Did Mary and Joseph practice NFP?

Did Mary and Joseph practice NFP? It seems not because they were perfectly abstinent. If they were the most saintly married couple, why is not complete abstinence—not NFP, which can be sinful when used for the wrong reasons—advocated as the ideal toward which married Catholics should strive? Thanks

Well, the Church would get really small, really fast if all married couples were completely abstinent, don’t you think?

I mean, you do know where babies come from, right?

this discussion has been introduced on at least 3 threads in recent weeks, did you try a search before posting your question?

Mary and Joseph abstained completely from marital relations, so no, they did not practice periodic continence, but absolute abstinence. They were not Catholic they were Jewish and the bible tells us they conformed completely to Jewish law, so that is all we need to know.


I don’t know much about NFP, but isn’t one of its basic ideas the accurate measure of temperatures throughout the cycle? The “sympto-thermal” method? It seems to me that this accurate temperature reading was not available in antiquity and only became possible with the invention of modern thermometers.

Correct me if I’m wrong.

Do not deprive each other, except perhaps by mutual consent for a time, to be free for prayer, but then return to one another, so that Satan may not tempt you through your lack of self-control. This I say by way of concession, however, not as a command.” 1 Cor. 7:5-6

Mary and Joseph had a marriage in which there was no sexual relations by mutual consent, which is now called a Josephite marriage. Joseph, before he took Mary into his home, knew what the situation was, so his consent was not coerced. It was according to tradition that Mary was not Joseph’s first wife, but that he may have been advanced in years and a widower. Presumably, the couple were given the grace of sufficient self-control that this choice would not reasonably have been a near occasion of sin for either of them.

You will get a better and fuller explanation than I could hope to give on Jimmy Akin’s web site. I highly encourage reading it, as it is very informative:

Mary, as the ark of the new covenant, the spouse of the holy spirit, had a particular calling to perpetual virginity. This is not expected of, nor ideal for, most married couples… Mary, as the mother of Jesus, had a completely different role than any other woman. Total abstinence is not good for most married couples, although might be required in certain circumstances.

You know they didn’t have thermometers back then and as i think puzzleannie said they were jewish not catholic and that is all that matters and that the church teaches the doctrine of mary’s perpetual virginity. So i really don’t worry about it

Prior to the more precise and detailed understanding of a woman’s cycle that made the symptothermo methods possible, it was understood that a woman with a regular cycle might avoid pregnancy more often than not by consulting the calendar…the oft-maligned “calendar method.” It was also understood that this only lowered the chances of pregnancy, but that conception was not a super-remote possibility. In the case when the reasons for avoiding conception were particularly grave, complete abstinence might have been chosen by a couple. Ethically speaking, it does have to be a mutual choice.

I answered no to the poll and now I realize that you can’t just answer no, the answer calls for an explanation. I don’t practice NFP and I have 2 children and #3 on the way. If Joseph and Mary didn’t practice NFP just like me, does it mean that they too had children besides Jesus? For one we can’t compare ourselves to them as it was said before because they were Jewish and practiced Jewish Law. And most importantly because Mary’s life was devoted to bring that one child into the world, the Son of God and God Himself, while being a virgin untouched by men. How could we compare ourselves to her, to her vocation in life, to the grace that was bestowed on her even before her birth? Yes she had a husband to provide for her and Her Divine Son and to protect them and help raise Him but I can’t compare Joseph to my husband or anybody’s husband. God provided for the child of the Virgin a fatherly figure to raise him and teach him a trade as it was the custom. God didn’t let Mary be an unwed mother. She would probably have been stoned to death for fornication so he provided a husband/adoptive father/protector for the child and her. This couple is a unique and holy couple whose relationship goes beyond the physical relations that husband and wife experience. They both had God’s Angels talking to them and asking them to fulfill a mission, God’s mission. We live in an’ oversexualized’, over ‘mediatized’ society and of course we think of anybody as sexual beings because we are exposed to so many scandals and affairs. But Mary and Joseph are not politicians or Hollywood actors or even the guy next door. The book where their story is written is the Holy Bible, not some tabloid, hot gossip website or reality show.

Mary and Joseph didn’t practice NFP but they practiced a lot of virtues that should inspire us such as humility and courage.

there is no such thing as a poll on something that is a matter of doctrine. rather than personal opinion. Using the term NFP is anachronistic when applied to anyone in the first century because it refers to modern, late 20th century methods of ovulation prediction and using them to time intercourse to either favor or avoid conception. Since these were not around then it is not even applicable. did you do as I suggest and look at the other current threads on the topic? did they help?

Um, okay. I’ll ask the question.

Why in the world does this matter?! What would cause you to ask this question?

