Espousals of the Blessed Virgin Mary

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Espousals of the Blessed Virgin Mary


A feast of the Latin Church. It is certain that a real matrimony was contracted by Joseph and Mary. Still Mary is called “espoused” to Joseph (“his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph”, Matthew 1:18) because the matrimony was never consummated. The term spouse is applied to married people until their marriage is consummated (Colvenerius, Cal. Marian., 23 Jan.). Peter d’Ailly, chancellor of the University of Paris. (died 1420), and his famous disciple, Jean Charlier, called Gerson, were the first energetic propagators of the devotion in honour of St. Joseph. Gerson worked many years to effect the institution of a special votive feast (Thursday of ember week in Advent), the object of which should be the virginal espousal of Mary and Joseph. Gerson’s friend, Henry Chicoti, canon of the cathedral chapter of Chartres, had bequeathed a certain sum for the celebration in the cathedral of this votive feast, for which Gerson had composed a proper Office. It seems that Gerson carried out the will of his friend, but tradition does not tell us on what day the feast was celebrated.

The first definite knowledge of a feast in honour of the espousals of Mary dates from 29 Aug., 1517, when with nine other Masses in honour of Mary, it was granted by Leo X to the Nuns of the Annunciation, founded by Sainte Jeanne de Valois. This feast was celebrated on 22 October as a double of the second class. Its Mass, however, honoured the Blessed Virgin exclusively; it hardly mentioned St. Joseph and therefore did not correspond to the idea of Gerson. Also purely as a feast of Mary it appears in the Missal of the Franciscans, to whom it was granted 21 Aug., 1537, for 7 March (double major). About the same time the Servites obtained the feast for 8 March. The Office of the Nativity of Mary was recited, changing the word Nativilas to Desponsatio. After the religious orders, among the dioceses which adopted the feast of the Espousals of Mary, Arras takes the lead. It has been kept there since 23 Jan., 1556. The first proper Office was composed by Pierre Doré, O. P. (died 1569), confessor of Duke Claude of Lorraine. This Office followed the outlines given by Gerson and commemorated both Joseph and Mary. Pierre Doré in 1546 unsuccessfully petitioned Paul III to extend the feast of the Desponsatio B. M. V. to the Universal Church. But even without the recommendation of the Apostolic See, the feast was adopted by many Churches. In Moravia it was in the sixteenth century kept on 18. July. In subsequent times Rome did not favour any further extension of the feast, but after it had been refused (1655) to the King of Spain, it was granted to the German Emperor for Austria, 27 Jan., 1678 (23. Jan.); in 1680 it was conceded to Spain, but transferred (13 July, 1682) to 26 Nov., because in Spain the feast of St. Ildephonsus or St. Raymond is kept 23. Jan. In 1680 it was extended to the entire German Empire, 1689 to the Holy Land (double, second class), 1702 to the Cistercians (20 Feb.), 1720 to Tuscany, and 1725 to the Pontifical States. In our days it is kept in nearly the entire Latin Church on 23 Jan., in the Spanish-speaking countries on 26 Nov., but it has never been extended to the Universal Church. Since Pius V abolished the Office of Pierre Doré and introduced the modern Office, it is again a feast of Mary. The commemoration of St. Joseph in Mass, Vespers, Lauds (decree 5 May, 1736) can only be made by a special privilege.

SEITZ, Die Verehrung des hl. Joseph (Freiburg, 1908); HOLWECK, Fasti Mariani (Freiburg, 1892).

APA citation. Holweck, F. (1909). Espousals of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Holweck, Frederick. “Espousals of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. May 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

St. Timothy

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St. Timothy, Bishop of Ephesus

The high esteem with which the Apostle Paul cherished Timothy, and the many praises which he bestowed upon him in his Epistles, are a convincing proof that St. Timothy was adorned with all those virtues which characterize an apostolic man. St. Paul calls him his dearest son and faithful companion, a servant of Christ, his brother, and the servant of God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who does not seek himself, but Christ the Lord, etc., all encomiums that can only be given to a great Saint. Timothy was born at Listra, or Listris, in Lycaonia. His fatk was a pagan, and his mother, a Jewess, embraced the Christian religion when St. Paul came with St. Barnabas to Listra.

By the care of his mother, Timothy was brought up in the Faith, and was well instructed in the laws of God. When, afterwards, St. Paul came with Silas, his companion in his journeys, to Listra, he chose Timothy for co-laborer in announcing the doctrine of Jesus. After that, Timothy made many difficult journeys with St. Paul, and was often sent to preach the Gospel in various places whither the Apostle could not go in person. To make him more fit for these duties, St. Paul ordained him priest, and afterwards Bishop of Ephesus. He sent him two Epistles, the first from Laodicea, the second from Rome, in both of which he instructed him most carefully how to fulfil the duties of the Episcopal dignity. From one of these letters, we learn that Timothy had fasted strictly, and had abstained from the use of wine. Paul who was anxious about his health, advised him, on acount of his weak stomach, to take a little wine.

The Saint finished the great labors, which he underwent for the conversion of the pagans and the good of the newly converted, with a glorious martyrdom. For, when at Ephesus, where many were still pagans, a great feast was held in honor of the goddess Diana, the holy Bishop, urged on by his great zeal, went into the midst of the pagans, who were just engaged in offering sacrifices. With earnest and impressive words he showed them the impiety of their actions, and requested them to desist. But the enraged pagans rushed furiously upon him, dragged him for a time upon the earth, and at last began to stone him. Then the Christians bore him away by main force, and carried him to the top of a neighboring hill, where, full of joy that he could suffer and die according to his desire for the name of Christ, he gave up the ghost.

Practical Considerations

Notwithstanding his apostolic labors, St. Timothy fasted very strictly, and voluntarily abstained from the use of wine until St. Paul ordered him to take some. Can you not observe strictly at least the obligatory fasts of the Church? Do you believe that those excuses which you now give will avail before God? Can you not at times, through the desire of overcoming yourself for, the love of God, or of mortifying your body, which has sinned so much, abstain from some drink or food which is pleasing to you? Why do you not do so? Believe me, these victories over yourself, though they appear small, are precious sacrifices, most pleasing to God, which we can offer daily with great merit. Zealous servants of God have always been most diligent in their practice. For we derive by them the advantage of keeping farther off from unlawful pleasures, the more we endeavor to abstain from such as are lawful. “True servants of God,” says St. Gregory, “have this peculiarity, that they abstain from lawful pleasures in order to remove themselves farther from those which are unlawful.”

Lives of the Saints: Compiled from Authentic Sources with a Practical Instruction on the Life of Each Saint, for Every Day in the Year by Rev. F. X. Weninger. Permissu Superiorum. New York: P. O’Shea, Publisher, 67 Barclay Street and 42 Park Place. 1876.