Cover image art: "St. Joseph and Baby Jesus" by Jason Jenicke.
What's the first image that comes to your mind when you think about "masculinity"?
The image will most likely differ drastically from person to person, and could range anywhere from images of suits, slick CEO's, and Don-Draper-types to beards, big trucks and Chuck Norris.
In today's modern culture though, there seems to be a lot of conversation centered around what's been termed "toxic masculinity." This focus on what's considered toxic about men has left us without any vision of what healthy, "non-toxic" masculinity looks like though, and in many ways makes it seem as if all masculinity is harmful. (Which is not the case!)
In some ways, the current devaluation of masculinity can be seen as a backlash against the imbalance of power that has historically existed between men and women. In fact, in his travels around the globe, Pope St. John Paul II noticed this imbalance in power and saw clearly how women had been degraded in many parts of the world.
In response to the injustices he observed, he composed "A Letter to Women" out of his desire to help women understand the many facets of their femininity. He also wrote a beautiful encyclical, Mulieris Dignitatem, exploring the dignity and precious beauty of women, especially as seen through the lens of Mary, the mother of God.
It was in these documents that he coined the term "the feminine genius."
Just as there is a feminine genius though, we can also then say that there is a masculine genius. And just as Mary is a model of the feminine genius, I propose we look to St. Joseph as a model of the masculine genius.
God created man and woman equal in dignity, but different in our biology. The "genius" of each gender refers to the qualities that come more naturally to each based on one’s biology. As such, the fundamental differences between men and women’s brains lead to a more natural disposition to have primary access to certain qualities.
Through this lens, we can see that we don’t need to devalue masculinity in order to defend femininity. Just as we need Mary to show us the perfection of femininity, we need St. Joseph to help us know what "non-toxic" masculinity looks like! An examination of the masculine qualities possessed by St. Joseph can give us a model and example of what healthy masculinity looks like.
So what are the qualities that - in general - come more naturally to men because of their biology? And how does St. Joseph exemplify these qualities?
Find out more in Episode #13 of the Being Human podcast: St. Joseph's Masculine Genius!
"Joseph found happiness not in mere self-sacrifice but in self-gift.
In him, we never see frustration but only trust.
His patient silence was the prelude to concrete expressions of trust.
Our world today needs fathers. It has no use for tyrants who would domineer others as a means of compensating for their own needs...
Every true vocation is born of the gift of oneself, which is the fruit of mature sacrifice....
Whatever our vocation, whether to marriage, celibacy or virginity, our gift of self will not come to fulfillment if it stops at sacrifice; were that the case, instead of becoming a sign of the beauty and joy of love, the gift of self would risk being an expression of unhappiness, sadness and frustration."
- Pope Francis, Patris Corde