The Holy Family in Egypt

AFTER THE HOLY FAMILY had fled from Palestine, King Herod, "seeing that he had been tricked by the Magi, was exceedingly angry," and he gave a secret order to his officers in Bethlehem to kill all male children under two years of age. The Slaughter of the Innocents took place in a large courtyard of a palace to which the mothers and children had been summoned. Executioners armed with swords and spears proceeded to cut the throats or pierce the chests of the infants and to throw their bodies onto a pile, before the eyes of the helpless and frantic mothers, who screamed and tore their hair.

While this frightful atrocity was occurring, Mary and Jesus in Egypt were mystically aware of it. ... Jesus asked His Father to reward these first fruits of His Own Passion with the crown of martyrdom, and His request was granted.

Although the Blessed Virgin was very anxious to know how young John the Baptist had escaped the massacre, she refrained from asking the Lord to enlighten her. But He soon informed her that St. Elizabeth and John had escaped from Herod's soldiers by hiding in a cave in the desert, where they were now living under the greatest hardships. Mary therefore immediately obtained the permission of Jesus to send them provisions by means of her Angels.

A few years later, when John was only four years old, his saintly mother died peacefully, assisted by Mary's Angels, who also helped to bury her in the desert. Young John was then supported by a holy hermit who often visited him. The Forerunner of Christ grew up in the wilderness, living a hard and solitary life of ever-increasing prayer and mortification. He received his education, not from men, but directly from the Holy Spirit. His only companions were the wild animals of the desert, with whom he was on friendly terms. The birds especially loved to come and perch on his shoulders or on his staff, while he talked to them familiarly. Often too he conversed with Angels, humbly yet with all the innocent frankness of a deeply religious boy.
When the Holy Family entered the pagan land of Egypt, the Infant Jesus in the arms of His Mother raised His eyes and hands to the Eternal Father and asked for the salvation of its inhabitants. And as they arrived at the town of Heliopolis or City of the Sun, He used His Divine power to drive the demons from the idols in the temples. Some of the idols then crashed to the ground and broke into many pieces, causing a great commotion among the people.
St. Joseph found a poor and humble three-room house at a small distance from the town. Upon entering this new home, the Mother of God knelt on the ground and kissed it with profound humility, thanking the Lord for giving them this place of rest after their long and hard journey. She dedicated all that she was to do there to the glory of God, and she offered to take upon herself all the trials and labors of their exile. Then she set about cleaning the rooms.
During the next three days the Holy Family was so completely destitute that they had to live on whatever St. Joseph could beg for them. Then he succeeded in obtaining work in his trade as a carpenter. But he was not well treated by the persons who employed him. Looking upon him as a foreigner and a refugee, they paid him whatever they pleased. Sometimes after a whole day's work he was not able to bring any money home. As the house was without any furniture, he soon made a couch for Mary and a cradle for Jesus, as well as some low tables and stools. Of the three rooms, they assigned one to the Mother and Child, and the other, two to St. Joseph as his bedroom and workshop. The Holy Family adjusted themselves to their poverty calmly and even joyfully. However, Mary decided to help in earning their living. She therefore began to do needlework for some good women in the Jewish colony ... While she sewed, the Infant Jesus lay quietly in His cradle beside her. Due to the many hours which she now spent at this work,
she had to devote more of the night hours to prayer and contemplation. Her Divine Son was greatly. pleased with her: zeal and acceptance of poverty, and wishing to lessen her labor, one day He said to her:

"My Mother, I wish to make a rule for your daily life and work. From nightfall you will take some sleep and rest. From midnight until dawn We will praise the Eternal Father together. Then prepare the necessary food for yourself and Joseph, and afterward give Me food and hold Me in your arms until noon, when you will place Me in the arms of your husband, to give him some refreshment in his labors. Then retire and return to your work until it is time to prepare the evening meal. And pray continually to the Eternal Father for sinners."

Mary and Joseph had the Infant Jesus with them as they took their meals. Whenever St. Joseph wished to caress the Divine Child, he humbly asked Mary's permission. And taking the little Jesus in his arms, he was so filled with tender joy and love that he forgot all his hardships or even considered them easy and sweet. Both Mary and Joseph often received such heart-warming consolations from Jesus that they gladly accepted all their trials for love of Him.

While the Holy Family was in Egypt, they joyfully celebrated the first anniversary of the Annunciation, and later of the Nativity. On each occasion Mary prepared for the anniversary by nine days of prayer, and celebrated it by prostrating herself before the Infant Jesus in the form of a cross, begging Him to thank the Eternal Father for all the graces which the gift of His Only-Begotten Son was bringing to her and to the whole human race. Then, inflamed with the love of God, she rose up and sang beautiful hymns alternately with her Angels, to honor her Son.

Until this time the Divine Child had spoken only to His Mother and only when alone with her. Now when He reached the age of one year, He decided to break His silence and speak to His foster father. One day, therefore, when Mary and Joseph were talking together with deep reverence about the marvelous goodness of God as manifested in the Incarnation, the Child Jesus, resting in His Mother's arms, said to St. Joseph in a clear voice:
"My father." Upon hearing the Infant God call him "father," Joseph, his heart thrilling with new love, gratitude, and joy, fell on his knees before Jesus and while tears ran down his cheeks, thanked Him for such a grace and begged Him to enlighten him and enable him in all things to fulfill God's holy will. Then Jesus continued:

"I have come from Heaven upon this earth in order to be the Light of the world and in order to rescue it from the darkness of sin, to seek and to know My sheep, as a good shepherd, to give them the nourishment of eternal life, to teach them the way to Heaven, and to open its gates, which had been closed by their sins. And I desire that you, both be children of the Light, which you have so close to you.

