Spiritual Marriage


#1

I recently read about couples who had a spiritual or Josephite marriage in medieval times. Is this something we can still do? Does the Church allow it? Are there requirements the couple would have to fulfill first, like at least consummating the marriage, or having children?


#2

Yes, a couple can enter into a marriage in which they agree mutually to abstain from sexual relations indefinitely. They would need to be under spiritual direction and have permission from their priest.

The couple must be

(a) **able **to consummate the marriage like everyone else (no impediment of impotence)

(b) **willing **to assume the duties of marriage upon the request of either party (i.e. the abstinence is by **mutual **consent and only for as long as both mutually agree. If either party wants to begin a normal marriage the other spouse must do so).


#3

Two Fathers asked God to reveal to them how far they had advanced. A voice came which said, 'In a certain village in Egypt there is a man called Eucharistus and his wife who is called Mary. You have not yet reached their degree of virtue.'

The two old men set out and went to the village. Having enquired, they found his house and his wife. They said to her, 'Where is your husband?' She replied, 'He is a shepherd and is feeding the sheep.' Then she made them come into the house. When evening came, Eucharistus returned with the sheep. Seeing the old men, he set the table and brought water to wash their feet. The old men said to him, 'We shall not eat anything until you have told us about your way of life.'

Eucharistus replied with humility, 'I am a Shepherd, and this is my wife.' The old men insisted but he did not want to say more. Then they said, 'God has sent us to you.' At these words, Eucharistus was afraid and said, 'Here are these sheep; we received them from our parents, and if, by God's help we make a little profit, we divide it into three parts: one for the poor, the second for hospitality, and the third for our personal needs. Since I married my wife, we have not had intercourse with one another, for she is a virgin; we each live alone. At night we wear hair-shirts and our ordinary clothes by day. No-one has known of this till now.'

At these words they were filled with admiration and went away giving glory to God.

  • from the Sayings of the Desert Fathers

#4

so this couple had higher virtue because they chose to stay virgin while married? this defeats the purpose of even being married. if every couple would strive for this higher virtue then humanity woud cease to exist. i always thought the goal of married life was to procreate children and raise a family.


#5

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.


#6

[quote="Shin, post:5, topic:210435"]
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

[/quote]

i understand this but mary was the arch of the new covenant and by no means would joseph touch it(her).


#7

Basically, the Holy Family, being now a model, those who live like it please the Holy Family especially by doing so.

The more God sees people living like He lives with His family the happier, which is quite natural after all. It is a great privilege to live like the Holy Family.

The state of consecrated virginity gains one a greater reward in Heaven than the state of marriage. Both gain rewards, but one much more than the other.

If for one reason or another, you have to be married, but maintain consecrated virginity, you're still keeping the reward of purity.

If you're married, and later take up permanent abstinence for spiritual reasons, you can also gain some reward for that. That said it's quite true that normally being in a marriage makes it more difficult to maintain the state of consecrated virginity because of more potential occasions of sin, and so you see how in the above quote the couple are careful that while they share a house they also live apart within it in many ways (that is what I think the quote probably means, they are so apart they live 'alone').

I think that many people don't understand how pure and how uninterested in all the attractions of the opposite gender one needs to be to truly be virgin and pure of heart. Live as 'brother and sister' that's the way it's described. :)

A 'have your cake and eat it too' attitude is -not- what is going on in such marriages, but rather a goal to live like angels being entirely uninterested, or rather repelled and horrified at falling into such attractions and losing one's purity.

OTOH, I don't think most married couples have a clue as to how pure they have to be with each other either generally and how restricted their mutual attraction has to be generally.

'I tell you, brothers, the time is running out. From now on, let those having wives live as not having them;'

1 Corinthians 7:29


#8

Its fine to take the Holy Family as an example but I don’t think it is always appropriate for a couple to live as brother and sister. Maybe for a short period of time but that’s all.

If for one reason or another, you have to be married, but maintain consecrated virginity, you’re still keeping the reward of purity.

Are you saying that married people who have relations can’t be pure? Are you saying there is something dirty about sex within marriage?

That said it’s quite true that normally being in a marriage makes it more difficult to maintain the state of consecrated virginity because of more potential occasions of sin, and so you see how in the above quote the couple are careful that while they share a house they also live apart within it in many ways (that is what I think the quote probably means, they are so apart they live ‘alone’).

It wouldn’t be a sin if the couple decides to take up intercourse again after a time of abstinence.

