Many mistakenly believe that the spirituality of “Marian Consecration” only arose in the Church a few hundred years ago. Some correct them, pointing out that the practice of completely entrusting one’s discipleship to Mary’s motherly love and intercession can be seen in surviving sermons from fifth and sixth century Africa and in the writings of St. Idelphonsus of Toledo (d. 667 A.D.), and Doctor of the Church, St. John Damascene (d. 750). It is tempting to say that Christ first established the practice when He entrusted John to Mary at the foot of the Cross, and John then “took her into idia [literally ‘his own’]” (Jn 19:28), meaning that which was uniquely his – John’s interior life, his dwelling, his apostleship. But we can actually discover this practice of uniting one’s life of discipleship to Mary’s own even earlier – to St. Joseph at the time of Christ’s incarnation.
When we meet Joseph in the first chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, he is described as a “just” man, dikaios in Greek (Mt 1:19). This term refers to one completely devoted to God’s law. Joseph already possessed an intimacy with God when the angel was sent to Him with the invitation to draw nearer to the divine presence. “Do not fear to take Mary your wife for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 1:20). Joseph, instead of breaking off his betrothal to Mary, was to formally entrust himself and his heart to her by taking her as his wife, making her mistress of his home and all that was his. This was the means that God had ordained for Joseph to be united to Jesus – this way and no other.
Joseph and Mary had contracted marriage with the intention of loving one another into ever-deeper service to the Lord. Their virginal union, far from denigrating the marital act, proclaims marriage’s ultimate fulfillment in the soul’s union with God in eternity. Joseph watched as Mary, on a daily basis, made a perfect return of herself to the Lord. She did not do so in a multiplicity of words but in quiet, daily tasks that Emmanuel, Jesus, asked of her.
Joseph desired to reciprocate the Lord’s love for him by living the vocation to which he had been called; he was to be an earthly manifestation of God’s spousal love for the soul of Mary and fatherly love for Jesus. He shared Mary’s prayerful pondering of God’s word—in Scripture and the events of Jesus’s life—and reaped insights that the Spirit granted her contemplative heart. With Mary, he quietly persevered in prayer and went about the daily work that God placed before Him, loving his family and plying his trade, teaching Jesus the ways of life in Nazareth, confident that God was bringing good out of his humble offering. Joseph was at Mary’s side in joy and sorrow. He was there for Simeon’s prophecy, and together they pondered its meaning. When Jesus disappeared for three days in the temple, Joseph shared Mary’s anxiety and relentlessly searched for their Son. And as he once shared in her struggle to protect and raise Jesus to adulthood, so he now shares with Mary in the wonders of Jesus’s heavenly life.
The supernatural union of Joseph’s heart with Mary’s was supernaturally fruitful – God the Son’s chosen means for entering the world and bringing about our redemption. All that Joseph did was for love of Jesus, by God’s grace, and accomplished in union with Mary. That is the spirituality of Marian Consecration! Like Joseph we ask the Holy Spirit to knit our hearts to Mary’s in the communion of saints, so that we can make a perfect gift of ourselves to Jesus. It is the same spirituality to which Jesus invited the Apostle John as he stood with Mary at the foot of the Cross (Jn 19:25-28). It is the same spirituality to which He invites you and me today.
Saint Joseph, pray that like you, we receive the courage to say “yes” to His invitation and take Mary, as you did, to our own hearts (Mt 1:20-24) For like you, we want to share in her immaculate heart’s complete consecration to Jesus. “Blessed are the pure [or ‘immaculate] in heart, for they will see God” (Mt 5:8).
Adapted from Shane Kapler’s The Biblical Roots of Marian Consecration: Devotion to the Immaculate Heart in Light of Scripture (TAN Books, 2022).