The Perpetual Virginity of St. Joseph
Jun 7th, 2021
The perpetual Virginity of St. Joseph.
That St. Joseph lived and died a pure virgin, like his Immaculate spouse, though not of faith, is absolutely certain. Reason, and the ancient and constant Tradition of the Church, prove it beyond doubt.
In the preceding section, we have seen how God loves purity, how dear to the Almighty is chastity, and with what jealous care God watched over the purity of Mary in honour of the Incarnation. From this we may conclude that God Almighty would never choose, from among the sons of men, a guardian and spouse for the Immaculate Mother of God, and a foster-father for His beloved and eternal Son Jesus Christ, any but a pure and perpetual virgin; this guardian and spouse of Mary, this foster-father of Jesus, is St. Joseph: therefore, St. Joseph lived and died a pure virgin.
We shall select only a few out of the many authorities before us, in almost every age of the Church, in favour of the perpetual Virginity of St. Joseph.
St. Jerome, writing against the heresiaroh, Helvidius, who impiously denied the perpetual virginity of our Blessed Lady, says: “Thou sayest that Mary did not remain a virgin. I not only maintain it, but aver that Joseph, too, was a virgin, through Mary; so that a Virgin Son might be born of this virgin marriage. It does not appear that Joseph had ever before contracted marriage. Of the Mother of God, he was rather a guardian than a husband: hence we must believe that he lived with Mary as a virgin, and so deserved to be called the Father of the Lord.”
St. Augustine and St. Thomas maintain the same doctrine; and hence the learned Cardinal Baronius, summing up the proofs, writes: “All the Catholic writers of the Latin Church, who have flourished since the days of St. Jerome, have followed his opinion as to the perpetual virginity of St. Joseph; so much so that St. Peter Damian, the ablest writer of his day, says, with great satisfaction, that the faith of the Church is, that St. Joseph was a virgin like his most pure spouse (meaning by faith, as the accurate Suarez explains, the pious belief of the Church). And surely, so far as we are allowed to have recourse to probable conjectures, who will believe that God would not select a virgin spouse for His Mother, when, after He became man, and was dying on the cross, He confided her to one who was a virgin?” 1
The learned John Gerson, preaching before the Council of Constance, said: “As it became Mary to shine forth with the greatest purity, so was it becoming for her to have a most pious spouse, who would remain before and after in perpetual virginity.” 2
The Bollandists say, that “since the days of St. Jerome the whole Latin Church has unanimously adopted the opinion of the perpetual virginity of St. Joseph.”
We shall cite only one more authority.
Canisius writes: “Bede and Alcuin clearly confess the perpetual virginity of St. Joseph. … Hugh Victorinus, called in his time a second St. Augustine, and other theologians, especially St. Thomas and Gerson, not to mention moderns, maintain, with solid authorities, that Joseph and Mary, by mutual consent, consecrated themselves to God by a vow of perpetual virginity. … St. Peter Damian, an enlightened divine, warmly holds that the faith of the Church is, that not only the Mother of God, but Joseph, His reputed father, was a virgin.” 3
Hence, for the greater glory of our Saint, we are glad to repeat the heading of this section, that it is absolutely certain that our Great Patriarch, St. Joseph, lived and died, like his immaculate spouse, a pure and spotless virgin. O most chaste St. Joseph, pray for us.
1 Vallejo, p. 97.
2 Serm, de Nat. Mariæ, etc.
3 Vallejo, p. 98.