Today, I continue my ongoing series of conversations with published authors as I’m joined by Leonard J. DeLorenzo, Ph.D., author of the inspirational new book Model of Faith: Reflecting on the Litany of Saint Joseph. Newly available from Our Sunday Visitor, Dr. DeLorenzo’s book is the perfect companion for the Year of St. Joseph proclaimed by Pope Francis.
Dr. DeLorenzo, congratulations on the publication of Model of Faith: Reflecting on the Litany of Saint Joseph. The book is such a timely resource for this special year! Please begin by briefly introducing yourself to our readers.
I teach theology at the University of Notre Dame, where I also work in the McGrath Institute for Church Life. My wife (Lisa) and I are the parents of six kids, spanning from teenagers to toddlers. I spend a lot of time in our parish, St. Joseph, where I serve as chair of the pastoral council and organize our weekly Eucharistic adoration. During the pandemic, I started playing both tennis and pickleball, and now I am obsessed with both.
While I’m quite a bit older than you, you and I share TWO alma maters, both lovingly named for Our Lady! Tell me why a book on St. Joseph now?
First of all, you are not that much older than me, and besides, you are way more fun than I am! Second, following in your footsteps to two great Marian institutions proves that I have at least a little bit of good sense. As for this book: We owe a debt of gratitude to Pope Francis for calling us to renew our devotion to St. Joseph this year. We all know that St. Joseph is a “silent” saint, since none of his own words are recorded in Scripture. I think more than any other saint, we always need someone to introduce us to St. Joseph, and to draw our attention to him. He doesn’t demand attention himself. Pope Francis is introducing us again to the man who was a father to our Lord and Savior.
To write this book, I had to dwell on and pray with the titles, names, and honors attributed to Joseph in his litany. Every moment spent contemplating who the litany shows Joseph to be was like a moment of falling in love. There are untold mysteries hidden beneath each of these titles, names, and honors––mysteries of God’s work for our salvation, of the humility and strength that sheltered Jesus, and of what it means for us to become obedient friends of God the way St. Joseph is. Especially for this year of St. Joseph––but not only now––one of the best things we can do as followers of Christ is to spend time in reflection and in prayer rediscovering Joseph as a model of faith.Join @LisaHendey in conversation with @leodelo2 author of the new @OSV book Model of Faith. Reflecting on the Litany of #SaintJoseph @McGrathND @MDHSMonarchs @NotreDame Click To Tweet
How does one set about doing research for a book like this? What challenges did you face in that arena?
The research for this book was largely scriptural. That is one of the beautiful surprises about St. Joseph: he is a man formed by the Word of God. He hears the Word and he acts on it. He beholds and reveres the fulfillment of the hope of Israel. He raises the new David, the new Adam, the Son of Man, the Son of God. To really dwell with Joseph means being directed more deeply into Scripture.
In addition to Scripture, the love of other saints for Joseph was a guiding light for me. St. Teresa of Avila claimed him as her special patron, as did St. Andre Bessette and so many others. I also remained attentive to Christian art, literature, and poetry. The language of love and devotion is certainly scriptural and theological, but it is also beautiful. I didn’t always name the art and literature that helped shape my language for the prayerful meditations in this book, but their influence is undeniable.
The book is such a lovely devotional tool! Do you have a favorite devotional name for him in your own prayer life?
I was especially moved to contemplate Joseph as “Hope of the Sick.” Think about the times we have been living in. Haven’t we all been looking for more and more hope in the midst of growing sickness, and all its effects? Well, here is a saint who held in his arms the one who heals all ills. A woman once touched the fringe of Jesus’ garment and was healed of the sickness that had afflicted her for a dozen years. All she did was touch the robe. Now think about Joseph: he wasn’t just an inanimate piece of cloth that hung about Jesus; instead, he loved Jesus with a father’s love. He held him day in and day out as a child. He comforted him on hard days. He reassured him in the darkness. He embraced him in his arms. If that piece of cloth was an instrument of healing merely because it was touching Jesus, how much more will Joseph be an instrument of healing for all who are sick, for Joseph wrapped his arms around Jesus daily and showered him with fatherly devotion.
What was the most special thing you learned about St. Joseph in your writing? What most surprised you?
It surprised me how hard it was to write about “guardian of virgins” since an earlier title was “Guardian of the Virgin”. How many things could I write about virgins?! But I was equally surprised about the beauty of the insight that eventually came to me for “guardian of virgins.” I think Joseph showed it to me. I don’t know if other people will find it beautiful, but it was beautiful to me, especially as a father. I’d love to know what other people think.
What do you hope readers will learn from their time with Model of Faith?
Simple: take time to pray. The litany of St. Joseph isn’t something to be rushed through; it begs for your attention and your patience. As you become more attentive and more patient, you actually become more like Joseph. This book is written to help you go slowly. Take one name, title, or honor of Joseph each day, reach the chapter on that, and then spend time praying with it. Don’t rush!
What else would you like to share with our readers?
I’m growing in my love for St. Joseph. This book was an exercise of growing in love. I hope many other people will grow in love, too.
A question for you: How would you describe your devotion to St. Joseph?