The Life and Glories of Saint Joseph – A Book Review

Among the classics of Catholic literature, The Life and Glories of Saint Joseph is a book to be consumed, savored and meditated on. Do not attempt large bites rather enjoy each morsel one paragraph, even one sentence at a time.
This book, written in 1888 by Edward Healy Thompson, M.A., is based on the earlier work of theologian Canon Antonio Vitali, Father Jose Moreno and others. They in turn cite the works and opinions of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Bonaventure, Saint Augustine, Saint Bernadine, Saint Bridget, Ven. Maria d’Agreda and others.
I purchased the book over twenty years ago and for over a decade it languished on my bookshelf. Time and again I would begin to read it only to be rebuffed by its language and depth. It is a heavy read. Approximately ten years ago I had the opportunity to participate in a weekly holy hour. The silence was wonderful however my senses needed something to help me direct my mind towards God and not my pressing To Do list at home. I began to bring books with me to read and meditate on. The Life and Glories of Saint Joseph became my regular companion.
As a husband and father, I have been drawn to Saint Joseph believing he would be the best model I could choose for my life. I have other books on Saint Joseph, but many are full of prayers to him rather than providing insight into the man he was. Growing up without a good male role model I deeply wanted someone to copy so I could be the husband and father I hoped to become. In the silence of the holy hour, one paragraph at a time, through the teaching of the Church Fathers, Saint Joseph materialized before my eyes.
As the book explicitly states, to dwell on Saint Joseph one must out of necessity also meditate on Jesus and Mary. They are (and these are my words) a package deal. Jesus, of course, can stand alone (except there is that matter of the Trinity). Jesus embodies the Divine and Human Nature in Himself and Mary and Joseph are forever part of this Union.
Joseph, and the man he had to be to carry out the mission the Father gave him, is the main subject of the book, but to study Joseph is to be immersed in Jesus and Mary. The ancient Fathers deduced much as they meditated on the events of the Nativity of Jesus. The conclusions they arrived at they shared in homilies with their flocks. These conclusions are discovered by the reader of this marvelous book.
Nothing in the Bible is changed, but the events are fleshed out to give a fuller picture of God’s work in our salvation. The reader is first privy to details of Joseph and Mary as youngsters. They are then provided with insights into their lives together including the visit to Elizabeth’s house (yes the Church Fathers agreed Joseph accompanied Mary), their flight to Egypt and their time spent there. Other familiar moments are studied such that the reader feels he is with them at the Presentation or on their search for the lost child. What I found most beneficial was the illumination of Joseph’s role as the husband of Mary and father of Jesus. He is made real and tangible.
I cannot recommend this book enough. Embrace the man who first taught Jesus the Torah, the man that Jesus called Daddy.

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Excerpt from the The Diaries of Joseph and Mary

The Purification of Mary

Her time of separation was over. Mary traveled with me to the Temple to perform the ritual. She wanted to walk to the city barefoot as reparation to God. I told her firmly no. She obeyed my decision without complaint.  Mary was astride the animal carrying Jesus in her arms. When we arrived I took Jesus from her as she prepared herself and entered the Mikvah. After the ritual, she took Him back in her arms. Her expression was serene. On the way to Jerusalem, I saw tension in her face. She was concerned for Jesus’ safety.  After the rite, it seemed liked the tension was washed away. We knew the risk to us and the child of our being in the city. The Magi had pronounced him King of the Jews. Herod would be even more incensed than his usual murderous self if he heard those words.  I am aware that some of the Priests in the Temple are in league with him. They are his spies serving their avarice while performing their duties. May God shield us from their eyes. I have noticed that Mary gains strength of body and spirit when she fulfills God’s law. To her, it is not a burden but an act of love. She is my strength.

Joseph

 

The Presentation

            What words are these pronounced by him? Is he a Prophet? His name is Simeon.  I am certain he is not one of Herod’s spies. I saw him many times when I visited the Temple. He always seemed to me a good and pious man who was dedicated to the Lord.

            The Temple was empty when we brought Jesus for His dedication, just Simeon, us and one other, a woman named Anna.

            As we walked towards the Inner Temple he came to us. Mary was prepared to wait in prayer as she cannot enter the inner chamber but Simeon came to us with a haste of step that was beyond his years. He was as a man full of the joy of God. He took the child from us and sang praises to God. Mary and I were astonished at what he said.

            “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”

            I was relieved that the Temple was empty. What Simeon proclaimed could be a death sentence to the child and us. Then he looked directly at Mary and proclaimed, “A sword shall pierce you …!” At those words, I felt as if a sword had pierced my heart. I became even more determined to protect her and the Child.

