Pope Francis       

03.09.18   Holy Mass  Santa Marta                 

Luke 4: 16-30 

When Jesus arrived at the synagogue, he aroused curiosity. Everyone wanted to see the person they had heard was working miracles in other places. Instead of satisfying their curiosity, the Son of the Heavenly Father uses only “the Word of God”. This is the attitude Jesus adopted when confronting the devil. Jesus’ humility opens the door to his first words meant to construct a bridge but instead sow doubt immediately changing the atmosphere from peace to war, from amazement to fury.

Jesus responds with silence before those who wanted to throw him out of the city.

They were not thinking, they were shouting. Jesus stayed silent… The Gospel passage ends with: ‘But he passed through the midst of them and went away’

Jesus’ dignity shines through this silence that triumphs over his attackers. The same thing would happen again on Good Friday.

The people who were saying ‘crucify him’ had praised Jesus on Palm Sunday saying, ‘Blessed are You, Son of David’. They had changed.

The truth is humble and silent and is not noisy, acknowledging that what Jesus did is not easy. However, the dignity of the Christian is anchored in the power of God. Even in a family, there are times when division occurs because of discussions on politics, sports, money.

With people lacking good will, with people who only seek scandal, who seek only division, who seek only destruction, even within the family: silence, prayer.

May the Lord give us the grace to discern when we should speak and when we should stay silent. This applies to every part of life: to work, at home, in society…. Thus we will be closer imitators of Jesus. 


Pope Francis       

15.12.21 General Audience, Paul VI Audience Hall

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

James  3: 2,5,10 

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Let us continue our journey of reflection on Saint Joseph. After illustrating the environment in which he lived, his 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: “As the Word – that is, the Word made man - grows in us, words diminish”. [1] As 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, and 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. Let each of us look inside ourselves: but often, when we are working on something and when we finish, we immediately 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.


Pope Francis       

10.12.23 Angelus, Saint Peter's Square  

2nd Sunday of Advent Year B  

Mark 1: 1-8

Dear brothers and sisters, good day!

On this second Sunday of Advent, the Gospel speaks to us about John the Baptist, the precursor of Jesus (cf. Mk 1:1-8), and it describes him as “the voice of one crying in the desert” (v. 3). The desert, an empty place, where you do not communicate; and the voice, a means to speak – these seem like two contradictory images. But they are joined in the Baptist.

The desert. John preaches there, near the Jordan River, near the place where his people had entered the promised land many centuries earlier (cf. Joshua 3:1-17). In so doing, it is like he was saying: to listen to God, we must return to the place where, for forty years, he accompanied, protected and educated his people, in the desert. This is the place of silence and essentials, where someone cannot afford to dwell on useless things, but needs to concentrate on what is indispensable in order to live.

And this is an always relevant reminder: to proceed on the journey of life, we need to be stripped of the “more”, because to live well does not mean being filled with useless things, but being freed from the superfluous, to dig deeply within ourselves so as to hold on to what is truly important before God. Only if, through silence and prayer, we make space for Jesus, who is the Word of the Father, will we know how to be freed from the pollution of vain words and chatter. Silence and sobriety – from words, from the use of things, from the media and social media – these are not just fioretti (translator’s note: a common practice in Italian devotional life in which someone offers a small sacrifice, a resolution, or the proposal to do a good deed to Our Lord or Our Lady) or virtues, they are essential elements in the Christian life.

And we come to the second image, the voice. This is the means by which we manifest what we think and what we bear in our hearts. We understand, therefore, that it is quite connected with silence, because it expresses what matures inside, from listening to what the Spirit suggests. Brothers and sisters, if someone does not know how to be quiet, it is unlikely they will have something good to say; while, the more attentive the silence, the stronger the word. In John the Baptist that voice is linked to the genuineness of his experience and the purity of his heart.

We can ask ourselves: What place does silence have in my days? Is it an empty, perhaps oppressive, silence? Or is it a space for listening, for prayer, for guarding my heart? Is my life sober or filled with superfluous things? Even if it means going against the tide, let us value silence, sobriety and listening. May Mary, Virgin of silence, help us to love the desert, to become credible voices who testify to her Son who is coming.