Aletia: Saturday, September 8, 2018 – Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

According to tradition, Mary’s parents were barren until God answered their prayers.

Little is known authoritatively about the Virgin Mary’s early childhood and family. However, an ancient text from the year 145, called The Protoevangelium of Jamesprovides a narrative that many saints have turned to when wanting to learn more about the Virgin Mary.

According to the unknown author, a man named Joachim was saddened at not being able to conceive a child with his wife, Anne. It’s recorded, “Joachim was exceedingly grieved, and did not come into the presence of his wife; but he retired to the desert, and there pitched his tent, and fasted forty days and forty nights, saying in himself: I will not go down either for food or for drink until the Lord my God shall look upon me, and prayer shall be my food and drink.”

Similarly, Anne “mourned in two mournings, and lamented in two lamentations, saying: I shall bewail my widowhood; I shall bewail my childlessness.” Then Anne “saw a laurel, and sat under it, and prayed to the Lord, saying: O God of our fathers, bless me and hear my prayer, as You blessed the womb of Sarah, and gave her a son Isaac.”

The Angel Appears

In the midst of her prayers an angel appeared and said, “the Lord has heard your prayer, and you shall conceive, and shall bring forth; and your seed shall be spoken of in all the world.” At the same time an angel appeared to Joachim, saying, “Joachim, Joachim, the Lord God has heard your prayer. Go down hence; for, behold, your wife Anne shall conceive.”

The two conceived a child shortly thereafter and then according to the story “her months were fulfilled, and in the ninth month Anne brought forth. And she said to the midwife: What have I brought forth? And she said: A girl. And said Anne: My soul has been magnified this day. And she laid her down. And the days having been fulfilled, Anne was purified, and gave the breast to the child, and called her name Mary.”

The account echoes many of the stories in the Old Testament, where couples were barren until they cried out to God. Angels are often the bearers of good news to them, proclaiming that they will bear a child. Yet in this case, instead of a boy, the announcement is a girl who “shall be spoken of in all of the world.”

The Catholic Church’s Beliefs

While the story is not known to be a factual account, the Church does refer to the parents of the Virgin Mary as Joachim and Anne.

Whatever happened, it would have been fitting for her birth to be miraculous, as the Church teaches that the Virgin Mary was conceived without the stain of original sin in the womb of her mother. The Solemnity of Mary’s Immaculate Conception is celebrated annually on December 8, nine months before the Feast of the Birth of Mary on September 8.

 

The Holy Family

St. Joseph’s Feast Day – March 19th

Saint Joseph, Patron Saint of Families, is the silent man of the New Testament. He plays a vital role in the first chapters of the gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke. However, neither evangelist records anything St. Joseph said. But if he does not speak, he certainly does act.

St. Joseph’s Ancestry

Joseph was born in Bethlehem, the hometown of David. In fact, Joseph could trace his ancestry back to the shepherd boy who became king of Israel.

Joseph’s Early Life

Joseph the Carpenter

When we first meet Joseph in the gospels, he has moved north to the town of Nazareth in Galilee. He works as a carpenter. In Nazareth, Joseph became engaged to Mary. Sometime before their wedding, the Archangel Gabriel made the announcement to the Blessed Virgin that she was going to be the Mother of the Savior.

The gospels do not say when Mary told Joseph that she was pregnant. What we do know is that Joseph assumed Mary was unfaithful to him and that she was to bear some other man’s child. Feeling hurt and shame, Joseph, being a righteous man, made plans to break off their engagement quietly. Before Joseph could act, however, an angel visited him saying, “Do not be afraid, Joseph, son of David, to take Mary as your wife, for the child within her is of the Holy Spirit. And she shall bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus; for He shall save His people from their sins.”

This is how the Holy Family began, with an angel assuring Mary and Joseph that what was out of the ordinary to them was in fact all part of God’s plan to redeem the world.

Joseph’s Role as Step-Father

Joseph & Mary on their way to Bethlehem

Every time we see Joseph thereafter, we see him taking loving are of Jesus and Mary. In Bethlehem on that first Christmas night, he wanders the streets looking for a decent place where Mary can give birth. When King Herod schemes to murder the Christ Child, it is Joseph, warned by an angel, who gets Jesus and Mary safely to Egypt. And when Herod is dead and it is safe to come home, Joseph brings his family to Nazareth.

Finally, the last time Joseph appears in the gospels is when he and Mary search Jerusalem for three anxious days, looking for the Child Jesus.

The evangelists never mention Joseph again. Biblical scholars always assume that he must have died before Christ began His public ministry. If he had been alive, there would have been no need for Jesus, as He hung from the cross, to ask St. John to look after Mary.

Joseph – Our Heavenly Protector

Families have always found comfort in having St. Joseph as their heavenly protector. Blessed Pope Pius IX probably had that in mind in 1870 when he named Saint Joseph the Patron Saint of our extended family, the Catholic Church.