I really do not want to make Sr. Dede look bad. I have a deep and profound respect for religious especially those who take their vows seriously! However, she should have made sure that she was speaking correctly about Our Lady as we surely do not want to offend Heaven by disrespecting or misrepresenting her!
Getting back to the issue of that shameful term. The fact that the term: "unwed mother" conjures up "fallen" women or at the very least at the end of the definition spectrum: "abused" or "raped" women, one naturally assumes that the Blessed Virgin Mary was not married at the time of the Incarnation and was in a "predicament"! This belief could not be further from the truth!
The world has become confused with the wording describing the marriage of Our Lady and St. Joseph in the Bible. The world no longer understands what the true meaning is that God had inspired the Apostles to written down. And so, I was asked and encouraged by a priest to write an article about this stating the truth in hopes of correcting this serious error and at the same time, reinforcing what the Church has taught throughout the centuries.
There is an excellent article that my priest friend sent to me. It was written thirteen years ago. I would like to quote from this article titled: "Two Terrible Translations" The author did a wonderful job of explaining and I feel no need research any further. I wish to highlight some of the quotes- [some of the bold print and highlighting will be mine].
The author, Mary J. Giovanoni wrote:
"The Catholic Church has two terrible English translations widely used by priests today: "betrothed" translated as "engaged" and "I know not man" translated as "I have no husband."
First, "betrothed" needs to be translated as "married" because Mary and Joseph were married before the Annunciation — when they both had signed the marriage contract at the 1st part of the 2-part Jewish ceremony. For the 1st century Jewish culture, this was the definitive point when the man and woman became husband and wife. It is necessary to remember that Mary and Joseph, as practicing Jews, followed the rules of their society, including the rites of the 2-part marriage ceremony. In any culture a couple is either "married" or "not married." There are no "almost married," "half married" or "considered married." Outsiders — those not of the culture — may choose to consider them not married. However, the outsider's opinion is of no concern to the culture.
The Talmudic website (www.jewfaq.org/marriage.htm) has much information on Jewish marriage customs. Under the section titled, "The Process of Marriage: Kiddushin and Nusuin," the Rabbi explains Mary and Joseph's 2-part Jewish marriage ceremony thus, "The process of marriage occurs in two distinct stages: kiddushin (commonly translated as betrothal) and nusuin. Once kiddushin is complete, the woman is legally the wife of the man. The relationship created by kiddushin can only be dissolved by death or divorce."
Since Mary and Joseph had completed kiddushin, by Jewish law they were married before the Incarnation — truly married as the Rabbi said. Note that the Jewish ceremony does not require that Mary and Joseph live together immediately after they become husband and wife!
After the marriage contract is signed by both, only death or divorce releases them from the marriage. If Joseph had denounced Mary publicly, she would have been stoned as an adulteress because she was married to Joseph and the child was not his. Nusuin, the second part when the husband brings his wife into his home, causes much confusion in Christian cultures because it occurs later. The Rabbis by writing down their Laws have preserved the proof that Mary and Joseph were married before the Incarnation. I cannot stress enough the importance that we carefully preserve this piece of our Jewish heritage, so it is available to future generations.
This 2-part marriage ceremony is described in the Gospel of Matthew 1:18, "Now the origin of Christ was in this wise. When Mary his mother had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit." This verse, by saying that Mary and Joseph were betrothed at the Incarnation, states that the kiddushin had been completed. Joseph was planning to dissolve the marriage privately, when the angel appeared to him and explained the true situation, "Do not be afraid, Joseph, son of David, to take to thee Mary thy wife, for that which is begotten in her is of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 1:20). Joseph then completed the nusuin by taking Mary his wife into his house.
God, in his infinite Wisdom, protected Mary and Jesus from harm by providing Joseph, a holy, kind man to care and provide for them. The early Fathers wrote much on living a virtuous Christian life, on combating heresies, on the Incarnation and the necessity of Mary being a Virgin. These writers would be Jews or Gentiles who remembered Jewish culture and therefore would know that Mary and Joseph were married at the Incarnation. Their immediate concerns were preaching Mary's virginity — before, during and after the Incarnation — as well as other Church doctrines and combating heresies."
The author continues the article by giving quotes of the Doctors and Fathers of the Church which are very enlightening and well worth the read. However, for brevity's sake I leave you with the link so you may continue reading it:
We celebrate Our Blessed Virgin Mary's marriage to St. Joseph on January 23.
I would like to close with a quote from Fr. John Hardon:
"The fact that Jesus was virginally conceived and born after the marriage of Mary and Joseph means that Jesus was conceived and born within wedlock. This is contrary to what so many, even priests, are saying at the present time, namely, that Jesus was born out of wedlock, like the children of so many unmarried women today, and that this is not an “abnormal” situation. A pregnant, un-wed mother is said to be, according to these people, in the same condition as Mary, who they claim was also un-wed at the time she conceived Jesus. This is false; it is indeed a very serious falsehood, for it undermines the sanctity of marriage and the reason for that sanctity. It is said by defenders of this position that Jesus was conceived after Mary and Joseph were engaged, but not yet married."
(The Father John A. Hardon, S.J. Basic Catholic Catechism Course),
The Epistle from the Feast of the
Espousal [aka Marriage] of Mary and Joseph on January 23
Proverbs 8, 22-35
The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before he made any thing from the beginning. I was set up from eternity, and of old before the earth was made. The depths were not as yet, and I was already conceived. neither had the fountains of waters as yet sprung out: The mountains with their huge bulk had not as yet been established: before the hills I was brought forth: He had not yet made the earth, nor the rivers, nor the poles of the world.
When he prepared the heavens, I was present: when with a certain law and compass he enclosed the depths: When he established the sky above, and poised the fountains of waters: When he compassed the sea with its bounds, and set a law to the waters that they should not pass their limits: when he balanced the foundations of the earth; I was with him forming all things: and was delighted every day, playing before him at all times; Playing in the world: and my delights were to be with the children of men.
Now therefore, ye children, hear me: Blessed are they that keep my ways. Hear instruction and be wise, and refuse it not. Blessed is the man that heareth me, and that watcheth daily at my gates, and waiteth at the posts of my doors. He that shall find me, shall find life, and shall have salvation from the Lord:
Mary, Most Pure Spouse of St.Joseph
and Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Pray for us
and protect us in Our Battle against Evil and Defense of the Truth!