus, of course, understands His earthly parent’s concern, but reminds Joseph and Mary of the purpose of His coming.

“And he said to them, ‘Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’” (Luke 2:49)

Wow, can you imagine how those of us who are fathers might have reacted to our twelve-year-old son’s apparent disregard for our concern. But Joseph said…Nothing. Honestly, all this searching for Joseph’s words is leaving me speechless, what’s the point? To be fair, Joseph knew who this Son of his really was, and what WAS the point of arguing with the Son of God…. And that after all, is the point of this entire reflection.

Can you imagine being so in tune with God’s Will, so obedient to His direction, so completely selfless and concerned for the welfare of the others in your family, that you would drop everything and do what God told you to do, when He told you to do it, no questions—Joseph could.

So, what was the key to Joseph’s silent serenity in the face of all this redirection in what would have been his otherwise simple life? Well, the key, as always, is found in scripture.

“Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man…” (Matthew 1:19)

Joseph was a righteous man because he followed the Jewish Law, because he was a man of prayer, and because he had learned that he was not the center of his own world—Mary was, and then Jesus when He arrived. Joseph never placed himself first. And that is why there was never any reason for Joseph to speak to seek clarification, confirmation or justification from God for whatever it was God wanted him to do; Joseph just did it.

Quite honestly, very few of us have ever been asked to take on the challenges and responsibilities that Joseph was asked to bear, but we are all asked to respond in some way to the requests of the Lord. Despite what might often appear as contradictions, confusion, or even chaos in our lives, we must hold to the faith that God is at work, as He was with Joseph.

“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the Lord—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope. When you call me, and come and pray to me, I will listen to you.” (Jeremiah 29:11-12)

Joseph’s dream guidance has been written down clearly for us, “Come and Pray to Me.”And then we will understand what it is the Lord is asking of us, and we will not need many, if any words, we will simply respond.


Copyright © 2018 by Mark Danis


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About the Author

Mark Danis

Mark Danis, OCDS, is co-host of the weekly radio program, Carmelite Conversations, which aired internationally for six years on the Radio Maria network. The program focuses on the method and blessings of contemplative prayer practiced in the in our busy day to day lives. Episodes can be streamed at http://www.carmeliteconversations.com.

Mark's primary ministry is providing teaching and spiritual direction in contemplative prayer and removing the obstacles to prayer. He is grounded primarily in the teachings of the Carmelites, most especially St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross.

Mark is a popular speaker and often gives large-group presentations and retreats on Prayer and Carmelite spirituality. He also writes a weekly reflection on prayer for a large nation-wide prayer community, and he leads a weekly prayer group focused on the Teresian Method of Prayer. Mark's most recent appearance was at the 2018 OCDS Congress where he delivered a powerful message to more than 400 Secular Carmelites.

Mark attended St. Michael’s college in Winooski, Vermont, where he received his undergraduate degree in English Literature. He later received a masters degree in theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut.

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