From the Preface…
Wiping his shoes as he shuffled through the door, he glanced in my direction. I could tell he was pondering something deeper than the lawn he had just mowed. “I’ve been thinking,” he began.
I smiled from the other side of the cluttered counter, where I stood arranging the dirty dishes in the washer. It’s rare that my husband initiates a conversation with I’ve been thinking. Most interactions start as they end, one long stream of consciousness, words trailing like a tortoise behind the swift hare of his thoughts.
With intense clarity and an irresistible gleam in his eye, Duane continued, “I’ve been thinking about the state of our nation—our world—and I can clearly see where we have gone wrong. Men are not allowed to be men. If you watch the news or read past the headlines, it’s so clear. Men have forsaken virtue and forgotten how to lead. Where did the strong men go?
Those leaders who were willing to lay down their lives for the greater good? Look at the mess. My mess, the mess of all the men who have failed to do what is right. Men who for decades failed to see their critical role as protector and provider. Am I wrong? Or have we abandoned our post?”
I smiled again. His conviction was compelling. This man, who had himself grown up without a father, had eyes to see it. He watched his family struggle with the heartbreaking consequences of abandonment. With the grace of conversion, he recognized the familiar void.
Duane is a good man. He works hours into the night on projects that he did not finish at the office so that he could have dinner with his family. He is a man who wakes up with our hungry baby in the wee hours of the morning. He is a man who sacrificed his promising and cherished military career so our expanding family could move back home. He is a man committed to keeping his primary post.
“This is where we need to exert our efforts,” he continued.
“The real change needs to start here. Men must stand up and do the right thing. There are faithful brothers, husbands, and fathers out there. We need a voice. Otherwise, our silence is like the abdication of Adam in the garden. We must battle against apathy and fear; we must battle for real manhood. The world needs examples of faithfulness. Someone needs to offer it.”
“You received all this while mowing the lawn?” I teased, reaching for his hand and affirming his conviction. “Sounds like you have a book to write. You’re being called to encourage other men to keep their sacred post.”
This time he smiled, and with a nudge, he reminded me that I am the writer in the family.
“We can write it together,” I countered. “I owe you for all that help with statistics in college.”
So here we are. Writing a book . . . together . . . and with other brothers, in Christ, who collectively share this compelling conviction.
I am not a perfect man, father, or husband. I am nowhere close. I struggle every day. With all the joys that come from a large family, there are daily opportunities for stress. Financial strain, exhaustion, endless chores; did I mention the financial burden?
Over the years, there have been more sleepless nights than I wish to count. I worried about making ends meet or even how to get through another month. Those anxieties easily spilled over to interactions with Carrie and our kids. I constantly felt like I was falling short in my role as husband, father, provider, and protector.
After losing my job, our savings, and nearly our home, I had to face these anxieties head on. What I learned was that in the same way God provided for Joseph in his times of uncertainty, he also provided for me. It took growing in obedience, courage, faithfulness, and patience on my part. When things became difficult, I had to cling to God’s grace and stand and fight for my family.
Slowly, this daily obedience bore fruit. After months of feeling like a failure, I began to experience a greater freedom in my vocation. God knew where he was leading us. His only condition was that I rely on him and not abandon my post in the process. Over time, I felt strengthened in my faith, in our marriage, and in our family, which gave me the courage to man my post. Don’t get me wrong, occasionally I still lose sleep, but those nights are a lot less frequent.
Without a father to look up to, I have always been drawn to St. Joseph. I have a deep affinity towards him. In him, I see a tremendously strong and resolute man that risked everything for Mary and Jesus. Talk about being called into a stressful situation. Your future bride is pregnant with the Son of God, and you are called (in a dream) to take care of them.
I don’t know about you, but I would not be sleeping soundly enough to dream with the stress and burden that he carried. Yet, St. Joseph does not run, he does not make excuses, he does not look for the easy way out. Instead, he faces it head on. He becomes the earthly father and the example to all men for how we should bear our responsibilities and risk everything for those in our care.
However, when it comes to the man who risked every thing to be a father to the Son of God, not much is recorded about him. Joseph was presumably with Jesus almost all the time. He would have had a profound impact on our Savior. I can imagine both of them in Joseph’s workshop together, working side by side, as I do with my own children. There is something sacred about this time together. Jesus would have learned so much about being a man from his earthly father.
Despite St. Joseph’s profound influence, we Catholics are still a little cloudy on where he fits into our faith. While recently putting our youngest son, William Joseph, to bed, he humorously reinforced this reality. His nightly routine that week was to list all those who love him. After listing our family, he rounded out the long list with Jesus and Mary. We gently reminded him not to forget his patron, St. Joseph, to which he wondered aloud, “Who is that?”
“Mary’s husband. The head of the Holy Family,” Carrie explained, trying to jog his four-year-old memory. “Oh, that guy,” Will replied with a drowsy sigh. Oh, that guy.
Like my son, most of us have heard about St. Joseph, but we don’t really know him. Yes, we see him every Christmas quietly kneeling in front of the plastic manger wearing his humble tunic, sitting across from his well-composed wife, who does not look at all like she just gave birth. Beyond that, we struggle to explain him. Oh, St. Joseph, he is the guy who was Mary’s husband even though she is a virgin. I mean, he is Jesus’s father, but not his real father.
Our limited understanding seems to fall terribly short. Joseph is the patron saint of the Universal Church, the patron saint of fathers, the patron of workers and of families—to just name a few! As head of the Holy Family, St. Joseph’s role is vital. His leadership protected our Mother and guided our Savior. While it is understandable that we struggle to explain him, it is now time that we get to know him. In a world in need of strong men, St. Joseph is the Man who leads the way.
Moving Through This Book
For years, I have benefitted from the protection of St. Joseph. Every time I struggled with work, started a new endeavor, or had a child, St. Joseph showed up offering extraordinary protection and timely intervention. His enduring example of masculine virtue is outlined in the Litany of St. Joseph, which is the backbone of this book. Each merit offers a small glimpse into the virtue modeled by this silent saint. Practices that offer ordinary men like you and me a roadmap to follow, leading us on an extraordinary mission.
To offer this roadmap, we have enlisted the help of Catholic leaders—faithful, strong men who have stories to tell and wisdom to share as they have struggled through life’s challenges and learned to adopt the virtues of St. Joseph.
Each chapter begins with a quotation from St. John Paul II that relates to the virtues inherent in St. Joseph’s life. Sharing an admiration and love for St. Joseph, St. John Paul II is the virtuous patron of our family’s ministry: The John Paul II Healing Center.
Following each quotation is an introductory overview of each particular virtue and a relatable testimony by a man who has found encouragement in the example of St. Joseph in his roles as a husband, father, son, brother, priest, or protector. Included at the end of each chapter are questions for reflection, a Mobilizing the Mission challenge, and a prayer for living out that specific virtue.
This book is not a resource; it is a mission, our mission. Flanked with a new band of brothers, it is time to fulfill your calling and man your post!