            Anna, the woman heard Simeon’s proclamation and came over to us. She too was overjoyed. Anna had been one of the instructors of the young women who, like Mary, lived at the Temple. She recognized Mary right away but her eyes were focused only on Jesus. She too proclaimed great words of joy and thanksgiving to the Lord. In her zeal she left and I feared she would spread word of our presence in Jerusalem.

            We offered the required sacrifice and left as quickly and quietly as we could. We offered the sacrifice of the poor. The gifts of the Magi I kept concealed. I intend to distribute them quietly. For a man like me to offer a grand sacrifice would attract too much attention. I trust in God’s providence for our safety but I must also act cautiously, Mary and Jesus’s lives are in my care.

            We retreated to Bethlehem as we both felt safe at the place where God had led us.

Joseph

The Presentation

            My spirit was lifted as I left the bath. I pondered the Angel’s words, “Hail full of grace …!” My only desire is to do His will. I gladly follow the law that fills my heart.

            My spirit was lifted higher than ever as we walked towards the Inner Chamber. There I saw a familiar face, Simeon. I knew him from my days of living in the Temple. Joseph had Jesus in his arms.  

            “Salvation,” he proclaimed “salvation and a light for all, even the Gentiles.”

            My soul has felt that light ever since the Angel’s words. The light has burned intensely as God has continued to reveal His benefits.  They came to honor Him, the Shepherds then the Kings and, of course, the Angels’ singing their praises.  Even the animals seemed to worship Jesus.

             Simeon’s words, at first, lifted me higher, but then, I fell, I plummeted to the ground crushed and broken.

            “A sword!”

            I would gladly be pierced by a sword to save my child. What does he mean a contradiction?

            Anna was also there. She too I knew from my time at the Temple. She exulted at the sight of the Child and began to proclaim wondrous words. I wanted to caution her, but in her excitement she left to tell others of her joy.

            I saw the look on Joseph’s face, a look of deep concern but also determination.  We completed the ritual and left quietly in haste. Joseph was intent on our leaving the city. We traveled back to Bethlehem. We have been safe there for the time. It is the place God chose to bring His Son into the world. He will protect us.

 

Mary

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The Espousals of Joseph and Mary

*Fifteen Traditions about Joseph and Mary

This list draws on traditions that are mostly forgotten today. They were however well known during the time of the Early Church Fathers. They can be considered small “t” tradition for those of the Catholic faith.

1) Mary and Joseph are cousins. Joseph’s father Jacob and Mary’s mother Anne were brother and sister.
2) Joachim and Anne were unable to conceive a child. After twenty years of prayers, Anne conceived and bore Mary. Both had promised to dedicate their child to God if he answered their prayers.
3) At the age of three, Mary was sent by her parents to live in the Temple as a dedication to God.
4) Joseph was approximately ten to fifteen years older than Mary.
5) As a young man, Joseph secretly swore a vow of celibacy.
6) As a young girl living in the Temple, Mary secretly swore a vow of celibacy.
7) At this time in Israel, many were rushing into marriage in the hope that they would be chosen by God to give birth to the Messiah.
8) During her time in the Temple, Mary’s father, Joachim, died.
9) Zachary, the husband of Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin, was among the Priests to call for Mary to be married after her father’s death.
10) Joseph, along with others, was summoned to the Temple, to be the chosen spouse of Mary. The choice was made by lot, each man delivering his staff to the High Priest. The next morning, Joseph’s staff had blossomed with a lily growing from it.

11) Mary was informed by God that Joseph had taken a vow of celibacy. If Mary accepted Joseph as her husband she could keep her vow also.
12) Mary was free to marry Joseph or she could refuse. God would not force her decision.
13) Joseph was informed in a dream that Mary had taken a vow of celibacy and he thus was able to maintain his vow and still marry Mary.
14) The time between their Betrothal and Espousal was two months.
15) Joseph became the guardian of Anne, Mary’s mother, upon his marriage to Mary.

*Reference: The Life and Glories of Saint Joseph by Edward Healy Thompson, M.A.

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We Were Visited By Kings

I heard them coming before I saw them, the bells on their animals ringing clear in the evening air. At first, I stood at the opening of the cave, my staff in hand, in front of Mary until I heard their greeting.

“Hail and All Glory to the King of Jews!”

I was stunned, how did they know.Then one said, “We saw his star rising in the sky and remembered the prophecy. We have traveled far to do homage to the promised one.”

