Apart from representations of the actual betrothal or the journey to Bethlehem or images of the Holy Family, rarely do we see Mary and Joseph portrayed as husband and wife in a loving relationship. Such visualization is helpful and even necessary to aid the imagination of couples wishing to pattern their marriages after that of the Holy Spouses. Fr. Franco Verri, C.S.J. has painted a suitable image, “The Holy Spouses, Mary and Joseph,” in his series for the St. Joseph Shrine at the mother-house of the Oblates of St. Joseph in Asti, Italy. His painting shows Mary and Joseph hand in hand with peaceful smiles indicating the purity and joy in their hearts.
The California Oblates have adopted this picture as the official emblem for their Holy Spouses ministry. It serves well for holy cards, with the Holy Spouses Rosary printed on the reverse. Couples are encouraged to hang larger framed versions of it in their homes as a reminder of their commitment to live their married vocation. For those couples wishing to enroll in the Holy Spouses Society described below, there is a special enthronement rite to be done in the home.
The rite begins with a hymn to Mary and Joseph, a greeting, and the following introduction:
My dear brothers and sisters, we are here this day in the house of N. and N. to enthrone this picture of Mary and Joseph, the Holy Spouses. N. and N. have taken them as the models and patrons of their marriage commitment by entering the Holy Spouses Society. As members of that society, they strive to live their marriage according to the teachings of Jesus and his Church, especially by living it as a vocation of love and a sacrament of unity in the midst of the world. In this way they witness to the love and unity that God has for and wishes for his Church and the whole world. N. and N. know that living their marriage in this way can be difficult. They have asked Mary and Joseph to be their inspiration and to intercede for them so that they can always remain faithful to God and each other by remaining faithful to their commitment, as did Mary and Joseph, the Holy Spouses.
A first reading and psalm response are chosen from the selection for the marriage rite and Luke 2:41-52 is read for the gospel. After a brief homily, the following prayer of blessing is said:
Almighty and everlasting God, you are the source of all life and love. You call us all to participate in that love by loving one another, according to our own particular vocation. You have called N. and N. to love one another in the vocation and sacrament of marriage. They have taken Mary and Joseph, the Holy Spouses, as models and guides in their marriage. We ask you to bless + this picture of these same Holy Spouses, Mary and Joseph, that it might serve as a reminder and inspiration for N. and N. and their family, of the great love that you have for them, of the powerful intercession and example of Mary and Joseph, and of the need that our world has of examples of those who make true and lasting commitments of love. We ask this…
The image is then sprinkled with holy water, as are those present, and it is hung in the place where it is to stay on the wall. All kneel before the image and pray some part of the Holy Spouses Rosary. A final prayer of blessings ends the rite. The image remains as a reminder of the enthronement and a call to seek the intercession of the Holy Spouses and to strive to imitate their love for each other.