By Catholic Action's Team of Priests and Deacons from the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy
The “I Want You” recruiting poster featuring a grim-faced Uncle Sam pointing his finger at the observer was hardly a necessary motivator for the men of the World War I & II generations to join the army. Millions of young men ran to the war and enthusiastically joined the war effort, which must have made old Uncle Sam deeply proud of the youth of America.
Would Uncle Sam get the same response from America’s youth today? Does our culture produce men of such character now, men who will drop everything to join principled efforts to defend country, church, family and innocents?
Let’s just say the jury is still out on that question.
Nowadays, men who advocate heroic responses to tangible evils (whether physical or moral) are often labeled “toxic” and shouted off the stage of public discourse. The older version of heroic masculinity has been replaced by a soft, feminized male culture that knows little about the virtues that establish masculine identity: chastity, self-sacrifice, responsibility, and heroism, among others.
In fact, sometimes virtuous men are completely absent from the arena of youth formation. America’s jails are full of young men whose fathers were nowhere to be found in their most formative years. It’s not an exaggeration to say that we face a crisis of masculinity in this country which pales in comparison to the Coronavirus pandemic or any other external threat to our nation’s wellbeing. This crisis is internal.
Want evidence? A recent study of military-age youths in America makes the shocking claim that 71% of young men and women (between the ages of 17 and 24), would not meet the minimum requirements for military service today.
This is what happens when a society aids and abets attacks on the traditional family and Christian values. It’s what happens when the teaching of virtue and traditional codes of conduct go by the wayside.
Addressing this crisis, however, is the very core of the mission of Catholic Action for Faith and Family. We are building Catholic civilization by building good men, women, families, clergy and religious – and uniting them all to protect and defend our sacred Faith. It’s a tall order.
Catholic civilization is built, not on political institutions or cultural movements, but on families. The institutional Church understands the family as the “domestic church”, the breeding ground of Christian values and for the proper spiritual and human formation of children. Those children become the young men and women who race to the defense of their countries and all the other important values when the need is great.
But how can you have strong families without strong men? It goes without saying that a mother’s contribution to the family is essential and unrepeatable and we need strong moms too! But nothing can replace the man who takes responsibility for his family and invests himself in them as his life’s commitment..
In his book, Fatherless America (Harper, 1995), sociologist David Blankenhorn noted that the formation of men to be fathers is the crucial task of every civilization. To the extent that it fails that task, society itself fails.
Heroic masculinity is the basis of family and therefore the very strength of civilization. Heroic men have defended the Church and society from countless attacks from time immemorial. Without heroic men leading our families, our Church, the institutions of society, everything falls apart and the forces of evil take over.
That’s not going to happen on our watch.
Luckily, we don’t have to look far for role models of heroic manhood and virtue. Our Lord is the greatest of all Heroes, without a doubt, but we must not overlook the one man who had the essential role in forming Our Lord’s humanity to become the Messiah who would take up the mission of salvation.
It was one virile, responsible, and intelligent man who taught Jesus to read scripture, to wield a carpenter’s hammer, to be concerned about the affairs of society and the souls of men. God gave one heroic man the task of forming the Hero Himself.
That man was St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus and husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We owe everything to St. Joseph. He is our role model for the mission of teaching heroic masculinity and renewing a Catholic civilization.
As we celebrate the great feast of St. Joseph (March 19th) let us recommit ourselves to our own proper vocations and entrust them to St. Joseph in a special way. Joseph’s silent strength, his virtue, and his unwavering commitment to the Will of God will be our strength and will help us to make of our world a Catholic civilization imbued with love for faith and family.
The St. Joseph Mandate
How Can Catholic Men Imitate the Virtues of St. Joseph?
1. Build and Maintain Your Physical Health. Are you physically capable of enduring hardships for your loved ones as St. Joseph did for the Holy Family? Do you take care of your health? Not every man needs a perfect physique, but do you at least have the stamina and strength (according to your age and other particular circumstances) required to protect and provide for your loved ones?
2. Do you have St. Joseph's Work Ethic. How faithful are you to your work and your regular, everyday duties? Do you cut corners, or do you do everything to the best of your ability? Do you seek to continually improve your craft and your skill? Do you embrace of the little sacrifices of daily life so that you can endure greater sacrifices that may come in the future?
3. Rest and Prayer. Do you make enough time to rest, or are you a slave of your work? Do you make time for God and your loved ones? Do you work to live, or live to work? Do you pray daily? Every day for St. Joseph was a Rosary, a meditation on the lives of Jesus and Mary. Do you pray the Rosary? If so, do the mysteries bear fruit in your life.
4. Self-Control and Chastity. Are you able to deny yourself for God and for your loved ones? Does reason and intellect guide your decision making instead of your emotions? Are you chaste? Are you capable of pure, faithful sacrificial love which St. Joseph gave to his Beloved Spouse.
5. Devotion to Jesus and Mary. No one loved Our Lord and Our Lady as much as St. Joseph did. How strong is your devotion to the Holy Eucharist, God in the Flesh, whom St. Joseph beheld with his own eyes and sacrificed for every day of his life. How strong is your devotion to Our Lady, who was loved, cherished, and venerated by her husband as the Most Blessed Among Women, the Mother of God, the Woman Who Crushes the Head of the Serpent.
None of us are perfect. We are all sinners who fall short of God's glory, but by humbly relying on His grace, Catholic Men can be faithful and heroic men like St. Joseph. Let us recommit ourselves to strive for the virtues of Our Lord and his Foster-Father St. Joseph, working out our salvation with the help of God's grace.