St. Joseph: Model of Masculine Holiness and Integrity
What the Head of the Holy Family Can Teach Men Today
Masculine holiness and integrity are not much championed in today’s society.
But men have a perfect model of these qualities in St. Joseph, whom the Church celebrates on March 19.
Webster’s Dictionary defines integrity as "firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values: incorruptibility; the quality or state of being complete or undivided." In his masculine holiness, Joseph is the epitome and pinnacle of these in perfect measure, especially as an example for modern culture.
"All too often, today, men and women think of spirituality, closeness to God, a life of devotion as a feminine undertaking," says Father Gary Caster, author of Joseph: The Man Who Raised Jesus (Servant Books, 2013).
"To be masculine is to be a man of prayer, to be close to God," he emphasizes. "Joseph shows us that. Otherwise, he would not have known the experience (of the angel) he had in his dream was from God. There’s not a question in his mind the experience he had was rooted in God. So to be a man is to be a person of prayer, so much so that there is a close intimacy with God. This is the height of masculinity."
To encourage men to be prayerful as part of their masculine holiness, Devin Schadt, author of Joseph’s Way: The Call to Greatness (Ignatius, 2014), suggests that men carve out time for prayer.
"Unplug from the computer and tech devices," advises the husband of Kim and father of five daughters, ages 3 to 15.
"We need to listen, wait on God and breathe his fatherhood into us," he says. A man needs "a rich prayer life because he cannot give what he does not have."
Schadt, who is also co-founder of the Fathers of St. Joseph, an apostolate that works for the renewal of authentic fatherhood (JosephsWayBook.com), says fathers need to emulate Joseph by prayerfully leading their own holy families: "We need to do the same: Lead in prayer."
Father Caster notes that there is a disordered sense of what strength is in modern times, too, which Joseph can help correct.
"St. Joseph shows us the strength of man is building up," says Father Caster. "Of course, St. Joseph surely did that as a carpenter. His life work was all about building up — especially with and through his strong masculine holiness and integrity. A strong man is someone who doesn’t tear down others, but builds up others."
St. Joseph also demonstrates how to love women respectfully, as he did Mary.
"Joseph teaches us how to love women rightly," says Schadt, by loving the Blessed Mother’s dignity and working side by side with her as a collaborator in family life.
This extends to the fatherly care of children.
Schadt highlights the need to mold "our children by the grace of God into temples of the Holy Spirit. As fathers, we must audibly relate that to them any way we can and remind them of that often, by life’s example, by playing and praying with them. Show them where they are gifted and talented. Edify and encourage them."
Schadt describes how he works with his children like Joseph did with Jesus "in that humble workshop in Nazareth, where they crafted together the cross of self-sacrificial love."
This becomes yet another way families emulate the Holy Family: being examples of Christian love.
Father Stanley Smolenski, rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of South Carolina/Our Lady of Joyful Hope, makes clear how the Holy Family lived: "Divine love motivated them. They are the perfect example of loving God with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength."
Pointing out that Pope Paul VI, in his trip to the Holy Land 50 years ago, spoke about this "school of Nazareth," Father Smolenski says, "There is a term which describes this ‘school’ perfectly: everyday holiness. They lived ordinary life virtuously."
By emulating St. Joseph’s masculine holiness and integrity, fathers can lead their families in this everyday holiness, he says.
Doer of God’s Will
Father Caster emphasizes that Joseph’s — and other men’s — integrity is a fruit of masculine holiness and anchored by the desire to do God’s will.
"Joseph has confidence in what God the Father is asking him to do. He doesn’t hem and haw: ‘Maybe we shouldn’t go [to Egypt]. … Just what is God asking me to do?’ Joseph immediately does everything the Father tells him to do through the angel. He’s not wishy-washy, doesn’t overthink things, doesn’t insert himself [his will]."
Joseph only wants to do what God wants. Father Caster thinks many men today "have lost a sense of that kind of trust in the God who is doing the asking."
Man of Goodness
Pope Francis brought out the integrity and action of Joseph in his homily on the feast of St. Joseph at his inauguration Mass on March 19, 2013: "How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church? By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans and not simply to his own."
The Pope further noted that caring and protecting demand goodness and a certain tenderness. He said, "In the Gospels, St. Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man; yet, in his heart, we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak, but, rather, a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness."
To some, this may seem like a tall order, but St. Joseph is here to help.
"We [men] need to ask St. Joseph to show us and obtain for us the grace," recommends Schadt, to live such goodness.
St. Teresa of Avila had great confidence in St. Joseph. "She said he never denied her requests and at times corrected them," says Father Smolenski. "She said if anyone doesn’t believe her [about his intercession], try it and experience" the powerful results.
St. Joseph, model of masculine holiness and integrity, pray for us!
Joseph Pronechen is a
Register staff writer.