The Man Nobody Knows

by Catherine Doherty

For this Year of St. Joseph, we offer you Catherine’s simple, homey way of getting to know him better.

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I have been meditating on the man nobody knows or few do. And I am finding him an unending source of grace and knowledge, if properly approached.

There was a time when I prayed little to the Carpenter of Nazareth, because he seemed to be somehow in the shadow.

Every time I went to Nazareth to visit the Holy Family there, I stood speechless and spellbound before the Mother and the Son—even though, of course, I always politely acknowledged the head of that house when entering it.

But recently St. Joseph and I got really acquainted. It happened at first quite naturally. There is a big statue of him in our little church, and since our good pastor allotted Eddie and me the second pew from the front and right before St. Joseph, I naturally, seeing him so close, talked things over with him.

Simple things, like begging him to get money for this winter’s wood. Asking him for help about that house we wanted to rent. Was it good? Would it stand the wear and tear of many people in it; remember it was over 115 years old.

What kind of stove to get for Eddie’s den and where to beg it. For after all St. Joseph was a carpenter, and a husbandman, so it seemed quite natural to run to him with all these household problems.

But little by little I discovered a strange thing, that when I was done with my needs, I still lingered at the feet of St. Joseph. Neither of us saying a word. Silence wrapping us up, like a warm, cozy mantle.

Yes, St. Joseph was teaching me silence. Teaching it to me simply, easily, by being companionably silent himself, yet showing me how warm and friendly silence was.

How it relaxed tense, busy nerves and thoughts. How it led to God. I felt as if St. Joseph and I were on a little river boat drifting slowly on the calm waters of silence ever closer to Christ the Lord, his Foster Son.

Yes, St. Joseph was teaching me silence. First the silence of peace, then the silence of love, where a human soul was listening at long last to the words of God. For a long time I have tried to practice this silence, but it took God’s Guardian to teach me.

But he did more. Slowly, he, the Patron of the Universal Church, showed me her needs. Explained to me, that I, a sinner and a nobody, could and should busy myself about her, my Mother.

That she was wounded, persecuted and sick in so many places in the world, that it was high time that I took a hand in helping her, by prayer and penance, and offering my life up day by day with all its sorrows and joys, its work and its leisure, for that intention.

“Pater Familias,” he opened my eyes to the oneness of the Catholic Family, the Mystical Body of Christ, and made me see that I was an integral part of it, that I was my brother’s keeper, and that again it was up to me to restore, bind wounds, nurse, and pray for all!

Suddenly in the great and holy silence of St. Joseph, so many things became clear. Caritas—Love shone with a new beauty. And her fire flared up in my weary soul all over again. Forgotten were the pains and sorrows of the apostolate, forgotten and shrunken were the little persecutions, difficulties, misunderstanding, loneliness.

Nothing remained but the blinding, brilliant light, that showed my soul so clearly that whatever I ever had done for Christ’s sake, was but a drop compared to what He had done for me.

Out of St. Joseph’s silence, zeal leaped like a flame and caught me up, lifting me ever higher, higher, until all the sorrow of the world, all the joy of the world seemed to pour into my soul. And I knew that there was much to be done, about repairing my Father’s house.

Yet neither the fires of charity, nor the flames of zeal were in the least upsetting or disturbing. There was a great simplicity in them, a great and holy peace. For St. Joseph’s silent lessons showed, too, that the fabric of charity and zeal was made of homey things.

Of a house run with order. Of meals made with love and care. Of bread baked with joy and a song. Of prayers said regularly, without fail. Of days that were begun in God and in him ended.

Of gentleness and patience with the poor, and a deep reverence for them and their sorrows. Of silence under provocation. Of silence under unjust accusations. Of faith in darkness. Of making a cup of one’s hands and lifting up the little daily tasks and difficulties, smiles and tears to the Lord.

Yes, I did not even notice how my conversations with St. Joseph turned into the first strange peaceful silence of companionship, then the great silence of God, then the silence of new spiritual knowledge, then the silence of joy.

But I wanted to tell you about it, for maybe you, like myself, have not been paying enough attention to the man who lived with Christ for thirty long years, whom Christ obeyed and loved, and who was his guardian and his Mother’s.

Because if you are of that forgetful majority, arise now and go to St. Joseph and learn to be silent. For then he will tell all that you ever need and want to know.

He will take you by the hand…and really make you a member of the Holy Family…and all your crooked and hard paths will be smoothed out for you.

And you will walk from earth to heaven on the beautiful paths of zeal and love. Try it and see.

From the magazine, The Oratory, March 1957