Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Joseph ~ That With Spiritual Sight Made Pure...

THIS AMAZING PAINTING of Saint Joseph and the Child Jesus comes from 17th-18th century Peru. Of course the pair didn't dress like this, but their fabulous clothes are demonstrative of delight in heavenly things, joyful faith, and over-the-top love. All's well here: the hills are flowering and Jesus is secure hand-in-hand with Joseph. The boy carries a small basket with carpenter tools, much as a little child would carry a play tool box today.

Joseph is handsome, wide-eyed and  proud of the boy, happy in his calling. A lily in the hand of a saint always indicates chastity. But I think it's much more than that. The Collect from the Mass for the Second Sunday of Lent prayed:

O God Who have commanded us
to listen to your beloved Son,
be pleased we pray,
to nourish us inwardly by your word,
that with spiritual sight made pure,
we may rejoice to behold your glory.

"That with spiritual sight made pure..." How do we even begin to attain that kind of sight? Joseph points the way.

We live in a culture that can't stop talking. We take "freedom of speech" so literally our problem has become "too much speech". Where there is much talking, sin cannot be avoided, a priest friend says. And we are to believe everything that's said is important, funny and true. Joseph's life-way wasn't easy: the confusion of Mary's pregnancy, resolute in the face of what must have been his family's disappointment if not horror, standing with Mary when the community could have stoned her, the exhausting travel, Herod wanting the newborn gone, losing the twelve-year old boy. There was a lot Joseph could have complained about bitterly. But's he's silent. There's no recorded word of Joseph throughout the Gospel accounts. 

Joseph usually receives accolades for his purity and obedience. I think his silence is the most important virtue he has to share with us. We can't hear God or each other because there's so much talking and so little listening. The beauty of the old Mass is that it was essentially silent. I often wonder about the Mass we have today - that there are so many words. It frequently strikes me as very noisy, especially when there is a piling up of hymns. 

Anyway, maybe in this second week of Lent we might listen not just to the fact that so many others are talking so much, but we might be all the more aware of ourselves. Or that even our prayer is too talkative. We might add a new dimension to our Lent in silencing so much of the noise that's born of talking. We might find the more quiet day to be unnerving. I wonder if a lot of people hate Jesus Christ because he is to be listened to. Jesus is even called The Word and we often don't like listening (unless we find it tantalizing or flattering). Shhhh!


  1. Beautiful painting of Saint Joseph and the young Jesus. We don't often see Jesus and Joseph together as earthly father and son. Happy St. Joseph's Day! There may not be parades to celebrate him, but as your post suggests, we can celebrate in silence to honor him.

  2. 'Tis said that if you're Irish you plant your onions and peas on St. Patrick's Day and if you're Italian you do so on St. Joseph's Day. I don't think they'll be any planting of onions or peas in most of the country for awhile yet - still, these Lenten saints days are reminders of new life to come soon. Happy Feast Day!

  3. A good lesson for us all. To take the time to just listen.

  4. Thank you for giving us Joseph as a younger, strong man as he is usually depicted as old and near the end of his life. Silent Joseph, listening to hear God's call. You give us good advice. Be silent so we can hear when God beckons us to do His work.