I recovered and offered them hospitality bidding them to dismount from their camels. They did so and their retinue quickly began to gather three chests from their beasts.

They entered the cave and upon seeing Mary and the Child they fell on their knees. Their servants came forward and placed the chests on the ground in front of each of them.

They brought forth gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. Then all of their attendants also knelt down behind them and began to praise God for his faithfulness.

After a time, they rose and I approached them. I apologized to them as I had little to offer them in the way of comfort. Gaspar replied, “We have provisions for all. Please do us the kindness of allowing us to serve you who serves him who is the Promised One.” I hesitated as it was not proper but Balthasar and Melchior joined their voices with Gaspar’s and insisted that it was proper for them to serve us since the Child’s presence was a gift beyond measure.

And so I agreed, painful though it was. Their servants built a larger fire with wood they carried and prepared a feast for us. They asked permission to remain with us for a few days so they could honor the presence of the Child. They asked what his name was and I replied, “Jesus.” At his name they all knelt.
They stayed with us three days. As they were leaving they made known to me that they intended to return by a different route to avoid seeing Herod. Something about their change of mind caused me unease.

Joseph

We Were Visited by Kings

Joseph heard the bells before I did. He quickly grasped his staff and moved to the front of the cave shielding Jesus and me from the visitors. I heard their greeting, “Hail and All Glory to the King of the Jews.”

Joseph asked them how they knew. He hesitantly stepped aside as they dismounted. They presented precious gifts to Jesus.

There were three of them richly dressed each with a cohort of servants. Despite the richness of their clothing, I sensed a profound humility in each of them. Their hearts were joy-filled at being in the presence of Jesus. They all knelt before Jesus who I held in my arms. They knelt in silent prayer and then sang a hymn of praise to God.

Afterward they begged Joseph to allow them to honor us with a feast. He reluctantly agreed more so for my sake and the child’s. They also asked permission to stay. They had traveled far to see the Child of Promise as they called him and wished to remain longer than a few hours. To this Joseph also agreed.

I watched and listened attentively to how the three men spoke to their servants. They were kind and gentle in their commands and their servants were obviously well cared for by these Kings. The servants for their part rejoiced at serving their Masters. All rejoiced at seeing Jesus.

I had thought our secret was safe, that only Joseph and I knew about the true nature of the Child. They said they saw His star rising as prophesied. My heart froze at those words. Who else knows? The fact that they wish to remain with us I believe is a good sign. They mean no harm to the child. I can feel that in my heart.

Mary

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Excerpt from The Diaries of Joseph and Mary – The Circumcision

The Circumcision

            I made a quick small cut done by the sharpest of blades.  I took special care to hone the knife testing its edge to ensure the cleanest of cuts. He cried aloud despite my efforts.  The blood dripped onto Mary’s hands, she held him tight and secure. Her face was set like stone. I know she was in deep prayer but also, she was locked onto her son and His distress.

            The knife cut cleanly, it cut the flesh of the child and also my heart and my soul.  Oh, painful obedience.

            It was over in seconds. Mary tended the wound and comforted Jesus. I pronounced His name, Jesus, as I circumcised Him, the name given to me by the Angel.

            He stopped crying, clinging tightly to Mary. He stayed awake long into the night making soft sounds. I, however, continued to hear his screams of pain in my mind. I am sorry my son it is the law and we must obey God. I had prayed for an Angel to stay my hand like was done for Abraham, but none appeared.  My hands are shaking now long after the ordeal is over. Mary has tried to comfort me; she is still shaken but does not show it outwardly.

Joseph

 The Circumcision

            I held my sweet child as firmly as I could fearful of hurting him and fearful he would be hurt worse if I let go. Joseph took special care honing the blade. No razor was ever so sharpened. He nodded to me and I held Jesus on my legs. He quickly made the cut, his expert hands finishing the cut in two quick passes.

            The screams pierced my heart like a spear. My body wanted to quake. I prayed to God for strength not to fail my child. If I should flinch and cause Joseph to hurt the child more I would regret that forever, hurting my son and my husband.

            Joseph pronounced his name, Jesus. It was over. I embraced our son. He gripped me fiercely his body shaking; I could feel his heart beating against my chest. Joseph’s face grew pale and his hands began to shake, my dear husband obedient to God despite the cost. I know Joseph felt the knife cut into his heart.

            It is quiet and the stars are beginning to shine brightly. My hands are stained with drops of my son’s blood. My son’s precious blood shed out of obedience.

