36: The Holy Family in Egypt.
25th January 1944 (at midnight).
The sweet vision of the Holy Family. The place is in Egypt. I have no doubt because I see the desert and a pyramid.
I see a small house with a single floor, a ground floor, completely white. A poor house of very poor people. The walls are just plastered and whitewashed. There are two doors, one near the other, leading into the only two rooms of the house which, for the time being, I do not enter. The little house is in the middle of a small piece of sandy ground, enclosed by a fence of canes fixed into the ground, a very weak protection against thieves; it can serve only as a protection against cats or stray dogs. On the other hand, who would think of stealing where it is quite visible that there is not even the shadow of riches?
The little piece of ground, enclosed by the cane hedge, has been patiently cultivated as a little garden, notwithstanding that the earth is arid and poor. In order to make the hedge a little thicker and less scanty, they have grown some creepers which appear to be modest convolvuli, only on one side there is a shrub of jasmine in full bloom and a bush of common roses. In the kitchen garden I see some very modest vegetables in the centre under a tall plant which I do not recognize and which gives some shade to the arid ground and to the little house. A little black and white goat is tied to the plant and it is browsing on the leaves of some branches thrown on the ground.
And nearby on a mat on the ground there is the Child Jesus. I think He must be two years old, or two and a half at the very most. He is playing with some little pieces of carved wood, which look like little sheep or little horses, and with some clear wood shavings, less curly than His golden curls. With His little plump hands He is trying to put those wooden necklaces onto the necks of His little animals. He is quiet and smiling. Very beautiful. His little head is a mass of very thick little golden curls, His skin is clear and slightly rosy, His eyes are live and bright, of a deep blue color. The expression of course, is different, but I recognize the color of the eyes of my Jesus: two beautiful dark sapphires. He is wearing a kind of a long white shirt which must certainly be His tunic, with short sleeves. At present He has nothing on His feet. His tiny sandals are on the mat and they, too, are being used as a toy by the Child, Who is placing His little animals on the mat, and then pulls the sandal by the strap as if it were a little cart. The sandals are very simple: a sole and two straps one of which coming from the point and the other from the heel of the sole. The one coming from the point then splits at a certain point and one length passes through the eyelet of the strap from the heel, then goes round and is tied with the other piece, forming thus a ring at the ankle.
A little farther away, sitting also in the shade of the tree, there is Our Lady. She is weaving at a rustic loom and watching the Child. I can see Her white slender hands moving backwards and forwards throwing the shuttle on the weft while Her foot, shod in a sandal, is moving the pedal. She is wearing a tunic the color of mallow flowers: a rosy violet like certain amethysts. She is bareheaded, and so I can see that Her hair is parted, forming two simple plaits which gather at the nape of Her neck. Her sleeves are long and rather narrow. She has no other ornament except Her beauty and Her most sweet expression. The color of Her face, of Her hair and Her eyes, the form of Her face are always the same every time I see Her. She looks very young now. She looks about twenty years old. At a certain moment She gets up, and bends over the Child, puts His sandals back on again and ties them carefully. She then pats Him and kisses His little head and His beautiful eyes. The Child prattles and She answers. But I do not understand the words. She then goes back to Her loom; She covers the fabric and the weft With a piece of cloth, picks up the stool on which She was sitting and takes it into the house. The Child follows Her with His eyes without troubling Her when She leaves Him alone.
Obviously Her work is finished, and it is almost evening. In fact, the sun is setting on the barren sand, and a huge fire invades the whole sky behind the far away pyramid.
Mary comes back. She takes Jesus by the hand and lifts Him from His mat. The Child obeys without any resistance. While His Mother picks up His toys and the mat and takes them into the house, He toddles on His well shaped little legs towards the little goat and throws His arms around her neck. The little goat bleats and rubs her head on Jesus' shoulder.
Mary comes back. Now She is wearing a long veil on Her head and is carrying an amphora in Her hand. She takes Jesus by the hand, and they both start walking, turning round the little house towards the other side.
I follow them admiring the gracefulness of the picture. Our Lady adjusts Her step to the Child's, and the Child toddles and trips along beside Her. I can see His rosy heels moving up and down, with the typical grace of children's steps, on the sand of the little path. I notice that His little tunic does not reach down to His feet, but only to half His calf. It is very clean and simple and it is held tight to His waist by a little white cord.
I see that on the front of the house the hedge is broken by a rustic gate, which Mary opens to go out onto the road. It is a poor road at the end of a town or a village, whatever it may be, where it ends up with the country that here is formed of sand and some other houses, as poor as this one, with some scanty kitchen gardens.
I do not see anybody. Mary looks towards the centre of the town not towards the country, as if She were waiting for someone; She then moves towards a vessel or well, whatever it may be, which is some ten meters further up, and on which some palm trees form a shady circle. Over there some green herbs can be seen on the ground.
I can now see a man coming along the road; he is not very tall, but is well built. I recognize Joseph, who is smiling. He looks younger than when I saw him in the vision of Paradise. He may be forty years old at most. His hair and beard are thick and black, his skin is rather tanned, his eyes are dark. An honest pleasant face, inspiring confidence.
