St. Joseph as a Model of Holiness
He Provides the Perfect Liturgical Example — Especially for Men
It’s going to be a good year for Father Donald Calloway. As a convert to the faith and now as an ordained priest, he has devoted his life to making the silent saint of the Gospels, St. Joseph, better known to the entire world.
That makes the Year of St. Joseph, announced by Pope Francis last December, a good year for Father Calloway.
On the other hand, as Father Calloway sees it, anytime is a good time to go to St. Joseph. A popular speaker and author of a dozen books, including most recently, Consecration to St. Joseph: The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father (2020, Marian Press), the priest of the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception sees in St. Joseph a much-needed antidote to these broken times, where fatherlessness and shattered marriages are the norm rather than the exception.
Speaking from the authority of experience, Father Calloway knows something about brokenness. As a high-school dropout, he struggled in his youth with drug addiction and promiscuity, which resulted in a spiritual emptiness. But he found peace in his life when he found Christ and his Church, which he entered after reading a book about the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1992. An important element in his conversion was St. Joseph — who has provided him with a model for manhood and now, in his life as a priest, a model of fatherhood.
For this reason, he wrote The Consecration — modeled on the consecration to Mary by St. Louis de Montfort — as a way for the faithful to draw closer to Christ through his father on earth, and our spiritual father in heaven.
Register correspondent Joseph O’Brien spoke with Father Calloway about his devotion to St. Joseph, what Catholics can do to make the Year of St. Joseph a good year for everyone, and how St. Joseph serves as the perfect model of purity and faithfulness for a culture that desperately needs such models.
How did you first develop a devotion to St. Joseph, and how did he play a role in your life as a Catholic man and a Catholic priest?
I first found my devotion to St. Joseph during my conversion to Catholicism. I really messed up my manhood in my younger days, in my youth and as a young adult. I really made a mess of it, very much living as the world tells us to live. So when I had my conversion, these little Filipino women gave me the tour of a church one day where I was attending Mass, and there was a statue of St. Joseph there, and they explained that he was the father of Jesus (not biologically, of course).
They told me I should go to him; that he’ll help me. So I went before the statue every day before Mass, and asked St. Joseph to help me because I figured this guy has it all together. He was the husband of the Blessed Virgin, the earthly father of Jesus, and so I thought he knew what he was doing. I prayed, “Help me restore my manhood and get back what I lost.”
Basically, I had thrown everything away on a life of living for pleasure, comforts and things that made me feel good. I look at St. Joseph, and he didn’t have such an easy life. He lived in a foreign country when he fled with Mary and Jesus to Egypt, not knowing how he was going to be employed, not knowing how he was going to take care of his wife and son. Yet he’s a saint, and he could help me to be virtuous and turn away from this life of pleasure, and having fun, and living for that.
I asked him to help me be more like him, to be more sacrificial. And he did, and he continues to do that. He’s a big part of my life now; even with 18 years of being a priest, he’s a big part of my life.
In your book Consecration to St. Joseph, you ask the faithful to prepare for the consecration by meditation for 33 days on each of the titles for St. Joseph found in the Litany of St. Joseph. Which among these titles do you find most important for the world today?
His title “Terror of Demons,” the penultimate title in the Litany of St. Joseph officially approved by the Church. I see it is so pertinent for today because we have a certain patricide taking place in culture. With the cancel culture, there is an elimination of fathers, their role and importance. We need to get that back and understand ..., rightly so, men are not cavemen on the one hand, ogres telling people what to do, but on the other hand, not men who are confused and don’t want to fight, those who are living for comfort and pleasure. In St. Joseph’s title Terror of Demons, we have a man who is so humble — we don’t have one word from him in the Gospels — and yet the demons are terrified of this guy because of his purity, his humility, his love and his obedience to God and his courage. When I tell people about that title — many don’t know it’s an official title for St. Joseph — they wonder where I get it from. I talked to people around the world about where the title comes from.
