Consecration to St Joseph
By Donald H Calloway MIC
Marian Press, 329pp, £11.99/$14.95
Fr Donald Calloway has written a work that is both comprehensive and full of personal warmth. Indeed, his love and enthusiasm for his subject are evident on every page of this book. Thus it is worth mentioning his own past, which is surely under the protection of this saint to whom he is, along with reverence for Our Lady, clearly devoted (he is a Marian Father of the Immaculate Conception).
We learn that “before his conversion, he was a high school dropout who had been kicked out of a foreign country, institutionalised twice, and thrown into jail multiple times”. All this was before his “radical conversion”. One is drawn to conversion stories such as this, though the tantalising summary leaves some questions unanswered.
Many Catholics will know about St Louis de Montfort’s popular promotion of the 33-day consecration to Our Lady and may have already made a formal consecration to her. Fr Calloway reminds them that being consecrated to St Joseph will only support and deepen the earlier one. “You are not a member of a single-parent spiritual family,” he points out, “Mary is your spiritual mother and St Joseph is your spiritual father” – as well as the fact that “the hearts of Jesus, Mary and Joseph are one”.
So why does consecration to St Joseph matter? It is the author’s contention that Joseph’s time has now come. Catholics who have a sense of providential history will understand this remark and indeed, Calloway adduces many events in the last 150 years to support his argument. In 1870, Pius IX declared St Joseph Patron of the Universal Church. In 1871, Cardinal Vaughan founded the Josephite order. In 1909, St Pius X approved the Litany of St Joseph. In 1917 at Fatima (significantly, in the last apparition on October 13), St Joseph appears and blesses the world.
In 1921 Benedict XV added a particular mention of St Joseph to the Divine Praises. Pius XII established the feast of St Joseph the Worker on May 1. In 1962 John XXIII included St Joseph’s name in the Canon of the Mass. In 2013, Pope Francis inserted the name of St Joseph into all the Eucharistic Prayers.
This is only a selection of the increasing inclusion of St Joseph into the Church’s official worship and consciousness. They remind us that God does nothing without a supernatural purpose – sometimes only discerned long after the event. For Fr Calloway, the elevation of St Joseph is particularly necessary for our own times, “to help us protect marriage and the family”. Indeed, he goes on to observe that “many people no longer know what it means to be a man or a woman, let alone what constitutes a marriage and a family”. He adds that “the entire world needs to be re-evangelised, including the vast majority of baptised Christians.”
No Catholic who follows public affairs will quarrel with this, or the comment that “countries once established on Judaeo-Christian principles have been overrun by ideologies and organisations that seek to strip society of all that is sacred.”
The point of formal consecration means that St Joseph becomes one’s spiritual father so that “you want to be like him”, in all his masculine virtue. For those who prefer to keep their devotional life as straightforward as possible, the author comments that a simple prayer of entrustment will do – or they can follow a programme of preparation for formal consecration. He himself chose to emulate St Louis de Montfort’s 33-day method.
Calloway’s book is divided into three parts. Part I describes the 33-day preparation. Part II has “The wonders of St Joseph” and Part III lists the prayers to him.
Part I looks at all the holy facets of St Joseph’s character, with quotes from Scripture and the saints. Some of these, such as “Guardian of the Virgin” will be familiar; others, such as “Terror of Demons” may be new. Fr Calloway reminds us that Satan is real, along with evil spirits: “In times of fear, oppression, mortal danger and extreme temptation” we should invoke St Joseph’s aid: “He will fight for you”.
Part II includes many testimonies from saints such as André Bessette, St John Paul II and Josemaría Escrivá to illustrate how devotion to St Joseph was important in their own spiritual progress.
At the back of the book, Fr Calloway includes artwork he has commissioned on St Joseph. Of these, the one I like best is the icon by an unknown artist. This is because it reflects the prayerful, ageless quality of iconography – in contrast to the other works which tend towards the pious, somewhat sentimentalised style of popular religious illustrations, common to holy pictures.
The important thing for Catholics, whether or not they choose to make the consecration to St Joseph, is to learn more about this greatest of saints, appointed by God to be our guardian and protector as he was to Our Lady and Jesus.