Pope Francis says "let us learn from Saint Joseph how to cultivate spaces for silence in which another Word can emerge, that is, Jesus, the Word..." FULL TEXT + Video


Paul VI Audience Hall - Wednesday, 15 December 2021


Catechesis on Saint Joseph - 3. Saint Joseph, man of silence

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Let us continue our journey of reflection on Saint Joseph. After illustrating the environment in which he livedhis role in salvation history and his being just and the spouse of Mary, today I would like to consider another important personal aspect: silence. Very often nowadays we need silence. Silence is important. I am struck by a verse from the Book of Wisdom that was read with Christmas in mind, which says: “While gentle silence enveloped all things, your all-powerful word leaped from heaven”. The moment of most silence God manifested himself. It is important to think about silence in this age in which it does not seem to have much value.


 The Gospels do not contain a single word uttered by Joseph of Nazareth: nothing, he never spoke. This does not mean that he was taciturn, no: there is a deeper reason why the Gospels do not say a word. With his silence, Joseph confirms what Saint Augustine writes: “To the extent that the Word – that is, the Word made man - grows in uswords diminish”. [1] To the extent that Jesus, the spiritual life, grows, words diminish. What we can describe as “parroting”, speaking like parrots, continually, diminishes a little. John the Baptist himself, who is “the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord’ ” ( Mt 3:3) says in relation to the Word, “He must increase, but I must decrease” ( Jn 3:30). This means that he must speak and I must be silent, and through his silence, Joseph invites us to leave room for the Presence of the Word made flesh, for Jesus.

Joseph’s silence is not mutism, he is not taciturn; it is a silence full of listening, an industrious silence, a silence that brings out his great interiority. “The Father spoke a word, and it was his Son”, comments St John of the Cross, the Father said a word and it was his Son - “and it always speaks in eternal silence, and in silence it must be heard by the soul”  [2].

Jesus was raised in this “school”, in the house of Nazareth, with the daily example of Mary and Joseph. And it is not surprising that he himself sought spaces of silence in his days (cf. Mt 14:23) and invited his disciples to have such an experience by example: “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while” (Mk 6:31).

How good it would be if each one of us, following the example of Saint Joseph, were able to recover this contemplative dimension of life, opened wide in silence. But we all know from experience that it is not easy: silence frightens us a little, because it asks us to delve into ourselves and to confront the part of us that is true. And many people are afraid of silence, they have to speak, and speak, and speak, or listen to radio or television… but they cannot accept silence because they are afraid. The philosopher Pascal observed that “all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber”. [3]

Dear brothers and sisters, let us learn from Saint 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. It is not easy to recognise that Voice, which is very often confused along with the thousand voices of worries, temptations, desires, and hopes that dwell within us; but without this training that comes precisely from the practice of silence, our tongue can also ail. Without practicing silence, our tongue can also ail. Instead of making the truth shine, it can become a dangerous weapon. Indeed, our words can become flattery, bragging, lies, backbiting and slander. It is an established fact that, as the Book of Sirach reminds us, “many have fallen by the edge of the sword, but not so many as have fallen because of the tongue” (28:18), the tongue kills more than the sword. Jesus said clearly: whoever speaks ill of his brother or sister, whoever slanders his neighbour, is a murderer (cf. Mt 5:21-22). Killing with the tongue. We do not believe this, but it is the truth. Let us think a little about the times we have killed with the tongue: we would be ashamed! But it will do us good, a great deal of good.

Biblical wisdom affirms that “death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits” (Pr 18:21). And the Apostle James, in his Letter, we read at the beginning, develops this ancient theme of the power, positive and negative, of the word with striking examples, and he says: “If any one makes no mistakes in what he says he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also… So the tongue is a little member and boasts of great things… With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing” (3:2-10).

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. But very often, each one of us look 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. 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. In fact, Joseph combined silence with action. He did not speak, but he acted, and thus demonstrated what Jesus once told his disciples: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Mt 7:21). Silence. Fruitful words when we speak, and we remember that song: “Parole, parole, parole…”, words, words, words, and nothing of substance. Silence, speaking in the right way, and biting your tongue a little, which can be good at times instead of saying foolish things.

Let us conclude with a prayer:

Saint 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.

Thank you.


[1]  Discourse 288, 5: PL 38, 1307. 

[2]  Dichos de luz y amor, BAC, Madrid, 417, n. 99.

[3]  Pensées, 139.



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. 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.


Special Greetings:

Je salue cordialment les personnes de langue française. Frères et sœurs, les yeux tours vers la grotte de Bethlehem où Joseph et Marie, dans le silence, attendent avec amour la naissance de l'enfant Jésus, apprenons à mettre fin à nos silences complices et aux paroles qui portent atteinte à la charité, pour être proches de ceux qui souffrent et qui ont besoin d'être accueillis, reconnus, protégés et aimés. Que Dieu vous bénisse!