There’s no way to pinpoint the exact origin, but part of it goes back to his ability to intercede with God paternally. No one else can do that — nobody. Only two people in all of Christianity have the ability to intercede with God parentally. Mary is the mother and Joseph is the father. That is unique and a terror to demons. They know when Mom and Dad ask things from God, it’s done.
So St. Joseph still maintains his parenthood in heaven?
Correct. This is why the devil doesn’t want us to go to St. Joseph. When we take our things to him, just as we do to Our Lady, Jesus in heaven hears it coming from his mother and father. So he’s hearing it with the ears of a son and considers it done. So we call him the “Patron of the Universal Church” — the root word of patron is pater — which means “father” in Latin. He’s not just the father of Jesus, but of the Mystical Body — so he’s our father, spiritually. He’s not God, of course, but he serves as a father. That’s why his intercession is extraordinary.
How is the devotional life connected to the liturgical life of the faithful, in general and especially as these two aspects of the Catholic prayer life relate to St. Joseph?
In the liturgical life of the Church, we all know that everything should emanate from the liturgy and flow back to it as the greatest prayer of the Church. Traditionally, each day of the week has been designated for a special emphasis when it comes to the liturgy, whether it’s Holy Mass or the Breviary, the readings for that day.
For example, in my book I talk about that — Saturday has always been Our Lady’s day. Sunday, of course, is dedicated to Our Lord — which is why they call it the Lord’s Day. But there is a day when we honor St. Joseph — and that day is Wednesday.
For a long time, centuries, Wednesdays have been devoted to St. Joseph liturgically. What’s sad about that is that not a lot of people know about it today. But the Pope in his apostolic letter, Patris Corde, talks about this — he says we need to return to this.
What in particular is done liturgically on these Wednesdays dedicated to St. Joseph?
The priest would have a votive Mass, if he were able to, for that day. (Major feast days that fall on Wednesday, such as Ash Wednesday, take precedent.) His homily would bring in St. Joseph, and they might even put a statue in the sanctuary or somewhere near the altar. The priest’s vestments would be St. Joseph-themed, if he had any such vestments. The chasuble, for instance, might have a lily or an image of St. Joseph on it. In addition, traditionally on Wednesdays we pray the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary, which is not a liturgical prayer, but often the faithful would substitute the Joyful Mysteries on Wednesdays because St. Joseph is in all five of those.
What in St. Joseph’s personal life — what little we know from Scripture and stories in Tradition — serves as a model for the faithful in how to properly approach the liturgy?
In St. Joseph’s time, it was the role of the father of the household to be the one to lead the family in the various ceremonies and rituals of Judaism. All of that was a preparation for the fullness of the liturgy in Catholicism, and it’s important to realize that Joseph, for example, had to walk three times a year from Nazareth to Jerusalem to fulfill certain Judaic rituals. All men of able body were required to do this. He would have taken Jesus three times a year to Jerusalem. That’s a wonderful thing, because he was faithful to that. It was also St. Joseph’s role to lead the prayers in the home. I think that so many people today, especially men, need to look at that example. So many men are not taking the lead and taking their families to church, to confession or saying grace before meals. But if they did like St. Joseph did, things would be much better in the world.
At the end of your book, you feature a series of commissioned portraits of St. Joseph, and most of them depict him as a man in the prime of life. Was that intentional?
Absolutely. The Church has no teaching on the age of Joseph at all. In all likelihood, he was much younger than he is depicted in traditional art. The artwork only depicted him as old to safeguard the virginity of Mary, to show that his fire had died, and he wasn’t interested in his wife in that way. But that’s lame. It actually takes a younger man greater holiness and practice of virtue to restrain himself when you’re living with the most beautiful woman on the planet. So that was my intention — to commission 10 artists around the world to paint him as young but also masculine. Sometimes in art he appears almost effeminate and soft, and the lily sometimes looks more like the cane of an old man when, in fact, it was the staff of a spiritual warrior. He’s not weak — he’s strong. That’s why I put an axe in his hand in some of his images. He would have used an axe — he chopped wood, carried boulders and moved stones as a carpenter. He modeled manhood for the Messiah.
