I have ALWAYS wondered how noise cancelling headphones worked. In my head, I thought they were just made with special materials that blocked out noise. I was picturing a soundproof room, but miniaturized. I was very surprised this week when I found out that they are much more complicated.

A quick refresher on the science of sound, the frequency of a sound wave is the number of waves that pass a certain point in a certain amount of time, and the amplitude is the loudness of it.

In noise-cancelling headphones, a tiny microphone on the earcup listens to the noise around you. It registers the frequency and amplitude of the noise and sends that information to the little electronic piece in the headset which then creates an opposing sound wave that cancels it out.

When you create an opposing sound wave, you actually mimic the original sound wave, but instead it is 180° out of phase. This means that when one sound wave is at its highest peak, the other is at its lowest, effectively cancelling each other out. This is known as ‘destructive interference’. This creation of MORE noise is what creates the “silence”.

Silence feels so hard to come by, what with TV, and podcasts, and music, and talking to people, and my kid crying, and the traffic driving by our apartment, and every other loud noise. Even with sound canceling headphones, it’s not really silence, it’s putting more noise out into the world! It feels like my brain gets congested with all of that racket. So I really appreciate my child’s nap times. He sleeps well enough that I COULD have some sort of noise going, but I have learned that it helps me to take that time in the day to be quiet myself also.

I’ve learned recently how important this quiet can be in my daily life, but I’ve known for a while that this same silence can be beneficial in my prayer life. So many times when I go to prayer I have a laundry list of things I want to talk to God about, so usually I’m the one that does all the talking.

Or on the rare occasions that I don’t have something I specifically want to say, instead of sitting in silence or listening, I’ll sing along to praise and worship music, often blasting it as loud as it will go! But if I’m truly trying to follow the Lord, I need to take time to listen to Him. I need to force myself to be quiet. When this is hard for me, I turn to the inspiration of St. Joseph.

He was the earthly father of Jesus, just about as close to God as you can get. But it is interesting to note that nowhere in the Gospels are any references that he ever said anything. Now I’m sure he did. He wasn’t a mute, but the words in the Bible were chosen carefully and it is understood that this choice to not list anything Joseph ever said was deliberate. Joseph was a huge part of Jesus’ life, very close with Him, but the words he said weren’t important to the story. It is a beautiful reminder to us that we can still be close to God, often serving Him even better when we simply listen and do not talk, when we let the silence take over.

This Saturday is the Solemnity of St. Joseph. Since I named my son Joseph while celebrating the year of St. Joseph last year, I am VERY excited to be celebrating this feast day this week. There are a number of things we might do as a family. Maybe we will have a cake or something. For me personally, I will do my best to emulate this amazing man, St. Joseph. I will choose to be silent in prayer. I will find a way to close my big mouth and just listen. I’d invite you to spend some time in prayer on Saturday, being perfectly quiet, even in your thoughts, and just listen to what God has to tell you. St. Joseph was an amazing man, it would do all of us well to try to be more like him, growing in closeness to Christ through listening.

St. Joseph, pray for us.

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