Franciscan Focus

Just a simple blog of a Secular Franciscan trying to live life with a Franciscan focus.
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23 January 2007

Happy Feast of the Espousals of Joseph & Mary! 

While not on the Church's universal calendar, the Feast of the Espousals -- customarily celebrated on 23 January -- has been observed as a particular feast in various forms since 1416, and it's a splendid way to honor the sanctity of marriage, so perfectly embodied in Mary and Joseph's union. Given the continued attacks on marriage and family all around us, meditating on the very real marriage of these Holy Spouses is especially valuable.

Studying the history of this feast -- and so many devotions and movements associated with Joseph -- tickles me to no end, since yet again, Franciscans play a role in its development! (Everywhere you look, Franciscans!) You can read a detailed history here; I've quoted some bits below:

"During the twentieth century the Feast of the Espousals on January 23 continued to be found in more particular calendars: St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome, 1913; Marello's Oblates of St. Joseph, 1921; the Oratory of St. Joseph in Montreal, Canada, 1940; and Murialdo's Congregation of St. Joseph, 1946. ... In Vienna, Austria, the Piarist Church of the Espousals, which includes a Corradini sculpture of Mary and Joseph being blessed by the high priest, was named a minor basilica in 1949.

"In 1961 the Sacred Congregation of Rites issued an instruction that removed from particular calendars numerous particular feasts, including the Feast of the Espousals of Mary and St. Joseph, except in places where the feasts have a special connection with the place itself. In the post Vatican II period of liturgical renewal, the feast is again being permitted for particular liturgical calendars. In 1989, for example, the Oblates of St. Joseph obtained permission to celebrate on January 23 "The Holy Spouses Mary and Joseph" with the liturgical rank of "Feast," and full proper texts, including a preface:

" 'You give the Church the joy of celebrating the feast of the Holy Spouses, Mary and Joseph: in her, full of grace and worthy Mother of your Son, you signify the beginning of the Church, resplendently beautiful bride of Christ; you chose him, the wise and faithful servant, as Husband of the Virgin Mother of God, and made him head of your family, to guard as a father your only Son, conceived by the work of the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, our Lord.' "
~ from "Liturgical Feasts of St. Joseph in the 19th and 20th Centuries", by Fr. Larry M. Toschi, OSJ in Saint Joseph Studies (Fr. Larry M. Toschi, OSJ; Editor)

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