Help Now >
FREE Catholic Classes
I. Canonical prescriptions concerning widows in the Old Testament refer mainly to the question of remarriage. If a man died without children, his widow was obliged to marry her deceased husband's brother, and if the latter refused to take her to wife he was put to shame before the people ( Deuteronomy 25:5-10 ). The high- priest was forbidden to marry a widow ( Leviticus 21:14 ), but other members of the priesthood were at liberty to take to wife the widow of another priest, but not the widow of a layman ( Ezekiel 44:22 ). Outside of these prescriptions, there is no law in the Old Testament restricting a widow's remarriage. The support of widows was commended to the charity of the Israelites, and they were to have the gleanings of the cornfields, olive trees, and vineyards ( Deuteronomy 24:19-22 ). In the third year of tithes (or the great tithe ) widows were to have their share of the offering ( Deuteronomy 26:12 ), and at the three principal solemnities of the year they were to be invited to feast with the nearest house-holder ( Deuteronomy 16:11 ). In the times of the Machabees money was deposited and provisions were kept in the Temple at Jerusalem for the subsistence of widows ( 2 Maccabees 3:10 ), and the spoils of battle were also shared with them ( 2 Maccabees 8:28 ). For their protection, there was a prohibition against taking their garments in pawn ( Deuteronomy 24:17 ). In the Book of Job the taking away of a widow's ox for a pledge is considered a wicked action (xxiv,3), from which commentators generally gather that the law of Deuteronomy was later extended to all a widow's possessions. Besides legal prescriptions for the protection of widows, the Old Testament contains many general precepts commending them to the reverence and benevolence of the chosen people and bitter denunciations of their oppressors and defrauders. The lot of the widow in Old Testament times was generally a hard one, and Christ refers to the widow's mite as an offering from the poorest of the poor ( Mark 12:44 ). He also strongly denounces the Pharisees : "because you devour the houses of widows" ( Matthew 23:14 ). Under the Old Dispensation some widows devoted themselves to a life of special religious observance, as is recorded of Anna the Prophetess, "who departed not from the temple by fastings and prayers serving night and day" (Luke ii, 37).
FREE Catholic Classes Pick a class, you can learn anything
II. In primitive Christian times the support of widows was made a special duty by the Apostles, who collected alms for them and gave care of them to the deacons ( Acts 6:1 ). This support of needy widows has always been considered a particular charge of the ministers of the Christian Church and many decrees of popes and councils make mention of it as specially incumbent on bishops, parish priests, and holders of benefices. In Apostolic times widows were employed in certain capacities in the ministry of the Church, directing that one to be chosen must be "of no less than threescore years of age, who hath been the wife of one husband. Having testimony for her good works", and some see in this reference to the order of deaconess, while others do not. Shortly after, however, the office of deaconess was referred to as "widowhood" (St. Ignat., "Ep. ad Smyrn.", viii, 1). As to the remarriage of widows in the Christian Church, though St. Paul declares that widowhood is preferable to the married state ( 1 Corinthians 7:8 ), yet he does not forbid remarriage (loc. cit., 39). Second nuptials are valid by ecclesiastical law if the first marriage bond has been really dissolved and if there is no canonical impediment , as is the case for clerics in major orders in the Oriental rites. In the mind of the Church, however, second nuptials are less honourable than a first marriage (Conc. Aneur., c. 19; Conc, Laodic., c. 1), and the state of widowhood is more commendable (Conc. Trid., sess. xxiv, de matr., can. 10) as a more perfect good. (See WOMAN.)
The Catholic Connection to Thanksgiving
Speakin' with the Deacons
Live Wednesday 11/22 @ 10am PDT
Join US LIVE on YouTube
Join the Movement
When you sign up below, you don't just join an email list - you're joining an entire movement for Free world class Catholic education.
Mysteries of the Rosary
St. Faustina Kowalska
Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Saint of the Day for Wednesday, Oct 4th, 2023
St. Francis of Assisi
Female / Women Saints
7 Morning Prayers you need to get your day started with God
Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- Daily Readings for Wednesday, November 29, 2023
- St. Saturninus: Saint of the Day for Wednesday, November 29, 2023
- Psalm 31 (the Second Penitential Psalm): Prayer of the Day for Wednesday, November 29, 2023
- Daily Readings for Tuesday, November 28, 2023
- St. Catherine Laboure: Saint of the Day for Tuesday, November 28, 2023
- The Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen): Prayer of the Day for Tuesday, November 28, 2023
Copyright 2023 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2023 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.
Catholic Online is a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a Not-for-Profit Corporation. Your Catholic Voice Foundation has been granted a recognition of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 81-0596847. Your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.