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In the school of the Holy Family

In that early period after a conversion, when God generously bestows joy and spiritual consolation, a person aflame in God’s love desires to experience it all the more. He continues to seek spiritual experiences. He will fall into a state which St John of the Cross calls spiritual gluttony.

In the school of the Holy Family

A time to “return to Nazareth”

Then a great danger appears: the temptation to seek your own, personal spiritual experiences as opposed to seeking God Himself and His holy will. In order not to fall into such a temptation, it’s vital to be completely obedient to your confessor. A truly devout person will not disregard his/her duties towards his/her spouse and children. If the situation of “spiritual gluttony” exists in your marriage, it’s time to “return to Nazareth”. This means a return to the faithful fulfillment of the requirements of the institution, and to resolute daily prayer. Spouses should above all make sure to have time for their family and for spousal prayer, and that the prayer not be neglected. That is why it is important to develop a climate of inner calm and listening to God’s voice during daily activities, as well as taking extraordinary steps to eliminate anything that disturbs or otherwise diminishes that climate.

For persons living in the sacrament of marriage, the service of God begins in the home. We have to serve Him and fulfill His will in our daily duties, in the raising of our children and in our care for our spouse, seeking the good for each of them. We must remember that in our spouses we must see the very sacramental presence of Jesus Himself, and discover the exceptional channel of grace that they are for us. This supernatural view of our spouses will only be possible thanks to diligent daily prayer and purity of heart. We should learn from SS Joseph and Mary the attitude of calm and complete surrender to God through prayer, the sacraments and our daily duties.

Spouses should above all make sure to have time for their family and for spousal prayer

The atmosphere in the house of the Holy Family in Nazareth is a great mystery which the Church reveals to every marriage. There is a wealth of virtues, and all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but first of all the mystery of the happiness lived out in the marital union.

These days there is an urgent need to rescue marriages that are in crisis. Praying fervently for their intentions, they should be made aware that they possess the priceless treasure of the sacrament of matrimony which is Jesus Christ himself, who is perpetually present in their marital unity. If the spousespresent all their problems to Him in prayer, Jesus will resolve them and invite them to undertake their study in the school of the Holy Family of Nazareth.

Be a small child

In order to begin studies in the school of the Holy Family, one must first become a small child who knows very little but is ready to listen and learn, being humble and absorbent like a sponge. We must teach ourselves to trust God, and entrust everything to Him, while abstaining from “every form of evil”. (1 Thess. 5:22)

The saints, taking as their example the Mother of God, learned from her “the great art of entrusting oneself to God”, in order to become children of God like her. We feel with our hearts, although we don’t completely understand that if we keep close to her, she will impart to us her attitude of being a child of God. As the Polish saying goes: “You will take on the qualities of those you associate with.”

The Lord Jesus tells us about the necessity of regaining this attitude: “unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3). Mary always listened to the voice of the Lord in silence and discerned His will. When the angel came to her, she remained in great expectation, in silence she listened to the word of God, she trusted and believed to the end. Today, in the midst of disorientation and various threats, there is no safer place than the atmosphere of the home of the Holy Family of Nazareth, from which we can strive for the holiness to which we were called. We enter into this atmosphere through diligent daily prayer of the rosary.

Inner calm oriented towards listening

Our entire task as Christians is to agree to cooperate with Christ so we may conform to Him, so that our thoughts, feelings, disposition and strivings can be the same as His (cf. Phil. 2:5, Rom. 8:29). This also refers in a particular way to His filial respect for His mother Mary, who is to Him the most cherished creature of all creation. In our imaginations, we can enter this inexpressible intimacy of the Child Jesus with Mary, when she bore Him in her womb. This primordial intimacy between Jesusand Mary during those first nine months is a great mystery — a unity without words in deep silence.

We must teach ourselves to trust God, and entrust everything to Him, while abstaining from “every form of evil”

Silence assumes above all an inclination towards listening. Every saint, discovering the presence of God within their souls, appreciated all the more the value of silence. St Faustina wrote: “Silence is a sword in the spiritual battle; a loquacious soul will never achieve sanctity. […] A quiet soul is strong; no adversities can deter it if it perseveres in silence. A quiet soul is capable of the deepest unity with God; it lives almost always under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit; in a quiet soul, God works without interference” This refers not only to external silence, but also to the silence of the heart.