I think that many people don’t understand how pure and how uninterested in all the attractions of the opposite gender one needs to be to truly be virgin and pure of heart. Live as ‘brother and sister’ that’s the way it’s described. :slight_smile:

Again, it seems that you are denigrating the natural attraction that husbands/wives have for each other. That isn’t right. We can be pure in the state of marriage too without being celibate all the time.

A ‘have your cake and eat it too’ attitude is -not- what is going on in such marriages, but rather a goal to live like angels being entirely uninterested, or rather repelled and horrified at falling into such attractions and losing one’s purity.

I have many problems with this because you make it sound like such attractions are evil and dirty within marriage and that the husband/wife would lose purity if they decided after a time to have relations.

OTOH, I don’t think most married couples have a clue as to how pure they have to be with each other either generally and how restricted their mutual attraction has to be generally.

You must be singe. There is no other way to interpret this. You have NO idea what it is truly like to be married then if you say this.


#9

A couple could also attempt to only have sex in order to conceive a child or cease relations after they have a family and devote themselves to a spiritual marriage. Blessed Luigi and Maria Beltrame are an example of this kind of marriage. The couple renounced all marital relations after 20 years of marriage in order to devote themselves more perfectly to God. Luigi and Maria are also the first married couple to be beatified so that shows how much higher the calling to spiritual marriage is.


#10

[quote="Shin, post:3, topic:210435"]

...At these words, Eucharistus was afraid and said, 'Here are these sheep; we received them from our parents, and if, by God's help we make a little profit, we divide it into three parts: one for the poor, the second for hospitality, and the third for our personal needs. Since I married my wife, we have not had intercourse with one another, for she is a virgin; we each live alone. At night we wear hair-shirts and our ordinary clothes by day. No-one has known of this till now.'

At these words they were filled with admiration and went away giving glory to God.

  • from the Sayings of the Desert Fathers

[/quote]

that is beautiful. thank you so much.

[quote="KostyaJMJ, post:9, topic:210435"]
Luigi and Maria are also the first married couple to be beatified so that shows how much higher the calling to spiritual marriage is.

[/quote]

i've noticed this too. there don't seem to be many married saints, and the people who are saints, like Elizabeth of Hungary, achieve their sainthood for things that happen after their spouses die, because they choose to live spiritually, or because both members of the couple consent to join religious life.

thanks for your answers. 1ke also gave a very helpful response.

pax.


#11

Shin your comments about attraction, marriage, and sex is definately middle age. If God is so much more pleased with spiritual marriages why isn't this promoted in the catechism or by Rome? Also by your attitude of marriage and sex you must condem nfp. Why do you think sex is evil and sinful?


#12

The attitude that sex within marriage is somehow dirty or unholy is so hard for me to grasp. The marital embrace is reflective of the unity of Christ with his Church. Sex within marriage is not impure. And we can't say that there aren't many married couple saints, only that they haven't been officially canonized by the Church. Everyday married people living everyday lives don't generally draw the attention that creates a candidacy for canonization. That doesn't mean there aren't numerous married couples in heaven.


#13

Thank you. That was what I was trying to say in my previous post. It seems that the fella who posted that sex within marriage is dirty must be single. Married people can be pure and holy without being celibate. Its true that there are few married saints. Perhaps that is why there is this impression that in order to be holy and to become a saint you must be a virgin or if you are married, remain celibate. It is a tendency with some spiritual writers in past centuries but it is not true. I guess its because before the late 19th to 20th centuries, there were very few writings that were written specifically to the laity about how to be holy and become a saint. However, there are two that stand out, The Imitation of Christ and the Introduction to the Devout Life. In fact, I would encourage the previous poster (Shin) to read the Introduction to the Devout Life, specifically on the discussion on marriage to get an idea about what the Church teaches about it. St. Francis de Sales never considered sex within marriage dirty. In fact, he says that it is lawful and not sinful. What he does guard against (this is true about everything…ie. food, drink, etc) is either excessive preoccupation with sex, etc or gluttony. Basically, everything should be done in moderation which is a good rule of thumb for anything weather it is sex, food, drink, dancing, gaming, watching movies, surfing the internet, reading, etc. I believe that that is the only advice. Of course the couple should be open to life. That is the other caveat and that they don’t do anything demeaning to each other.


#14

This thread is nutty. It sounds like the ravings of lunatics.

No real men or women get married, so that they can remain virgins.

There are genuine challenges in married l;ife, but virginity is not one of them.


