This novena is offered from January 14–22 in preparation for the Feast of the Espousals of Mary and Joseph, celebrated on January 23. Nine Masses are offered during these days. You are invited to submit prayer requests and to join in the novena prayers.
Hail to our patrons, happy songs we tender,
As we observe the day of their chaste wedding,
Anew the faithful enjoy the holy splendor
Shining about them.
How beautiful thou art, O Virgin Mary,
The Trinity has covered thee with graces
The lavish godhead splendidly adorns thee
As thou art married.
O blessed Joseph, to thee also we sing,
Thy virtue raises thee to highest summits
Thy sanctity is a mirror reflecting,
Thy saintly Mary.
Jesus was happy to be known as your Son
How much He loved you, parents of such virtue
From your belov’d arms to the world His mission
Already is started.
O Blessed couple, Light of earth and heaven,
Continue to inspire us with your blessing,
While the renown of your names we may leaven
By our devotion.
Eternal praise be to the mighty Godhead
Who, by the gift of Mary and Saint Joseph,
To our poor lives have, by their merits, added,
Gifts of Divine peace. Amen.
Most holy Virgin, by those virginal Espousals thou didst celebrate with Saint Joseph, thy most chaste Spouse, grant that my soul may be spiritually espoused to Jesus, thy Son and my Lord.
O spotless Virgin, by that intact Virginity thou didst keep with Saint Joseph, thy most pure Spouse, grant that my soul may with a pure heart serve Jesus, thy Son and my Lord.
Most amiable, Virgin, by that tender affection thou didst show to Saint Joseph, thy most dear Spouse, grant that my soul may incessantly love Jesus, thy Son and my Lord.
Most glorious Virgin, by that perfect obedience thou didst show to Saint Joseph, thy most prudent Spouse, grant that my soul may perfectly obey Jesus, thy Son and my Lord.
Most merciful Virgin, by that strict poverty thou didst practice with Saint Joseph, thy most resigned Spouse, grant that my soul may renounce all things for the love of Jesus, your Son and my Lord.
Most humble Virgin, by that deepest humility thou didst practice with Saint Joseph, thy most meek Spouse, grant that my soul may be subject to all for the love of Jesus, thy Son and my Lord.
O most holy Virgin, by that fullness of virtues thou didst acquire with Saint Joseph, thy most praiseworthy Spouse, grant that my soul may be enamored with all the virtues, so that it may ever be more pleasing to Jesus, thy Son and my Lord.
V. Pray for us holy Spouses Mary and Joseph:
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray.
Imbue Thy servants, we beseech Thee, O Lord, with the gift of heavenly grace: that having been exhorted to salvation in the childbearing of the Blessed Virgin; in celebrating the solemnity of her espousal we may be granted an increase of peace. Through Jesus Christ, Thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
Let us pray.
We beseech Thee, O Lord, that we may be helped by the merits of the Spouse of Thy most holy Mother, so that what we cannot obtain of ourselves may be given to us through his intercession. Through Jesus Christ, Thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
History of the Feast of the Espousal of Mary and Joseph
During Epiphanytide, after the celebration of the Nativity of the Lord, the Circumcision, the Holy Innocents (concomitant with the flight into Egypt), the coming of the Three Kings, and the feast of the Holy Family, the Church reflects on the Espousal of Mary and Joseph. As Michael Foley writes, “When viewed as a part of the Christmas cycle, the feast of the Espousals functions as a flashback sequence near the final scenes of a beautiful movie.”1 The Mystical City of God by Ven. Mary of Agreda gives special insights into the Espousal of Mary and Joseph.
When Mary reached the traditional age of marriage, the priests of the temple arranged for all the eligible descendants of David then living in Jerusalem to come to see who would be the most suitable for her. While all were praying, Joseph’s staff blossomed, and a resplendent dove descended upon his head. The priests immediately declared that Saint Joseph was willed by God to be Our Lady’s spouse. To Mary’s great joy, Joseph told her that he had taken a vow of chastity at the age of twelve.
Mary’s Humility and Obedience
Soon after the Incarnation of the Word, God explicitly revealed to Mary that He willed for her to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, in order to have Our Lord sanctify John in the womb. Mary’s humility and desire to obey her spouse was so great that, even after the divine will on the matter had been expressed to her, she still decided to ask Saint Joseph for permission to embark on the journey. And, in her humility, she omitted telling Joseph of the special revelation she had received.
