St. Joseph: Model of Manliness


I draw great strength and much enjoyment when I watch some of my favorite fictional models of manliness. Clint Eastwood as Walt Kowalski in Gran Torino. Michael Caine as the title character in Harry Brown. Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa. All of these characters display a certain grit and resolution in the face of overwehlming odds.

Of course, those are all fictional characters and just sketches of manliness.

May 1 is the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. I invite you to pray to St. Joseph as a  model for manliness. As the protector and foster father of Jesus—he’s kind of hard to beat. He’s also able to dispense real graces from Heaven.

St. Joseph is often forgotten, and that’s a shame. He is silent and mostly in the background throughout the Gospels. St. Joseph is taken for granted, but that is the way it is for men sometimes. We must be strong husbands and fathers with no expectation of praise or reward. Sometimes we must do things that have to be done, and we must do them for no other reason than out of love for our spouse and children.

When you find yourself facing the difficulties we as Catholics face in our vocations, turn to this forgotten saint. Just a quick perusal of the Litany of St. Joseph will give you some idea of how he can help.

Do you know how to pursue a woman’s heart? Will you be there when the going gets tough? Will you stand up for her? Manliness means strength of character, braver, loyalty and devotion. And as men we have to be strong, because when a man falls, the things he is protecting are not too far behind.

Joseph stood by Mary when others might have run away. He raised the child Jesus and taught him his trade. He’s is commonly known as the Patron of the Church as well as workers. But did you know he is also the Terror of Demons and the Comfort of the Troubled? Let’s take a look at some of the things that make St. Joseph a saint you should not ignore.

 Joseph, Terror of Demons. You’re a single man living in a world that has normalized sex outside of marriage. Almost anything goes these days. Instead of dating with marriage in mind, there are hook-ups and “friends with benefits.” Pornography is available instantaneously (right on your phone if you’d like). Many, if not most Catholics, think sex outside of marriage is not only permitted but may even be good for a healthy relationship. What kind of armor can protect you against these things? Ask for Joseph’s help. Seek his wisdom. Talk to him. He will pray for you.

Joseph, Guardian of virgins. Are you willing to be strong in the face of temptation? What if you fall in love and decide to marry the girl of your dreams? Are you willing to wait for marriage? Perhaps you are and she is not. Maybe she is weak, and is willing to have sex before marriage because she fears she may lose you. Perhaps you are both so attracted to each other that you find yourself swimming against a tide that is too strong for you. You’re going to get married anyway…what would be so bad? Ask for St. Joseph’s help.

Joseph, Prudent and Brave. What if she is divorced? If you are in your 40s, as I was when I got married, you will be dating in a pool of prospects who have done some living (as you have yourself). Some may have children from a previous marriage. Some may have children out of wedlock. These are not things to be taken lightly; you cannot go into marriage with your eyes even half closed. They must be wide open and you must know what you are getting into. But if you have found true love and someone who wants a Catholic marriage, will you be ready for whatever comes along? Will you be able to handle it when appearances tell the world one thing, but you know the truth?

Perhaps there are signals that you should not be married, even if your heart tells you to rush ahead. It takes great strength to do the right thing, particularly when your heart wants something else. If the person you are dating is a serious obstacle to your faith, you need to be able to walk away from the relationship. It could place both of you in a state of mortal sin. Your wife should be before anyone else on earth, but will she be before God?

As a man you must be ready to do the right thing. Joseph stood by Mary, but only after the angel told him her child was of the Holy Spirit. Prior to that he was going to do the right thing, and do it in a way that would not hurt Mary. He was going to divorce her, but “being a just man” he was going to do it quietly, “not wishing to expose her to reproach” (Matthew 1:19). The penalty for adultery was death by stoning. Imagine the strength it took to make such a decision and ask St. Joseph to pray for you when you face such tests.

For a man discerning the vocation of marriage or for one actively pursuing the heart of a woman, Saint Joseph is exemplary. He is the cure for what ails you. He is your go-to saint.

Head of the Holy Family…

Pattern of Patience…

Model of Workers…

Example to Parents…

Pillar of Family Life…

Husband of the Mother of God…

…Pray for us.

When you are tired or discouraged, ask yourself:

What Would St. Joseph Do?



  1. Daniel-1138285 January 25, 2015 Reply

    Gran Torino is such an underrated movie! Great piece 🙂

  2. Catherine-996317 September 30, 2014 Reply

    Personally, I think of St. Joseph as the patron saint of foster parents. He took in a child he knew was not his, yet raised Him and protected Him as if He was his own.
    I’ve done foster care and prayed often to be as strong as wise and loving as St. Joseph.

  3. Marian-941252 May 4, 2014 Reply

    Brilliant article, thank you!

  4. MariaPaz-1073223 May 4, 2014 Reply

    I love St. Joseph. He is my favorite male saint. Your article was very comforting.

  5. Sol-496426 May 3, 2014 Reply

    St. Joseph rocks!!! Thank you for the article. In Spain, also Father’s Day is on Saint Joseph’s day.

  6. Marita-847688 May 3, 2014 Reply

    Thanks for the reminder Erik. Sometimes I struggle in my job, and I am reminded by someone daily to pray to Saint Joseph. Like you said, he is the model husband and father. Not only that, he was so great that he was chosen by God to be father of Jesus and the wife of Mary, Jesus’ mother and our mother. Men must strive to be like St. Joseph and women must strive to be like Mary, each striving to be the model spouse and actively discerning the model spouse in potential wives or husbands.
    Dear Joseph,
    Help me to be like Mary, your wife. Help me to find a Godly man that has your virtues.

  7. Estela-1073491 May 3, 2014 Reply


  8. Meesch-691047 May 3, 2014 Reply

    Thank you for such an article. St. Joseph is such an intercessor in almost every aspect of my life so I greatly appreciated the piece!

  9. Andrew-1040810 May 2, 2014 Reply

    Thanks, Erik, for a wonderful and inspiring article. I have asked St. Joseph for advice in several specific situations and he has always been most helpful. “What would St. Joseph do?” is the question I find myself asking more and more and it helps frame the solution to a problem from a totally different ….and always very beneficial….perspective. I look forward to reading more articles from you in the Institute reading room.

  10. William-607613 May 1, 2014 Reply

    This is an excellent piece, Erik.

    When we consider St. Joseph as the head of the Holy Family, we should consider something that will really make us stop and think.

    Joseph was the only one of the three who was like all of us in all ways. Jesus, of course, was God Himself. Because the Blessed Mother was conceived without original sin, she did not suffer from concupiscence; she could not be tempted from within (as we are). St. Joseph, however, had all of the frailties that we have in our human condittion.

    And yet God allowed Himself, and His mother, to be subject to him.

  11. Nate-1046008 May 1, 2014 Reply

    Great article, very clear and encouraging. Thanks!

  12. Carol-1017436 May 1, 2014 Reply

    Thank you so much for this article. I truly hope it is an inspiration for men. It is definitely an encouragement for women that there are examples of Godly men.

  13. Kathy-730470 May 1, 2014 Reply

    Very nice. St. Joseph is one of my favorite saints. Love your comments “He is the cure for what ails you. He is your go-to saint. I pray to him often and I would agree with you. Pray to Saint Joseph with confidence that he will help you and your prayers will heard.

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