Devin Schadt is a husband, father, and speaker whose book, Joseph's Way: Prayer of Faith (80 Days to Unlocking Your Power as a Father)
was recently published by Ignatius Press. The book is the first of a
two-volume series that seeks to “transmit the message of the glory,
necessity, and power of fatherhood.” Devin is the cofounder of the Fathers of St. Joseph,
an apostolate that works for the renewal of authentic fatherhood, and
he lives in the Midwest with his wife and five children. He recently
corresponded with Carl E. Olson, editor of Catholic World Report, about the family as an icon of the Trinity, the example of St. Joseph, and how families goes the way of the father.
CWR: What was the inspiration, or origin, of Joseph’s Way: Prayer of Faith? How did your own experience as a Catholic, husband, and father shape this book and the second volume, Prayer of a King?
Devin Schadt: Joseph's Way
was born out of crisis. Our third daughter, Anna Marie, was born at 28
weeks gestational period. After an emergency caesarian section, she
spent a month in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in order to develop
her lungs and digestive system, and eventually returned home with our
family. After five days she contracted the respiratory syncytial virus
(RSV), which is a type of cold that attacks premature infants’ lungs,
often causing death. We readmitted Anna Marie to the pediatric unit at
the local hospital, but the team was not equipped, nor did they have
enough experience, to care for a child that small. Due to neglect, and
ten hours of apnea, Anna Marie suffered a hypoxic event, wherein not
enough oxygen was transmitted to her brain. By the time the Medivac team
stabilized her on life support and she had arrived by helicopter at a
children's hospital a couple of hours away, she had suffered three
clinical death experiences and permanent brain injury.
this, my wife implored me to discontinue my participation in youth
ministry and to focus on being a husband and father. At that time, I
viewed fatherhood as a second-rate vocation, not capable of fulfilling
the great commission given by Christ in Matthew 28. In fact, I sensed
that fatherhood was essentially a way to dismiss oneself from following
Christ and becoming one of His disciples.
For years, I had lived
in the tension of wanting to follow Christ, but also acknowledging that I
was needed at home, and because of this I concluded that I was not
called by God to be one of His followers. I went on a pilgrimage and
confessed my interior struggles to one of the spiritual directors
accompanying us. She said, "Go home and be Joseph." Those words
initially crushed me. Couldn't she have said, "Go home and become St.
Paul", or "Go home and start a mission"? Who was this St. Joseph, not a
word of whose is recorded in Sacred Scripture, and who, in so much of
Christian art, is depicted as lacking vitality and youth? St. Joseph
appeared to be an extra, a tack-on, someone needed to "fill in" and make
the Virgin's teenage pregnancy acceptable.
I went home and, being consecrated to Our Lady, asked her to introduce me to her "most chaste spouse"and she did.
started a writers’ groupnot because I am a writer, but because my
brother is an excellent writer, and had a couple of projects that he had
been working on; I had hopes that the writers’ group would give him the
accountability needed to complete his works. Each week, one of the
members would share his latest writings. I was the odd man out, in that I
was the only one among the men who was not a writer. When it was my
turn to share, I would share brief reflections on fatherhood through the
lens of St. Joseph. At one of these meetings, my friend (aptly named
Joe) turned to me and said, "You are called to write on fatherhood
through the lens of St. Joseph." His words resounded in my being. I was
leaving for a four day retreat later that day, and by the time I had
returned, God had given the entire outline for what originally
constituted four books, which now comprise the two volumes of Joseph's Way.
