Book by local author Devin Shadt is a gift to men in Year of St. Joseph
Reviewed by Father Luke Spannagel
Happy Year of St. Joseph to everyone! I hope growing with and praying with St. Joseph is strengthening you all.
This past Solemnity of St. Joseph on March 19, I completed a consecration to St. Joseph using a gift I received for Christmas: “CUSTOS Total Consecration through Saint Joseph.”
If you aren’t familiar, “custos” is the Latin word for guardian, one of the titles of St. Joseph in the Litany to St. Joseph and also in the title of Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter on St. Joseph, “Guardian of the Redeemer.”
“CUSTOS Total Consecration through St. Joseph” is a “33-day preparation for the fullness of Divine Sonship and Spiritual Fatherhood” written by Devin Schadt, the executive director of the Fathers of St. Joseph and a member of St. Mary Parish in Rock Island. As you may know, The Fathers of St. Joseph apostolate works for the “restoration, redemption, and revitalization of fatherhood.”
While I have seen several different consecration programs for this year, “CUSTOS” is unique in being geared especially for men. As the back cover states, “‘CUSTOS’ is a one-of-a-kind 33-day consecration spiritual boot-camp that helps men who are or will be fathers to encounter the real St. Joseph, walk with him, and become like him. A unique combination of daily biblical reflections based on St. Joseph, daily prayers, and spiritual practices, ‘CUSTOS’ is a powerful way to experience personal and relational transformation.”
DIVIDED INTO SEVEN STAGES
Having been privileged to work and pray with a large group of men in my local Fathers of St. Joseph group, and having read other works by Schadt, I was excited to dive in to “CUSTOS” in this special year. The beginning of the book has several helpful quickstart pages and charts for those who want to just dive right in . . . myself included!
Reviewing the format for the 33 days, the consecration is divided into seven stages, each of which focuses on the spirituality of St. Joseph and an integral component of living faithful fatherhood: Embrace Silence, Embrace Secret Sacrifice, Embrace Your Wife, Embrace the Child, Build Your Domestic Church, Live the Liturgical Life, and Work for God.
To help men integrate these components, each of the seven stages is also matched with several of 33 total spiritual practices (examples given in parenthesis below) that help a man transform his relationship with God, his wife, and children. These spiritual practices are given in a list format where a man can choose a few to concentrate on during each stage of the consecration journey.
- The spiritual practices are also presented in a chart I really enjoyed which groups them in categories:
- Prayer promises (like morning offering, Litany to St. Joseph or Rosary)
- Daily commitments (a hidden sacrifice or intentional act of affection for wife or children)
- Things to do once (hang sacred images in the home or install internet filtration)
- Things to schedule (weekly date night with your wife and intentional time with each child), and
- Personal promises (abstain from work on Sunday or initiate serving/working alongside children).
Schadt includes a great section at the end of “CUSTOS” which explains all of the 33 practices in greater detail, including why each is important and some tips/examples for carrying them out. Especially by incorporating daily prayers, commitments and ongoing scheduling, these 33 practices really do help a man put together a way of life that doesn’t end after the consecration, but can continue strengthening him in the model of St. Joseph long into the future.
EMBRACING THE DIFFERENCE
What makes this consecration unique? As Schadt describes, “Our world tends to believe that there is no real difference between the roles and responsibilities of husbands and wives, or fathers and mothers. This consecration helps us to embrace and live that difference.”
As Schadt goes on to say, we seek to imitate Jesus who completely entrusted himself to Mary and Joseph together. “This consecration is not only about transforming you, but about the transformation of your relationship with God, the Blessed Mother, St. Joseph, your wife, and your children. This consecration is ‘total’ not only because we totally surrender ourselves to Mary and Joseph, but also because it affects nearly every aspect of our lives.”
One thing I really appreciate about “CUSTOS” is that each day has a reflection “based on those Scripture passages that recount St. Joseph’s life.” As Schadt says, “We only go as far as the Sacred Scripture allows.” As St. Joseph doesn’t have any spoken words within the lines of Scripture, perhaps sometimes it is easy to quickly brush over his faithfulness and move on, or perhaps to seek out reflections on St. Joseph outside the Scriptures. However, for me, concentrating each day on these Scripture verses really brought to the forefront just how much St. Joseph teaches and how much he powerfully says without words about faithfulness, trust in God, being in union with Jesus and Mary, and being the man God made us to be.
What does each day look like? Each of the 33 days begins with an invocation such as, “St. Joseph, teach me how to be patient amidst trials.” (Day 17, p. 92). Next comes a brief Scripture passage and then a reflection on that passage, typically one to two pages in length. After the reflection there is a brief instruction, like “Go to Joseph for Patience” which provides some reflection questions and resolutions for moving forward. Each day finishes with some concluding prayers through Joseph and Mary, the Litany of St. Joseph, and the reminder for spiritual practices one has selected for that particular stage.
MAKING THE CONSECRATION
At the end of the 33 days, Schadt concludes with a brief instruction on how to make the consecration, including going to confession and Holy Communion “with the intention of surrendering yourself completely to Jesus Christ through Mary and Joseph” (p. 167). After receiving Communion, the man is instructed to pray the powerful consecration prayer and then sign and date the consecration.
Personally, I was greatly enriched by the reflections, daily Litany to St. Joseph, and praying through the consecration prayer. I found the Scripture reflections excellent and appreciated Schadt’s practical wisdom and suggestions for the prayer practices.
For me as a priest, I enjoyed the challenge of adapting certain practices. For example, what should a “date night” look like for a priest who is married to the Church? Or intentional time spent with children when looking at my spiritual family?
“CUSTOS” has been a wonderful gift in this Year of St. Joseph, and I very much look forward to continuing the fruits of those 33 days. For any men who are looking to grow, or in humble honesty know you need to grow, I wholeheartedly recommend spending time apprenticing with St. Joseph through “CUSTOS.” As St. Joseph always does, he will faithfully lead you in deeper union with Jesus and Mary, and help show you how to faithfully live who God made you to be.
FATHER LUKE SPANNAGEL is pastor of St. Mary and Sacred Heart parishes in Rock Island and a member of The Catholic Post’s book review team.