Mary maintained her quietude after Jesus’ birth. Wonderful new opportunities for communication became available: seeing, touching and smiling, but the silence and listening continued. We have to teach ourselves anew to unite with Jesus in silence! That is why at certain times it is essential to know how to turn off the radio, television and everything that destroys silence. Then, in the atmosphere of the home of the Holy Family of Nazareth, we will learn the quiet relationship with Jesusthrough Mary, who “contemplated the face of Christ, her son. Her look is penetrating, capable of reading in the depths of Jesus’ soul even His hidden feelings and fathoming His decisions” (St John Paul II, 1 March 2003). St John Paul II also emphasised the silence of St Joseph in a specific address: “thanks to that silence we can understand the truth of the Gospel’s judgment that he was ‘a just man’ (cf. Matt. 1:19)” (Redemptoris custos, 17).

Today, in the midst of disorientation and various threats, there is no safer place than the atmosphere of the home of the Holy Family of Nazareth

When we are bombarded with noise, a barrage of words, and the burden of a variety of matters, we should find time to dwell in silent prayer before God. We will then recover the lost ability to listen, as well as the directness and trust of a child of God. The very best thing for this is adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament. This is a special time when the Lord Jesus, together with Mary and Joseph, teaches us the art of abiding in the fountain of mercy in silence and listening.

Years ago, when my wife and I decided to attend Holy Eucharist daily and go frequently to the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament, our marital union began to experience the generosity of God’s mercy. God delicately united our hearts, transformed us and directed us towards ever-deeper communion.

At adoration, together with Mary and Joseph, I abide in the presence of the silent Jesus. It’s that simple. I sit and watch. My heart is calm, listening, small, allowing itself to embrace and cradle. His presence before me, and mine before Him. Just his PRESENCE comforts me. Most important for me is that I can MEET Jesus. PRESENCE and MEETING – these are the chief reasons for the joy, the experience of happiness in a relationship. The presence is the reason for the joy. Not that I can receive something from Him, otherthan simply that He IS, and that I am. I absorb the quiet, the silence. When I am in adoration, the awareness that it’s not so much me looking at Him but more that He is looking at me — into me — penetrates me. His gaze touches my heart. This is a time and a place where I can always return to the attitude of a child who doesn’t have to understand everything but needs above all to be in the arms of a mother and, together with her, entrust everything to God.

That is why at certain times it is essential to know how to turn off the radio, television and everything that destroys silence

Do spouses take mutual care that each of them finds time in the course of the day to remain in silence before the Lord Jesus, so as to converse with Him like a child with its Father? Heart to heart? If television, the Internet and other time thieves don’t permit us, then we need to take a radical decision to withdraw from those hindrances. The recipe for overcoming all problems in a marriage is to present them daily to Jesus in prayer, making sure always to be in a state of sanctifying grace, frequent attendance at the Holy Eucharist and adoration of Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament. This is very important, because spouses must “love one another with supernatural, tender, and fruitful love […]” (CCC 1642). Finding time daily for adoration, we will experience God’s mercy, listen and contemplate “the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things” (Eph 3:8-9). According to St Ignatius of Antioch, “it is better to remain silent and be, than to speak and not be”. Whoever has the true word of Jesus can also listen to His silence.

Nazareth, the road to communion with God

Hence, let us be diligent students in the school of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in our everyday praying of the rosary, through reading the scriptures and participating frequently in the Eucharist and adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament. Let us learn patiently the art of listening to God in quietude and silence, and He will slowly teach us the language of faith. And that is what Jesus, Mary and Joseph teach us. St John Paul II said: “The same aura of silence that envelops everything else about Joseph also shrouds his work as a carpenter in the house of Nazareth. It is, however, a silence that reveals in a special way the inner portrait of the man. The Gospels speak exclusively of what Joseph ‘did’. Still, they allow us to discover in his “actions” — shrouded in silence as they are — an aura of deep contemplation. Joseph was in daily contact with the mystery ‘hidden from ages past’, and which ‘dwelt’ under his roof” (John Paul II, Redemptoris Custos, 25). May the Holy Family of Nazareth teach us exactly this communion with the mystery of God, who is love. St Joseph experienced the total truth of these words which Jesus directed at Phillip: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). St Joseph, working in the quiet of his house, observed Jesus and learned fatherhood, because all the time he saw in Him God the Father. And the Mother of God, along with her spouse, directs us on the shortest path to communion with Jesus, who, as true man, is true God.


The article was published with the permission from "Love One Another!" in September 2020.

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