Visiting professor illuminates overlooked part of Mary’s life


Photo by: Elena Mirus

A professor from Ireland invited listeners to explore the betrothal of the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph in a presentation Monday evening in the International Lounge. 

Pariac Maher, author of the book “Betrothed” which explores artwork depicting the betrothal throughout church tradition, said that we can better understand the mind of Mary by examining the moment in the Gospel of Luke when an angel visits her.  

“The angel puts to Mary that she can conceive a child who would be great in the eyes of God, who would be the Messiah. Mary’s response is to say, ‘How can this be?’ as to say, ‘How is this possible, since I am a virgin?’” 

Maher said that this was a strange reaction, since she was betrothed to Joseph, unless she knew she was going to be a virgin in the future.  

Maher explained that Mary lived in an institution in the Jerusalem Temple where girls could live and work before they got married, and Mary lived there until she grew to womanhood.  

When the law of the Jews prescribed that she must leave, Mary, according to “Protoevangelium of James,” went to the High Priest to tell him of her resolve to remain a virgin, said Maher.  

“Try to put yourself in the shoes of Mary, if she wanted to give herself whole and entirely to God. … If she literally experienced God as her beloved, then she would experience marriage as more akin to betraying her beloved,” Maher said.  

Then why, Maher asked, was she betrothed to Joseph? 

He said that even though Mary wanted to devote herself fully to God, the high priestalthough he felt that her unusual call to virginity was confirmed in his prayeralso felt that she was called to have a protector. 

So, said Maher, the high priest called all the eligible men of the line of David and prayed in the Holy of Holies, the place where God was believed to reside in the Jewish temple, and confirmed Joseph as the man God wanted to be the protector of Mary. 

“It was a very informative and beautiful talk, said sophomore Anna Schoen. “I feel like I understand Mother Mary more, and it has drawn me into a better love and respect for her.”