Why was Mary Betrothed?


#1

I had a question posed to me about the perpetual virginity of Mary and I did not know quite how to answer it. The question went something like: why was Mary betrothed to St. Joseph at all if she had a perpetual vow of virginity? Since the normal function of marriage is to establish a healthy and Godly setting for the upbringing of children, how could Mary marry anyone in good conscience if she had every intention of remaining celibate? Furthermore, why would St. Joseph want to marry a woman whom he knew to have a perpetual vow of virginity?

Remember, the bible says that that Mary was betrothed to St. Joseph before the Annunciation (Luke 1:27) so at the time of her betrothal, she would have had no idea of her great role in salvation history. Now I have used Luke 1:34 “And Mary said to the angel, 'how shall this be since I have no husband?” to show that Mary must have had a vow of virginity because she obviously knew the normal physiological way in which children are conceived and if she were planning on having marital relations, she would have in all likelihood assumed that she would consummate her marriage with St. Joseph in the normal way and have a child.

But she apparently had no intention of ever having marital relations so why would she get married? The Catholic Church would not marry two people if one of them had a declared vow of virginity because they could not be open to children. Is it possible that Mary and Joseph were planning on having normal marital relations and the intervention of the Holy Spirit precluded this thereby relegating St. Joseph’s normal role as a husband to that of a caretaker and provider only? I thought about this but then Luke 1:34 makes no sense - Why would Mary ask “how shall this be?” Was there some custom or tradition in Jewish culture where two people would marry but remain celibate?

Now don’t misunderstand, I believe with all my heart that Mary is ever virgin but did she always intend to remain ever virgin during the course of Her earthly life. Is it against church teaching to believe that Mary had the intention of having normal marital relations before she conceived Jesus but did not afterwards since she was then the spouse of the Holy Spirit? Any help you can give would be very much appreciated.

God Bless


#2

The Protoevangelium of James presents another possibility. Although this document is not part of the canon of sacred Scripture, it is very old, dating back to about A.D. 150, so it gives us an idea of what else could have been going on.

In short, the story presents Mary as having vowed life-long virginity, and Joseph, a widower, has been appointed to be her guardian. This would still be a valid marriage, even though it was not consummated.

I suggest that you read the Protoevangelium of James. It helps us to “think outside the box”.


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