I originally wrote Joseph's Way
as a letter to myself, in hopes of discovering what it truly means to
be a great father. Four books later, which now constitute two volumes, I
sensed that God had given me something very special. Joseph's Way
is unique, in that it provides a theological vision of fatherhood
through the lens of St. Joseph. It is theological, yet
practicalsometimes painfully practical. The books present a
chronological, theological account of St. Joseph's lifefrom his first
step to fatherly greatness, returning to his vocation after originally
fleeing from it, and embracing his role as protector of woman, Mary, to
his commissioning of Jesus to be built into a temple of sacrifice.
are books written on the subject of fatherhood, and there are also
books written on the subject of St. Joseph. But there are very few that
offer an integration of fatherhood and St. Joseph in a practical, yet
theological manner. Joseph's Way accomplishes this.
CWR: There are two sources, in particular, that inform Joseph’s Way: Sacred Scripture and the writings of St. John Paul II. Can you comment on the importance of both for your work and thought?
Devin Schadt: St.
Pope John Paul the Great's Theology of the Body had a profound effect
on my life. It was through this Saint's teachings that I discovered the
true meaning of authentic masculinity, while also discovering a lens by
which the entire Christian life, and the goodness of the human being,
could be seen afresh. The Theology of the Body, coupled with John Paul
II's apostolic exhortation on St. Joseph, Guardian of the Redeemer [Redemprotis custos], provided the foundational material and inspiration for Joseph's Way.
The Word always speaks, and to believe that the Word speaks through His
Word, that is, the Sacred Scriptures, is essential to the Christian
life. By praying over the Sacred Scriptures and asking God to speak His
Word into my being, and being safeguarded by the balanced and inspiring
Theology of the Body, I was granted a theology of fatherhood that has
proved to be an essential guide in my rediscovery of the authentic glory
of the vocation of fatherhood.
CWR: We all know, to some degree or another, that fatherhood is in a state of crisis. How would describe that crisis? And how does Joseph’s Way seek to address the root problems?
Devin Schadt: Research
from the Baptist Press states that if the mother is the first to become
a Christian, there is a 17% probability that the family will follow. If
the father is the first to become a Christian, there is a 93%
probability that the family will follow. Researchers at Columbia
University state that if children have a strained relationship with
their father, the children are 68% more likely to be involved in the use
of alcohol, drug use, and premarital sex. A study from MSNBC
demonstrated that fathers have twice as much influence as mothers in
helping their teens stave off premarital sex.
From a pragmatic
perspective, this demonstrates that society goes by way of the family,
and the family goes by way of the father. If you want to change the
worldchange the father. Fatherhood is like oxygen. We rarely reflect
upon the necessity of oxygen, and yet without it, human beings cannot
survive. Fatherhood, though rarely reflected upon, is like oxygen:
without authentic fatherhood, society crumbles.
Our identity as
fathers shapes the world's destiny. The family has been created by God
to be an icon of the Holy Trinity, a reminder of our destiny. God is an
eternal exchange of loveFather, Son and Holy Spiritand He has destined
us to share in this eternal exchange of persons. The family is ordained
by God to be an "exchange of persons" wherein family members give
themselves away to the other so that the other may experience life to
the full. Satan knows that the family serves as a reminder of our
destiny, and therefore attempts to destroy this fundamental cell of
society. But in order to destroy the family, he must bind the strong man
and strike the shepherd of the family. In other words, he must keep the
human father from realizing his identity as icon of God the Father.
Indeed, if the enemy binds the strong man, then the evil one can plunder
the goods of the house, that is, the wife and children. If he strikes
the shepherd, the sheep will scatter. And if there is no one to lead,
none will follow. If fathers do not lead the family from wrong, wrong
will lead the family.
Without St. Joseph, the Holy Family itself
would not have been an archetype and human model of the Trinity, an icon
that directs humanity to the glory of the Triune God. St. Joseph is not
merely a tack on, but rather an integral part of the Holy Family
becoming an icon of the Trinity. Joseph's identity led to his family’s
When Joseph encountered the Virgin, his wife pregnant
without his cooperation, he initially fled from his vocational post. But
God chased down Joseph and relentlessly pursued and called him to take
up his post as guardian of the Redeemer and guardian of the Virgin. By
doing so, God was teaching us that fatherhood is essential in the
development of the family as an icon of the Trinity. Fatherhood is
necessary, vital, and glorious.