Mary

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Excerpt from The Diaries of Joseph and Mary

 

The Purification of Mary

            Her time of separation was over. Mary traveled with me to the Temple to perform the ritual. She wanted to walk to the city barefoot as reparation to God. I told her firmly no. She obeyed my decision without complaint.  Mary was astride the animal carrying Jesus in her arms. When we arrived I took Jesus from her as she prepared herself and entered the Mikvah. After the ritual, she took him back in her arms. Her expression was serene. On the way to Jerusalem, I saw tension in her face. She was concerned for Jesus’ safety.  After the rite, it seemed liked the tension was washed away. We knew the risk to us and the child of our being in the city. The Magi had pronounced him King of the Jews. Herod would be even more incensed than his usual murderous self if he heard those words.  I am aware that some of the Priests in the Temple are in league with him. They are his spies serving their avarice while performing their duties. May God shield us from their eyes. I have noticed that Mary gains strength of body and spirit when she fulfills God’s law. To her, it is not a burden but an act of love. She is my strength.

Joseph

——————————————————————————————————————–

The Presentation

            What words are these pronounced by him? Is he a Prophet? His name is Simeon.  I am certain he is not one of Herod’s spies. I saw him many times during the years I visited the Temple with my father.

            The Temple was empty when we brought Jesus for his dedication, just Simeon, us and one other, a woman named Anna.

            As we walked towards the Inner Temple he came to us. Mary was prepared to wait in prayer as she cannot enter the inner chamber but Simeon came to us with haste in his step that defied his years. He was as a man full of the joy of God. He took the child from us and sang praises to God. Mary and I were astonished at what he said.

            “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”

            I was relieved that the Temple was empty. What Simeon proclaimed could be a death sentence to the child and us. Then he looked directly at Mary and proclaimed, “A sword shall pierce you …!” At those words, I felt as if a sword had pierced my heart. I became even more determined to protect Mary and our Child.

            Anna, the woman, heard Simeon’s proclamation and came over to us. She too was overjoyed. Anna had been one of the instructors of the young women who, like Mary, lived at the Temple. She recognized Mary right away but her eyes were focused only on Jesus. She too proclaimed great words of joy and thanksgiving to the Lord. In her zeal she left and I feared she would spread word of our presence in Jerusalem.

            We offered the required sacrifice and left as quickly and quietly as we could. We offered the sacrifice of the poor. The gifts of the Magi I kept concealed. I intend to distribute them quietly. For a man like me to offer a grand sacrifice would attract too much attention. I trust in God’s providence for our safety but I must also act cautiously, Mary and Jesus’s lives are in my care.

            We retreated to Bethlehem as we both felt safe at the place where God had led us.

Joseph

——————————————————————————————————————

 The Presentation

            My spirit was lifted as I left the bath. I pondered the Angel’s words, “Hail full of grace …!” My only desire is to do His will. I gladly follow the law that fills my heart.

            My spirit was lifted higher than ever as we walked towards the Inner Chamber. There I saw a familiar face, Simeon. I knew him from my days of living in the Temple. He approached and bowed then took the child in his arms.  

            “Salvation,” he proclaimed “salvation and a light for all, even the Gentiles.”

            My soul has felt that light ever since the Angel’s words. The light has burned intensely as God has continued to reveal His benefits.  They came to honor Him, the Shepherds then the Kings and of course the Angels’ singing their praises.  Even the animals seemed to worship Jesus.

             Simeon’s words at first lifted me higher but then, I fell, I plummeted to the ground crushed and broken.

            “A sword!”

            I would gladly be pierced by a sword to save my child. What does he mean a contradiction?

            Anna was also there. She too I knew from my time at the Temple. She exulted at the sight of the Child and began to proclaim wondrous words. I wanted to caution her but in her excitement she left to tell others of her joy.

            I saw the look on Joseph’s face, a look of deep concern but also determination.  We completed the ritual and left quietly in haste. Joseph was intent on our leaving the city. We traveled back to Bethlehem. We have been safe here for the time. It is the place God chose to bring His Son into the world. He will protect us.

 Mary

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The Feast of the Holy Family – Book Excerpt from The Diaries of Joseph and Mary

His Time has Arrived

            My son, you are now a man. I never doubted God’s word though I did not understand how He would accomplish His plans. I trusted His care for me when I knew the consequences. Fear was not there but questions yes. I pondered many things.

            My eyes have seen Shepherds and Kings praise you. My ears have heard horrible news as some sought to kill you. My heart dropped at the prophecy of a good holy man and the pronouncement of a trusted daughter of Israel.

