Pillar I: Embrace Silence
Man’s Theological Position
During our previous FOSJ session we discussed that every man is divinely appointed to assume his theological position in the economy of salvation as an icon of God the Father—as a generator and initiator of self-giving love. Each man is called to be a Custos, a defender of woman, the child and the family. By remaining steadfast in this theological position, our families are far more likely to become, like the Holy Family: living breathing icons of the Trinity. As Pope Paul VI stated, “We see at the beginning of the New Testament, as at the beginning of the Old, there is a married couple. But whereas Adam and Eve were the source of evil unleashed on the world, Joseph and Mary are the summit from which holiness spreads over the earth.” By neglecting to assume his theological position in the divine plan, and setting the pace of self-giving love, Adam hindered God’s plan of transmitting the glory of the Trinity’s self-giving love to the world, whereas Joseph, a redeemed type of Adam, set the pace of self-giving love, enabling his family to become a human icon of the Trinity. This is the goal of every family—of every father: that his family become a human icon of the self-giving love of the Trinity. It is no exaggeration to say that salvation history depends upon each father, becoming like St. Joseph, and assuming his theological position in the Cosmos.
Location and Vocation
Though it is essential to understand our theological position in the plan of salvation, it is also imperative that we comprehend the manner by which we are to live within and from this theological location. Just as a person’s occupation is dependent upon his fulfillment of his duties, or like an athlete—having a particular position on his team—directs all of his actions from his position, so also our theological location is our post, while our vocation is the manner by which we fulfill our divinely ordained duty. In other words, our theological location determines our vocation. Our theological position of Custos is the foundation upon which the four pillars, which constitute the spirituality of the FOSJ—the spirituality of all fathers—is set. These four pillars are 1) Embracing Silence 2) Embracing Woman 3) Embracing the Child and 4) Embracing our Charitable Authority. Every man, husband and father is called by God to assume his theological location in order to fulfill his vocation and by fulfilling his vocation, man maintains his spiritual location as defender, guardian and guide of woman, the child and the family. Considering that each of these pillars could be expounded upon at length, it would be unfair to squeeze the description of all of the four pillars into one session. With that said, over the next four sessions, we will be unveiling each of the four pillars; the first of which: Embracing Silence, we will discuss during today’s session.
The Three Aspects of Silence
If the human father is to be an effective minister of salvation to his family, if he is to protect his children from the snares of the devil, if he is to raise his children to be manifestations of God’s self-giving glory, it is imperative that he embrace silence in its threefold character: 1) silence within himself ; 2) silence before man; 3) silence before God. This is the first step to stabilizing our theological location and fulfilling our divinely ordained vocation. In other words, if we desire that our lives speak profoundly of God’s glory, we must paradoxically embrace silence. St. Joseph’s, first step to inaugurating his call to greatness—in receiving his mission to be the husband of the Mother of God and the human father of the Son—in knowing and discerning the will of God, was his entrance into the silence. Joseph’s entire vocation was dependent upon his relationship with God. The very success of his fatherhood depended upon his relationship with the Father. So also, our fatherhood—the success of our vocation—is dependent upon embracing silence. Without this pillar, our works, regardless of how effective they may appear, will achieve very little—from the divine perspective—if not actually hinder those around us. Indeed, many men believe that they know the will of God, yet without the divine compass, they quickly become lost—blind leaders who lead blind followers into error.
Aspect I: Silence IN Himself
The first aspect, “silence in himself,” characterizes a man who silences the many worldly voices and activities around him in order to hear the voice of God. As we’ve stated previously, the interior life gives the exterior life form. One can only obey God’s directive if he places himself at the service of listening to God. In order to give God, we must have God. Therefore, the human father becomes silent in himself by cultivating a prayer life that is marked by periods of daily silence, wherein he allows the Word—which always speaks—to communicate His divine presence to the human father’s soul. An easy way to determine whether we are placing ourselves in a position to receive God’s directive is to ask some of the following questions: How often do I present myself in silence—stillness—before God? To what voices do I consistently listen? When by myself, do I fill up the silence with music, television shows, radio? Do I follow and heed the gospel news of the world only to suffocate the Gospel of God? To which voices do I listen more? Our answers to these questions indicate whether we are ready to become valiant , heroic men. To turn off the radio and believe that God will speak to our soul demands great faith and trust in the Father. However, if I do not have enough faith and trust that God will speak to my soul and stop busying myself—stop to turn off the radio, to shut down the tv, to find a place of silence and be still with God—how can I expect to transmit and cultivate faith and trust in the hearts of my children and wife? The success of our vocation depends, to a significant degree, upon our entering the silence within our hearts in order to hear God.