CWR: The subtitle to this first volume is 80 Days to Unlocking Your Power as a Father. What is the significance of 80 days? How would you describe or define the “power” of fatherhood?
Devin Schadt: It's funny, but the 80 days was simply an accident (or perhaps a God incident).
power can never be associated with selfishness. If one is selfish, then
he is bound and mastered by his own passions and therefore cannot live
the full reality of the freedom of the gift, of self-giving love. In
other words, if a man is bound by selfishness he has no true power over
himself. Love begets love and life. This is true powerto beget love and
life. Satan does not have this power, but God has given human beings
In other words, "You use, you lose. You give, you
live." When a father begins to discover and use his power to set the
pace of self-giving love, he discovers within himself the power to give
life and love. A father has the power to set the pace of self-giving
lovein fact, this is his essence, this is his power. It was Adam's
power, and the New Adam's power. The first Adam neglected this power and
allowed the serpent to have his way with his bride, thus bringing forth
shame, blame, sin, and rupture in the body and spirit, and rupture in
the relationship between man and woman. The New Adam sets the paradigm
of self-giving love, self-donation, and the bride, the Churchthroughout
the centurieslives her response to follow that pace.
father has the power to set the pace of love within his domestic church,
his icon of the Trinity, his family. He can either continue the
paradigm of neglect, like the first Adam, or continue the heroic duty of
self-donation like the New Adam. This is the human father's power, his
essence, and his call to greatness. Paul VI referred to St. Joseph as a
type of Adam. Where the first couple, Adam and Eve, unleashed sin and
evil upon the world, Mary and Joseph, by means of their "yes" to one
another and their mutual "yes" to God, brought forth redemption and
salvation for the world.
CWR: You note, near the
start, that St. Joseph is known in the Tradition as “Light of
Patriarchs.” Why is that title significant? How do the three
patriarchsAbraham, Jacob, Moses, and Davidshed light on the meaning
and value of fatherhood?
Devin Schadt: In the
Gospel of Matthew, Jesus' lineage begins with the first father,
Abrahamour "father in faith"and ends with the last father, St. Joseph,
the "just man" "who lives by faith." By beginning and ending this
patriarchal lineage with our father in faith and the most faithful
father, God is calling particular attention to the fact that salvation
is passed on by means of fatherhood.
"Light of Patriarchs" is a
title that is both mysterious and loaded with profound meaning. Joseph
as the last and final father, in a long list of patriarchs, casts light
upon the Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and David, and upon their roles as
husbands and fathers. This comparison unveils their experiences as
husbands and fathers and allows us to see them in a new and profound
light, which is then reflected upon St. Joseph, casting typological
light upon his role as father of Jesus and husband of Mary. But this
light is also reflected from Joseph and cast upon God the Father (the
source of light), allowing us to see God the Father as He truly is, and
to envision our fatherhood as it truly should be. By comparing St.
Joseph with the Patriarchs, we mine deep into the divinely inspired
wisdom of fatherhood that has been passed down throughout the ages and
learn essential and invaluable lessons, which will aid us in becoming
fathers of glory.
CWR: What are some of the
deepest, perhaps even surprising, temptations that face fathers and
husbands today? Can you provide an example of how St. Joseph points the
way to overcoming a particular temptation or obstacle?
Devin Schadt: Ego,
pride, lust, and avarice are among the many temptations facing the
father of the modern age. Often, when a father does not receive the
accolades, honors, and lauds that he desires at home, he may be tempted
to seek such affirmation elsewhere. When experiencing the mundane,
common, routine rhythm of family life, fathers sometimes surrender to
the temptation to be noticed by men, rather than being known by God.
