Reasons the marriage of Joseph and Mary wasn’t invalid despite their vows of virginity

March 6, 2022 • 3 min

#Mary #Joseph #Marriage

From The Life and Glories of St. Joseph, page 147
By Edward Healy Thompson, M.A.

But to return to the difficulty suggested respecting the vows.

St. Augustine, St. Thomas, and the Master of the Sentences, not to mention others, firmly hold that Mary and Joseph took two vows of virginity; the first mental, simple, and conditional, that is, dependent on God not disposing otherwise. This vow was taken by each long before their union.

The second vow was absolute, perpetual, and without limitation, and followed immediately on their marriage. Neither of these vows, however, could invalidate it. Not the first, because simple and conditional, and such vows never invalidate marriage, which a solemn vow alone can render void. Neither can it be urged that, since it was a promise, it was not lawful to break it; for it was a conditional promise, and the condition depended on God, who was pleased to release the two holy spouses from all previous promise, and, therefore, from all obligation. It is certain, also, that Mary and Joseph merited greatly by their obedience to what God had thus ordained; for, had not He decreed their union, they would have willingly remained in their solitary virginal state.

If the previous vow had no power to nullify the validity and reality of their marriage, still less could their subsequent vow, although absolute and unlimited. The contract was effected, the knot was tied; no subsequent disposition, however holy, could dissolve or break that holy matrimonial bond; it could only strengthen it by rendering it more holy.

Everyone is at liberty to deny himself in regard to what belongs to him. Such a denial does not deprive him of the right of his own property. You may own an enclosed garden without culling or appropriating to yourself one of its flowers, and make an offering of all to God’s altar. Mary did not cease to be Joseph’s spouse because she had bound herself by a vow of virginity, nor did Joseph cease to be the true husband of Mary because he had consecrated to God his virginal purity.

Thus a true marriage subsisted between them by mutual consent notwithstanding their vow, and all the more sublime in that it was more pure. The Church has always held such marriages to be true marriages, although accompanied by virginity, as we see in the examples of St. Thecla, St. Cecilia, the Emperor St. Henry of Germany, St. Edward the Confessor, and many other saints. How, then, shall we not hold as true, and most valid, the virginal marriage of Joseph and Mary? The proofs alleged by St. Thomas are irrefragable.

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