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The Catholic Culturalist: On Fathers and Christian Masculinity

If our culture turns around, it will be because, in large part, Christian men stand up and fight.

Detail from "St Joseph with the Infant Jesus" (c. 1602) by Guido Reni []

The Year of St. Joseph points us to Jesus’ adoptive father, Joseph, as the essential model for fathers. Joseph not only manifests genuine masculinity, he also images God’s own fatherhood, as Pope Francis makes clear in his apostolic letter, Patris Corde: “In his relationship to Jesus, Joseph was the earthly shadow of the heavenly Father: he watched over him and protected him, never leaving him to go his own way.” Jesus, though the Son of God, obeyed Joseph, learned from him, and worked with him, acknowledging Joseph as a true expression of God’s own fatherhood.

God does not just use fatherhood as an image of himself, because he himself is Father, even within his own triune life. Earthly fatherhood comes forth from him and should manifest his life and love. St. Paul speaks of honoring the “Father, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth is named” (Ephesians 3:15). God wants everyone to be able to see his own fatherly love and called certain men to share in his own paternal gift of bringing forth life and caring for others. Every father is called to be liked Joseph, “an earthly shadow of the heavenly Father” for his own family.

Our culture, however, often denigrates masculinity, sometimes viewing even its proper expressions as toxic. We too often see maleness in its fallenness — dominating and selfish — rather than showing self-sacrificial service. In fact, later in Ephesians, Paul speaks of the true vocation of the husband and father: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (5:25). He also speaks of the role of fatherhood: “Do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (6:4). Paul shows us the goal of fatherhood — sacrificing himself for the flourishing of the family by putting the good of his wife and children before his own desires.

No matter what the contrary voices of our culture say, we need strong men and fathers. God created man and woman in complementarity, and they need each other to thrive, helping the other in relation to their own strengths and weaknesses. Children need the strong presence of a father to discipline and teach, as Paul reminds us. Study after study has shown that fathers have the largest impact on the faith of their children. Christian Smith explains in his sociological study, Young Catholic America, that “the faith of Catholic fathers is powerfully determinative of the future faith of their children (125). The same can be said for general wellbeing and success. When fathers are absent or refuse to exercise their role, a moral and spiritual vacuum appears. A strong majority of felons, for instance, grew up without fathers in the home.

St. Joseph helps us to understand the strength of Christian fatherhood. First, like any good husband, Joseph listened — not just to his wife but also to God. Woken up frequently by angels, he demonstrated obedience and trust, quickly leaving everything behind to follow God’s instructions and to protect his family. We also know Joseph for his work as a carpenter and builder, content to live simply and to work hard. Importantly, he also taught Jesus how to work, showing that fathers model and teach by drawing their children into their life and work. And we can also learn from Joseph’s humility, serving the Incarnate God and his Mother without even a single recorded word in the Gospels.

This humility points us to the essence of Christian fatherhood. Although living with two perfect people, Joseph was still called to lead. He quietly and humbly did what was needed for his family and taught his own maker how to share in his work. Fathers do not lead in order to be in charge or to get their own way. They lead because God asks them to care for and protect their families. Fathers and mothers share in the great and beautiful partnership of family life, although fathers cannot simply sit back and let mom take the lead in the spiritual life, as they are often tempted to do. Like Joseph, fathers should act firmly and lovingly to put God and the family before self, obeying God and leading the family in the right direction. They are called to model faith, work, and sacrifice to their children.

On Father’s Day we can affirm that masculinity and fatherhood are not just good — they are essential to understanding God and his plan for human flourishing. If our culture turns around, it will be because, in large part, Christian men stand up and fight. As Christians, we cannot give in to the culture’s attempt to denigrate masculinity and fatherhood or to pit men and women against each other. We can use this celebration to affirm the essential role that our fathers play, leading their families like St. Joseph.

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About Dr. R. Jared Staudt 49 Articles
R. Jared Staudt PhD, serves as Director of Content for Exodus 90 and as an instructor for the lay division of St. John Vianney Seminary. He is author of How the Eucharist Can Save Civilization (TAN), Restoring Humanity: Essays on the Evangelization of Culture (Divine Providence Press) and The Beer Option (Angelico Press), as well as editor of Renewing Catholic Schools: How to Regain a Catholic Vision in a Secular Age (Catholic Education Press). He and his wife Anne have six children and he is a Benedictine oblate.


