Ask a Franciscan

Was St. Joseph a Virgin?

Eucharistic Prayer I refers to Mary, the mother of Jesus, as “ever virgin” but does not use the same expression for St. Joseph. Why?

Some Church fathers speculated that Jesus’ “brothers and sisters” (Mt 13:55–56) were the children of Joseph from a previous marriage instead of cousins of Jesus. The Gospels do not say that Joseph was a widower before marrying Mary. Nevertheless, some Christians have had an easier time thinking of Joseph as an older widower than as a man approximately Mary’s age. Some painters have portrayed Joseph at the birth of Jesus as significantly older than Mary.

I am not saying that this interpretation is correct—only that it is somewhat common.

Pope Francis last December issued “With a Father’s Heart,” an apostolic letter on the 150th anniversary of the proclamation by Blessed Pius IX of St. Joseph as patron of the universal Church. He also proclaimed a Year of St. Joseph. The pope writes: “Even through Joseph’s fears, God’s will, his history, and his plan were at work. Joseph, then, teaches us that faith in God includes believing that he can work even through our fears, our frailties, and our weaknesses” (2). The complete text is available at

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