#15

[quote="Magickman, post:14, topic:210435"]
This thread is nutty. It sounds like the ravings of lunatics.

No real men or women get married, so that they can remain virgins.

There are genuine challenges in married l;ife, but virginity is not one of them.

[/quote]

While there are many "nutty" ideas being expressed here-- and ideas not at all in line with authentic Church teaching-- I can assure you that there have indeed been married saints and blesseds who embraced Josephite marriage for a time, or permanently, under the direction of their priest/spiritual director. Josephite marriage itself is not a "nutty" idea.


#16

[quote="mini_me640, post:12, topic:210435"]
The attitude that sex within marriage is somehow dirty or unholy is so hard for me to grasp. The marital embrace is reflective of the unity of Christ with his Church. Sex within marriage is not impure. And we can't say that there aren't many married couple saints, only that they haven't been officially canonized by the Church. Everyday married people living everyday lives don't generally draw the attention that creates a candidacy for canonization. That doesn't mean there aren't numerous married couples in heaven.

[/quote]

Maybe I missed it, but I never saw Shin say that sex was dirty or impure. How could it be since it was created by God along with our bodies. But what it was created for and the way we now practice it are two different things. We live after the Fall.

My priest gave me something from St. Augustine once where it said that Adam and Eve before the Fall would have been able to use sex properly, but now our wills are led by our bodies and the passions and so even in marriage our desire is usually not properly ordered, even if we are with our spouse.

How can it be an accident that the most perfect human being, Mary, lived her marriage to perfection, and this included not having sex with her husband. God thought it was so important that Mary maintain her purity that she did not even lose her virginity in giving birth.

And when God came and lived in a human body, born of this perfect woman, he did not have sex either.

So God as man, and the perfect woman, Mary, who are our models which we are supposed to follow, both lived as virgins and one of them did it while married.

I also read somewhere that it used to be the case, when there were married priests, that they had to not have sex with their wives so they could celebrate the eucharist.

We are supposed to be able to rule our passions and not let our bodies rule us. This is why fasting used to be so important too. The great saints were also great fasters, and this way they showed they had control over their bodies and the desires of the body. These days, not only is fasting dead but we are all walking around saying how great sex is, when sex ought to be kept in its proper place, just like eating. Each has a purpose and if we cannot use it for the purpose given we need to not use it at all. We are supposed to discipline our bodies so we can experience them like they were made to be, not like they are.

And I really don't see how a Catholic could ever say that some attitude was from the Middle Ages as if that was bad. The great saints of the Middle Ages are still our models too right? But, even if it were true that the Middle Ages didn't matter, aren't most of the modern saints, who we are supposed to imitate, virgins not married couples living normal married lives?


#17

[quote="1ke, post:15, topic:210435"]
While there are many "nutty" ideas being expressed here-- and ideas not at all in line with authentic Church teaching-- I can assure you that there have indeed been married saints and blesseds who embraced Josephite marriage for a time, or permanently, under the direction of their priest/spiritual director. Josephite marriage itself is not a "nutty" idea.

[/quote]

I'd be interested to know which of the ideas in the thread are "nutty", especially if the "nutty" ones are mine. I haven't shared all these thoughts with my priest yet, but I would like to try not be saying anything against Catholic teaching when I did. It would miss the point to think about something against Catholic teaching in order to live a holier life; we need to place our conscience in submission to the Church.


#18

I want to start the first organization to promote abstinence after marriage. We will take pledges, distribute purity rings, and give out “True Love Keeps Waiting” t-shirts after weddings.

Athletes do all kinds of crazy things to train their bodies. The only difference with this is the couple is trying to attain a spiritual goal with their crazy spiritual exercises.

Definitely not something any of you kids should try at home though. The saints that entered into this kind of marriage were professionals under the supervision of a good spiritual trainer.


#19

[quote="Daughter_of_Eve, post:17, topic:210435"]
I'd be interested to know which of the ideas in the thread are "nutty", especially if the "nutty" ones are mine. I haven't shared all these thoughts with my priest yet, but I would like to try not be saying anything against Catholic teaching when I did. It would miss the point to think about something against Catholic teaching in order to live a holier life; we need to place our conscience in submission to the Church.

[/quote]

Parts of posts 7, 9, and 16 espouse ideas contrary to Catholic teaching on marriage and sexuality within marriage.


#20

It is declared dogma that the state of consecrated virginity is superior to that of marriage. To deny it is heresy.