So, what are some practical ways by which we can achieve silence within ourselves? First, we can establish a “tent of meeting”—a place set aside specifically and only for prayer. This place should be free of work, computers, phones—it should be set aside specifically for meeting God. Second, we can begin prayer time with the words of Christ, listen to those words and learn from them. We ought to converse with Him about how these words relate to our lives and then wait to allow Him to infuse Himself—His Spirit—into us. By entering into this silence, will allow God to transform us into a men of glory.
Aspect II: Silence Before Men
The second aspect of embracing silence, “silence before men,” characterizes a father who deliberately decides to be known by God rather than to be noticed by men. The evil one, if he cannot lure us and entice us to surrender to deliberate sin, will often tempt us to choose something good over that which is greater; to receive honor and glory from men rather than honoring and glorifying God; to perform the works of God to be noticed, rather than to be known by the God of works. Nearly all of us struggle with insecurities, inferiority complexes, or perhaps a lack confidence in a particular area. Such feelings of inadequacy are rooted in a lack of belief and trust in the Father’s love for us—that He has a specific plan for us. Often, when we lack trust in God and His love for us, we seek affirmation from humans in disordered ways. We attempt to make ourselves noticed that we may be lauded, affirmed and honored. This is especially prevalent among fathers, who begin to believe that their fatherhood is making little to no impact, or among fathers who do not receive instant affirmation from their wives and children. Herein lies the battle. It is during such times of doubt that we must trust the Father’s plan. Many a good church man has neglected his vocation, his family and his children, in order to do “great things” at church—to be noticed and honored by men—only to fail at home. As one spiritual director said, “do not become a street lamp in order for your house to go dark.” And another said, “You will become a saint by means of your vocation—not outside of it.” Or as St. Francis de Sales says, “Blessed is the servant who esteems himself no better when his praised and exalted by people than when he is considered worthless, simple and despicable, for what man is before God, that he is and nothing more.”
So how do we overcome this temptation and enter “silence before men?” First, we ought to ask God for the desire to be little, silent and hidden. This desire is essential—even if you desire to desire to be these things it is enough. Second, when considering doing something in the public sphere, ask God to help you discern whether your motivation to do this activity is for the purpose of glorifying God or to glorify self. Also ask God if this activity conflicts with your vocation. Recall that St. Joseph was a most hidden father. Not a single word of Joseph’s was recorded in the Sacred Scriptures. Joseph was virtually unnoticed by the men of his age, yet God has exalted Joseph as the most known father of all time. “What is hidden will one day be revealed.” To believe this divine truth demands that we trust in the Father and we prove our trust in the Father by embracing such hiddenness.
Aspect III: Silence Before God
The third aspect of embracing silence, “silence before God,” is characterized by an imitation of the Father, Who as Jesus says, “is in secret” (See Matt 6) and of His works the Scriptures attest, “are glorious, hidden and secret.” (See Eccles 11:4) This divine attribute, secrecy, compels the human father to perform his works, penances, self-offerings without—on one hand—boasting—or on the other hand—complaining. The human father, as priest of his domestic church, offers himself in secret sacrifice to Jesus and His Father. God receives such secret sacrifices and transforms these works into grace for the human father and his family. Secret sacrifice to God, allows us to give God the water by which He can make divine wine—grace. Recall, that when Herod sought to murder the Christ child, Joseph, as directed by an angel, stole away in the darkness of night, fleeing to the foreign land of Egypt, and by doing so, he saved his family. Herod is a symbol of Satan, who is always attempting to destroy the child and the family. Joseph, is a symbol of all fathers, who are called to save their family by means of the dark night of the secret, hidden life of fatherhood—even amidst this world of exile. Our family’s salvation depends, to a great degree, upon this secret sacrifice. A way to test whether we are truly offering ourselves in secret to the Father and giving him ample works to be transformed into grace is to check ourselves to determine whether we are boasting in any way, or are complaining in any way. The human father becomes silent before God by offering himself in silence to God.
Entrusting ourselves to the Silent Father
Gentlemen, let us make a new resolution to embrace the silence, and imitate our exemplar St. Joseph, whose silence speaks profoundly of the glory of fatherhood. However, we cannot embrace the silence of our own accord. We need Christ’s redemptive grace. Considering this, let us actually entrust ourselves to Whom our Lord Jesus entrusted Himself—St. Joseph— the hidden, little, silent father of Christ, who by his life has revealed, to a significant level, the glory of God’s Fatherhood.