When he sees Jesus and Mary, he quickens his step. On his left shoulder he has a kind of saw and a kind of plane, and he is holding in his hand other tools of his trade, not exactly like the ones we use now, but almost similar. He is probably coming back after working in somebody's house. He is wearing a tunic the color of which is between hazel and dark brown; it is not very long – it reaches a good bit up from his ankles – and its sleeves are short. I think he is wearing a leather belt at his waist. It is the proper tunic of a workman. On his feet he has sandals tied at his ankles.
Mary smiles and the Child utters cries of joy and He stretches out the hand which is free. When the three meet, Joseph bends down and offers the Child a fruit which I think is an apple, by its color and shape. He then stretches his arms and the Child leaves His Mother, and cuddles in the arms of Joseph, bending His little head into the cavity of Joseph's neck; he kisses Him, and is kissed by Him. A scene full of loving grace.
I was forgetting to say that Mary had promptly taken Joseph's work tools, to leave him free to embrace the Child.
Then Joseph, who had crouched down to the ground to be at the same height as Jesus, stands up, takes his tools with his left hand and holds little Jesus tight to his strong chest with his right arm. And he moves towards the house, while Mary goes to the fountain to fill Her amphora.
After entering the enclosure of the house, Joseph puts the Child down, takes Mary's loom into the house, and then he milks the goat. Jesus watches all these activities carefully and in particular the closing up the little goat in a little closet in one side of the house.
It is now getting dark. I can see the red of the sunset becoming violet on the sands which seem to be trembling because of the heat. The pyramid looks darker.
Joseph goes into the house, into a room which must be his workshop, the kitchen, the dining room all in one. The other room is obviously the bedroom. But I do not go in there. The fire is lit in a low fireplace. There is a carpenter's bench, a small table, some stools, some shelves with two oil lamps and some kitchenware on them. In a corner, there is Mary's loom. And a great deal of order and cleanliness. A very poor dwelling, but very clean.
And this is a remark I wish to make: in all the visions concerning the human life of Jesus I have noticed that both He and Mary, as well as Joseph and John, are always tidy and clean both in their garments and their bodies. They wear modest' and simple garments, but they are so clean that they look like gentlemen in them.
Mary comes back with the amphora and the door is closed on the rapidly growing dusk. The room is illuminated by a lamp which Joseph has lit and placed on his bench, where he now starts working on some little boards, while Mary is preparing supper. Also the fire illuminates the room. Jesus, with His little hands leaning on the bench and His little head turned upwards, is watching what Joseph is doing. They then sit down at the table after saying their prayers. Obviously they do not bless themselves with the sign of the cross, but they pray. It is Joseph who says the prayers, and Mary answers. I do not understand anything at all. It must be a psalm. But it is said in a language which is entirely unknown to me.
They then sit down at the table. The lamp is now on the table. Mary is holding Jesus in Her lap, and makes Him drink some of the goat's milk, into which She dips some small slices of bread which She has cut off a little round loaf. The crust of the loaf, as well as the inside, is very dark, it looks like rye bread or bread made with barley. It certainly contains a lot of bran, judging by its color. In the meantime, Joseph eats some bread and cheese, a small slice of cheese and a lot of bread. Then Mary sits Jesus on a little stool near Her, and brings some cooked vegetables to the table – they appear to be boiled and dressed as we use them nowadays – and She also eats some of them after Joseph has helped himself. Jesus is nibbling happily at His apple, and He smiles displaying His little white teeth. Their supper ends with some olives or dates. I cannot tell exactly which because they appear to be too light to be olives and too hard to be dates. There is no wine. The supper of poor people.
But there is so much peace in this room that not even the sight of the most solemn royal palace could give me as much. And how much harmony!
Jesus does not speak this evening. He does not explain the scene. He has taught me with the gift of His vision and that is enough. May He be always and equally blessed.
26th January 1944.
"The things you see teach you and others the lesson. It is a lesson of humility, resignation and good harmony. A lesson given as an example to all Christian families, and particularly to the Christian families in this especially sorrowful age.
You have seen a poor house. And what is more saddening, a poor house in a foreign country. Many people, only because they are fairly good Catholics who pray and receive Me in the Holy Eucharist, and they pray and receive Me for “their” needs, not for the needs of their souls and for the Glory of God – because only seldom those who pray are not selfish – many people would pretend to have a prosperous, happy, easy material life, well-protected even from the least pain.
Joseph and Mary had Me, True God, as their Son, yet they did not even have the meagre satisfaction of being poor in their own country, where they were known, where at least there was their “own” little house and the problem of a dwelling did not add a harassing thought to their many problems, in the country where, as they were known, it was easier for them to find work and provide for the needs of their lives. They are two refugees just because they had Me. A different climate, a different country, so sad in comparison with the sweet countryside of Galilee, a different language, different habits, living amongst people who did not know them, and who generally distrusted refugees and people they did not know. They are deprived of those comfortable and dear pieces of furniture of “their” little house, of so many humble and necessary things they had there, and which did not seem to be so necessary, whereas here, in the void that surrounds them, seem even beautiful like the luxurious things that make the houses of rich people so charming. And they felt nostalgia both for their country and for their home, they worried about the poor things they had left behind, about the little kitchen garden where probably no one would take care of their vines and their figs, and the other useful plants. And they had to provide every day for food, clothes, fire, and for Me, a Child, Whom they could not feed with the same food they took themselves. And they were sad at heart: because of their homesickness, because of the uncertainty of the future, and the lack of trust of people who are reluctant, particularly at first, to accept the offer of work of two unknown people.
