One of the most prominent people in the life of Jesus Christ, St. Joseph, his foster father, is also one of the quietest. And as such, he can be one of the most overlooked people in the Bible and in the Holy Family.
But Fr. Donald Calloway is hoping to change that, because he thinks the world needs St. Joseph now more than ever. Calloway told CNA that he thinks people today are confused about meaning.
People often approach the priest “so confused about the times we're living in when it comes to marriage and family, and you've got all this gender ideology stuff today. People are just really confused about what it means to be a man, what it means to be a woman.”
Because he has personally had a devotion to St. Joseph for a long time, Calloway said he started wondering several years ago whether there was a consecration to the foster-father of Jesus, similar to the popular consecration to Mary by St. Louis de Montfort.
If such a consecration already existed, Calloway wanted to promote it - he thought St. Joseph’s intercession and example were the antidotes to the confusion people were experiencing. But when he asked at the Vatican and various religious orders, he found that a consecration to St. Joseph did not yet exist in the Church.
“They said, no Father, that's a great idea. But they said, no, we've never heard of anything like that. And so I said, well, I'm going to do it then,” Calloway said.
For the next three years, Calloway started researching, praying, and compiling a consecration to St. Joseph, the earthly husband of Mary and the foster-father of Jesus.
Because of the popularity of the Marian consecration, Calloway said he’s had Catholics ask him whether the consecration to St. Joseph would somehow take away from their consecration to Mary.
“The word (consecration) technically means setting something aside for a holy purpose. We consecrate altars, for example, because we're going to use it for Mass. Or we consecrate people we have in religious communities and such,” he said.
“So when we consecrate ourselves to Mary or Joseph, we're basically entrusting ourselves to their spiritual care because they're our spiritual parents. ...and the answer is no, because we're not members of a one-parent spiritual family,” he said.
In his book, Calloway writes that consecration to St. Joseph means “that you acknowledge that he is your spiritual father, and you want to be like him. To show it, you entrust yourself entirely to his paternal care so that he can lovingly help you acquire his virtues and become holy...St. Joseph, in turn, will give those consecrated to him his loving attention, protection and guidance.”
The first person to entrust themselves to the spiritual care of Joseph and Mary was actually Jesus, he added.
“And so we give ourselves to their care, just like Jesus did when he was growing up. He lived under their roof, he was under their care, and he didn't just go to his mom, you know, he went to his dad as well to St Joseph. So that’s what it is, entrusting ourselves to St. Joseph’s spiritual fatherhood to help us grow in virtue and closer to Christ.”
The consecration to St. Joseph also shares some similarities to the consecration to Mary by Louis DeMonfort, Calloway added like the length (33 days) and the general format, which consists of daily reflections on the life and virtues of St. Joseph, as well as special prayers.
“In the 18th century, when (DeMonfort) came up with his method, he made it 33 days, which is really good (because) if it was only like five or nine days, it's not enough, you're not going to really be able to cover a lot of material,” Calloway said.
On the other hand, “if it's like three months long, people are going to be like, yeah, this is too much. So one month is a good amount of time. On a daily basis you go through some readings, you unpack some of the titles, the honors, the privileges associated with St. Joseph... and then you end every day with some prayers. And by the end of that, you're like, wow, I really know this guy now. I really feel that I want him as part of my spiritual life.”
Like the Marian consecration, the St. Joseph consecration can be done individually or within a small group.
John De Guzman, a seminarian for the diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina, told CNA that he found out about the consecration to St. Joseph through Fr. Calloway’s social media pages. He started doing the consecration by himself, and then was joined by one of his fellow seminarians.
De Guzman said he was inspired to do the consecration because he felt that St. Joseph was the member of the Holy Family with whom he was the least familiar.
“They are the perfect model of a family, and why would I not want to get closer to the father? I'm getting closer to the mother. I'm getting closer to the son. Well, then why not get closer to the father, make this a perfect trinity?” he said.
De Guzman said he thinks the consecration has been so popular because the world is desperately looking for examples of manhood, fatherhood, and loving families.
Many of the issues that adults deal with today stem from some kind of instability in their own family of origin, he added.
“It can stem from tensions with the father, or a lack of a father, or the lack of some spiritual and emotional intimacy...the lack of human interaction and relationship with a father,” he said.
The consecration, on the other hand, is bringing to light “that Saint Joseph is your human father that you can really develop a relationship with,” he said.
“Saint Joseph was not immaculately conceived. Saint Joseph was not a perfect human being,” he said.
“If anything, Saint Joseph probably was in one of the more difficult situations of his time, being married to the most beautiful woman out there, (his foster) son is the Lord. For me, that would probably be a playground for temptations where the devil can attack. But Saint Joseph triumphs. And the beautiful thing is he's not God, so there's that human relationship, the human aspect that you can connect to.”
Engaged couple Robert Morgan and Sarah Kalonick told CNA that the consecration helped them prepare for their upcoming marriage and family life.
In their regular marriage prep, they are given a mentor couple with whom they can meet and ask questions about married life. Kalonick said they’ve started to look to Joseph and Mary as their “other mentor couple.”
“(The consecration) really, in a very accessible and simple way, lets you focus on this hidden Saint,” she said. “What are his qualities? What are his virtues? Who is he?” Like De Guzman, Morgan said he found it easier to relate to St. Joseph than to Mary when it came to the Holy Family.