I honestly thought this was a troll. :blush:

There was a perfectly good reason for Joseph not to defile the womb that bore God.

Could be. What would cause a person to think this way? In my entire life, I think I’ve spent NO TIME worrying/thinking about this issue! Never even crossed my mind!

I think it’s a valid question. I think it was a teacher in high school (maybe college) who told the class that the Church believes that Mary & Joseph had sex, and possibly even other children after Jesus was born. There’s a lot of faulty catecheses out there.

Is it a matter of doctrine that NFP can or cannot include permanent abstinence? This poll would test people’s understanding of what NFP is.

This is an incredibly narrow view of NFP, if it is even NFP. You don’t consider what St. Paul wrote here NFP?[bibledrb]1 Corinthians 7:5[/bibledrb]

I have read the posts on how NFP used to avoid or lessen the probability of conception is not contraception, e.g., but I still struggle with that.

What prompted the question was reading this article by the marriage specialist Msgr. Cormac Burke: 70 (2006): 481-536
The Thomist

, especially this section where he seemingly degrades total abstinence:

  1. Abstinence?
    Till the present day, spouses who really sought to live their conjugal relationship as God wished, to sanctify themselves in and through their marriage, received little orientation from the teaching of the Church, aside from the idea that a certain abstinence is a recommendable means not just of family planning but of positive growth in married sanctity.(81) Abstinence in this view often seemed to be presented as the ideal, or at least as the main means to union with God and the sanctification of one’s life. One senses here (and this is the heart of the problem) a continuing underlying presumption that marital intercourse is something so “anti-spiritual” that spouses would do better and grow more in love for God by abstaining from it than by engaging in it. This presumption should be firmly resisted.
    If marriage is in itself a divine way of holiness, then all of its natural elements, including of course intimate conjugal relations, are a matter of sanctification. Certainly (as we will see below) these relations must be marked by temperance; yet total abstinence from such relations cannot be proposed as an ideal or ascetical goal for married people.(82) Total abstinence as a means to counter the problem of lust is not a practical proposal for married people, and yet lust has to be countered.
  1. Abstaining from or renouncing secular activities and the satisfactions or pleasures that may derive from them has been central to religious life since its inception. While the roots of this religious spirituality go back to Jesus’ invitation to the rich young man (Matt 19:21), it is debatable whether it has offered the necessary inspiration and dynamism to guide lay people in general and married people in particular to the full goal of Christian life. It is true that Jesus said “whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33), yet it is also clear that celibacy, whether in religious life or otherwise, is not the only Christian way and indeed that, despite St. Paul’s wish (“I wish that all were as I myself am”), God is not calling everyone to be celibate. Pope John Paul II recalls how Paul himself acknowledges that each one “has his own special gift from God.”
  1. There are various reasons why abstinence may enter periodically into conjugal life, but it would seem fundamentally flawed to propose abstinence as an ideal, or as a condition for holiness, in those called to Christian marriage. Saint Paul’s suggestion to spouses to abstain “for a time” (1 Cor 7:5) cannot be broadened into a general norm.

It matters because:

*]many, many Protestants think St. Mary and St. Joseph did not remain virgins and had other children. It also matters because;
*]some seem to think the marriage act is a sort of sacramental or essential to marriage itself (it is not);
]the marriage act itself, rather than the graces flowing from the sacrament, is not a remedy of concupiscence (again, it is not; rather it inflames it more: “concupiscence is not curbed by being satisfied but is rather increased,” as St. Thomas writes in IV Sent., *d. 2, q. 1, a. 1);
*]marriage is a sacrament. Even though the priestly state of life is a higher good, marriage is still a great good and means to sanctification and chastity, not just an outlet for those who struggle with continence (doesn’t everybody to some degree?);
*]the annulment crisis in the U.S. is the greatest scandal in the U.S. Catholic Church. “The United States has 6% of the world’s Catholics but grants 78% percent of the world’s annulments. In 1968 the Church there granted fewer than 600 annulments; from 1984 to 1994 it granted just under 59,000 annually.” (source);
*]the marriage of Mary and Joseph is rarely extolled in the Church today.

Yes, of course. I do not yet understand [bibledrb]Wisdom 8:21[/bibledrb], then.

Yes, in general, but St. Mary’s case was definitely exceptional. I think that not only did God elect her as His mother but also that Mother Mary and St. Joseph merited it; it was a great manifestation of their married love in a way so profound and beyond what we sinners experience through carnal sexual intercourse, which for us is partly evil because it passes on original sin. Think about it: their marriage was consummated in the birth of God!

Good point! I think you have the best excellent answer. Thank you!

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