Betrothal of the Blessed Virgin

We wish you a blessed feast day of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary!

The Fatima Center is hosting a series of talks by traditional priests to help us grow in our devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. We invite everyone to make the time to follow that series on Our Blessed Mother. There is much to learn from it, and it can deepen one’s knowledge and love of Our Lady and one’s knowledge and love of Christ. Conversely, the one who rejects Mary, necessarily rejects Her Son as well.

A viewer of this series recently wrote in to ask: If Our Lady was consecrated to God from a young age to remain a virgin, then why did She get betrothed to St Joseph? That doesn’t seem to add up. Though I can see that She needed a husband once She was pregnant with Our Lord, the Scriptures portray this engagement as prior to the Incarnation.


This is a great question. Thank you for sending it to us.

It is one which surely many others have. To understand why Our Lady acted thus, the best option may be to make the time to read The Mystical City of God by Ven. Mary of Agreda. It is a long work (four volumes), but TAN has published an abridged version, which is a great place to start. Another work I highly recommend is The Life of Mary as Seen by the Mystics. This book is also an excellent resource for First Saturday meditations.


This is also a profoundly deep question.

Surely that is a contributing factor in making it so great. The answers are endless and unfathomable. So many points could be made. Let us limit ourselves to just ten (for now). Though the first may not be too helpful, it is important to keep it foremost in our mind.

(1) This was God’s divine Will and plan. In His infinite wisdom, God deemed it not just right and fitting, but the manner of achieving the greatest good. Neither Our Lady nor St. Joseph ever committed a sin. They cooperated in the best way possible (perfectly) with God’s Will. We have to keep this context in mind. Then our duty becomes to meditate on this mystery and ask “why?” 


What can we learn from this?

(2) Our Lady and St. Joseph were betrothed prior to the Annunciation, and their betrothal was far more serious than what we think of today as an “engagement.” It really should be seen as being married. So, Our Lady had a commitment to perpetual virginity and still married St. Joseph, before Gabriel announced to Her the Incarnation and that She was to be the Mother of God.

(3) As per tradition, St. Joseph had also made a vow of perpetual virginity. So both of them entered into the marriage with this intent. (It was a very unique marriage, unlike any other, but a very real marriage!)

(4) On the practical side, the priests of the temple had to betroth Our Lady in order to abide by the Law. Our Lady entered the temple when She was three, to be consecrated wholly to Our Lord. The Law, however, deemed a woman who is menstruating to be “unclean,” and nothing “unclean” could come in contact with the consecrated things of the temple. Thus, once Our Lady came of that age, She had to be taken out of the temple. 

But you don’t just throw someone out on the street. In those times, a woman was cared for by a man (be it her father; her husband; or, if a widow, her son). The only option the priests had was to betroth Her. So, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, they prayed and held a singular ritual to determine the appropriate man. This is when St. Joseph’s staff miraculously flowered the lily, to indicate that he was God’s choice. And so the priests wound up betrothing a woman who had consecrated Her virginity, to a man who had also consecrated his virginity. It could not have worked out any other way! God’s plans are indeed perfect.

(5) God also wanted His Son to have a human [foster] father. He wanted Jesus to grow up within a family context. In His humanity, Jesus was to be born and live in the midst of the greatest human love a man and woman ever had for each other – Mary and Joseph, the perfect spouses. This was not only necessary for Christ Himself to experience in His humanity, but for the people around them to see and witness, and for all mankind (down to us) to have that example to look to.

(6) In His humanity, Jesus had to learn an example of “how to be a man” – and He did so from the most perfect man possible, St. Joseph. This would not have been possible if Our Lady had not been married to St. Jospeh.


On the spiritual side there are also many reasons. For example: 

(7) Our Lady was betrothed to fool satan into thinking that She was not the Virgin prophesied by Isaias (7:14) to birth the Messiah and promised by God after the Fall (Gen. 3:15). God withheld the knowledge of the Incarnation and Mary’s perfect virginity from satan. Thus, the ancient serpent mistakenly viewed Our Lord as a mere man, born naturally of wedded parents.

(8) One of the greatest mysteries about Our Lady is how She is both virgin and mother. We could meditate on this paradox forever. But that is why, even as a consecrated virgin, She has to be betrothed (married) to St. Joseph. Think of how this mirrors the Church – perfect, spotless, virginal Bride of Christ, dedicated to God alone, and yet mother of all Christians through the waters of baptism. Think of how this mirrors every Christian soul – meant to have virginal purity, focusing the soul on God alone, and yet completely united (‘married’) to the body. It’s the reality that we are in this world – but not to be of the world – and meant to be for God alone for all eternity. 

 (9) God also knew that men needed a patron for a holy death. Thus, He needed someone to have a holy and perfect death. Filled with intense pain and suffering, more than any of us can EVER experience, and yet with Jesus and Mary both right by his side. That is St. Joseph. And now he is our patron for that most important moment of our existence on this earth. (This could not have been the case had Our Lady and St. Joseph not been married.)

(10) A very important point for us today is to realize that devotion (dulia) to the Saints is never in conflict with adoration (latria) of God. Protestants and many Catholics often make this mistake – thinking that if we are devoted to Our Lady we are somehow less devoted to God. What heresy! The exact opposite is true. And this greatest of marriages proves it. Mary lived for God alone. Yet this did not prevent Her from being a most faithful, devoted and loving wife to St. Joseph. In other words, Her love for St. Joseph in no way prevented Her from living completely and perfectly for God. The same is true of St. Joseph. He lived only for God, and by being the perfect husband of Mary, he actually lived out more perfectly his total consecration to God. And so for us the lesson is clear. The more we are devoted to St. Joseph, the closer we will be to God. The more we love Our Lady, the more we will love Her Son!


De Maria Numquam Satis!

There is much more that can be said, but hopefully this provides the reader with some initial thoughts on the matter to meditate upon.


We invite you to share your own reflections on this matter in the comments below.