“Mondays with Mary” – The Espousal of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Saint Joseph

Although today’s feast day is no longer in the liturgical calendar of the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, for many years, first beginning on October 22, 1517 and approved by Pope Leo X, the Espousal of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Saint Joseph was celebrated by many as the day that Our Lady and Saint Joseph were espoused together as a couple.

According to some of the light research I conducted last night, the Espousal of the Blessed Virgin Mary began when she was a young woman at the time prepared for her marriage. As tradition tells us, a few men came and to seek her hand in marriage, but all were rejected. She would be arranged to a simple and humble craftsman (worked with wood and stone) – we know this man today as Saint Joseph. He was known to be a just man of God, however, it seems he lacked the fortitude to ask for Mary’s hand. In the end, God’s Divine Providence and timing placed them together.

Mary was very happy to receive St. Joseph as her spouse. As we all know, she contained an incredible and blessed secret that was deep in her heart. As tradition also teaches us, as do the Early Church Fathers such as St. Augustine of Hippo and St. Gregory of Nyssa, Mary as a young girl made a vow of virginity in the temple (see my book, Understanding Catholic Teaching on the Blessed Virgin Mary, pages 42-45). We also believe that Mary prayed for a holy man who would respect her vow and protect her virginity.

The Catholic Church believes and teaches that the marriage of Mary and St. Joseph was real. Each of them accepted the other as spouse, which included all of the mutual rights. I say in my aforementioned book, “The essence of marriage is the lifetime vow of fidelity to Christ. According to canon law, consent (the vows) is what makes it a marriage. The gift of body is the expression of the vow. Mary and Joseph are truly married because they give themselves as total gift to one another, but not bodily” (page 48).

Marriage of the Virgin - Raphael

Marriage of the Virgin – Raphael

The marriage of Mary and St. Joseph has served as a model for Christian marriages since their own marriage endured trials. We read in the Sacred Scriptures about the Annunciation (Lk 1:26-31) and the worries that St. Joseph analyzes on how to send her away quietly (Mt 1:18-19). However, as we know, God intervened by sending an angel to St. Joseph in a dream to reassure him that Mary’s virginity was intact and that the child she was carrying was of heavenly origin (Mt. 1:20-21).

Being the just, noble, and obedient man that he was, St. Joseph witnessed for himself the plan of God in his life and in the life of his spouse. He realized how faithful Mary truly was to not only God, but to him as well.

To learn more about the history of the feast, I would encourage you to read the Catholic Encyclopedia page on New Advent. For those who are even more daring, you can read St. Thomas Aquinas’ questioning from the Summa Theologica.

As we remember this day…

Let us pray for the many holy and faithful Catholic marriages that are producing great fruit in the Church.

Let us pray for those who may be struggling in their marriages – may Our Lady and St. Joseph intercede on behalf of their trials.

Let us pray for those Catholics that are not married in the Church – those who are unaware that their marriages are not valid – pray that they, through the intercession of Mary and St. Joseph will come to be in full communion again and Convalidate their secular marriage.

Let us pray for those couples preparing to enter the Sacrament of Matrimony in the days and month ahead.

O Mary, Perpetual Virgin…Pray for Us

Saint Joseph…Pray for Us

“Mondays with Mary” – ‘The Marriage that Linked Joseph to Mary’

On Saturday, I attended the wedding of parishioners I met last year, since they both were in our RCIA and Adult Confirmation process at the parish. Now they are not only parishioners; David and Kristen have become friends who I frequently spend time with when we are all free. I was honored at their request when they asked me to read the First Reading (Tobit 7:6-14) and the Prayers of the Faithful at their Nuptial Mass. The Nuptial Mass was held at the parish and our Pastor was the main celebrant. It was a beautiful wedding made up of close family and friends.

So to honor David and Kristen today, as they began their life together in their sacramental covenant, I want to share a quick reflection on the marriage that linked Joseph to Mary. This comes from the book, Mary for Today, written by Hans Urs Von Balthasar.

Just to clarify for you the section before this one Von Balthasar speaks about the heritage of Israel as a bride to God, which culminated in the prophet Hosea taking a prostitute for his wife to show the people of Israel that what she does to him with other men, they do to God with false gods. Even though this occurred in the Old Testament, marriage was still seen as holy for it would be fulfilled not only on Mary and Joseph, but most complete with Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church. He is the Bridegroom and the Church His Bride.

The section is divided into small sections for easier reading online. Originally it was one paragraph –

“Now perhaps we can understand better the kind of theological significance possessed by the marriage by Joseph and Mary. This marriage is not only necessary so that Mary’s child can count as the descendent of David but also in order to lead toward the fulfillment of the religious sense of Old Testament marriage. Joseph thus brings to completion the two tendencies mentioned above [previous section] but does so while crossing the threshold of the final and definitive covenant.