And yet, as you have seen yourself, that house is pervaded with serenity, smiles, harmony, and by mutual consent they endeavor to make it more beautiful, even in its scanty little kitchen garden, that it may be more like the more comfortable one they had to leave behind. They have only one thought: that the land may be less hostile and less unpleasant for Me, since I come from God. It is the love of believers and relatives which reveals itself in many ways: from the little goat they purchased with many hours of extra work, to the little toys carved in scraps of wood, to the fruit purchased only for Me, while they denied themselves a morsel of food.
O beloved father of mine on the earth, how loved you have been by God, by God Father in the Most High Heavens, by God Son, Who became the Savior on the earth!
In that house there is no quick temper, no sulkiness, no grim faces, neither is there any reproach against each other, and least of all against the God Who has not loaded them with material wealth. Joseph does not reproach Mary as being the cause of his discomfort, neither does Mary reproach Joseph because he is incapable of procuring greater worldly goods. They love each other in a holy way, that is all. And therefore they do not worry about their own comfort, but only about the comfort of their consort. True love is not selfish. And true love is always chaste, even if it is not perfect in chastity as the love of the two virgin spouses. Chastity united to charity yields a suite of other virtues and therefore two people who love each other chastely become perfect.
The love of Mary and Joseph was perfect. Therefore it was an incentive to every other virtue and in particular to charity towards God, blessed every hour, notwithstanding His holy will is painful for the flesh and the heart, blessed because, above the flesh and above the heart, the spirit was more lively and stronger in the two saints, and they exalted the Lord with gratitude because they had been chosen as guardians of His Eternal Son.
In that house they prayed. You pray too little in your homes, nowadays. The sun rises and sets, you start your work, and you sit at the table without a thought for the Lord, Who has granted you to see a new day, and then to live and see a new night, Who has blessed your work and has made it the means for you to purchase the food, the fire, the clothes, the house which are so necessary for your human lives. Whatever comes from Good God is “good”. Even if it is poor and meagre, love gives it flavour and body, the love that allows you to see in the Eternal Creator, the Father Who loves you.
In that house there is frugality and it would be there even if there was plenty money. They eat to live. They do not eat to satisfy their gluttony, with the insatiability of gluttons and the whims of epicures who fill themselves to the extent of being sick and squander fortunes on expensive food, without giving one thought to those who are without or with little food, without considering that if they were moderate, many people could be relieved of the pangs of hunger.
In that house they love work, and they would love it even if there was plenty money, because the working man obeys the command of God and frees himself from vice, which like tenacious ivy clenches and suffocates idle people, who are like immovable rocks. Food is good, rest is serene, hearts are happy, when you have worked well and you enjoy the resting time between one job and the next one. Neither in the houses nor in the minds of those who love work, can manysided vice rise. And, in its absence, love, esteem, reciprocal respect prosper and tender children grow in a pure atmosphere and they thus become the origin of future holy families.
Humility reigns in that house. What a lesson of humility for the proud. Mary, from a human point of view, had a thousand reasons to be proud and to be adored by Her spouse. Many women are proud only because they are a little better educated, or of nobler birth, or of a wealthier family than their husbands. Mary is the Spouse and the Mother of God, and yet She serves – and does not expect to be served – Her consort, and She is full of love for him. Joseph is the head of the family, judged by God so worthy of being the head of a family, as to be entrusted by God with the guardianship of the Word Incarnate and the Spouse of the Eternal Spirit.
And yet he is anxious to relieve Mary of Her work, and he takes care of the most humble jobs in the house so that Mary may not get tired, not only, but whenever he can he does his best to please Her and make Her house more comfortable and Her little garden more beautiful.
In that house order is respected: supernatural, moral, material. God is the Supreme Head and He is worshipped and loved: supernatural order. Joseph is the head of the family and he is loved, respected and obeyed: moral order. The house is a gift of God as well as the clothes and the furnishings. The Providence of God is shown in everything, of God Who supplied wool to sheep, feathers to birds, grass to meadows, hay to animals, grains and branches to birds, Who weaves the dress of the lily of the valley. The house, the dresses, the furnishings are accepted with gratitude, blessing the divine hand that supplies them, looking after them with respect as gifts of the Lord, without any bad humour because they are poor, without ill use, without abusing Divine Providence: material order.
You did not understand the words they exchanged in the dialect of Nazareth, neither did you understand the words of the prayer. But the things you saw are a great lesson. Meditate on them, you all who now suffer so much because you failed in so many things towards God, also in those things in which the holy Spouses never failed, the Spouses who were my Mother and father.
And you, rejoice remembering little Jesus, smile thinking of His little steps of a child. In a short time you will see Him walking under the Cross. And then it will be a vision of tears."