Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.
In discussing the evidence for Mary's Perpetual Virginity, another point also deserves mention. Suppose, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that Mary did give birth to other children besides Jesus. What, then, are we to make of the fact that Jesus, in his final moments of earthly life, gives Mary into John’s care?
When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home (John 19:26–27).
As Paul makes clear, both Jews and Christians customarily entrusted the care of widows to their own families:
Honor widows who are real widows. If a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn their religious duty to their own family and make some return to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God. She who is a real widow, and is left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day; whereas she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. Command this, so that they may be without reproach. If any one does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his own family, he has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever (1 Tim. 5:3– 8, emphasis added).
Caring for one’s widowed mother was not regarded as some sort of extraordinary or saintly duty, any more than it is regarded that way today. It was regarded as one of the things that anybody calling themselves “human” was expected to do.
So, if Mary really had other children, why was she commended into the care of John and not, say, of James “the Lord’s brother?” Some will argue Jesus chose John because he was a believer and James was not. But the reality is that John was not much more of a believer than James at this point. Scripture notes John’s confusion at the Resurrection—which he neither expected nor believed at first (Mark 16:11)—and Scripture is clear that John had not yet received the Spirit, since the Spirit had not yet been given (John 7:39). Of course, as we know, John came to full faith in Christ shortly thereafter. But then again, so did James (1 Cor. 15:7). So if James, not to mention all the other supposed “siblings” such as Jude, aren’t only believers but siblings of Jesus, why did Jesus entrust Mary to John? The obvious inference is that James, Jude, and the rest were not the Blessed Virgin’s children.