On the femininity of St. Joseph (a short talk)

Happy Solemnity of St. Joseph! We’re celebrating by throwing together a little Italian feast similar to this one, and finishing up our 33 day consecration to St. Joseph. Well, more or less 33 days, off and on. We tried.

I also thought you might like the talk I presented last week for the Diocese of Trenton Young Adult Ministry’s virtual retreat, “Not Your Average Joe.” My talk is about 25 minutes, and I discuss St. Joseph in terms that might be unfamiliar to some Catholics: his consent, his fiat, and his femininity in relation to God. But no funny business! I got a letter of suitability from my bishop and everything. 

Have a listen and tell me what you think! Suitable for high school age and up. 

You can watch the other talks from this retreat here

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10 thoughts on “On the femininity of St. Joseph (a short talk)”

  1. Very lovely. I especially love the exploration of receptivity as something that is not passive, but active and affirmative.

    I think one of the things that has always fascinated me in Christian spirituality is the way the complementary of the sexes can manifest itself not just between men and women, but within the “femininity” and “masculinity” in each man and woman… I guess you would say this is a kind of “interpenetration?” (LOL it has been four years and another baby since I dropped out of graduate school so all the big words are starting to mush together to the tune of Daniel Tiger).

    One example that I have always loved is that in Orthodox spirituality the Theotokos is considered an ikon of God the Father.

    *Mind Blown*

    Another is Julian of Norwich calling Jesus “Mother,” or all the male mystics who explicitly took on a “feminine” role in relation to God.

    I think things like this are touchy and get a reaction because our current cultural conversation on things like Gender and Sexuality are so very toxic (a toxicity I very much struggle with myself. Mea Culpa.) But perhaps Christians, instead of just speaking from a place of opposition, might benefit from developing a meaningful, faithful, and systemic alternative to the current Gender Theory, integrating TOB and Trinitarian theology with some of the diverse spiritual representations of gender in Christian Spirituality.

    I guess that was my grad school game plan, but my instincts to keep having more babies and stay at home with them sort of put an end to that.

  2. Well,
    I just spent Friday and Monday with 6-7 year olds as a sub in K and 1st. I’m so tired right now that I will need to come back to your talk, but it sounds interesting, and that you probably are landing upon something very important and worth discussing.

    One of the Moms of a first grader came up to me after mass and asked me how things are going. She said some really kind things about her kid being excited that I was the sub. (and probably the most indulgent homework club helper that has ever made it a party with popcorn and gummy bunnies.). I’ve known her son since he was a toddler at my parish (in the town over from the school, where we both are registered.) He is a sweet, sweet boy. Exceptionally shy and reserved.

    Anyway, to cut to the chase, I said something to her like this: “When you are in the classroom as a teacher, you get a bird’s eye view of all kinds of behaviors that you weren’t able to observe when you were on the other side as a busy (frazzled) Mom” (consumed with surviving and not embarrassing herself! lol) …”…the alpha males–you know–the chest thumpers that are always trying to outdo each other?…who brag and brag and brag?…well…as you know, your son doesn’t act like that…but he’s utterly fascinated by them…he reveres them! He scoots right next to them and wants to absorb their chest thumping super powers!”

    She knew *exactly* what I was talking about. She said “they make him cry, but they are the ones he wants to come over for playdates.”

    I didn’t tell her what to do because she already had intuited what was going on. His first grade teacher is one of the most lovely people I have ever met, but she couldn’t just tell her bluntly what was going on (she’d have to answer to the other Moms). It’s a pity because with the tiny Covid pods, her son doesn’t have a lot of options, but at least she can talk to him about (nascent) toxic masculinity in gentle, first-grade terms. Or in other words: what NOT to be.

    Good Lord.

    Thank God the school year is almost over.

  3. I’m not sure about ascribing the virtue of accepting God , gestating His Spirit, and returning It tenfold to the world as “authentically feminine.” I get what you’re saying and it’s an interesting thesis but is it an appropriate topic for a group that includes teenage boys?

    Everywhere I turn these days, boys and men are bashed. In the beginning of your talk, you state that the modern understanding of masculinity is being loud, domineering, and possibly even controlling women. Not to me it isn’t. Compare and contrast driving around a group of girls versus a group of boys. Maybe I’m wrong but I don’t think most parents would use that description for their sons. And what you’ve described as stereotypical feminine behavior- being trusting, patient, chaste, quiet, and modest – I could just as easily describe as being the strong, silent type of man. So why take those positive qualities away from the boys and tell them that when St Joseph had them he was acting like a stereotypical girl? I’m worried that the message teens would receive is St Joseph was good when he was throwing like a girl.

    I’m sure there’s an appropriate audience for this talk. Maybe an E5 conference or a gathering of women saying prayers to St Monica. But for those of us who look at hand grenade Rosary beads as, um, odd, and have never experienced abuse at the hands of a Catholic man, it feels like an another attempt to make my sons feel bad about themselves at a time when we should be building them up.

    1. Have you read John Paul II? Simcha’s reflection on how women demonstrate to men their proper posture towards God is straight out of his writings, hardly her novel thesis. I agree that men are bashed horribly today. But many men are also behaving horribly. As a parent of sons, I have done my best to communicate to them all that is good and holy in their masculinity, but they are never to use their God-given masculinity to dominate others, male or female. What Simcha is reflecting on is the unhealthy response some men have had to feminism which has been to hyper-masculinity of a very particular kind. One which emphasizes the most easily twisted parts of a man’s psyche and declares that to be the only manly way to be. They might not recognize St. Joseph is a model of proper masculinity – following God’s will, protecting and providing for his wife and child, while recognizing that his wife had gifts he did not have and not trying to stop her from fully developing her gifts because it might make him look less than. They might think he was being submissive and feminine and therefore not manly when he is precisely the opposite.

      1. Right. I get where she was going and I was able to assume her motivation. My question is does this topic ( or more precisely the framing of it) belong in a talk with teenage boys who today are being bombarded with the idea that they’re inferior to girls. We have no reason to believe these boys are or will one day be abusers. Indeed the vast majority of Catholic men aren’t.

        JP2 didn’t need to speak of stereotypical masculinity in negative terms while deeming the virtues of patience, chastity, etc as stereotypical feminine traits.

  4. Why would you want to tell young men that they’re weak and ineffectual, can only accept what they’re given, need to be quiet and make themselves small? A healthy point of view is to affirm young men in their strength, tell them they can do anything, that despite their self-doubt they can accomplish incredible things if they push through. This attitude paired with men’s natural powers like their ability to focus on something so intensely that everything else disappears, they’re pbysical strength, their ambition, is how the world is built. Instead your goal appears to be to flip the gender roles which are rooted in nature and make that weird allusion to Christ being crucified was something like willingly opening himself to gay sex or something? I don’t get feminists. Like don’t you understand that that’s suicidal for a society? This is basically why our culture is ennervated and dying. A philosophy that kills its host society is a bad philsophy…

    1. Thanks for listening to the speech. You might want to listen again, as you’ve misunderstood pretty profoundly.

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