Mary and Joseph: Role Models for a Holy Marriage
Since the 15th century, January 23rd has been set aside to celebrate the betrothal and holy marriage between Mary and Joseph. The feast upholds family life as a path to holiness and reminds couples of the best possible role models for a holy marriage! Read on to find out how the Holy Family can teach modern couples what it means to be perfectly in love.
God will always love our spouse and children better than we can. That’s because God, himself, is love! Through our vocations, God calls each of us to follow him in this vocation of love in one way or another. In marriage, love gains a particular object—your spouse—and that love is refined in the school of sacrifice.
The Catholic Church recognizes these three things as essential to marriage: unity, faithfulness/indissolubility, and openness to children.
- Unity: When spouses unite their will to God’s, they become of one mind and heart.
- Faithfulness: Through faithfulness in their marital covenant, couples represent the fidelity of God to his covenant and Christ to his Church. This sacrament marks them as witnesses of the indissoluble bond God has with each of us.
- Openness to Children: God’s love is supremely generous. The fruitfulness of our love is one way humans were made in God’s image and likeness. Catholic spouses are called to mirror this divine generosity in their openness to life—drawn out of themselves and into communion with each other and family.
Such a beautiful vocation is not easy. The devil does everything he can to twist, suppress, and misrepresent the gift that spousal love is supposed to be. To combat his lies, let us look to examples of holy spouses—particularly Mary and Joseph—who lived this vocation most perfectly.
St. Joseph as a Husband and Father
The first we hear of Joseph in the bible is during his betrothal to Mary. Betrothal was the first step in marriage, so at that point, they were married, but not yet living together, which was the second part of marriage. A betrothed man would leave his father and mother to build a dwelling place to live after the second ceremony and accompanying feast. After the feast, the couple entered their dwelling known as the tent of the apocalypse, or the tent of the unveiling. This practice was referenced by Jesus as an analogy of the marriage between Christ and his bride. “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2)
Mary would not have traveled alone to the hill country to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Single women traveled with a male relative, but married women traveled with their husband. This was understood by the readers of the Gospels even though Joseph is not mentioned as accompanying her. At her side, he would have heard Elizabeth’s greeting and Mary’s Magnificat. Joseph, an upright man, understood the divine significance of the situation, but not how it would happen. He thought himself unworthy to take her into his home, so he decided to divorce her quietly, until an angel told him not to fear to take Mary as his wife. He then explained the nature of Mary’s pregnancy as well as the name and mission of Jesus.
St. Joseph’s unique vocation was to protect and provide for the Incarnate Son of God and the Queen of Heaven and Earth. But although he was the breadwinner, he understood that God was the true source of their “daily bread” and did not let attachment to his career as a woodworker keep the family from obeying the will of God.
When the angel instructed him to flee to Egypt soon after the birth of Jesus, he obeyed promptly and completely. He took his wife and young child on a rushed and dangerous journey through the desert to a land they didn’t know. He trusted God to help him protect his family on the road and to prepare a safe place for them at their destination.
In Egypt, he was not an established carpenter. St. Joseph had to rely on God completely to help him fulfill his role as provider. He recognized that God is the true giver of all the gifts he sought to secure for his family, and so long as he followed the will of God, they would never go without.
The challenges St. Joseph faced in his vocation are still relevant to husbands and fathers today. Many couples struggle to imitate the profound dynamic of love and trust fostered by Mary and Joseph. Ask St. Joseph’s intercession as you follow in his footsteps of humble obedience to the voice of God.
Through his marriage to the mother of all mankind, St. Joseph became the patron of the Universal Church, families, fathers, expectant mothers, travelers, immigrants, and working people.
The Blessed Virgin Mary as a Wife and Mother
Mary conformed her heart perfectly to the will of God. At the Annunciation, her soul overflowed with such joy at the news of God’s will for her that it poured out in a timeless canticle. Openness to life in that moment was not easy. Mary and Joseph were betrothed at this point, but a pregnancy before their marriage was sealed would attract scandal. Had Joseph divorced her publicly, Mary would have been stoned to death, the customary sentence for adulterers. A quiet divorce would protect Mary and the Messiah, allowing the scandal and scorn to fall on him as the community would assume he was the father and was leaving his young wife. Mary trusted in God, even though it was difficult to understand until the angel appeared to Joseph.
She accompanied him on the painful journey to Bethlehem for the census and was patient as he searched for a room where they could rest. After giving birth to Jesus, Mary continued to trust Joseph’s discernment completely. When St. Joseph told her the family needed to flee to Egypt in the middle of the night, Mary followed his lead. She trusted him to protect their little family from wild animals along the journey and to discern when it was safe to return home to Nazareth.
The Blessed Mother united herself perfectly with Joseph in pursuit of God’s will, and the fruitfulness of this love allowed them to participate perfectly with the miracle of the incarnation! Her love was pure in that it had one object—God—and she served God by serving her husband and the holy child God entrusted to their care.
Sanctify Your Family Life
Pope Francis reminds us that, “The family is the indispensable crucible in which spouses, parents and children, brothers, and sisters, learn to communicate and to show generous concern for one another, and in which frictions and even conflicts have to be resolved not by force but by dialogue, respect, concern for the good of the other, mercy and forgiveness. From within families, the joy of love spills out into the world and radiates to the whole of society” (Message for the World Day of Peace, 2017).
God has called your family together for a reason. He desires to show the world a unique and unrepeatable expression of his face through your witness of love! The way you live your faith as a family is an important part of this witness.
Scapulars.com is on a mission to help Catholics grow closer to Jesus through Mary, and we believe sacramentals are a beautiful way to do that! Unfortunately, modern renditions of these devotions are often flimsy and uncomfortable to wear/use. Each of our products is designed to bring ancient beauty into your modern Catholic lifestyle—handmade with only the highest quality materials available in order to last a lifetime.
As the saying goes, “The family that prays together, stays together.” Equip each member of your family with a Rosary made to last for decades, and instill a habit of prayer and meditation into your daily routine.
This premium Catholic keychain features an intimate portrait of the Holy Family on the front, and the backside depicts a famous scene from the life of St. Christopher, patron of travelers. Perfect to hang from your car keys or the rearview mirror on family road trips!
Clipped to their bags and backpacks, these keychains will remind your children of their commitment to holiness all day long. This elegant accessory also functions as a conversation starter, giving your family opportunities to witness to the faith outside of the home.
Our hand-embroidered Scapulars are designed to spark a lifelong devotion to Our Blessed Mother. They come in both adult and child sizes, so your whole family can enjoy the blessed assurance that comes with devotion to Our Lady.
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Also check out our custom-cast sacred medals! Not only do they feature portraits of Mary and Joseph for you and your spouse, your children can find heroes of their own that will intercede for them for the rest of their lives.
Founder of Scapulars.com