Spiritual marriage comes from the idea of "love without sex." It is a practice in which a man and a woman live intimately without having any sexual relationship. It has been known throughout all cultures as a bond of a man and a woman with its only reason being the spiritual connection between the two and nothing more. Spiritual marriage is the ultimate singular relationship.
Spiritual marriage is a concept that has a long history in Catholicism, and is also known as a "Josephite marriage" after the marriage between Saint Joseph and the Virgin Mary. A feature of Catholic spiritual marriage, or Josephite marriage, is that the agreement to abstain from sex should be a free mutual decision, rather than resulting from impotence or the views of one party.
In senses beyond spiritual marriage, chastity is a key concept of Church doctrine that demands celibacy of priests, monks, nuns and certain other officials in the Church. The doctrine established a "spiritual marriage" of church officials to their church; in order to better serve God, one had to disavow the demands and temptations of traditional marriage. This rule was enforced by Henry II, Holy Roman Emperor, whose marriage to Cunigunde of Luxemburg was also a very famous spiritual marriage.
The ultimate emulation of this piety by the laypersons of the church was for a married couple to practice a "spiritual marriage" as well. This practice is thought to be most common in medieval times. At times in Catholic history, a spiritual marriage was considered to be a more devout expression of love than a traditional marriage.
Examples of spiritual marriage in history include Edward the Confessor, who married but refused to consummate his marriage for religious reasons, resulting in the lack of clear heir. Some historians believe that this story was actually made up after the fact by Edward's followers to explain the infertility of his marriage. Such was the case with the wife of Boleslaus V of Poland.
The Venerable Louis and Ziele Martin professed to enter a spiritual marriage, but consummated a year later - apparently under divine inspiration to start a family. 1. Of their nine children the five who survived to adulthood all became nuns, including Saint Thérèse de Lisieux.
Conversely, spiritual marriages may also be entered later in life, with the renunciation of sexual relations after raising a family to fully dedicate oneself to God. In October 2001 John Paul II beatified the first married couple ever, Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi, who lived 1880-1951 and 1880-1965 respectively. Although this couple bore four children, later in life they lived separately and committed to a Josephite marriage in order to better serve God. 1 2.
At times, spiritual marriage assumed a particularly scandalous form, in which a priest or monk would take a nun or laywoman as a wife, but claim to remain celibate, and claim that they slept in the same bed but did not engage in sexual relations as a sign of their own willpower. Most, however, doubted that they were in fact as strong in chastity as they claimed, and such claims were judged heretical.
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