The hidden facts of Mary’s and Joseph’s lives must have been the most fitting and perfect of all possibilities

February 26, 2022 • 3 min

From The Life and Glories of St. Joseph, page 134
By Edward Healy Thompson, M.A.

This notion being set aside, it remains for us to choose between the two other views: that is, whether St. Joseph was as young as he is represented in the early monuments, or whether he had already attained a mature age at the time of his espousals.

In the absence of all direct evidence, it would seem that those who have given the subject the fullest consideration, and weighed and compared probabilities, consider that at the time of his marriage with Mary he was, most likely, approaching his fortieth year, and, therefore, of an age which can be reckoned neither young nor old, but in the prime of his strength, whether of mind or body.

Some remarks of Vincenzo de Vit, in his Life of St. Joseph, [Cap. v.] are, we think, much to the point in this matter. He is speaking of the relative value of arguments drawn from monuments or tradition and those which rest on reasons of suitability, when it is question of a fact the realisation of which depends, not on the will of man, but on the will of God, who disposes events in conformity with His own designs.

“When it is question,” he says, “of a purely human fact, reasons of propriety have not always the same value, either for or against our acceptance of it, as has the testimony of writers; but, in the present case, where it is question of a divine decree, according to which, as the holy Fathers affirm and the Church holds, the Son of God was to take human flesh in the womb of a married virgin, with the specific object of hiding (as we have said) this miraculous conception, as well as for other reasons which we have mentioned, seeing there is a total absence of all divine authority regarding the age of her spouse, reasons of propriety ought to take precedence of depositions of human authority, among which we include the testimony of monuments. For here it is no longer question of verifying a fact on the simple witness of historical writers who were not contemporaneous with the events they relate, but of examining whether the fact alleged corresponds with the object which we know to have been predetermined in the counsels of God. For, if once it be shown that the fact alleged is not suited to that object, we are bound to reject it.”

Applying this principle to the question before us, it is clear that for its solution we have only to consider what was the end proposed by God, and the adaptation to that end of the means which He thought fit to employ for its accomplishment; namely, a marriage which must be in every respect a most perfect one.

Justly has it been said that “when Holy Scripture has in any case recorded nothing regarding the Virgin”—and the remark applies equally to St. Joseph—“all that remains to us is to enquire what is most agreeable to reason. Authority which contradicts reason in such cases is no authority at all.”

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