I have gone through seasons in my life when I struggled in my relationship with Mary. There were many times when she seemed distant or unrelatable, and I did nothing to foster a connection with her.
Mary and Marriage?
I remember a particular season of struggle which began after a religious discernment retreat I attended. During this retreat, much to my surprise, I received a strong message that I was not being called to the religious life, but was in fact called to the vocation of marriage. And somehow, I let this change of discernment greatly affect my relationship with Mary. I suddenly thought that Mary played less of a role in my life and vocation than before.
I thought Mary bore more relevance to women who are virgins. I knew she was important in the life of all Christians, and that she is the Mother of all the faithful, but somehow women in religious life seemed more important to her. The consecrated women in my life, or those discerning religious life, always seemed to have a deeper devotion to Our Lady. That made sense to me. After all, Mary gave her everything to God in her fiat. And the modern way in which women radically give their all to God seems to be through the religious life.
Also—and this was a big also—Mary lived as a virgin for all her days. Therefore, Mary must serve as more of a model and example for women who are called to virginity for the sake of the Kingdom, right? I somehow “lose” some aspect of devotion to her because my life as a future married woman will not be like her life, right?
Virgin and Wife
Mary was a married woman. Mary was joined to Joseph, and the two were husband and wife. Now we must remember, the marriage between Mary and Joseph did not look like most marriages of today. This is due to the fact that Mary and Joseph never engaged in the marital act, as was most fitting in God’s plan and most fitting for the Mother and foster-father of Jesus. The Catholic Church has always held the perpetual virginity of Mary:
Mary remained a virgin in conceiving her Son, a virgin in giving birth to him, a virgin in carrying him, a virgin in nursing him at her breast, always a virgin. // CCC 510
Mary was ever-virgin. But she was also married. We must not let her perpetual virginity cloud the fact that while she remained truly a virgin, she remained truly a wife. She was the wife of Joseph, who had received the call from God to marry Mary even after he heard the news of Mary’s conception of Jesus.
… An angel of the Lord appeared to him [Joseph] in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit… When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife… // Matthew 1:20, 24
Mary is both virgin and wife. She alone is in a unique situation to serve as a model and example for women within all vocations.
Mary and the Married Woman
I believe we need to re-awaken our understanding of the marriage of Joseph and Mary. I’m afraid that we sometimes accidentally paint their marriage and their relationship as stale and boring. But in reality, the marriage of Joseph and Mary serves as an example to all those who are married. This is not because their marriage was devoid of romance and attraction. Joseph and Mary loved each other. They loved each other with a deep, affectionate, self-sacrificial, spousal love. Their marriage was not dry, but full of life! They felt toward each other how any young and in-love married couple would have felt. They abstained from sexual relations, but they shared a deep and intimate connection in other ways.
And so my assumptions about Mary as being more relevant to the life of a sister or a nun were wrong. Yes, Mary can relate to them in a unique way. But Mary also understands the heart of a married woman. She understands what it is like to be a wife and a mother. She has so much to teach us about how to love men, and how to trust and give of ourselves. In his Consecration to Saint Joseph, Fr. Donald Calloway beautifully expresses the inner workings of Mary’s heart in this regard:
When Mary met St. Joseph, she knew that God had chosen him to be her loving (and beloved) husband. Trusting in God’s plan, she fell in love with St. Joseph and gave him her Heart. Mary’s body was reserved for God, but she had the freedom to give her Heart to St. Joseph, the only man worthy of her, the only man perfectly reflecting the pure love of God.
Mary was in love with Saint Joseph.
We don’t normally think of her this way. But I think if we give her the chance to reveal herself to us, in her true identity as a wife, she can help repair the many damages and wounds present within the family today.
The Best Example
Mary was a married woman.
So if you are married or feel called to marriage, don’t be like me and make that an obstacle between you and her. Instead, ask her to show you how to love. Ask her to show you how to be a good wife. We get to learn from the best.
Mary Grace “Gracie” Tillman is a fulltime student and fulltime extrovert. If you don’t find her with her friends, odds are she’s lost on a backroad with her music turned all the way up. She loves sports, writing, one-on-ones over coffee, and all things related to Divine Mercy. She strives to life live every day to the fullest and be a joyful disciple of Jesus.