When a man surrenders to this biting temptation, he flees from his
vocational path to greatness and seeks a different path to glory,
usually by means of work, or working for God outside his family. While
both of these spheres of endeavor can be good, if they are used as a
means of self-affirmation, or a way to obtain vainglory, they can cause a
man to neglect his vocation as a husband and father. As one confessor
said, "Do not become a street lamp in order for you house to go dark."
And another said, "You will become a saint by means of your vocation,
not outside of it.”
The human father is not defined by his
occupation as much by his vocation. He is not defined by what he does as
much as for whom he is doing it. At work the father is replaceable; at
home the father is irreplaceable. God "needs" the human father, because
our children need God the Father. The evil one is constantly tempting
fathers to believe that their vocation as a father is not the true path
to glorifying God and, by glorifying God, to be glorified. This is a
grave trap and has tragic consequences for the family.
"Flight to Egypt" account, Herod sought to murder the Christ child after
ascertaining the time of His birth from the Magi. Joseph, being warned
by an angel, secretly stole away with his family under the cover of
night, and fled safely to the land of Egypt. Herod is a symbol of Satan
who is always attempting to destroy the child. St. Joseph is a symbol of
all fathers who are called to protect, feed, and teach their families.
The night is a symbol of the secret, hidden manner of fatherhood, by
which the family is saved in the midst of this Egypt, this land of
Joseph demonstrates that the family is not saved by means
of pomp and self-asserted glory, but rather in the hidden and secret
ways of fatherhood, which are unknown to this world. But as our Lord
promises, "What is hidden will one day be revealed." Our hidden, secret
acts of love as fathers will one day be proclaimed by God as a
participation in the salvation of mankind.
a man was unsure about reading your book, and asked you, “Why should I
bother with this? What will it do for me?”, what would you tell him?
Devin Schadt: If a man chooses to engage the principles laid out in Joseph's Way,
and begins applying them, he will experience a new knowledge of what it
means to be truly a man, of what it means to be a great father, and of
the first steps in his journey toward authentic greatness. Joseph's Way
is segmented into bite-size pieces. The reflection for each day is
usually approximately three pages. By reading three pages a day, and by
imitating St. Joseph's example, I believe that your fatherhood will
experience a new power, vitality, and strength.
By reading Joseph's Way
a father will discover that his fatherhood is vital, necessary, and the
path to true glory. The destiny of our world depends on you discovering
your identity, in order that you and your family can achieve their
destinywhich is nothing less than eternal communion and union within
the eternal exchange of Persons in the Trinity. You are an icon of God
the Father (see Eph. 3:15), a link between God and man, a link between
the Father and His children. You are the face of the Father that your
children cannot see, the voice of the Father that they cannot hear, and
the touch of the Father that they cannot feel. Few people ever reflect
on the reality of oxygenyet without oxygen people die. So it is with
fatherhood. You are called to greatness, and your path to greatness is
by means of your vocationnot outside of it. Joseph, a most unknown
father in his day, by embracing his vocation as his call to greatness,
became the most known and revered father in all of human history.
CWR: How will the second volume, Joseph’s Way: Prayer of a King, build upon this first volume?
Devin Schadt: The
first volume discusses the call to greatness that exists in the heart
of every man and how to achieve this greatness by means of understanding
and living one's identity, which is to be an icon of God the Father and
to set the pace of self-giving love. In volume II, Prayer of a King,
a father will learn: first, how to establish a rich prayer lifefor a
man cannot give what he does not have, and can only give God if he has
God. Prayer is the place in which God gives Himself to man in order that
man may give God to another. Second, a father will learn how to assume
charitable authoritythe authority to lead by love, and love by
leadingby protecting, feeding and teaching. Third, a father will learn
to identify his child as a temple of God, to give his child the
materials to be built into that temple, and to bless and charge his
child to become that temple. If volume I, Prayer of Faith,
describes the identity of a true husband, father, and man, Volume II
describes how to live out this identity in a practical way, how to
achieve one's destiny.