Marriage of the Virgin - Raphael

Marriage of the Virgin – Raphael

He brings to completion the fecundity of Abraham, who gave to God all the glory and understood his fruitfulness as a “resurrection from the dead” and thus allowed God to take over. For the husband whose life was centered on marriage this meant a renunciation on the basis of faith and at the same time a sharing in the virginal fruitfulness of his wife. Here Joseph is completely within the field of the New Covenant: physically can seem merely the child’s foster-father, but spiritually he has a very much more profound share in God’s fatherliness by assenting silently to the renunciation demanded by the angel. His hidden virginal fruitfulness should not be forgotten when Mary’s grace is seen its full light.

The marriage that linked Joseph to Mary is a model both for married people and for celibates in Christ’s Church. Admittedly this marriage points predominately backward; it is the completion of marriage as well as of prophetic obedience to Israel. It hardly points forward to the questionable ideal of “Joseph-like marriages.”

As you begin this Monday, pray through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph for all marriages; that Christ will always be the center and source for the couple’s love and devotion to one another. Pray that the Holy Family will give the grace needed for men and women to defend their marriages against all the attacks of the culture. Pray that marriages may not just reflect Mary and Joseph but Jesus Christ and the Church. Think Ephesians 5!

For further reading today, I would also encourage you to read – “Mondays with Mary” – Mary, Joseph’s Virginal Spouse and Spousal Gift of Self.

“Mondays with Mary” – Mary, Joseph, and the Spousal Gift of Self

This past Saturday at Saint Mary Magdalene Catholic Church, we were honored with the presence of Steve and Becky Greene, co-hosts of the Immaculate Heart Radio Show 1310 AM – The Catholic Conversation. As part of our Saturday Morning Speaker Series, which I oversee in my position at the parish, Steve and Becky spoke about their story together as well as the importance of giving of oneself in marriage to the other. The title of the talk was – Of Rings and Romance: The Gift of Self in Marriage. It is my hope to soon have their talk available online and linked to this blog post.

During their talk on Saturday, Steve and Becky mentioned numerous times the importance of Pope St. John Paul II and his writings that focus on the dignity of the human person and the beauty of marriage – The Theology of the Body. In a time when the institution of marriage is being so vigorously redefined on numerous plains, the overall attack on the family continues to occur on a daily basis, and the destruction of marriages through selfish and addictive acts seems to be an ever growing epidemic, as Catholics it is our duty and obligation to stand and combat the forces that seek to destroy the gift of marriage, which was given to us by God himself.

Focusing on this theme of self-sacrificial love in marriage, I turn our attention to an excerpt from the Apostolic Exhortation written by Pope St. John Paul II titled – Redemptoris Custos (Guardian of the Redeemer). It is the hope of this unwed writer to someday be able to sacrifice for another, but until that day comes, I challenge all of you to look to the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph as the true and perfect examples of marriage, full freedom, and the “spousal gift of self.”

Holy family Icon

Pope St. John Paul II says,

“The Son of Mary is also Joseph’s Son by virtue of the marriage bond that unites them: “By reason of their faithful marriage both of them deserve to be called Christ’s parents, not only his mother, but also his father, who was a parent in the same way that he was the mother’s spouse: in mind, not in the flesh.” In this marriage none of the requisites of marriage were lacking: “In Christ’s parents all the goods of marriage were realized—offspring, fidelity, the sacrament: the offspring being the Lord Jesus himself; fidelity, since there was no adultery: the sacrament, since there was no divorce.”

Analyzing the nature of marriage, both St. Augustine and St. Thomas always identify it with an “indivisible union of souls,” a “union of hearts,” with “consent.” These elements are found in an exemplary manner in the marriage of Mary and Joseph. At the culmination of the history of salvation, when God reveals his love for humanity through the gift of the Word, it is precisely the marriage of Mary and Joseph that brings to realization in full “freedom” the “spousal gift of self” in receiving and expressing such a love. “In this great undertaking which is the renewal of all things in Christ, marriage—it too purified and renewed—becomes a new reality, a sacrament of the New Covenant. We see that at the beginning of the New Testament, as at the beginning of the Old, there is a married couple. But whereas Adam and Eve were the source of evil which was unleashed on the world, Joseph and Mary are the summit from which holiness spreads all over the earth. The Savior began the work of salvation by this virginal and holy union, wherein is manifested his all-powerful will to purify and sanctify the family—that sanctuary of love and cradle of life.”

How much the family of today can learn from this! “The essence and role of the family are in the final analysis specified by love. Hence the family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love, and this is a living reflection of and a real sharing in God’s love for humanity and the love of Christ the Lord for the Church his bride.” This being the case, it is in the Holy Family, the original “Church in miniature (Ecclesia domestica),” that every Christian family must be reflected. “Through God’s mysterious design, it was in that family that the Son of God spent long years of a hidden life. It is therefore the prototype and example for all Christian families.”

I dedicate today’s “Mondays with Mary” to all my family members and friends who are married as well as those preparing for the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony in the Catholic Church. Let us also pray for healing to couples and families who have been torn apart for the reasons only known to them. May the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph always intercede on our behalf to their Son, and Our Lord – Jesus Christ.