What Masculinity Really Looks Like | Sojourners

What Masculinity Really Looks Like

Image via  / Shutterstock.com

The poor Italians! Every March 17 across Ireland, the United States, and around the globe, there are thousands of parties, parades, and festivals celebrating St. Patrick. Sadly, the feast of St. Joseph — the patron saint of Italy — celebrated just two days later on March 19 gets comparatively little attention.

But Pope Francis has been trying to change this. Three years ago, he chose to have his inauguration as the Bishop of Rome on the Feast of St. Joseph. On that occasion, he hailed Joseph as a person of “unfailing presence and utter fidelity” who is “constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own.”

Francis said that Joseph “can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions.”

Would we perhaps not say the same of Pope Francis? The Argentinian pontiff is often described as a Marian pope because of devotion to the mother of Jesus. But I think he’s just as identifiable with Mary’s spouse. His pastoral ministry in particular communicates a Josephite spirit.

He too — like Jesus’s adopted father — is a person who seems truly open to God’s creative spirit and is willing to read the signs of the times.

Francis admires Joseph’s docility, but he also is inspired by the carpenter’s capacity to love: “In the Gospels, Saint 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!”

In Joseph, Francis finds a different measure of manliness than is often presented by our culture — and sadly — by our faith community. True masculinity isn’t measured by machismo strength, but by a capacity to practice tenderness — particularly with those who suffer and are excluded.

Quiet docility to God’s spirit, tenderness towards the excluded, and openness to everyone: these are the values the life Joseph of Nazareth.

Traditional piety implores the faith to ite ad Joseph (go to Joseph) when we need God’s strength to be more faithful practitioner of his gospel.

If Pope Francis’s life is any testimony, it’s a prayer that works.