“I think some of it is trying to reclaim a masculinity that's been lost over the years in our faith,” he said. “And also as a man, it's a little easier for me to get the perspective of St. Joseph in Jesus's story, than it is for me to look from Mary's side of things.”
On the other hand, Kalonick said that as a woman, growing closer to St. Joseph has been a “healing experience” for her in light of some of the hurt she experienced in past relationships with men.
“It helps heal and form my own perspective of (good relationships),” she said. “Here is a man who is pure-hearted, and virtuous, and loving the Lord, and loving this lady."
Kalonick said the point is not to “idealize” St. Joseph or to set “false expectations” of real men, but to “get to know the realness of Joseph and who a man can be, who he is, what man is, and to start looking for that in the relationships that you seek out.”
As someone studying for the priesthood, De Guzman said the consecration has inspired him to learn more about the earthly father to whom Jesus himself was entrusted.
“Christ was consecrated to these two, Joseph and Mary were his father and his mother here on earth. Jesus grew through the fatherhood of St. Joseph. For me, I'm studying to be a priest (and) as a Christian, I want to be more like Christ. What better way to be more like Christ than to develop the same kind of love and relationship with his father?”
Like the Marian consecration, the consecration to St. Joseph is becoming very popular among Catholics - even though it was just published this year.
“So far people are loving it, and parishes and places that are doing it, they're loving it,” Calloway said. “It's unbelievable...we almost can't keep up with the demand.”
Calloway said he thinks part of the reason the consecration has been “flying off the shelves” is because the world is starving for good fathers. According to 2017 U.S. Census Bureau data, more than one in four children are growing up in a fatherless home.
“We've got a lot of people with a lot of father wounds and absent fathers,” he said. “They don't know what a father is and they've never experienced their loving father or a father who's present in their lives.”
Besides a crisis of fatherhood in families, the Church itself is also experiencing a crisis of spiritual fathers today, Calloway said, referring to the priests and bishops and cardinals who have been found guilty of both “sinful and criminal things” in recent sex abuse scandals.
“(They’ve) hurt a lot of people caused a lot of scandal,” he said. “And so people right now are thirsting for a good father.”
“Part of what I would like the fruit of this to be is the affirmation that we do have a loving father in St. Joseph, and he's never going to hurt us. He's there for us and a good father who wants his children to make it to heaven. And he's ultimately, like Our Lady, not going to point to himself, but point us to Jesus and help us to grow.”
Another aspect of St. Joseph’s sainthood that may not be well known are the various patronages and titles he holds, Calloway added, and each day of the consecration is dedicated to one of these.
Perhaps one of the only well-known St. Joseph traditions, that leans more superstitious than spiritual, is the burying a St. Joseph statue upside down in the yard, with the belief that he will then help one’s house sell faster. “It’s kind of spiritual bribery,” Calloway said.
“They’ll say, 'I’m not going to turn you right-side up until you sell my house.' Well what kind of craziness is that?” Rather, there are much more profound things for which St. Joseph’s intercession can be invoked, such as for a good death.
“He's the patron of the dying, because the tradition says that when he died, he died in the arms of Jesus and Mary. You won't get a better death than that, so when you pray to him for a happy death...we pray that we would be embraced by our Lord and our Lady,” Calloway noted.
St. Joseph is also the patron of virgins, Calloway said, because he never had marital relations with Mary.
“We live in a world that's just filled with lust and perversions of every kind, and we've got this pornographic plague right now. And I think that's something that we can look to him for as well. Not just for virgins, but also for marriages, for couples to be chaste within their marriage...and to have that dignity for each other and that respect for each other.”
Some of Calloway’s other favorite titles for St. Joseph include Pillar of Families and Glory of Domestic life, he said, but the “money title” is: Terror of Demons.
“Because you know, a lot of times you look at (artwork of St. Joseph) and it doesn't look too intimidating. He looks old with the cane,” Calloway said. “But the reality is he wasn't some old man. And that's really not a cane - it's like a staff of a warrior.”
“Satan knows the power that (St. Joseph) has because he has such familiarity and intimacy with Christ. Just like when our Lady asks Jesus to do something, she's asking as his mother, well when Joseph asks, he's asking Jesus as his father, and so there's power in that petition and Satan is terrified that.”
Besides the 33 days of reflections, the Consecration to St. Joseph book contains reflections on the “wonders of St. Joseph,” which include descriptions of miraculous places and events attributed to St. Joseph’s intercession. The book also includes additional prayers, such as the Litany of St. Joseph, the Holy Cloak novena, and other prayers from saints and popes dedicated to St. Joseph, as well as guides for those leading small groups with the consecration.
The website for the consecration to St. Joseph also contains a chart which shows when one can begin the 33-day consecration in order for it to end on specific feast days or holy days related to St. Joseph.
Consecration books can be ordered through the website as well - but order quickly, they are going fast, Calloway noted. De Guzman said he would encourage anyone interested in growing closer to St. Joseph to do the consecration, or any other devotion that would bring them closer to the saint.
Even though the saint is known for his silence and humility “it seems like now is the time for his fatherhood to really shine in our lives, and so I would encourage people to really respond to that.”
This article was originally published on CNA March 8, 2020.