‘listen, that you may live.’ – Isaiah 55:3
St Joseph was a man who listened. His listening played a crucial part in helping his family survive, thrive and fulfil God’s plan. It helped him to love his immaculate wife and it helped him educate his child. Through he was raised to the altars so late in the Catholic tradition he is known to be second most important and powerful intercessor for Catholics after Mary, and though he says no words in the Gospel, his presence marked the whole character and personality of his divine Jewish son who learnt his trade and to pray from him and to even gain knowledge of God from him.
Learning about St Joseph during a 30 day novena to him, where I have also been fasting has led me to desire to grow in my capacity to listen actively, dynamically and so that my listening can give life and also help fulfil God’s plan in my life and all my relationships. When I was 21, I remember staying for a week or two with Benedictines at St Benoit du Lac in Québèc and their firsts words to me were “ecoutez!”… “Listen!”… this was the key life-giving injunction of their spiritual life and also their spiritual master St Benedict. Listening means you allow the other person to be themselves and reveal to you all their complexity, beauty, vulnerability and uniqueness, it is what makes relationships possible and what saves them from the possibility of boredom or even domination.
During my novena I am making practical steps to develop my listening skills so I can reap the spiritual, emotional, relationship-building and life-giving benefits of making space for the other “as they really are” in my life. From taking advice from my closest friends and family, I have come up with this simple mantra which I will review daily in my night prayer for 10 minutes on the following points and concretely thank God for giving me the Grace to do the following things with just one specific example that I can take from the day:
L – Look someone in the eyes in a conversation
I – Interruption forbidden and allow a pregnant pause
S – Say what they have said back kindly
T – Take time for someone
E – Engage attentively
N – No domination
St Joseph help me to LISTEN with 6 concrete examples in my day and that I can thank God for at the end of my day. Help me to desire to listen so that it can both give life to and also change the world. St Joseph, protect my family, friends, work, and all my relationships from the evil one. You are the “terror of demons”… by listening may I grow in virtue and cast back the darkness in all I do and am in my life. St Joseph, pray for us. Help us all to listen.
And I heard your craftwork in the raindrops.
Gently you unfurled my eyelids,
And in the hollow entered your light,
I was held, I welcomed.
And swiftly the petals danced to sweep the dust
And cascaded with a joy,
So aureate yet simple,
So unbounded yet intimate.
And I felt my impulse cradled in the stream,
It whispered your mystery and sustained me.
My eyes drank,
You caused an orchestra.
And you poured out in mellifluous melody,
So silent, it deafened.
So delicate you breached,
And I felt your theme with shivers and saw.
That you carved me in your heart,
That you wrought me in your hope,
And you knew me in these tears.
– January 2011
The trees are speaking,
Just as the leaves open
in the dancing wind
to suckle light
and be cleaned by dew and rain
and to find treasure in roots
that lead back to streams –
that at night mirror the stars
that are beheld in the whisper
of your eyelashes
as you unfurl your heart;
Let me drink,
I thirst for you and the world.
- August 2012 Below : St Jospeh holds a nail to Jesus and Mary hugs him, my own 2012