            I believed you and I were safe even as we fled through the desert.  I should not have been surprised when bandits provided us hospitality. Even though I was led to understand what would happen, I still felt amazement as the idols crashed to the ground. I was overwhelmed when the high Priest bowed as he said the idols did.

            I was cared for among strangers who became friends. I waited for the Angels to direct my husband whom I trust with my soul and my life.

            Time has passed and now my son is a man. We have been to the Temple many times, but this trip is special, his first as a man.

            I am watching him. Does he know I am watching him? He is with Joseph and the other men. Then he is with his friends as their energy drives them to horseplay. I was a bit shocked when I saw Jesus with the other young men as they noticed the young women with us. They tried to conceal their interest, they failed. Jesus had a far off look on his face as if he was looking beyond the beauty of the girls. 

          We will arrive in Jerusalem tomorrow. Our group will join many others who are journeying there. Everyone is excited for the feast. I too am excited but also I wonder, how will my son the man be this time in Jerusalem?

 Mary

———————————————————————————————————-

The Passover in Jerusalem

            We are in Jerusalem for the Passover celebration. Mary, Jesus, myself, my cousins, nephews and uncles, our friends and neighbors. O glorious day! During our stay in Egypt, I dreamed of the Temple, yearned for the Temple. We have been to it since our return, but this trip is special. Jesus is now a man, He is twelve years old. He traveled up here spending most of his time with his cousins who are the same age as he or nearly so, all of them staying in a group. I spent some time walking near them, they argue like old men, each trying to impress the others with their knowledge of Scripture.  Jesus joined in but not quite like the others. He did not argue or try to defeat them, rather he seemed more like he was trying to find the deeper meanings in the questions and explain the meaning to the others. Sometimes they were amazed at his conclusions, at other times, they refused to agree even if his argument made sense.

            We will return to Nazareth in a few days, I wish this time would not end. Mary is happy, truly joyous at seeing her Son become a man. She speaks of her love and pride for him. I am happy for Jesus and happy for her.

            God is good. To be able to pray in the Temple, to spend time with my wife and son, to be able to share this special moment with my kindred in such a joyous event at such a special time in Jesus’ life.  It feels as if my heart will leap from my chest, my mouth wants to shout Alleluia.

            Thank You Father for this blessing! I will remember this time the rest of my life. Indeed, I don’t think this joy will ever leave me during the rest of my life.

Joseph

———————————————————————————————————-

   Where is He

            Panic! Terror! Where is our son? The celebration of the Pasch ended and it was time to journey home. As in our travels here I traveled with the men, Mary traveled with the women. The young men all kept together continuing their arguments. I was certain Jesus was with them.

            Jesus was with us before we started the trip, I saw him standing with the group he came up with. After we started I was engaged in conversation with several friends and family members. They all wanted to talk about Jesus and how impressed they were with him. “A fine young man,” said my uncle. “A scholar of the Torah at such a young age,” said a friend. “He is wise beyond his years,” was the opinion of many. I found Mary and she was having the same experience among the women.  Many of the women said how he will make a wonderful husband one day, especially those who had daughters to marry off. After two days of our friends and family singing his praises, we decided to tell him how proud we were of him and of the wonderful things people were saying about him.

            We sought him among the young men, but he was not there. We then checked to see if he was looking for us among the men or the women, and he was not there. We then asked the young men where Jesus was, they said they had not seen him since we started home. My heart that was lifted to heaven days before was now dashed to the ground. Mary, ever calm and steady had fear and tears in her eyes. There was only one thing we could do. We hurried back to Jerusalem, our prayers moving up to heaven faster than our feet are skimming across the ground. 

            Mary is the most scared I have ever seen her. She is quaking   Not even when we fled to Egypt did she appear so scared. Jesus is not among our group. I thought he was with her or the young men, she thought he was with me or the young men. I am trying to look calm so as to not add to her fear, but I am in a panic as well. Jerusalem was a madhouse with the crowds for the Passover, so many pilgrims and so many predators to feast on the pilgrims. Please Lord, keep Him safe.

            I should have been more vigilant at keeping my eye on him. He has never done anything to cause us distress. He certainly would not leave us on his own without telling us. He must be aware that such an action would cause us great grief. That is why I am so afraid. Is he alive? Will we find his body on the side of the road as we return to Jerusalem? I mustn’t speak these fears to Mary. I must find Jesus and I must protect Mary. God help me to do both.      

Joseph

———————————————————————————————————-

 I Have Failed

            I am a failure. I have failed my son and I have failed God. Jesus is lost. How does a mother lose her child? How do you lose the gift that was given to you by God?

