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Authentic Manhood

The month of March is dedicated to St. Joseph. Did you know that Pope Francis declared 2021 as the Year of St. Joseph too? Maybe you’ve even read or are reading Father Donald Calloway’s Consecration to St. Joseph: The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father. I think God is trying to tell us something!

At a time when the culture has lost its understanding of what it means to be a man or a woman, this saint brings clarity. St. Joseph provides an incredible role model for young men and an example to young women of what a godly man looks like. This is the man that God the Father chose to be the father of the Holy Family!

A close look at St. Joseph reveals many manly virtues. Rather than live a selfish and aimless life, he worked hard and lived by faith, obedient to the will of God even when he didn’t understand it. He proved to be a worthy and responsible leader and protector of the Holy Family. Other manly virtues associated with this saint include faithfulness and chastity, courage and honor, and a deep prayer life. St. Joseph was truly a man of virtue.

A virtue is a habit of doing good and of giving your best even when you don’t feel like it. And that’s not easy. But with God’s grace it is possible. Good examples and positive role models are so needed today. This is why we need St. Joseph! But it’s also where Catholic fiction comes in.

Characters in a faith-filled story often face challenges that we can identify with, like Paul and Rachel and their developing relationship in Rightfully Ours by Carolyn Astfalk. Or they face crosses that we hope we are never called to carry, like Daniel diagnosed with leukemia in The Boy Who Knew: Carlo Acutis by Corinna Turner. Fictional characters and even saints, like St. Dymphna in Susan Peek’s The King’s Prey, struggle with flaws, temptations, and weaknesses. Some fail to recognize the call of God in their lives and instead pursue worldly things that make them unhappy, like Tanner in Freeing Tanner Rose. Others hear the call of God, but fear stands in the way of answering that call, like Keefe in my contemporary story Standing Strong.

But the story doesn’t end there. In faith-filled fiction, readers get to see how God continues to nudge souls toward the right path. They get to see characters learn from their mistakes and then face their weaknesses with the courage and strength that can come from God alone. They get to see the fuller picture. They get the Catholic answer to personal issues and challenges and even to the bigger problems of our day. Through the pages of Catholic fiction, they get to see young women and young men embracing virtue.

In honor of St. Joseph, let us focus for a moment on characters that exhibit manly virtue. When young men strive for moral excellence, it benefits not only their families and friends but often even the entire culture. This truth comes through beautifully in so many of Catholic Teen Books’ stories.

  • In the futuristic Chasing Liberty trilogy Dedrick’s courage and selfless dedication to protecting others helps Liberty see past the selfish indoctrination she’s grown up with.

  • Sean Porter, who serves as guardian to his younger brother Paul in Rightfully Ours by Carolyn Astfalk, is an example of chastity (before and after marriage) and is a critical male role model for Paul to emulate in their father's absence.

  • Nathan Simmons, a Civil War soldier in Amanda Lauer’s A World Such as Heaven Intended, exhibits loyalty to his country, the Catholic Church, and the young lady that he grows to love, despite being on opposing sides of the war.

  • Jake Taylor from Leslea Wahl’s Blindside Series exhibits honesty and integrity when he risks his reputation, safety, and his snowboarding career to keep others from harm.

  • Salvatore Scaviano, 13-year-old protagonist in The Other Side of Freedom by Cynthia T. Toney, bears the weight of an adult decision for a dilemma, affecting the future of his family, his farming community, and himself in 1925.

  • Isaac demonstrates that he’s a man of integrity and responsibility in T. M. Gaouette’s For Eden’s Sake after making a bad choice that leads him into fatherhood.

  • In The Haunted Cathedral, 12-year-old Xan wants to understand Christ's teaching to 'love your enemy' and 'turn the other cheek'—except the bandit Carlo has burned down Xan's village, and the bully John is about to punch Xan in the face.

  • We can’t fail to mention St. Patrick, who was the inspiration for our coming anthology, Treasures, Visible & Invisible! His bravery and determination to win all souls for Christ converted an entire country and continues to touch hearts today.

Let the virtuous life of St. Joseph and the example of strong characters inspire you on your journey to holiness! As St. Joseph Marello once said, “St. Joseph did not do extraordinary things, but rather by the constant practice of ordinary and common virtues, he attained that sanctity which elevates him above all the other saints.”

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