What Does it mean to be A man?
Have you ever wondered “What does it mean to be a man?” “What is the definition of a true, authentic man?” If being a man is simply having male attributes, then everyone male is a man. But we know that this is not the case. Our bodies indicate spiritual realities. Our bodies, as men, are different than a woman’s body (I trust that you have noticed this.) A man’s body indicates that he is fundamentally and ontologically different than the woman. This physical difference, however, indicates spiritual difference between the sexes. A man’s body indicates that he is called to go forth from himself and be an initiator, a generator of self-giving love—he is called to set the pace of self-giving love for woman, the child and the family. A man’s essence—the core of his being—the very purpose of his existence is to set the pace of self-giving love. The true man is determined by how he lives in relationship to woman and eventually to the children she bears.
Our Location is the Plan of Salvation
In the beginning, Adam, the first man, was granted the honor, power, and glory to be a man who was called to set the pace of self-giving love—to defend his domain, to defend woman, his bride Eve. Yet, Adam failed and allowed the serpent to tempt his wife, while also surrendering to the temptation himself. Shortly after his fall from grace, God called to Adam, asking him a profoundly simple yet deep question: “Where are you?” God the Father proposed this question not to obtain an answer for Himself (for he knew where Adam was located), but rather to help Adam obtain an answer about himself. God was not concerned with Adam’s geographical position, but rather his theological position—his relationship to God and to his neighbor. God asked this question to help Adam ask this question of himself and perhaps set him on a mission to discover who he really should be. God asks every man through history the same haunting question: “Where are you?” This is the perennial question that either consciously or subconsciously haunts the deep recesses of every man’s soul, “Where are you?” The answer to this question determines our theological location in the plan of salvation, it determines our very vocation in the drama of God’s salvific plan; the answer determines whether the male be an authentic man.
Family, Trinity, Identity and Destiny
God is an uncreated, eternal exchange of self-giving love—three divine Persons Who actually eternally give themselves to the other and are essentially one. God the Father gives Himself to the Son—the Word; the Word gives Himself to the father, and this love IS the eternal Immaculate Conception of the Holy Spirit (St. Maximillian Kolby). The Trinity is unity in distinction—three distinct Persons Who are eternally One. Distinction affords unity and unity produces life—fruitfulness. As we have discussed before, distinction, unity and fruitfulness are the chief characteristics of the uncreated Trinitarian order of love. God, from all eternity, desires to share this uncreated, eternally self-giving, life-giving order of love in the created world. God created man and woman in such a way that the two distinct persons need to become one (unity) to procreate (fruitfulness). God created marriage, the one-flesh union and the family as a relationship that is intended to the eternal Relationship. God created the family, the created order of love, to launch the world to the uncreated order of love—The Trinity. Man’s role is essential in this process of the family become an icon of a Trinity. Recall that Adam was called to be a created image of the eternal Father, an initiator and generator of self-giving love, who by means of donating his life on behalf of his wife would defend, protect and uphold her dignity and by means of their perfect, sinless union, they would have produced a sinless child (while in the preternatural state) and become a living, breathing icon of the Trinity. Yet, before Adam and Eve could produce a third in that perfect sinless state, Satan entered the garden—a symbol of woman’s interiority—hindering the transmittance of the Uncreated Order of trinitarian love through the created order of the family.
Joseph’s Theological Position in Salvation History
In the fullness of time, at the end of the heritage of unfaithful men, God called a man from among men to be singled out as the forerunner of fidelity to the vocation of husbands and fathers, as the Guardian of the Garden of the sinless Virgin Mary. As we have said, initially Joseph withdrew from this call to greatness, his vocation, but after receiving divine direction amidst prayer he heroically retraced his steps and summed his theological position in salvation history. Joseph became an icon of God the Father, an initiator and generator of self-giving love, sacrificing himself for Mary, protecting her sacred dignity. By means of Mary and Joseph’s union of wills, their gift of self to the other and their full gift of self to God, their perfect communion of souls drew down the Word incarnate—God the Son in the flesh—as the fruit of their unified love. As Saint John Paul II states: “The marriage of Mary and Joseph conceals within itself, at the same time, the mystery of the perfect communion of persons, of the man and woman in the conjugal pact, and also the mystery of that singular continence for the kingdom of heaven: a continence that served, in the history of salvation, the most perfect “fruitfulness of the Holy Spirit.” (TOB 268)
The Family: An icon of the Trinity
By virtue of St. Joseph assuming his theological position in salvation history, his family became a living breathing icon of the Trinity. Indeed, by virtue of the Holy Family, each human family has the divine potential to direct the world to the Trinity. This is the secret to the success of the “new Evangelization”—the human family. The human relationship of the family directs the world to the eternal Relationship of the Trinity. The uncreated order of love in the Trinity is now expressed in the created order of love in the human family. As Paul VI stated: “We see at the beginning of the New Testament, as at the beginning of the Old, there is a married couple. But whereas Adam and Eve were the source of evil which was unleashed on the world, Joseph and Mary are the summit from which holiness spreads over the earth,” Because of Joseph, Mary, Jesus—the Holy Family—our families can become living, breathing icons of God’s love, which launches this fallen world to their destiny—the eternal exchange of love of the Trinity. Indeed, the human family is created to remind the world of its incredible dignity and destiny—total eternal self-giving love.
Assuming our Theological Position
What was once Adam’s position in salvation history is now St. Joseph theological position in God’s salvific plan—but not only St. Joseph’s, but also our position. This is our mission, our call, our honor—each man is called to be a true man by being Custos, a guardian of the garden of woman, defenders of woman’s dignity,protectors of our children and the human family. This is the foundation of The Father’s of St. Joseph spirituality—this is our post—and by assuming our position, our post, our theological position in relationship to woman, Jesus will lower Himself and come into our families, by the power of the Holy Spirit granting us His presence, like that of His presence among Mary and Joseph in the humble confines of their Nazareth home.
Answering the Question: Where are you?
The Father of St. Joseph answers the divine question, “Where are you?” by assuming his theological position as Custos, guardian of the garden of woman, and head and leader of his family. It is no exaggeration to say that salvation history depends upon each and every one of us, each and every father assuming his theological and vocational position in the economy of salvation. This is the foundation of our Spirituality as Fathers of St. Joseph and upon this foundation rests the four pillars of our spirituality which will be explained at our next meeting. In the mean time, let us entrust ourselves, our fatherhood, our masculinity, our marriage, our children, to St. Joseph, into whose possession God entrusted His greatest treasures—Jesus and Mary—and become as he became—a father on earth like the Father in heaven.