St. Joseph loved the Virgin Mary with a virginal, self-sacrificial love that respected her unique union with God.
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While we do not know many details of the marital life of St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary, we do know that they loved each other deeply.
St. John Paul II reflected on St. Joseph’s virginal love in his encyclical, Redemptoris Custos.
“Joseph. . .took his wife; but he knew her not, until she had borne a son” (Mt 1:24-25). These words indicate another kind of closeness in marriage. The deep spiritual closeness arising from marital union and the interpersonal contact between man and woman have their definitive origin in the Spirit, the Giver of Life (cf. Jn 6:63). Joseph, in obedience to the Spirit, found in the Spirit the source of love, the conjugal love which he experienced as a man. And this love proved to be greater than this “just man” could ever have expected within the limits of his human heart.
St. Joseph was able to love Mary with a pure, chaste love that still brought them together, though not in a physical way.
His love for Mary was drawn from the source of love itself, allowing him to be a faithful and devoted husband.
In the Liturgy, Mary is celebrated as “united to Joseph, the just man, by a bond of marital and virginal love.” There are really two kinds of love here, both of which together represent the mystery of the Church — virgin and spouse — as symbolized in the marriage of Mary and Joseph. “Virginity or celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom of God not only does not contradict the dignity of marriage but presupposes and confirms it. Marriage and virginity are two ways of expressing and living the one mystery of the Covenant of God with his people.” the Covenant which is a communion of love between God and human beings.
Above all, St. Joseph loved Mary in a self-sacrifical way, giving to her himself, while also acknowledging the unique union she had with God.
Through his complete self-sacrifice, Joseph expressed his generous love for the Mother of God, and gave her a husband’s “gift of self.” Even though he decided to draw back so as not to interfere in the plan of God which was coming to pass in Mary, Joseph obeyed the explicit command of the angel and look Mary into his home, while respecting the fact that she belonged exclusively to God.
St. Joseph’s example shows to us the possibilities of human love and how physical intimacy is not required for a total gift of self to the other.