In the domestic life of our two greatest saints, each vied to be the one to complete laborious chores so that the other could rest. Mary was perpetually grateful to Joseph for the humble earnings he was able to provide through his diligence in the carpenter’s trade. She consequently sought to perform all of the household tasks for his and her Son’s sakes. Joseph, out of love and reverence for Mary, insisted that he perform many of the duties himself. Ven. Mary of Agreda writes of their “courteous contentions,” by which she means the respectful disputes Mary and Joseph would have over which one should be allowed to serve the other more.
The distance from Nazareth to Zachary and Elizabeth’s home was a difficult journey of twenty-six leagues. Joseph was able to acquire a humble beast of burden for Mary to ride on the trip. Agreda writes,
“Mary, the most humble and unpretentious of creatures, many times dismounted and asked her spouse saint Joseph to share with her this commodity to lighten the difficulties of the way by making use of the beast.”
Saint Joseph’s virility prevented him from accepting Mary’s sweet and generous offer, but to accommodate her request in at least some way, he would occasionally allow her to walk side by side with him as much as prudence permitted.
Filling in for Bishop Fulton Sheen’s radio program one evening, Father Feeney said of Our Lady,
“You are understanding, marvelously simple and unsuspicious, tender towards us poor sinners in our meanness and our mistakes.”2
Unsuspiciousness is a loving trait that both of our saints possessed in the highest of degrees. In God’s adorable designs, He willed for Mary to show the signs of her pregnancy outwardly for quite a while before allowing her to explain to Joseph the nature of what was occurring.
At first, even though Joseph’s eyes were telling him that his spouse appeared pregnant, so unsuspicious and confident in Mary’s virtue was he, that Joseph would convince himself that his eyes were mistaken. Then, when Mary’s signs were such that Joseph could no longer deny what his eyes were observing, Joseph thought it possible that Mary had not violated her vow, but that a mysterious divine plan was at work.
Our Lady instructed Mary of Agreda about what we can learn from how slow Saint Joseph was to suspect evil:
“Above all things I admonish thee never to judge evil of anyone, even if thou seest with thy own eyes the outward warrants of thy judgement; for perfect and sincere charity will teach thee to find a prudent evasion and excuse for all faults of thy neighbor. God has placed my spouse, Saint Joseph, as a shining example for such a course of action, since no one had more evident proofs of evil, and no one was more discreet in deferring his judgment. For in the law of discreet and holy charity it must be held as prudence, not temerity, to suspect higher causes, as yet unseen, rather than to judge and condemn our neighbors for faults in which his guilt is not clearly evident.”
Another instance in which both saints displayed a holy unsuspiciousness is when they lost the Child Jesus for three days. It was the tradition at the time for men and women to travel home from the temple in separate groups. Children could accompany either brigade, and at the start of the return journey, God in his mysterious designs had allowed both Mary and Joseph to think that the Child Jesus was with the other parent. When the two groups converged after a day of walking, the holy spouses realized that Jesus was with neither of them. Instead of getting angry at each other and accusing the other of fault, both were unsuspicious and merely acknowledged the tremendously sorrowful situation that they were in together. No time was wasted on bickering or blaming; instead, Mary and Joseph were able to start their search in unison in a rational manner, each being confident in the full support of the other all the way.
Poverty and Almsgiving
As soon as the Holy Family received the gift of gold from the Magi, they discussed how they should best distribute it. They gave a third as a donation to the temple, a third to the priests present at both the Circumcision and the Presentation, and a third to the poor.
Toward the end of his life, Saint Joseph’s body had become completely worn out from all the incessant labors he had undertaken on behalf of his spouse and Child. Mary managed to convince him to let her now work for the sustenance of the family, and so she labored hard in spinning and weaving linen and wool, fulfilling all that was written of her, the foremost valiant woman, by the Holy Ghost in Proverbs 31:10-31.
Even with their indefatigable labors, Joseph and Mary were always poor, for they allowed persons to pay as little as they wished for the fruits of their labor, and they gave away any profits they did not absolutely need to the aforementioned groups. Pope Saint Pius X — whose baptismal name was Giuseppe (Joseph) — certainly drew his inspiration from their example when he said,
“I was born poor, I have lived in poverty, and I wish to die poor.”