Pope Francis: Learn from St. Joseph to cultivate silence

Pope Francis’ general audience in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, Dec. 15, 2021. Pope Francis’ general audience in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, Dec. 15, 2021. | Vatican Media.

Pope Francis invited Catholics on Wednesday to learn from St. Joseph how to cultivate silence in their everyday lives.

Speaking at his general audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall on Dec. 15, the pope noted that the Gospels do not contain a single word spoken by the foster father of Jesus.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Dear brothers and sisters, let us learn from St. Joseph how to cultivate spaces for silence in which another Word can emerge, that is, Jesus, the Word: that of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, that Jesus brings,” the pope said.

The live-streamed address was the fourth in Pope Francis’ cycle of catechesis on St. Joseph. His previous addresses have explored the world in which the saint was born, his role in salvation history, and his love for the Virgin Mary.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The pope explained that Joseph’s silence in the Gospels did not indicate passivity. On the contrary, he said, “it is a silence full of listening, an industrious silence, a silence that brings out his great interiority.”

He encouraged Catholics to follow St. Joseph’s example and “recover this contemplative dimension of life, opened wide to silence.”

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Vatican Media.

The pope acknowledged the obstacles to cultivating silence, including the fear of looking within.

He said it was hard to distinguish the voice of the Holy Spirit from a “thousand voices of worries, temptations, desires, and hopes that dwell within us.”

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Vatican Media.

But he said that making the effort to practice silence was vital, because it helped to control the tongue, which is easily given over to “flattery, bragging, lies, backbiting, and slander.”

“This is why we must learn from Joseph to cultivate silence: that space of interiority in our days in which we give the Spirit the opportunity to regenerate us, to console us, to correct us. I am not saying to fall into muteness, no. Silence,” he said.

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Vatican Media.

“But very often, each one of us looks inside, when we are working on something and when we finish, immediately we look for our telephone to make another call… we are always like this. And this does not help, this makes us slip into superficiality.”

“Profoundness of the heart grows with silence, silence that is not mutism as I said, but which leaves space for wisdom, reflection, and the Holy Spirit.”

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He added: “We are afraid of moments of silence. Let us not be afraid! It will do us good. And the benefit to our hearts will also heal our tongue, our words, and above all our choices.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

After the address, a precis of the pope’s catechesis was read out in seven languages. After each summary, he greeted members of each language group.

He said: “I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially the groups from Nigeria and the United States of America.”

“I pray that each of you, and your families, may experience these final days of Advent as a fruitful preparation for the coming of the newborn Saviour of the world. May God bless you.”

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Vatican Media.

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Before greeting Italian speakers, the pope expressed his sorrow at a fuel tanker explosion in Haiti on Dec. 14 that killed more than 60 people.

He said: “In the past few hours there has been a devastating explosion in Cap-Haïtien, northern Haiti, in which many people, including many children, have lost their lives. Poor Haiti, one thing after another; they are a people who suffer.”

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Vatican Media.

“Let us pray, let us pray for Haiti, they are good people, religious people, but they are suffering so much. I am close to the inhabitants of that city and the families of the victims, as well as the injured. I invite you to join me in praying for these brothers and sisters of ours, who are so sorely tried.”

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Vatican Media.

The pope concluded his general audience address with a prayer:

St. Joseph, man of silence,
you who in the Gospel did not utter a single word,
teach us to fast from vain words,
to rediscover the value of words that edify, encourage, console and support.
Be close to those who suffer from words that hurt,
like slander and backbiting,
and help us always to match words with deeds. Amen.