“Have you heard from JD?” My husband texted from an empty parking lot yesterday. Our son, “JD” had been on a faith retreat and naturally had not been on his phone much. We just needed to know when and where to pick him up that afternoon, but had only received one cryptic text “maybe pick up at pizza place at 3:45 ish”. So about one hour and MANY texts to his friends (and parents of his friends) later, we figured out they had just gotten out of mass and released from the retreat. Whereas more detailed information would have helped, he was safe and was on the way. Apologizing to one of the moms I bothered for any information on his whereabouts, I remarked “Sorry! My guy is a man of few words.” JD isn’t the best at texting details and doesn’t say much, but when he does talk, he says a lot with very few words.
Another man of few words is St Joseph. Our monthly morning of reflection was a glimpse of the powerful example of this man who was entrusted as leader and steward of the Holy Family. Because the “mini retreats” by Fr Bartunek are packed with great information, I have highlighted a few important elements as well as some reflections we had as a group at the end of our time together on “The Faithful Steward: a Lenten Retreat Guide on St Joseph”.
- After Mary, St Joseph was the model of human obedience; we have to remember that we believe Mary was born full of grace, free of sin, “The Immaculate Conception”, and Jesus was of course, the Son of God; but this Holy Family was entrusted to a man who was human, although very holy. He was obedient to the angels’ instruction to protect his family, and had to have great strength to manage dangerous situations that were out of the ordinary.
- St Joseph the Worker (Feast May 1st) reminds us to consider the careful stewardship with which we are entrusted in our lives; whether it be our jobs (using other’s resources, time and money to do a job that should be done with honor and integrity), or washing dishes or laundry at home, or even driving a car around to run errands. Everything we do is a call to be excellent stewards of the Lord and what He gives us. Most especially, the use of our time, which is not really ours, but God’s.
- There are NO recorded words of St Joseph in the bible, thereby giving his obedient actions in response to the angels’ messages, a powerful witness to interior silence.
- Silence as a notion is sometimes negatively portrayed; like putting our kids in “time out”, or the “silent treatment”, however, Fr Bartunek addressed the idea of silence with the example of a violin; if the empty space behind the strings was filled with sand (or anything), we wouldn’t hear any music. It is the empty space where the vibrations of the strings resound that make the amazing music that we hear. And so it goes with God’s voice in our hearts; we need the empty space for the vibration of His voice to resound in our lives.
- There are different kinds of threats to our hearing God in silence:
- Internal Vs External silence;
- The thoughts are running in my head that crowd out the peace of the silence where God speaks in my heart?
- External: Threats to external silence:
- visual noise
- auditory noise
- our own “busy-ness”: the noise of our schedule being too full of things that may be “urgent” but not important
- Internal Vs External silence;
- There were several of us who thought that our listening skills have decreased over the years. We shared that we feel listening to God or each other is harder these days. It is said that we have “two ears and one mouth for the reason that we should listen twice as much as we talk”, but with all the social media, news reports, input from digital sources. Are we overwhelmed by the input? Do we feel tired of “listening”? Is this really input over-load?
- What are we listening to that drains our mental and spiritual energy and may be contributing to the sense of not being able to process the important information and leave room for silence?
Referencing a centuries-old painting of the Holy Family in the manger, Fr Bartunek brought to our attention where the artist felt compelled to paint a small demon whispering a temptation in St Joseph’s ear. St Joseph sits to the side of the Madonna and child, and looks distressed and concerned in this portayal. We spent some time thinking about what St Joseph must have been feeling as he watched his poor little family in a stable, vulnerable, without shelter or food. This artist’s depiction of the “Temptation of St Joseph” toward discouragement (we discussed what this holy man may be tempted to feel bad about as the earthly father of Christ and protector of the Holy Family) helped us all to consider how many husbands and fathers may feel if tempted by discouragement when so many seem naturally inclined to qualify their own worth in how well they provide for their family. If things are rough financially, they could be tempted to feel like “failures” in the eyes of the world; on the other hand, if things are good financially, they may feel false sense of “completion” of their duties and as if they had done enough providing, but then not feel they need to contribute to their family in spiritual or emotional ways. Certainly these temptations for husbands and fathers, can go either way. How can we be reassuring to our spouses when this temptation visits them? Many husbands and fathers have a devotion to St Joseph for this reason. This is another reason why outward signs of love and gratitude for each other’s efforts are always important in marriage.
Lastly, here are a few practical ideas of how you can consider silence as part of your Lenten journey from our group and from my own past Lenten travels.
- No Media Monday; Choose one day where your family “fasts” from screens (this can be difficult when you or your kids need to use screens for school or work). If you use a computer for work or school, just be diligent not to get pulled away from whatever that need might be, and not toward more entertaining or diverting things on media. (No games, TV, Movies, ipad, or phones except for basic communication, etc.)
- You can even use “airplane mode” on your phone for that one day a week as Father Peter suggested on our spiritual exercises.
- You can make this sacrifice to God as an offering for souls to find God, or someone you know who may be sick or suffering or lonely, or a special intention.
- TRIPLE DOG DARE: Pick the night of the week that your favorite SHOW is on TV, or your favorite night to veg with media entertainment to make it a great sacrifice.
- Screen Time for Rent: Put a jar or glass in a central location with a notice that any screen time (the rest of the week) for entertainment purposes above an hour a day must be purchased (however much you like). The money can be used for your local church, food bank, or homeless shelter.
- It could also be earned: “do the dishes and earn 20 minutes” etc.
- It will also bring awareness to your family about how much time is being wasted for entertainment purposes: a great exercise in your stewardship of the time God has given us in our short time on earth.
- TRIPLE DOG DARE: DO IT YOURSELF!
- Have members of family write a note to a loved one once a week to expressed love and gratitude.
- Everyone loves a hand-written note in the mail and it takes time to write out a thought that somehow makes it more valuable to receive.
- TRIPLE DOG DARE: YOU take the time to write one to your spouse in the light of understand St Joseph’s efforts and honor; and then MAIL IT.
- Turn off the radio in your car during Lent or at least one day a week.
- TRIPLE DOG DARE: Don’t listen to anything on the radio or music unless it’s worship and praise, or spiritual podcasts or CD’s for the WHOLE 40.
- Only read spiritual articles, books or blogs 🙂 for entertainment during Lent. I have tried this and it is difficult but very awakening and fulfilling.
- Only watch spiritual movies or movies with positive messages for Lent with your family. Same for TV shows or YouTube videos.
- Say a novena to St Joseph for your husband, father or special guy you know who could use some spiritual encouragement.
As always, I cannot say enough how powerful a Eucharistic chapel or church visit is for cultivating the best kind of internal silence; because most of us can sit in a dark room alone for a month and have plenty of trivial things to fill our heads and distract us, despite whatever is happening on the outisde. While it is true that reducing the external noise input makes a huge difference, the true presence of Christ is more transformting than anything our poor efforts can manage.