            Elizabeth said all generations will call me blessed. No, all generations will remember me as the mother who lost her Son, the Messiah!

            Joseph is blaming himself and trying to comfort me. I don’t want to be comforted, I want Jesus.  I want him here with me so I know he is safe.

            I am also a failure as a wife. My husband is deeply distressed. I should be easing his pain, but I can’t because my pain is so great.

            We have fled for our lives. We were captured by bandits and lived among strangers yet we have always been together. This truly must be the sword the Simeon prophesied. I am no longer whole. I am shattered, torn asunder. A sword has cleaved my soul. Where is my son? Jesus, where are you?

 Mary

———————————————————————————————————————He is Safe

            When we arrived in Jerusalem we first went to the room we had stayed in but he was not there. We prayed together and then decided to search for him at the Temple. We found him. He is safe!

            He was seated with the Priests and Elders as they discussed the Scriptures. I heard his voice as I approached. He was asking a question most profound that seemed to stump all who were gathered with him. He waited for a bit and when it became obvious by their silence that they were unsure how to answer he offered a thought. I smiled at the way he did it. Instead of making a pronouncement to his seniors he answered his own question with another question, seeking their opinion and approval.

            Mary stood next me watching the whole moment, she smiled at the way Jesus was teaching those whose job it is to teach. She wanted to call to him, as did I, but we were transfixed by what we were seeing and hearing.

            The whole company of men nodded in approval at his proposal and then added some points of their own. After they had finished we called to him.

            He turned his eyes to us, as his gaze met mine I felt a lump in my throat and a tightness in my chest.  I tried to speak but could not. Mary however did. She chided him for disappearing on us. His gaze met hers and I will never forget his reply, “Did you not know I had to be about my Father’s work?”

            He got up and rejoined us. We are traveling home together, a family. I have many questions I want to ask, but they will wait. Jesus is with us. Mary is content with that. Soon we will be home safe. After that, I will try to find the answers to my questions.

 Joseph

———————————————————————————————————————He has Never Done Anything Like This

            We are back in Machmas. It was here that we discovered Jesus was missing. He is with us now. He is asleep a few feet from me. I can see His cloak rising with each breath. I can hear the sweet sound of his breathing. Sleep eludes me but just watching my son sleep is more restful than sleep.

            Joseph is by my side. He is tossing and turning in his sleep. He has not stopped apologizing to me since we found Jesus. It was not his fault. It was not my fault either. Jesus has never done anything his entire life to cause us heartache, that is until now.

            That is the reason my heart froze with fear. He was missing. He would never deliberately separate himself from me or his father in a way that would cause us to despair. I feared the worse. Was he captured by the king’s men? Was he attacked by robbers? Was he attacked by a wild beast? So many fears flooded my mind and drowned my soul in a sea of sorrow.

            But he did just that. He left us without saying a word. I still can hardly believe it. I am trying to understand his reason, “To be about His Father’s work.”

            He did not mean Joseph!

            I understood. He meant His heavenly Father. The reason He was sent to earth. I remembered Simeon’s words and yes it did feel like my heart was pierced by a sword.

            He said those words, “His Father’s work,” in a plain manner yet there seemed to be a shadow in them, a shadow of dread that engulfed my heart that was aching already.

            The future does not bring me peace so I will live in the present and trust the Lord who chose me to be Jesus’ mother, unworthy though I am. 

            He is back with us. He is safe. Soon we will be home in Nazareth. I told Joseph I want to celebrate when we return home, to have a feast thanking the Lord that we are all safe together again. Joseph was a bit surprised at the extravagance I suggested.  But I told him, my son is home safe and that is a reason for any mother to celebrate.

 Mary

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Excerpts from The Diaries of Joseph and Mary – He is Born

Mary has fallen asleep; the child is in her arms nursing contentedly. All is calm now and the stars are shining brighter than I have ever seen them before. I don’t know how Mary can sleep, my mind is racing my very soul is pulsing, and all the fear and worry are gone.

There were no rooms available and the innkeepers were impatient, harsh even. They see in the census a gold mine for themselves. One offered us to use a stable and charged a dear price for it. I was heartbroken that I could do no more for Mary and the child. Mary’s time came and she delivered the child and what I beheld I will never forget.

