by Larry Peterson
The 22nd January the day the Catholic Church in America sets aside all else and joins in prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children. Traditionally, in the pre-1955 Church calendar, this day was set aside to honour the Betrothal of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Joseph. Today, the Mass for this feast is still celebrated by some religious orders using the Latin rite.
This is such a beautiful thing for the Church to do. By simultaneously joining together the Day of Prayer for the Unborn with Roe v. Wade and the Betrothal of Our Lady, it heralds the beauty of motherhood, and it trumpets the profound, spiritual importance of marriage and family.
“When Mary was engaged to Joseph, before their marriage, she was discovered to be pregnant—by the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.” (Matthew 1:18)
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name Him Emmanuel.” (Matthew 1:23)
In the Old Testament days, Jewish marriages happened in stages. First came the betrothal. At this ceremony, the couple gave their consent. They were now considered truly married. However, before they would actually move in together as a husband and wife, there was a period of time where they spent time away from each other. This could be up to a year, and it was during this separation that the “newlyweds” were to learn from older married couples how to be good Jewish spouses.
In his 1989 Apostolic Exhortation, Redemptoris Custos, Pope John Paul II used the following words to describe the marriage ceremony of the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph: “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 house. Thus, before he lived with Mary, Joseph was already her husband.”
When God does things, He sure is meticulous. Mary and Joseph were, according to the law, married. There are those who say that Jesus was born out of wedlock. If the betrothal had not taken place, that might be accurate. But under the law, they were married. There are some would have you believe that Mary was no different from an unwed mother. This is false. The Blessed Mother was a married woman at the time of the Annunciation. She even asked the Angel Gabriel, “How can this be since I know not man?” She is told it will be by the Holy Spirit. The Angel also informs Joseph. Therefore, within the Holy Family, the sanctity of marriage and family is fully protected.
Since the Roe v. Wade and Doe v.Bolton decisions on 22nd January 1973, more than 60,000,000 lives have been eradicated. The number is incomprehensible. Yet there are so many who justify this by using the rare examples of teenage rape or incest, Down Syndrome, deformities, lack of finances, and so on. We could also say the Blessed Virgin Mary’s pregnancy was abnormal or irregular. After all, Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ total DNA comes from a woman. Biologically, Jesus is not the son of Joseph, the Nazarene carpenter. But this man defines fatherhood, and his example screams out to all men: Love and protect the child and his/her mom, no matter what. Be loyal and true. Give them your name if you must.
Fittingly, on the 45th anniversary of the two most ignominious Supreme Court decisions ever handed down, as we pray for the protection of the unborn, we can look to the marriage of Joseph and Mary, a marriage established by God and made perfect by His Son.
It is hard to even imagine a better husband or father than a simple carpenter named Joseph. He is an example for all mankind.
We ask the Most Holy Family to pray for all the unborn and children everywhere.
Copyright 2018 Larry Peterson and permitted for use on www.catholcireland.net (March 2018)