The Devout Year – Saint Joseph’s Betrothal and Espousal

Espousal of Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint JosephWhen our blessed Lady arrived at a marriageable age, the chief priest summoned all the unmarried men of the house of David, that from them a husband might be chosen for her. There is a tradition that to each of them a rod was delivered, and the high-priest, speaking under divine inspiration, declared that God would choose a spouse for Mary in the same way that Aaron was chosen to be high-priest in the Old Law. “Whomsoever of these I shall choose, his rod shall blossom.” (Numbers 17:5) On the morrow the rod of Joseph had budded and blossomed. He was thus declared by God to be the worthy spouse of His holy Mother.

But Joseph had promised to God to remain ever a virgin. How could he then consent to marriage? He knew by divine revelation that Mary had made a similar vow, and Mary knew the same of him. O happy, O ideal union! where the sublime gift of virginity was united to the mutual love and dependence of husband on wife and wife on husband.

But thus it is that God provides for His elect. He plans for them in a way that utterly sets at naught the prudence of the world. He never disappoints those who leave themselves in His hands, but exercises a divine ingenuity in fulfilling all the desires of their hearts in most unexpected ways, in return for their submission and obedience to His holy will. Thus it is that those who do God’s will always do their own will, for their will is His, and His will is theirs.

Never were husband and wife so eminently suited to each other as Joseph and Mary. Never was there a union that so exactly symbolized the union between Christ and the Church. Happy indeed are those who meet with a congenial spouse! Happier still are those who are content to live in a state of virginity, and in the religious life to choose Jesus Christ Himself for their divine Spouse. They it is who most nearly approach to the life of Joseph with Mary.

Saint Joseph and Our Lady lived in perpetual chastity, and their union was a closer one than that of any other husband and wife in the whole world. Their ideas, opinions, hopes, wishes, likes, and dislikes were all the same; Joseph was Mary’s strong support, Mary loved to depend on Joseph. None was ever so obedient, gentle, loving, and sympathizing a wife as Mary. None was ever such a thoughtful, kind, prudent, faithful husband as Joseph.

Of what age was Saint Joseph at the time of his marriage? Not an old man, for this would have been unseemly; nor very young, for he would not have been asuitable protector for Mary; but about the prime of life. It is true that from the fifth century onwards, he is represented as a bearded old man, but this is partly to represent the dignity of his character, partly as a portrait of his later years. Joseph was always far advanced in wisdom, counsel, prudence, and the love of God. – Would that I were more like him!

– text from The Devout Year, by Father Richard Frederick Clarke S.J.