The cave was alight with shining beings and the night was filled with their music such as I had never heard before. Angels from God, they surrounded the Child and Mary and I bathed in the glow of their radiance and all I could feel was profound love and joy. A fragrance of sweet flowers filled the cave where the animals had been. Mary seemed to be in ecstasy, her face reflecting the light emanating from the celestial guardians. After a time the Angels seemed to withdraw just a bit, they hovered above and behind her but the front of the cave they left open. Shepherds from the fields came, very hesitantly, the fear on their faces was evident but one of the Angels bade them to come closer and fear not. Indeed, he proclaimed to the Shepherds, Rejoice!

They brought gifts such as they had, food and wine for Mary and me, blankets for the child and wood for a fire. I took the wood and built a fire outside the stable to provide warmth, light and protection from the night predators. I have not slept for three days, but I am just beginning to feel tired. Indeed, I have never felt so alive in my life. My eyes are starting to grow heavy as I write this; I have never known such peace. Who is this child that Angels and Shepherds adore? Who am I to be trusted with His care?

Joseph

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           Joseph found us shelter, a cave used for the keeping of animals. I could see the concern in his face. The child was coming and I did not care if it was a cave or a palace. Joseph helped me to lie down on some blankets over a mound of straw.  He started a fire with the wood we had and then left to gather more. I prayed to God for help in my need.

            In my prayer I was lifted up, my body relaxed. I knew Joseph had returned I could feel his hand holding mine. “The child is coming,” I told him.

            I could hear Joseph answer, but his reply was a prayer to the greatness of God. The cave glowed with light. I could see heavenly beings all around me. I could smell a sweet fragrance fill the air.

            I was moved to kneel in prayer, deeper prayer than I had ever experienced. The child came forth and two angels received Him from me. One was the Angel Gabriel that brought me God’s message; the other was dressed in armor like a warrior.

            The child’s face radiated light like that of the Angels around us only his light was more solid, more real. The Angels placed the child in my arms and stepped back a few paces and dropped to the ground face down in adoration of the child.

            After a while, the Angels moved out from the cave. I knew they were still present as I could hear their singing and see their light. Shepherds from the fields nearby came and paid homage to my Son. Their faces reflected the glow of light from the Angels and the Child. Tears of Joy streamed down their faces as they praised God’s faithfulness to His promise.

            Then they left and the Angels stationed themselves outside the cave. As I write this I recall how I never felt safer, more loved and more fully alive than at that moment when my son Jesus was born.   

 Mary 

 

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Two Christmases Remembered

 

I love Christmas. I love to gaze at Nativity scenes especially when the room is dark with only the stable alight. I love everything about Christmas; Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Santa Claus and Rudolph. My heart swells with memories of Christmases past recalling my children’s joys.

On Christmas night 2014 I sat in my darkened living room gazing at our Nativity set in the glow of our Christmas tree lights. The house was quiet. Outside the wind blew and the night was cold. I offered a short prayer of thanks that we were all together safe in our warm home.

My mind jumped to another Christmas and another Christmas tree glowing in the dark. It was 1995 and that tree was in my wife’s hospital room. She was pregnant with our seventh child. Six months into the pregnancy there were complications and she nearly lost the baby. She was confined to bedrest. With six young children at home, rest there was impossible. She remained in the hospital for over a month. Since it was December her room was decorated with a tree. The wonderful staff even put presents under the tree for our children. We all visited Mom on Christmas morning for an hour, opening the presents then went home. At home our presents remained unopened, waiting for Mom’s return. On Christmas night, a friend from Church came to the house at 9 p.m. to babysit. I went to the hospital by myself for some alone time with my wife after the kids went to bed. There in the hospital room, in the soft light and silence, I held my wife in my arms, both of us praying for our child.

Then my mind recalled Christmas 1999 and more flashing lights. They came from the firetrucks, ambulances and police in front of our home. We had a house fire on December 14, two days before our wedding anniversary and less than two weeks before Christmas. Everyone, even the pets, got out safe, but we were homeless for seven months while repairs were made.

If you recall there was a bit of a worldwide panic in 1999 as the Y2K bug was predicted to strike. Doomsayers predicted the worse. Utilities would stop working, banks would lose our assets and medical records would vanish.  As a husband and father of eight, I felt it prudent to take some precautions just in case some of the scenarios played out. I began to stockpile non-perishable food in October. By December, I had added extra shelves to hold my growing larder. I also purchased extra propane cylinders to use with my camp stove so we could cook if the gas went out. For heat, I purchased a kerosene heater and we had plenty of blankets. Temperatures in central Pennsylvania can easily go to minus twenty degrees in December. As December arrived I was certain we could survive at least four weeks if Y2K did cause a disruption.

