Saint Joseph: sinless virgin and virginal spouse

In private revelations to Sister Mildred Mary Neuzil, the Virgin Mary appeared under the title of “Our Lady of America, the Immaculate Virgin.” On some occasions, Saint Joseph also appeared, and he spoke to her, saying:

“It is true my daughter, that immediately after my conception, I was, through the future merits of Jesus and because of my exceptional role of future Virgin-Father, cleansed from the stain of original sin. I was from that moment confirmed in grace and never had the slightest stain on my soul. This is my unique privilege among men.

“My pure heart also was from the first moment of existence inflamed with love for God. Immediately, at the moment when my soul was cleansed from original sin, grace was infused into it in such abundance that, excluding my holy spouse, I surpassed the holiness of the highest angel in the angelic choir.

“My heart suffered with the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Mine was a silent suffering, for it was my special vocation to hide and shield as long as God willed, the Virgin Mother and Son from the malice and hatred of men. The most painful of my sorrows was that I knew beforehand of their passion, yet would not be there to console them. Their future suffering was ever present to me and became my daily cross. I became, in union with my holy spouse, co-redemptor of the human race. Through compassion for the sufferings of Jesus and Mary, I co-operated, as no other, in the salvation of the world.”

The marriage of the Virgin Mary to Saint Joseph was virginal, chaste, and pure. The Virgin Mary said to Saint Bridget:

“Know most certainly that before he married me, Joseph knew in the Holy Spirit, that I had vowed my virginity to my God, and was immaculate in thought, word, and deed, and that he espoused me with the intention of serving me, holding me in the light of a sovereign mistress, not a wife. And I knew most certainly in the Holy Spirit that my perpetual virginity would remain intact, although by a secret dispensation of God I was married to a husband.”

When Joseph realized that his wife, the Virgin Mary, was with child, he did not suspect her of infidelity. He knew that she was faithful to God.

“But when I had consented to the annunciation of God, Joseph, seeing my womb increase by the operation of the Holy Spirit, feared vehemently: not suspecting anything amiss in me, but remembering the sayings of the prophets, foretelling that the Son of God should be born of a virgin, deeming himself unworthy to serve such a mother, until the angel in a dream ordered him not to fear, but to minister unto me in charity.”

Now according to Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, Joseph was much older than the Blessed Virgin Mary, about 30 years older. So it was that Joseph died, as an elderly man, prior to the Ministry of Jesus Christ. But as to the marriage of Joseph and Mary, and his role protecting the Christ-Child, Pope Saint John Paul II describes this so well in his Apostolic Exhortation Redemptoris Custos:

“According to Jewish custom, marriage took place in two stages: first, the legal, or true marriage was celebrated, and then, only after a certain period of time, the husband brought the wife into his own house. Thus, before he lived with Mary, Joseph was already her “husband.” Mary, however, preserved her deep desire to give herself exclusively to God. One may well ask how this desire of Mary’s could be reconciled with a “wedding.” The answer can only come from the saving events as they unfold, from the special action of God himself. From the moment of the Annunciation, Mary knew that she was to fulfill her virginal desire to give herself exclusively and fully to God precisely by becoming the Mother of God’s Son. Becoming a Mother by the power of the Holy Spirit was the form taken by her gift of self: a form which God himself expected of the Virgin Mary, who was “betrothed” to Joseph. Mary uttered her fiat. The fact that Mary was “betrothed” to Joseph was part of the very plan of God.” [Redemptoris Custos]

Joseph was a virgin spouse of the virgin Mary. Only Mary was conceived without original sin. But both Mary and Joseph committed no personal sins their entire lives. For Joseph was sanctified in the womb, as the revelations of Our Lady of America, the Immaculate Virgin” tell us.

” “Joseph. . .took his wife; but he knew her not, until she had borne a son” (Mt 1:24-25). These words indicate another kind of closeness in marriage. The deep spiritual closeness arising from marital union and the interpersonal contact between man and woman have their definitive origin in the Spirit, the Giver of Life (cf. Jn 6:63). Joseph, in obedience to the Spirit, found in the Spirit the source of love, the conjugal love which he experienced as a man. And this love proved to be greater than this “just man” could ever have expected within the limits of his human heart.