'I am the Queen of Heaven. Love my Son, because he is most worthy; when you have him, you have everything that is of worth. And he is most desirable; when you have him, you have all that is desirable. Love him, too, because he is most virtuous; when you have him, you have all the virtues. Let me tell you how beautiful his love for my body and soul was and how much honor he gave to my name. He, my own Son, loved me before I loved him, since he is my Creator. He joined my father and mother in so chaste a marriage that there was no more chaste couple then to be found. They never desired to come together except in accordance with the Law, solely for the sake of procreation. When an angel announced to them that they would give birth to the Virgin from whom the salvation of the world would come, they would rather have died than come together in carnal love; lust had died in them. But, I assure you, out of divine charity and on account of the angel's message they did come together in the flesh, not out of concupiscence but against their will and out of love for God. In this way my flesh was put together from their seed through divine love. When my body had been formed, God sent the created soul into it from his divinity; the soul was immediately sanctified along with the body, and the angels watched over and ministered to it day and night. It is impossible to tell you what a great joy came over my mother when my soul had been sanctified and joined to its body. Afterward, when the course of my life was done, he first raised up my soul, as being mistress of the body, to a place more eminent than others next to the glory of his divinity, and then my body, so that no other creature's body is so close to God as my own.'

Revelations of St. Bridget of Sweden

'But you, my daughter, whom I have chosen for myself and with whom I speak in spirit, love me with all your heart, not as you love your son or daughter or relatives but more than anything in the world! I created you and spared none of my limbs in suffering for you. And yet I love your soul so dearly that, if it were possible, I would let myself be nailed to the cross again rather than lose you. Imitate my humility: I, who am the king of glory and of angels, was clothed in lowly rags and stood naked at the pillar while my ears heard all kinds of insults and derision. Prefer my will to yours, because my Mother, your Lady, from beginning to end, never wanted anything but what I wanted. If you do this, then your heart will be with my heart, and it will be set aflame with my love in the same way as any dry thing is easily set aflame by fire. Your soul will be filled with me and I will be in you, and all temporal things will become bitter to you and all carnal desire like poison. You will rest in my divine arms, where there is no carnal desire, only joy and spiritual delight. There the soul, both inwardly and outwardly delighted, is full of joy, thinking of nothing and desiring nothing but the joy that it possesses. So love me alone, and you will have all the things you wish, and you will have them in abundance. Is it not written that the widow's oil did not fail until the day that the Lord sent rain upon the earth according to the words of the prophet? I am the true prophet. If you believe my words and fulfill them, oil and joy and exultation will never fail you for all eternity.'

The Lord, to St. Bridget of Sweden

"Evil does not follow because marriages are good, but because in the good things of marriage there is also a use that is evil. Sexual intercourse was not created because of the concupiscence of the flesh, but because of good. That good would have remained without that evil if no one had sinned."

St. Augustine

"Conjugal sexual intercourse for the sake of offspring is not sinful. But sexual intercourse, even with one's spouse, to satisfy concupiscence [disordered desire] is a venial sin."

St. Augustine

"Whatever, therefore, spouses do together that is immodest, shameful, filthy, is the vice of men, not the fault of marriage."

St. Augustine

"The custom of the Romans from antiquity has always been, after sexual intercourse with one's spouse, both to clean oneself by washing and to abstain reverently from entering the church for a time. In saying this we do not intend to say that sexual intercourse is sinful. But because every lawful sexual intercourse between spouses cannot take place without bodily pleasure, they are to refrain from entering the holy place. For such pleasure cannot be without sin."

Pope St. Gregory the Great

'The marriage bed should be undefiled, as the Apostle tells us, i.e. pure, as it was when it was first instituted in the earthly Paradise, wherein no unruly desires or impure thought might enter. All that is merely earthly must be treated as means to fulfil the end God sets before His creatures. Thus we eat in order to preserve life, moderately, voluntarily, and without seeking an undue, unworthy satisfaction therefrom. "The time is short," says St. Paul; "it remaineth that both they that have wives be as though they had not, and they that use this world, as not abusing it." Let every one, then, use this world according to his vocation, but so as not to entangle himself with its love, that he may be as free and ready to serve God as though he used it not. St. Augustine says that it is the great fault of men to want to enjoy things which they are only meant to use, and to use those which they are only meant to enjoy. We ought to enjoy spiritual things, and only use those which are material; but when we turn the use of these latter into enjoyment, the reasonable soul becomes degraded to a mere brutish level.'

St. Francis de Sales


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.