Those supplies were untouched by the fire as they were stockpiled in my garage and basement. The fire was confined to the upstairs. However while we were living away from our home burglars broke into it and took my food, a television set and even my hand tools.

Finding adequate housing for a family of ten is no easy task. The Red Cross put us up in a hotel the first few nights.  They also gave us a voucher to use to buy necessities as we only escaped with the clothes on our backs. The only catch was we had to spend all the money in one trip. Imagine Walmart less than two weeks before Christmas, the store was a zoo. It took the ten of us three hours to push through the crowds with four shopping carts. We looked like the pioneers pushing west in a Conestoga wagon. Eventually, we found adequate housing in what was previously a convent.

On Christmas night 2014 I counted my blessings. Our son Joseph, our seventh child, was asleep in his room and our other children were also in bed. My wife was upstairs waiting for me. As I walked up the steps to our room I could not help but whisper a prayer of thanks. Joseph survived his crisis, the fire damage was repaired and the burglary was now just a story to tell. I had many reasons to say Merry Christmas.YoungFamily

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Excerpts from the Diaries of Joseph and Mary by Dennis P. McGeehan

The trip to Elizabeth and Zachary

Mary was overjoyed at the revelation, our cousin Elizabeth is pregnant. This wonder was revealed to her in deepest prayer. She revealed this to me and I have no doubt she is correct.  I wonder if this has something to do with Zachary’s condition, he has been unable to speak for six months.

We are leaving in two days for their home.  Mary wants to leave as soon as possible. She even suggested she go ahead alone. I was adamant, NO, it is not safe.  I have work promised that I must finish before I leave. Tomorrow I should finish it and deliver it. Then I can prepare for the trip and we can leave early the next day. We will take the donkey I use to deliver goods to my buyers, Mary can ride and I will lead it. The journey will take three days. We can pack some provisions for the trip and there should be places to rest safely. Mary plans to remain with Elizabeth for three months until she delivers the child.

There is something different about Mary. Is it possible that she is even more beautiful, more spirit-filled? I am overjoyed at Elizabeth’s blessing, but the news seems to have profoundly affected Mary in a most positive light, indeed it seems her face actually radiates light at times. It is as if I feel that light in my soul, filling it with hope and joy. It is something akin to what I feel in deepest prayer only more solid.

Joseph

 

We are Going to Visit Elizabeth

My cousin is expecting! Her prayers have been answered by our gracious God. She is well past the age to bear children. As such there is much talk that this is truly a blessing from God, a miracle.

I must go to her to help with whatever she needs. The child I am carrying inside me I sense wants to go as well. Is that possible as small as He is?

I should be feeling weak and sick; such is the way with women who are with child. But I feel nothing but joy and am filled with abundant energy to be off to see my cousin.

I told Joseph I was leaving to spend time with Elizabeth and that I would see him when I return. I told him I would miss him.

Joseph reminded me that he is now my husband even if we have not yet lived together. He is my guardian and as such he will not allow me to make such a trip alone.

The roads are dangerous, especially for a lone woman. Joseph is insisting that he will escort me to Elizabeth’s. They are family to him as well.

He has some promised work to complete then we will leave. He is dutiful to me and to his customers. I am anxious to leave, but I must obey my husband.

 

Mary

 

Arrival at Elizabeth’s and Zachary’s Home

Our journey was uneventful for that I thank God. Mary for her part seemed to never tire. She has an abundance of joy and life in her that I have never seen.

As we approached Zachary’s home he spied us from a distance. He came towards us gesturing, he obviously could still not speak. He signaled me to the stable where I could unload the donkey and give it water. He assisted me in this effort. Mary for her part walked on ahead to see Elizabeth.

We decided on the trip that in a few days we will continue on to Jerusalem to give thanks to God at the Temple. Afterward we will return to Zachary and Elizabeth. Mary wants me to go home to the shop while she stays with Elizabeth. I have no need to return so fast, all my orders are complete and it has been a good year so far, praise the Lord. As long as Mary is here I will be here, that is my place.

 

Joseph

 

We Arrived at Elizabeth’s Home

I am grateful to God that Zachary came out to meet us as we arrived, he had seen us as we were coming up the road. He stayed with Joseph to help care for the donkey while I went into the house to meet my cousin. God is great indeed.

Joseph did not hear my cousins greeting to me, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

I told Elizabeth that Joseph is unaware that I am pregnant. It is not my place to tell him. God in His good time will reveal His plans to Joseph. Elizabeth agreed to keep silent, even to not telling her husband.  Only she, her child and I know the great gift that God has bestowed on all of us.

 

Mary

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