44 Days of St. Joseph – March 27 – Zealous Defender of Christ

The German philosopher Josef Pieper defined silence as “openness of soul.” It is the soul’s readiness to respond, its ability to respond. Quite literally, it is the soul’s responsibility.

This is contrary to how we tend to think of silence, which (we think) is marked by the absence of something—usually sound or noise. We don’t think of it as a positive thing, an ‘active capacity’, so to speak.

It is readiness (as opposed to laziness). It is attentiveness (as opposed to mindless distractedness). It is watchfulness (as opposed to passive scrubbing through social media). It is listening (as opposed to hearing).

Silence is a trait commonly noted when thinking about St. Joseph. But we tend to think of silence describing “something Joseph doesn’t do“ instead of ”something he does.“

So what is Joseph “doing” in his silence?

He is being watchful. He is being attentive. He is being ready. He is listening.

His soul is responsible.

The Litany of St. Joseph names him Zealous Defender of Christ, and in some translations, Diligent Protector of Christ. Joseph’s zeal and diligence isn’t simply a matter of his ability to ‘grind it out’, to ‘stay on task’, to ‘muscle through opposition.’

The word ‘diligent’ literally means ‘to delight in.’

It is delighting in something beloved that renders one able truly to give oneself to it. Attending to Christ, being ready for Christ, being responsible to Christ—all are the occasion to delight in Christ, the Supremely Delightful who strengthens our attention, readiness, and responsibility—who gives us diligence.

Is it possible that St. Joseph was silent not primarily because he was the “strong, silent” type, but because he was so taken with the things of God, because he so delighted in God?

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