The Diaries of Joseph And Mary: The Story Of St. Joseph’s Hidden Life For Fathers, Mothers and Kids
The Diaries of Mary and Joseph by Dennis P. McGeehan are equally enjoyable for kids and their dads (and for moms, too). The book will make a great Father’s Day gift to be enjoyed by the entire family. The author affords us a rare glimpse into the hidden life of St. Joseph. We follow the life of the Holy Family in diary entries alternating between Mary and Joseph who are describing the same events from their different points of view. As a read aloud, this book will make a fascinating and educational reading experience “based on the stories widely known during the time of the Early Church.”(quote from the book’s subtitle)
The details of the diary entries are fictional. Scripture just gives us the bare outline of Joseph’s life with Mary and Jesus. The author has based his account on reputable sources from the Apocrypha, the Church Fathers, legend and the Saints. He explains carefully how he made his decision between the two traditions concerning Joseph’s age. Bear in mind here that few ancient sources were historical accounts. They were mostly concerned with spiritual truths and their language was poetic, the only language suitable for matters of the Spirit. It is important to make our children aware of this. Just as there are two different but complementary creation accounts in Scripture, there are two accounts of Saint Joseph’s age. One tradition describes him as a young man, another as a widower with children from a first marriage.
We learn about many marvels in the Diaries. Many have sunk into oblivion in our times but were once well-known. Reading about them will make your family understand many images of St. Joseph in ancient and medieval art. My favorite legendary episode in the life of St. Joseph is his election as a husband for Mary by the temple priests. His wooden staff sprouts blossoms, a divine sign they cannot ignore. The image of the flowering staff appears elsewhere in Scripture and legend. We find the story of Aaron’s rod sprouting in Numbers 17:8. A later example is the legend of St.Christopher. The apocryphal Protoevangelion of St. James tells how a dove emerged from an elderly Joseph’s staff and landed on his head, a beautiful variation of the story conveying the same message from Our Lord: This man is the one I have chosen to be Mary’s husband. It is certainly a beautiful and fitting image of Divine approval which inspired poets may have loved to pull from their catalogs of imagery. But here is my personal take on this: Our Lord is the ultimate poet and he likes to use his favorite metaphors in His great story of our salvation. Our Creator has the power to use actual events as His storytelling imagery, and He can repeat them if He so chooses. Just because we find the same event repeated in different stories, does not mean that it did not actually take place. I am not a theologian. I am just offering this perspective for your consideration.
The Diaries feel very true, perhaps because they were written by a father who prayerfully meditated on what Joseph must have felt during his life as the foster father of God. Here is a sample of Joseph’s touching diary entry on the Nativity:
“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…” (p.44)
I cannot imagine a better way of teaching children - and adults - about St. Joseph. Reading these diaries is so much more captivating than a catechetical textbook account. Compare telling your children that St. Joseph was a devout, loving, responsible foster father to Our Lord to reading them this book, in which they actually experience his devout, loving and responsible acts.
The 101 questions asked and answered in the appendix of the Diaries of Mary and Joseph, represent a treasury of learning for young and old curious minds. Questions include: Did Joseph know John the Baptist? Was Joseph merely obeying God or did he truly love Mary? Did Joseph teach Jesus anything? How can a human teach anything to God? The questions are excellent teaching tools. Some answers are based on Scripture or on the sources mentioned above, others are logical conclusions from what is known about St. Joseph. As a homeschooling mom, I love the interesting discourse on the meaning and significance of names answering the question “What does the name Joseph mean?”
This little book is beautifully written in clear and simple prose, suitable for readers of all ages. Besides Father’s Day, it will also make a great addition to your Advent, Christmas and, of course, St. Joseph’s Day reading. The appendix is followed by a short bibliography suggesting further reading for older students and adults. This book represents a great teaching tool for school teachers, catechists and homeschoolers.
As there is bound to be some discussion about whether he took too much liberty with some details in the story, I would like to point out that Dennis McGeehan invites discussion and encourages readers to contact him. In the introduction, he clearly explains his choices naming his sources. I am so glad, the author was bold in the choice of non-canonical materials which truly bring the story of St. Joseph, St.Mary and the Child Jesus to life.
It is obvious that this unassuming little book is the result of diligent scholarship and much prayerful meditation. The result is completely unique and wonderful: highly recommended for your Catholic kids and their dad.
St. Joseph, pray for us. Blessed Father’s Day!