Now Mary placed Jesus in the cradle, and kneeling before Him said:

"My Son and sweetest love of my soul, Thou hast been oppressed for a long time by the swaddling clothes. Tell me, my Lord, what shall I do to place Thee freely on Thy feet?"
"My mother," replied the Child Jesus, "on account of the love which I bear toward men, the swathings of My childhood have not seemed irksome to Me, for when I shall be grown up I shall be bound and delivered to My enemies to be put to death. I wish to possess only one garment during all My life, for I seek nothing more than what is sufficient to cover Me. Clothe Me, My Mother, in a tunic of a lowly and ordinary color. This alone will I wear, and it shall grow with Me. Over this garment they shall cast lots at My death. ... Men shall see that I was born and wish to live poor and destitute of visible things which, being earthly, oppress and darken the heart of man. I shall not have anything to do with visible things except to offer them up to the Eternal Father, renouncing them for His love, and making use of only so much as is sufficient to sustain My natural life, which I will afterward yield up for man's sake. By this example I wish to impress upon the world the doctrine that it must love poverty and not despise it."

... Mary therefore set about at once preparing her Son's robe. She obtained some natural and uncolored wool, and spinning it very finely with her own hands, she wove it on a small loom into a one-piece garment without any seam. At her request its color was changed to a unique mixture of brown and silver-gray. ... When all was ready, after humbly asking her Divine Son's permission, Mary carefully and lovingly clothed Him and set Him on His feet. Although she had taken no measurements beforehand, the robe fitted Him perfectly, covering His feet without hindering Him in walking, and the sleeves extended to the middle of His hands. The collar was round in front and somewhat raised around the neck. Our Lord never took off this robe until His executioners tore it off at the Scourging and the Crucifixion, for by Divine power it continually grew with Him, adjusting itself to His body. Nor did it ever become worn in appearance or lose its color, and it always remained spotlessly clean.
Then Mary gently placed the Infant God on His feet for the first time, and He took His first steps on this earth. He was by far the most beautiful Child who has ever lived. Upon seeing Him standing there in His plain and humble robe, the Angels marveled, while Mary and Joseph were filled with new love and joy.


The Mother of God continued to nurse her Son until He was a year and a half old. Then He began to take frugal meals of broth mixed with oil, and some fruits and fish. He never asked for food, and later He ate all His meals with His Mother and foster father. Then Mary always waited for Him to give the blessing at the beginning and thanks at the end of each meal.
Now that the Child Jesus could walk, He began to retire and spend certain hours in prayer in His Mother's room. As she silently wondered whether she should stay with Him at such times, He said to her:

"My Mother, remain with Me always in order to imitate Me in My actions, for I have chosen you as the vessel and model of all perfection."

Mary therefore frequently joined Him in praying for mankind. And sometimes when the Divine Child meditated on the ingratitude with which men would receive the Redemption, she saw Him weep and even perspire blood, and then she would sorrowfully wipe His little face. At other times she saw Him resplendent with heavenly light and surrounded by sweetly chanting Angels.
Within a few years a number of children began to gather around the young Jesus, for He soon won their hearts by His kindness and qualities of leadership. They often came to visit Him, and He took them to drink at a fountain behind the house which Mary had discovered. With words full of life and strength He instructed His little friends in the knowledge of God and the virtues, and His informal teaching made such a deep impression that all these boys later became great and saintly men.
One day, as soon as He was strong enough, while Mary was praying in her room, the Child Jesus took a pitcher and filled it with water at the fountain. When she saw Him bringing it to her, she was profoundly moved. And from that day Jesus always thoughtfully carried water for her when. ever she needed it, without her having to ask for it. He also helped St. Joseph, handing him his tools or pieces of wood. When He was old enough, the boy Jesus took His Mother's needlework to her customers in town and brought back some bread. Occasionally, after a trip to town, He wept over the suffering and sinning which He had seen in the city. He then began to visit the sick in the hospitals with His Mother, seeking out those who were most afflicted in order to cheer and console them. Attracted by His charity and sanctity, they often gave Him gifts, which He refused or accepted only for distribution among the poor.

The merciful Mother of God did not hesitate to tend to the festering ulcers and sores of the women, and she often changed their bandages with her own hands, while comforting the suffering patients. Frequently she healed them, and St. Joseph was given power to cure some of the men. When a severe pestilence devastated the town, Jesus, Mary and Joseph nursed and healed many of the victims. As a result, the Holy Family became very popular among the people, especially among the poor, and a large number of men and women came to them for advice and instruction. In order to honor His Mother, Jesus told her to teach them the laws of the one true God. Speaking therefore to each individual in a way suited to his or her personality and problems, she urged them to give up their sinful ways of living in order to serve and worship the Lord in purity and in truth. Her gentle and modest manner and her penetrating messages were so moving and inspiring that
many of her listeners were converted to a better life and eventually became Christians. St. Joseph also helped in instructing the men in his own plain and sincere way. Thus the Holy Family sowed in Egypt the spiritual seed that was later to develop into many generations of holy Christians, Saints, Martyrs and hermits.


"My daughter, I came into Egypt, where I knew no relations or friends, in a land of foreign religion, where I could offer no home or protection or assistance to my Son, Whom I loved so much. It can easily be understood, then, what tribulations and hardships we suffered. Thou canst not understand with what patience and resignation we accepted them. It is true, I grieved much to see my husband in such necessity and want, but at the same time I blessed the Lord to be able to suffer them. In this noble patience and joy of spirit I wish thee to imitate me whenever the Lord offers thee an opportunity. My most holy Son chose poverty and taught it by
word and by example. This same doctrine I taught and practiced during all my life. I wish thee to love and diligently to seek after this poverty."



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