Examen for Masculine Virtue

THE JUBILEE OF ST. JOSEPH: Jesus’ Trust in His Earthly Father Speaks Volumes

RICARDO BALACA, ‘ST. JOSEPH WITH THE INFANT JESUS,’ 1861
RICARDO BALACA, ‘ST. JOSEPH WITH THE INFANT JESUS,’ 1861 (photo: Public domain)

The Year of St. Joseph invites us into a deeper reflection of and gratitude for the gift of authentic masculine spirituality and fatherhood. In his apostolic exhortation to Catholic men, “Into the Breach,” Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted directs our attention to Jesus Christ, the “revelation of the mystery of what it means to be man … the model of masculinity.” Like Jesus Christ, all men begin as sons who learn through modeling and imitation how to prepare to give themselves as spouses and fathers. For Jesus, this example came from Joseph. 

We know well from sacred Scripture that Joseph’s vocation was not an easy one. In fact, one might not blame him if he felt like a failure. 

No man would want his wife to give birth in a barn and place her newborn in a trough. 

Yet, in his humble trust in God, Joseph fulfilled every aspect of authentic fatherhood, the fullness of masculinity. 

If Jesus Christ is “the highest display of masculine virtue and strength,” as Bishop Olmsted writes, then we can trust that it was taught to him by a man who displayed those qualities. 

As he did for Jesus Christ, so St. Joseph can do for all men: teach, model and provide guidance for masculine virtue and strength. Any man can benefit from the same instruction Our Lord received by praying with the Litany of St. Joseph. Even better would be for a man to use it as a type of examination of conscience. Each petition to Joseph evokes an authentic masculine attribute: 

Noble son … Husband ... Head of the Holy Family … Foster father ... Patriarch … Guardian of the Virgin … Faithful guardian of Christ ... Protector … Pillar … Prudent and Brave ... Obedient … Loyal … Chaste and Just ... Patient … Comforter ... Example to parents … Model of Workers … Patron of the dying ... Hope of the sick … A lover of poverty … Terror of Demons.

Each man is called to live these attributes according to different vocations and states in life: son, brother, friend, husband, priest, religious and father. How might this examen be done? 

Gratitude: Thank God the Father for bestowing the gifts and graces that allow you to exercise these traits. Have gratitude for the men in your life who are responsible for modeling and encouraging you. Have gratitude for those God has entrusted to your care. Have gratitude for the complement relationship with women that calls forth these characteristics. 

The Litany: Begin slowly, maybe only choosing a few petitions a day, or week. Examine how well you are expressing these attributes in such a manner below:

Guardian — How have I guarded myself and my loved ones in the faith? How have I protected the sanctity of human life? Do I keep guard over what comes into my home through the computer, television and social media? Do I bless my home? Do I bless my children and wife?

Obedient — In order to inherit eternal life, Christ reminds the rich young man to follow the Ten Commandments. Am I obedient to God’s commandments? Am I obedient to Catholic Church teachings? How well do I live out my vows or promises in my state of life? Do I strive to live them well, or do I just do the bare minimum? Do I listen for God’s voice and obey what he asks? 

Model of Workers — Am I a man of integrity at work? Do I model diligence, loyalty and care? Do I strive to do my work for God’s glory? Is my identity too dependent on what I do, rather than who I am? Has work and success taken the place of God or my family? 

Pillar of families/Head of the Holy Family — Do I lead my family in prayer? Do I pray for my family? Have I rejected, abandoned or ignored my place as head of the family out of fear? Am I present to my family? Do I give them the attention and listening they need? Do I sacrifice in meaningful ways for my family? 

Protector — Do I “stay watchful and alert” for others, leading them away from sin and harm? Am I disciplined in my emotions and habits in order to be ready to protect and provide? Do I listen attentively? Do I withhold personal bias and use sound judgment, offering counsel and support? 

Terror of Demons — Satan wants nothing more than for you to fail in being an image and likeness of God. He will use any means to destroy you and turn you from God. Do not be afraid! You are to be a terror to the evil one through the power of Our Lord. How is my relationship with Christ? How often do I go to confession? Am I going to Mass each Sunday and on holy days of obligation? Do I fast and pray? Do I pray the Rosary regularly? Do I strive to grow in the knowledge of my faith? 

Commit: Once St. Joseph safely settled the Holy Family in Nazareth, they lived an ordinary life. 

Though they were safe, Joseph never ceased to be diligent as a husband and father, offering in self-sacrifice his very life to care for the Blessed Mother and Jesus. Commit to one act, one gift of self-sacrifice you can offer to hone these masculine attributes each day. 

Pray: Ask St. Joseph for his intercession, his inspiration and his aid in helping you to continue to embody these characteristics and to grow in the areas you desire to change. 

To all women: Pray this Litany of St. Joseph for the men in your life. Pray it in gratitude for the men who have shown masculine virtue and strength that allows you to share your own authentic feminine gifts. Affirm the men in your life and allow them to exercise these masculine traits, avoiding ways that inhibit their expressions of authentic and holy masculinity. 

Pray to St. Joseph to be a spiritual father, to help you to heal the wounds caused by men who failed you in authentic masculine love. 

As St. Joseph turned to the Blessed Mother for the complementarity of authentic feminine love, so, too, should men turn to her for inspiration and strength. May St. Joseph and the Blessed Mother intercede for us! 


Read the PDF of the Register special section on the Jubilee of St. Joseph, or browse the other articles here: 

Shannon Mullen, Editor-in-Chief of CNA

Meet CNA’s New Editor-in-Chief, Shannon Mullen (July 31)

A new era has begun at the Catholic News Agency even as the news cycle continues to bring challenging stories both inside the Church and around the world. This week on Register Radio, we get to know Shannon Mullen, the new editor-in-chief of CNA. And then, we are joined by the Register’s Washington Correspondent, Lauretta Brown, to catch up on the latest pro-life news from the nation’s capital.