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XVII. THE RETURN OF THE HOLY FAMILY FROM EGYPT 180180     Matt. 2.19-23.

At last I saw the Holy Family leaving Egypt. Though Herod had been dead for some time, they were not yet able to return, for there was still danger. Their sojourn in Egypt became increasingly difficult for St. Joseph. The people there practiced an abominable idolatry, sacrificing deformed children, and even thinking it an act of special piety to offer healthy ones to be sacrificed. Besides this, they practiced obscene rites in secret. Even the Jews in their settlement had become infected by these horrors. They had a temple which they said was like Solomon’s temple, but this was idle boasting, for it was utterly different. They had an Ark of the Covenant in imitation of the real one, but it contained obscene figures, and their ceremonies were abominable. They no longer sang the psalms. Joseph, on the other hand, had arranged everything admirably in the school at Matarea. He had been joined there by the heathen priest who had taken the Holy Family’s part when the idols collapsed in the little town near Heliopolis. Others had accompanied him and had attached themselves to the Jewish community.

I saw St. Joseph busy at his carpentry on the eve of the Sabbath. He was in great distress because he was not given the payment due to him, and he had nothing to take home, where money was much needed. In his trouble he knelt down under the open sky in a corner and prayed to God to help him in his need. The next night I saw that an angel came to him in a dream, saying that those who had sought the life of the child were dead, and that he was to rise up and make ready to journey home from Egypt by the high road; he was to have no fear, for the angel would accompany him. I saw St. Joseph communicating to the Blessed Virgin and to the Child Jesus this command that he had received from God, and I saw them preparing as promptly and obediently for their journey home as they had done when warned to flee into Egypt.

When their decision became known next morning, many people came to them in great distress to say farewell, bringing with them all kinds of presents in little vessels of bark. They were mostly Jews, but some were converted heathen and all were truly grieved. (The Jews in this country were so sunk in idolatry as hardly to be recognized. There were some people here who were glad at the departure of the Holy Family, looking on them as sorcerers who owed their power to the mightiest among the evil spirits.) Amongst the good people who brought presents I saw mothers with their little boys who had been Jesus’ playfellows. Among these I particularly noticed a prominent woman of that town with her small son whom she used to call ‘the son of Mary’; for this woman, who was named Mira, had long hoped for children, and had, by the prayers of the Blessed Virgin, been granted this son by God. She had called him Deodatus. [When Catherine Emmerich saw Jesus passing through Egypt on His way to Jacob’s well after the raising of Lazarus, she said that He took this Deodatus with Him as a disciple.] I saw this woman giving money to Jesus—yellow, white, and brown pieces, triangular in shape. Jesus looked at His Mother as He accepted this gift.

As soon as Joseph had packed on the donkey all that they needed, they started on their journey, accompanied by all their friends. The donkey was the same one on which Mary had journeyed to Bethlehem. (On their flight into Egypt they had also had a she-ass with them, but Joseph had been obliged to sell her when they were in want.) They went between On and the Jewish settlement, and then turned southwards to the spring which had gushed forth in answer to Mary’s prayer before they came to On or Heliopolis. All was now green here, and the stream from the spring encircled a garden, surrounded on all four sides (except for the entrance) by a hedge of balsam shrubs. This garden was as big as Duke Croy’s riding school at Dülmen, and in it were young fruit trees, date palms, and sycamores. The balsam shrubs were already as big as good-sized vines. Joseph had made little vessels of bark, very smooth and delicate except for the places where they were smeared with pitch. While they were resting he often made vessels like these for various uses. He broke off the trefoil-shaped leaves from the reddish tendrils of the balsam, and hung his little bark bottles on the shrub to catch the falling drops of balsam for them to take with them on their journey. Their companions now took a tender farewell of them, after which the Holy Family remained some hours here. The Blessed Virgin washed and dried some things, and after refreshing themselves with water and filling their water-skin, they started on their journey along the highway. I saw many pictures of them on this journey home, always free from danger. The Child Jesus, Mary, and Joseph had on their heads, to protect them from the sun, a round piece of thin bark tied under their chins with a cloth. Jesus had His brown dress on, and wore shoes of bark which Joseph had made for Him. They were arranged so as to cover half His feet. Mary wore only soles. I saw that she was often worried because the Child Jesus found it so difficult to walk in the hot sand. I often saw her stopping to shake the sand out of His shoes. He often had to ride on the donkey so as to rest. I saw them go through several towns and pass by others. Their names have escaped me, though I still remember the name Rameses. They crossed some water which they had also crossed on their journey into Egypt. It inns from the Red Sea to the Nile.

Joseph did not really want to go back to Nazareth, but wished to settle in his ancestral home of Bethlehem. He was, however, still irresolute, since on arriving in the Promised Land he heard that Judea was governed by Archelaus, who like Herod was very cruel. I saw that the Holy Family stayed about three months in Gaza, where there were many heathen. Here an angel again appeared to Joseph in a dream and commanded him to go to Nazareth, which he did at once. 181181     Joseph’s obedience to the angel in the choice of Nazareth: Matt. 2.22. (SB) Anna was still alive. She and a few relations knew where the Holy Family had been living. The return from Egypt happened in September. Jesus was nearly eight years old.


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