Husband & Wife Articles


The Real Nazareth

A reflection on spiritual fatherhood

By Michele Chronister

I recently went on an evening of prayer and retreat for young adults hosted by the seminary near our home, which the seminarians named “Nazareth Nights.”

I especially appreciated the reflection given that night on what Nazareth teaches us. One aspect of Nazareth the priest discussed was silence. “Silence,” he explained, “doesn’t have to mean calm. There can be tumult in silence.” As a young wife and mother, with a mind often filled with worries, it was a reassuring reminder for my personal prayer life.

Michele and Andrew Chronister are shown with their two daughters.

I began to think about the real Nazareth. Jesus was like us in all things but sin, and one has to think that he was as active and noisy as any little boy. My husband and I have been blessed only with daughters so far, but many of our friends have houses full of little boys. Those homes are anything but quiet. They are filled with sounds of life. A fundamental rule of boyhood is to never stop moving. Boys have an unparalleled exuberance for life. A friend of mine (with four small boys) recently shared with me that her husband is absolutely indispensable in the time after dinner, because he plays with their boys in the rough and tumble way in which fathers know how.

So, when I think about Nazareth in those early years, I can only imagine that the home of the Holy Family was anything but quiet. I imagine that St. Joseph encouraged boyish play. We may think that when Joseph finished work for the day, the Holy Family would spend the evening in ecstatic prayer. But I think it’s far more likely that Jesus and Joseph would roughhouse a bit, and that Mary would chuckle to herself as she heard Jesus’ little squeals of delight fill their home. It’s what fathers do.

Silence is an interior state, an openness to God speaking in your life. Silence is an attentiveness to the ongoing work of God’s grace. It takes an act of will to choose silence, especially when there is an audible lack of silence.Likewise, it takes an act of love to embrace noise in a life that would otherwise be audibly silent. That is what St. Joseph did when he put aside his own dreams for his marriage to Mary and accepted the role of foster father. That is also the choice that seminarians and priests make when they embrace spiritual fatherhood.

My husband is an adjunct professor at the aforementioned seminary, and our family has been welcomed by the seminary community with open arms. Getting to know these young men who are discerning the call to the priesthood is an incredible privilege. They have taught me so much, mostly about is spiritual fatherhood. The vast majority of them are preparing for the life of a parish priest – a messy, exhausting, demanding, and often lonely vocation. But these young men embrace that vocation with willing and loving hearts. They, like St. Joseph, embrace a messy and demanding life with arms wide open.

This is evident in the way they’ve welcomed my (not quiet) daughters and other children and babies into their liturgies. My toddler was colicky as a baby, and continues to be noisy and strong-willed at times. She loves “Jee-us” in the Eucharist, but she prefers short visits and is very vocal during Mass. Yet she is beloved by the seminarians. They thank us for bringing her, as she reminds them of the parish life they are preparing for.

But their spiritual fatherhood goes beyond mere words. They show it with their actions: in their willingness to play peek-a-boo around the chapel pillar with a fussy baby, their amused smile when a wiggly toddler tries to escape her mother’s arms in the Communion line, in the high fives and joyful greetings they give my preschooler, and in their genuine joy at the chaos we bring to their otherwise quiet seminary home.

They, like Joseph, know the secret of true silence. It is found not by seeking quiet, but by seeking God.

Michele Chronister is a freelance writer, book author and founder of My Domestic Monastery, which offers insights into a household’s life of work, prayer, play and rest. She is married, with two young daughters.