Sunday, July 19, 2009

Lost! Living the Fifth Joyful Mystery

Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed the stay, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the Temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, "Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety." Luke 2:41-48

(Thanks to Ginny at Mary and Me for the inspiration from her July 10th post, What would you ask Mary?)

I can really relate to Mary the best whenever I meditate upon the Fifth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary-Finding the Child Jesus in the Temple. I've personally lived this mystery several times in my mothering experience, always with the same son, Jack. There is no way to adequately describe the emotional upheaval of overwhelming fear followed by immense joy contained in losing and then finding a child. Here is my humble attempt...

It was an early winter morning. I had walked my children to the elementary school which my three oldest sons were attending. I needed to speak with Joe's kindergarten teacher, so we arrived a few minutes early to allow time for a discussion. I was standing in the hallway with the teacher, chattering on and on. Baby Mary was in the sling and three-year-old Jack was holding my hand. He fidgeted and twisted with impatience until he finally broke free. He began to walk down the hall towards the staircase. I kept one eye on him, thinking he would stop when he came to the staircase. But I was wrong. Jack reached the staircase and immediately ran up the stairs! I ran after him as fast as I could with Mary strapped around my shoulders. When we reached the top of the stairs, Jack was nowhere to be found! I called his name. No answer. I looked in the classrooms. He was not in sight. I worried that he might have run down the other staircase and out the door. With three floors in the school, I had no idea where he might be. I began to cry in frustration and ran down to the school office to seek help. The school secretary made an announcement on the P.A. system asking all of the teachers in the building to help look for Jack. Nothing. Then the school bell rang and soon the halls were swarming with children. The secretary made another announcement, and the entire student body began to look for my son. It wasn't long before he was found, one little boot sticking out from under the third grade teachers desk. And what does a frantic mother do when her lost son is found? Immediately covers him with hugs and kisses, and saves the scolding for later when she is less emotional.

You'd think this experience would have taught me to be a more conscientious mother and to watch my children better, wouldn't you? Nope! I had more lessons to learn.

The next summer, we were sweltering in the 4th of July heat. My family decided to cool off at the beach. It appeared that we weren't the only family to have that idea as the beach was packed! We spread our blanket out on the sand. Paul and the three older boys headed straight to the water for a football game. Mary and I sat on the blanket eating peaches. Jack was sitting at the edge of the water throwing clumps of sand into the lake.

I took my eyes off Jack for a few minutes so that I could play judge over the family sitting next to us. All of the children were wearing life jackets, even though they were playing in the sand and not in the water. Both parents had walkie-talkies strapped to their waists. "What overprotective parents!" was my immediate impression of them, and I dismissed them in my mind as I turned my attention back to my own family, where it belonged.

When I looked back to Jack, he was gone! I looked out to the water to see if Jack was with Paul. Not there. I looked up and down the beach. No Jack. I frantically searched for the park ranger and tearfully explained my situation. My mind raced through all of the possible scenarios. Was he kidnapped? Did he drown? The overprotective dad overheard me and calmly asked me to describe Jack to him. Then he began running down the beach in search of him. It wasn't long before his wife received a message on her walkie-talkie. Jack was found! He didn't even realize that he was lost! He was just walking along the edge of the water looking for rocks, completely oblivious to the worry he had caused. The overprotective dad was actually a guardian angel! Do you think he was judging me as a completely lax and careless mother? I would have deserved that judgment! It was no wonder I couldn't see Jack when I had such a large beam of judgment in my eye obstructing my view!

Yes, Jack has caused me more than a fair share of worries in his ten years of life. But, he has also brought me more than a fair share of joy as well. I thank God for the kindness of strangers and I ask Him to help me take that gigantic beam out of my eye that keeps me from seeing the true beauty in the people that surround me. But most of all, I thank the Blessed Mother for her lovely example of parenting and for allowing me to see that even though I am far from being the perfect parent, there is hope for me. It comforts me to know that this foolish, sinful mother has something in common with the Blessed Mother. After all, even the Blessed Mother lost her most precious Son in a crowd and panicked about where He might be. When I pray the Fifth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, I feel connected to the Holy Family in a very special way and for this, I am most grateful!


  1. I love it! It does not stop when they are teenagers either. lol. Lost a few on prom night too!

    Camping was the worse. Lost one when he decided to walk back to the camp site without us. He never did that one again. Matter of fact he became a Marine and had to survive outdoors for quite sometime. God's greatest lessons are during these turbulent times.

    Have a blessed day!

  2. HI Anne,

    Good post!

    I recall feeling the same way when I could not locate my sons at the beach.

    Many blessings...

  3. I've had one experience with the lost child and I hope never to repeat it. It was terrible, even after I found my 3 year old (she is a bit spacey sometimes, so this may happen again in the future - AHG!), and it also reminded me of losing my mom in a department store when I was a child! Thanks for the reminder that Mary is not just a role model but was a living, breathing Mom - complete with the worries that we have, and who has lived through some of our same perfectly human experiences!

  4. Very nice reflection, Anne. I enjoyed it.

    God bless!


  5. I sometimes think the Lord lets these sad/happy experiences happen to us so we can become more understanding with some of the mysteries of the rosary as we pray.

    Does anyone know how far a trip it was to go from Nazareth to the Temple for the Holy Family?

  6. Anne, thanks for the shout out -- I am so touched and pleased that my little question got you thinking. And oh, I felt your pain as I read! -- I literally began to feel anxious on your behalf. Thank God there were such positive outcomes both times.

    Honestly, I don't know how parents survive without faith. I'm enough of a nervous wreck even WITH it. :)