There are a number of feast days of which St. Joseph is an integral part — besides his March 19 and May 1 feasts. For example, he would have been with Mary at the Presentation at the Temple, and obviously he is included in the feast of the Holy Family. But you note in your book that one feast, not universally celebrated at this time, ought to be. Why is this feast so important, and what are you doing to make it better known among Catholics?
Jan. 23 is the feast of the Holy Spouses. It is a feast which has been in existence for a long time — and celebrates the marriage of Mary and Joseph. It’s not on the universal calendar, but there are many places which celebrate it, such as the Oratory of St. Joseph in Montreal and the Oblates of St. Joseph, who celebrate it annually. There is also The National Shrine of St. Joseph in the Philippines and places in Spain which celebrate it. In my book you’ll find a little history of that. I really believe that in these times of crisis with family and marriage, we need to celebrate both of these aspects of Christian life liturgically in order to highlight their importance. So I wrote a letter to Pope Francis last week asking him as a fruit of the Year of St. Joseph to establish the feast of the Holy Spouses as an obligatory memorial on Jan. 23. We’ll see what he does. Let’s celebrate marriage — it’s wonderful!
What should the faithful know that they might perhaps not know about the Solemnity of St. Joseph (March 19), from a liturgical standpoint?
The odd thing about the Solemnity of St. Joseph is that, most of the time, it occurs during Lent, and a lot of people miss it or don’t do much with it; especially if it falls on a Friday, like this year, they can’t be too celebratory. But it is his greatest feast day, and it’s a special day.
Many countries around the world have received papal permission in the past — from the 17th to the early 20th century for crowned statues of St. Joseph. It’s actually a liturgical rite — the Crowning of St. Joseph. We know about Mary’s crowning in May. But many are not aware that there is also a crowning ritual for statues of St. Joseph, which traditionally takes place on March 19. I don’t know exactly the number, but there are probably 12 to 15 places around the world where this is taking place.
Here in the U.S. we have one at The National Shrine of St. Joseph in De Pere, Wisconsin. It was given permission by Leo XIII to be able to crown the shrine’s statue of St. Joseph, and it’s a beautiful statue. This year, I am working with a number of other people to have the statue refurbished, since it’s showing its years. It’s going to be recrowned March 19, and I’m going to be there.
What is the significance of crowning St. Joseph? What are we acknowledging with such a crowning?
We’re acknowledging his fatherhood as patron. St. Joseph was also of the royal lineage of David. That’s pretty significant, that bloodline carried through to St. Joseph. He is royalty. As I’m speaking to you, I’m looking at a statue I own that comes from Malta. The statue depicts him dressed in purple and gold, the royal colors, and it’s a crowned statue. The crowning is another way of honoring our father.
What advice do you have for Catholics, especially men, and for your brother priests, regarding the importance of St. Joseph?
In the Litany of St. Joseph, which is such a beautiful prayer, you learn his titles. He’s called The Guardian of Virgins, The Pillar of Families, and the Glory of Domestic Life. Those are extraordinary titles. For men as husbands and fathers, each needs to be a pillar for his family. Men need to be the glory of domestic life, the guardian of virgins. At a time when we have so much filth and perversion in our culture — pornography, in particular — men need to have a chaste heart like St. Joseph and treat women with respect and dignity, and honor them and serve them and be willing to lay down their lives for them. It’s the same thing for priests. Joseph was married to Our Lady, but she was not at his disposal to do with her what he wanted. He had to honor her. Likewise, a priest is married to the Church. We have to serve the Church; we don’t do with her what we want to do. We have to lay down our lives for her, protect her, honor her, serve her, and, in the spiritual life, slay dragons for her.