Thursday, June 12, 2014

Joseph's Way: Prayer of Faith - the best book on Christian fatherhood available

By most objective standards, I have been a successful father. My wife of nearly 33 years and I accepted all six children the Lord sent to us and raised them so that they have taken responsibility for their own lives. They are all faithful to the Lord in their own unique ways, most have married fine spouses, and most of those are responsibly raising families of their own. In a culture where “my kid doesn't live in my basement” is considered a milestone of parental achievement, my record as a father looks pretty good by external measures. More than one person in my life has noticed this, and suggested that I write a book about how to be a good father.

Well, I've got good news: you don't have to wait for me to get around to that project. The book I would have written on fatherhood has been written, and more powerfully than I could have done. It's called Joseph's Way: Prayer of Faith by Devin Schadt, and is published by Ignatius Press.

I have read many guidebooks for Christian fathers in my day, many of them excellent. But this work is the finest I have ever laid hands on, a superb blend of the devotional and the practical that will change any man who reads it and takes it to heart. Throughout the book I found Devin speaking truths that I had learned over the my 28 years of raising children through much trial and heartache, and speaking these truths in a way that made them understandable and applicable by every man. This is the book I wish I'd had when I was starting out as a father, and even now I'm grateful for its lessons.

I don't know much about Devin Schadt, except that he founded a ministry called Fathers of St. Joseph and speaks on the vocation and calling of fatherhood. It is clear from the book that my brother Devin is a very Godly man who knows the Scriptures like the back of his hand, has steeped himself in the teachings of the Church, and has a profound devotional life.  This is a man who sits at the feet of Jesus, Mary, and St. Joseph, as well as many other godly teachers, and then passes along what he has learned for the good of his brothers.

The book's subtitle is “80 days to unlocking your power as a father”, and that's exactly how it is divided up – as 80 brief, 1-3 page meditations which are perfect for reading over the morning cup of coffee.  But each one is profound and insightful, illustrating important truths and challenging men to step up to their Divine calling. Unlike many other books on fatherhood, this book doesn't deal with superficial, how-to formulas, as if raising Godly children was some kind of mechanistic process. There's a place for such books, but more important are the “heart adjustments”, where men learn to form a Godly character. Using Old Testament saints like Abraham and Jacob, and always returning to the shining example of St. Joseph, Devin shows how Godliness is not only attainable but necessary for every man.

One thing I deeply love about this book is that it's an antidote to the subtle poison of clericalism. As Catholic men, it's easy for us to fall into thinking that if we're really serious about our faith, we should become priests or religious. Then we make the logical and spiritual error that because we're not priests or religious, therefore we don't have to be serious about our faith.  We want to leave holiness to the professionals (and maybe our wives) while we bring home the paycheck and insure the lawn is mowed.

My beloved brother Devin doesn't let anyone get away with this attitude.  He makes clear that marriage and fatherhood is every bit as much a Godly vocation as the priesthood is, and that our personal paths to holiness lies through our diligent attention to that ministry, whatever the cost to ourselves.  This echoes what I believe to be the central lesson that I've learned over the years as a father, and the one lesson I'd emphasize as central to whatever success I've had: that I – not my priest, not my wife, not the religious ed department – was primarily responsible for my children's spiritual formation as well as their physical welfare, and I would someday answer before the Throne of God for my attention to that responsibility.  (I give credit to my own father for teaching me this.)  Not that I can't accept assistance from any possible source, but ultimately I would be the one responsible. That more than anything was what drove me to my knees to seek the help of the Lord, St. Joseph, and anyone else I could find.

If you're serious about growing as a husband and father – heck, if you're serious about growing as a man – this is the book to get. Don't order one copy. Order four, because as you delve into it, I promise you that you'll want to hand along copies to men you know. Sisters, order this book for your husband, or for any man in your life who wishes to grow in holiness.  (Right now, it's on sale at ignatius.com!)

I thank Devin Schadt for writing this book, which clearly is the result of much experience, prayer, and personal devotion.  I look forward to reading the followup books he's written.  He has clearly and profoundly laid out the path to holiness for husbands and fathers, the path trod by our great hero and mentor, St. Joseph.