What is authentic masculinity?  What does it mean to be a man in today’s world?

A Crisis of Masculinity

We are living in an age in which there is a crisis of masculinity. Men have failed to embrace authentic masculinity, and have greatly harmed women because of it. We do not understand what it means to be a man, and our culture now tells us that much of traditional masculinity is negative.  Certainly, any act of a man that abuses or harasses another is wrong and evil.  However, authentic masculinity is not itself wrong and evil (otherwise men would be inherently evil), so while we reject and fight against abuse and harassment, we recognize that those actions are not authentic masculinity.  If we want to stop harmful behavior, men need to embrace and live out authentic masculinity.

To begin to understand what authentic masculinity is, we should understand why the problems we face related to masculinity are, in fact, problems.  If we can identify why the problems are problematic, we can gain greater insight into what our world would look like without them.  We can then understand how men should act, and therefore what authentic masculinity is. 

Three sinful behaviors that men engage in today are the abuse of women, the use of pornography, and the use of contraception.  Each of these are different, but each represents the use of women as objects.  Each is not only a perversion of what it means to be a man, but they go against what it means to be a father.  Each is a rejection of fatherhood.  Fathers give life to their children and love to their spouses, but these three actions remove life and love from the sexual act (which is itself inherently tied to fatherhood).  The crisis of masculinity that we face today is a rejection of fatherhood by men, and our culture broadly.

Embracing Fatherhood

If our twisted masculinity today is a rejection of fatherhood, this means that authentic masculinity is an embracing of fatherhood.  If men stopped their problematic behavior, they would actually embrace the qualities that make them good fathers.  Therefore, all men are called to embrace the virtues of fatherhood, whether they have physical children or not.  Of course, fatherhood looks different for each state of life, whether one is married, a priest, or single, but all men need to embrace the same virtues.  Having physical children may make one a father, but it does not mean we embrace fatherhood.  Similarly, men who do not have physical children of their own can embrace true fatherhood.

Thankfully, we do have models of masculine virtue for us to follow, none better than our Lord Himself, who is the epitome of perfection.  It was Christ who laid down his life for his bride, the Church, and that is ultimately what all men are called to imitate.  Another model of virtue, and likely the second best, is our Lord’s foster father, St. Joseph. 

A Model Father in St. Joseph

St. Joseph had to be an incredibly virtuous man to accomplish the mission God had given Him.  After all, he had to raise the Savior of the world, God Himself.  Jesus was obedient to St. Joseph, and advanced in wisdom while under St. Joseph’s care.  If St. Joseph had not been virtuous, it’s hard to imagine how this could have happened. 

St. Joseph shows us the way.  He shows us how a man loves with chastity and respect.  He shows us how to live virtuously.  If we want to embrace authentic masculinity, then we need to embrace the virtues of St. Joseph, the virtues of authentic fatherhood, which we find in his litany.

We remember the virtues St. Joseph had that made him such a great man and father in the Litany of St. Joseph. We should pray the litany daily so that we might invoke St. Joseph’s intercession as we seek to be the men Christ asks us to be. In this year of St. Joseph, we need to go to him. We need to understand what virtues we need to grow in.  We need to look to St. Joseph’s example.  We need to pray to the Lord for an infusion of grace so that we may love our Lord and our neighbor as St. Joseph did.

Let us pray that litany:

Litany of St. Joseph

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.

God, the Father of heaven,
have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit,
have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God,
have mercy on us.

Holy Mary,
pray for us.
Saint Joseph,
pray for us (repeat after each line)
Noble offspring of David,
Light of Patriarchs,
Spouse of the Mother of God,
Chaste Guardian of the Virgin,
Foster-father of the Son of God,
Zealous defender of Christ,
Head of the Holy Family,
Joseph most just,
Joseph most chaste,
Joseph most prudent,
Joseph most courageous,
Joseph most obedient,
Joseph most faithful,
Mirror of patience,
Lover of poverty,
Model of workmen,
Glory of domestic life,
Guardian of virgins,
Pillar of families,
Comfort of the afflicted,
Hope of the sick,
Patron of the dying,
Terror of demons,
Protector of the Holy Church,

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,
spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,
graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.

He has made him lord of his household,
And prince over all his possessions.

Let us pray: O God, who in your loving providence, chose Blessed Joseph to be the spouse of your most Holy Mother, grant us the favor of having him for our intercessor in heaven whom on earth we venerate as our protector. You, who live and reign forever and ever. Amen.