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Saint Joseph’s life was a preparation for his vocation as Husband of Mary and Father of Jesus

3 min • Digitized on May 8, 2022

#Doctors of the Church #Joseph #Mary #Purity #Virginity #What the Saints Say

From Saint Joseph of Jesus and Mary, page 23
By Rev. Matthew Russell, S.J.

The Espousals of Saint Joseph

The earliest annual feast of St. Joseph is celebrated on the twenty-third day of the first month of the year. In the calendar it is called indeed the Espousals of the Blessed Virgin Mary; but it is his rather than hers, it is the beginning of his greatness. As in the Gospel her glory is summed up in being called “the Mother of Jesus,” so his is summed up in being called “the husband of Mary.”

All his life long God was preparing him, though he knew it not, for his great wedding-day; thenceforth all his graces would come to him, and he knew it, because of that day’s grace.

It was precisely because of his conjugal relationship to her that, to her eyes, he became, in a few months’ time and from the moment of the Incarnation, the visible proxy of her invisible Spouse, the Holy Ghost, and the shadow of the Eternal Father; and that, to the eyes of men, a little later, he would pass for the father of her only Son, who was also the only-begotten Son of God.

It was, says Suarez, soon after the opening of her fourteenth year, which was the marriageable age among her people, that the Blessed Virgin’s Espousals took place.

There can be but little doubt that at the time St. Joseph was still in the prime of life, say between thirty and forty years of age, the limit which the majority of great minds in modern times would put to his years.

The opinion of Mary of Agreda,—a holy nun who had the gift of saying most beautiful things about Our Lady and all her concerns,—which numbers his years as thirty-three, seems to have much to recommend it.

At all events, we may take it for certain that St. Joseph was not the old man whom, in the olden times, painters and theologians alike were so fond of depicting, and we may safely conclude that he was not more than fifty years of age.

Mary was probably an orphan at this period; and her marriage, as was customary in such cases, was arranged for her by her guardians among the priests of the Temple, in which, for about eleven years, as tradition assures us, she had been brought up.

Some authors think it was by a special inspiration of Divine Providence that Joseph the carpenter was chosen for so high an office; but, be this as it may, we know from the event that he was the chosen of God, and that that marriage at least was made in heaven.

The old legend, which tells how the many suitors for the maiden’s hand were weeded out until the one perfect flower of purity was left, represents the choice as being made pretty much as Aaron was elected to the priesthood in the grey ages long before; the dried wands of the aspirants having been left in the Temple overnight, it was found in the morning that Joseph’s almond-branch had budded into flower. A letter attributed to St. Jerome lends countenance to the story; and, whatever may be thought of its historical character, it is true at least with the “true truth” of things.

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