20. In the Liturgy, Mary is celebrated as “united to Joseph, the just man, by a bond of marital and virginal love.”(31) There are really two kinds of love here, both of which together represent the mystery of the Church – virgin and spouse – as symbolized in the marriage of Mary and Joseph. “Virginity or celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom of God not only does not contradict the dignity of marriage but presupposes and confirms it. Marriage and virginity are two ways of expressing and living the one mystery of the Covenant of God with his people.”(32) the Covenant which is a communion of love between God and human beings.” [Redemptoris Custos]

The marriage of Joseph and Mary was not the Sacrament of Marriage, since neither spouse had received a formal Baptism. The other Sacraments are given only to baptized persons. Their marriage was, however, more than a merely natural marriage, as both spouses were devout believers in God, who were joined in a religious (Old Testament) marriage in the Jewish faith. Mary was a perpetual betrothed virgin. Joseph was not a widower, as some sources speculate. Rather, he was a life-long virgin, who was made sinless in the womb. However, he did have concupiscence, and so, in that regard, he was not untouched by sin (original sin).

How terrible has the situation in the Church become that I must now say the following. The marriage of Joseph and Mary was entirely chaste and pure — not in the sense of marital chastity, but in the fullness of virginal and spiritual chastity. Neither spouse ever experienced even the ordered eros of marital chastity. Joseph did not view Mary as a girlfriend or a spouse in the usual sense. His only intention was to serve her, holding her “in the light of a sovereign mistress, not a wife”, as Mary said to St. Bridget. Joseph and Mary never behaved even like a chaste dating couple, kissing, holding hands, and hugging. They behaved like two servants of God, working together toward the redemption of the human race through the Christ-Child.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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7 Responses to Saint Joseph: sinless virgin and virginal spouse

  1. stefano says:

    “The marriage of Joseph and Mary was not the Sacrament of Marriage, since neither spouse had received a formal Baptism”. I think we should admit that in fact they had, for the merits of Christ must have applied to them in advance, in view of his sacrifice. How could they be preserved from sin, otherwise? If Joseph and Mary were not united by a sacramental marriage, how could they be appointed as the Sacred Family, icon and model of any christian family? Moreover, how is it possible that the Mother of the Church was not baptised?

    • Ron Conte says:

      There is a tradition that she received the formal Sacrament of Baptism very late in life, long after Joseph passed away. The Church does teach that the 7 Sacraments began with Christ, and were established by Him. Mary and Joseph were in the state of grace (her from the Immaculate Conception), but not due to the formal Sacrament of Baptism. They had a natural marriage blessed by God in many ways (and absent marital relations), but not the formal Sacrament of Marriage.

    • stefano says:

      Thank you Ron.
      Yes, the 7 Sacraments began with Christ, but Christ is the One who is, who was and who comes. What I am sayng is that the same sacraments that He established during the time He lived amongst us, being the sign of his presence and healing, are signs of his ever existing person; so is not wrong to say that the power of the sacraments could apply to his mother before-hand, as appropriate.
      My argument is that Mary cannot be properly called the Mother of the Church, unless the Grace that replenished Her before conception is the sum of all sacraments, so to speak.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Yes, the graces of Baptism are applied in the baptism of desire and the baptism of blood, even in times prior to Christ, for the reason that you stated. She had great graces before Christ was conceived/Incarnate, and before she received the Sacraments. But we still cannot hold that there were any formal Sacraments of Marriage prior to formal baptism. It just doesn’t work that way.

  2. Francisco says:

    Mary’s response to the Angel Gabriel’s announcement: “How shall this be done, since I do not know man?” (Luke 1:34) after the Angel told her that she was going to bear a Son only makes sense if she (and in this case St. Joseph as well) vowed her virginity God even though they were married. If they didn’t, that answer doesn’t make sense because they natural thing (and purpose) of married couples is to have children. Imagine that after a wedding, you go to their reception and tell the bride that she is going to have a son, her answer would be like “Well, maybe yes”, but not “and how could this be??” unless she’s been living under a rock.

    {1:31} Behold, you shall conceive in your womb, and you shall bear a son, and you shall call his name: JESUS.
    {1:32} He will be great, and he will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father. And he will reign in the house of Jacob for eternity.
    {1:33} And his kingdom shall have no end.”
    {1:34} Then Mary said to the Angel, “How shall this be done, since I do not know man?”

  3. Grindall says:

    There are two contradictions with scripture here which cause me to doubt these so-called quotes from St. Joseph. The first is that Joseph considered quietly divorcing her. The second is that Christ said no man ever born of woman was greater than John the Baptist. These cannot be reconciled.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Saint Joseph and John the Baptist were each conceived with original sin, each was sanctified in the womb, and each was free from all personal sin. But since they both had concupiscence, they could err in ways that were not sinful, as when John asked if Jesus was the Messiah, or were they waiting for someone after him.

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