  1. Very thoughtful. A copy of this should be included in each Father’s Day Card. I am one who is very fortunate to have a father who in many ways modeled the attributes of St Joseph.

  2. Mass compulsory schooling is the most potent agent of feminization in society today. Schools, where female teachers dominate–from 70% to 90%–follow female norms of behavior. Boys who conform, do well. Boys who rebel do not.

    • Compulsory schooling is not bad because of female teachers, it is bad because it has its roots in government control over children, and whatever agenda it wants to foist on to tomorrow’s adults. But you are correct – the agenda today is overtly biased against boys while simultaneously favoring girls. And the message girls get is that anything boys can do, girls can do better. Girls get the preference, the training, and the support. Then people wonder why there are so few moms willing to make motherhood a career, and why many dads become irresponsible.

  3. Masculine and feminine are inherent features of Man. God created Man. Male and Female he created them. Jared Staudt must unfortunately defend manhood in a world taken to universal feminization. Why the surrender? It goes with the New Age of gender dysphoria and charges like male toxicity. Men outdoing the other with liberal magnanimity. When we die we remain male and female keeping our gender characteristics. Feminine is a beautiful thing. When associated with a female. With a male it’s depravity at its most egregious. As is the converse with a woman. A Satanic insult to the Author of Life. The dysphoric disease of transgenderism spells the destruction of Man. When we abandon God we surrender moral sanity. A most important reason to oppose this movement, and particularly those who promote it in politics.

  4. Blessings of Father’s Day to all , for all moments of life !

    Good to read that the teachings of the Holy Father , on the Our Father prayer has been a best seller –
    ‘Compassion , closeness , tenderness ‘ – basic traits of the Heart of The Father , as revealed in The Lord and the willingness as Love, to pay The Price , when the enemy has encroached and stolen what belongs to The Father ..

    Interesting mention from St.Paul, in today’s readings as to how the Church at Corinth has been ‘ betrothed as a chaste Bride ‘ to The Lord ( & Spirit ) .

    ? Likely that St.Paul had seen Bl.Mother , while at Ephesus and recognized what a True Bride of The Spirit is – always faithful to His Holy Will , to bring forth children who are true to The Image in The Lord – holy , chaste , thus faithful to their God given roles –

    Adam , as the First Father , gifted with the Divine Will in the blessed role to requite the Fathers Love , as ’tilling and guarding ‘ The Garden , to thus have helped Eve and the holy progeny too to participate in that blessed role –

    The Church ever exhorts men and women to carry on that role as given us now in His Holy Will through the Redemption and Sanctifying Spirit – that the echo of the blessing voice of The Father echoes through hearts and families and creation
    itself .

    Such is the noble and blessed role esp. when pronounced in Oneness with the Father and The Son and all of Heaven, as at the blessing at the Holy Mass through all our beloved Fathers , in their Priestly roles and may the Immaculate Heart help us all to take same ever more deeply to bring forth good fruit .

    Thank you ! 🙂

  5. If Roman Catholics want to change the culture to help promote proper fathering and husbandry, they need to repudiate feminism.

  6. Interesting. My husband and I are partners. I do not lead him. He does not lead me. We walk together, helping one another over the rough patches in the road. Sometimes, his skill set is what is needed to move forward and I rely on him. Other times, my skills are more helpful and he relies on me.

    I do not understand this insistence that men must lead and women must be led. Some men are not leaders; some are. Some women are not leaders; some are. But every person can partner and rely on the gifts of their spouse when needed and offer their own gifts to assist when their spouse has need.

    Eve was not created from a skull bone of Adam that she should be above him, nor from a foot bone that she should be beneath him, but from a rib, that she should be beside him in equality and they should be heart to heart.

    • It’s easy to think your seeming exception is the rule when you live in a superabundantly wealthy civilization the likes of which the world has never seen before and will never seen again.

      God designed the sexes to have different roles, “equality” of dignity notwithstanding.

  7. Rather than referring to Joseph as Jesus’ “adoptive” or “foster” father, I think it is more correct and honorable to recognize that Saint Joseph was/is married to Mary and that they were/are recognized under Jewish law as the parents of Jesus, such that Joseph and Mary are Jesus’ earthly father and mother.

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