I cordially greet the French-speaking people. Brothers and sisters, with our eyes turned towards the Bethlehem grotto where Joseph and Mary, in silence, await the birth of the child Jesus with love, we learn to put an end to our complicit silences and to the words that attack charity, to stay close to those who suffer and who need to be welcomed, recognized, protected and loved. God bless you! ]

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims, especially the groups from Nigeria and the United States of America. May each of you and your families wish a fruitful journey through the last days of Advent, to prepare us to welcome the birth of the Child Jesus, the Savior of the world. God bless you!

Ich grüße die Gläubigen deutscher Sprache. Orientieren wir uns in dieser verbleibenden Adventszeit am heiligen Josef. Versuchen wir eine Haltung der Stille und des Hörens einzunehmen, damit wir empfänglich sind für das Ewige Wort des Vaters, seinen menschgewordenen Sohn Jesus Christus.

I greet the German-speaking faithful. In these last days of Advent, let us imitate the example of St. Joseph. We try to adopt an attitude of silence and listening, to be ready to receive the eternal Word of the Father, his incarnate Son, Jesus Christ .]

I cordially greet los peregrinos de lengua española. Pidamos al Señor Jesús, por intercesión de san José, que nos libre de los pecados de la lengua, el odio, la calumnia, a difamación, y nos conceda la gracia de que nuestras obras coincidan with nuestro hablar, y que seamos ante los demás testigos alegres y creíbles of the merciful love de Dios por toda la humanidad. Que Dios los bendiga. Muchas gracias. 

Caros irmãos e irmãs de língua portuguesa: nos aproximamos do Natal. Como São José, convido-vos to contemplate no silêncio or mistério from Palavra Eterna de Deus feita homem por nós e pela nossa salvação. Na nossa pobreza, Deus veio a nós. Desça sobre todos vós a Sua bênção!

Dear Portuguese-speaking brothers and sisters: We are approaching Christmas. Like Saint Joseph, I invite you to contemplate in silence the mystery of the Eternal Word of God made man for us and for our salvation. In our poverty, God came to us. May His blessing be upon you all! ]

أُحَيِّي المُؤْمِنِينَ الناطِقِينَ باللُغَةِ العَرَبِيَّة. لنسأل القديس يوسف رجل الصمت, الذي لم ينطق بأي كلمة في الإنجيل, أن يعلمنا أن نصوم عن الكلمات الفارغة, وأن نكتشف من جديد قيمة الكلمات التي تبني, وتشجع, وتعزي وتدعم. بارَكَكُم الرَّبُّ جَميعًا وَحَماكُم دائِمًا مِنْ كُلِّ شَرّ!

I greet the Arabic-speaking faithful. We ask St. Joseph, a man of silence, who did not utter any words in the Gospel, to teach us to fast from empty words and to rediscover the value of words that uplift, encourage, console and sustain. The Lord bless you all and always protect you from all evil! ]

Pozdrawiam serdecznie pielgrzymów polskich. Czas Adwentu wiedzie nas do Betlejem, do żłóbka, na spotkanie z oczekującą narodzin Jezusa, Świętą Rodziną. Dzisiaj patrzymy na postać św. Józefa, na jego milczenie i kontemplację. Prośmy, by nauczył nas, jak w dzisiejszym, zagmatwanym świecie, wśród trosk i zabiegania, pielęgnować milczenie i modlitwę, by lepiej wsłuchiwać się w głos Boga. Z serca wam błogosławię.

I cordially greet the Polish pilgrims. The time of Advent leads us to Bethlehem, to the manger, to the meeting with the Holy Family in anticipation of the birth of Jesus. Today we look at the figure of Saint Joseph, his silence and his contemplation. We ask Him to teach us how in today's complicated world, in the midst of worries and in the midst of haste, cultivating silence and prayer can help us to hear God's voice better. I bless you from my heart .]


I extend a cordial welcome to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. In particular, I greet the faithful of the parish of Santa Maria del Popolo in Surbo (Lecce), the footballers of the Old Italia national team of Rome and the members of the Order of Nursing Professions of Arezzo. I am pleased to welcome the students of the Bartolena school in Livorno, accompanied by teachers and various authorities: dear children, I thank you for your visit and I encourage you to cultivate the values ​​of solidarity and fraternal dialogue among you.

Finally, my thoughts go in a special way to the elderly, the sick, young people and newlyweds. Dear elderly and sick people, thank you for your example, I pray that you will carry your cross with the meek and docile patience of Saint Joseph. Dear young people, I invite you to look at Saint Joseph as a guide for the dreams of your youth, the keeper of dreams. Dear spouses, may you find in the Holy Family of Nazareth the virtues and serenity for your journey of life. My Blessing to all.

FULL TEXT Source: Vatican.va - Image Screenshot - Translation from Italian