It happened during the summer of 1990. Georgette needed to go to the grocery store, so she asked me to keep an eye on our four children while she was gone. At that time, Harry was nine, Anna was seven, Maria was six, and Laura was three.
Georgette was gone for about an hour and a half. When she returned home, I was in the den; I was sitting at my desk and reading a book. The following conversation took place:
Georgette: How did everything go?
Georgette: Where are the kids?
Harry: Oh, I don’t know.
Georgette: What do you mean you don’t know?
Harry: I’m not sure where they’re at. I think Harry’s outside. Anna and Maria are probably in their room playing, or they might be downstairs, and I think Laura’s with them.
Georgette: When is the last time you saw them (anxiety in her voice)?
Harry: I don’t know, maybe an hour ago. (By this point in the conversation, she was getting really worried.)
Georgette: I can’t believe you haven’t seen them for more than an hour. You were supposed to be keeping an eye on them.
As she turned and rushed toward the bedrooms, she said, “I’ll never trust you again!” She then frantically searched the house for our children.
It turned out that everyone was fine. They were just playing, as I had suspected. Their guardian angels had done a good job of watching over them.
A similar set of circumstances took place when I was 12 years old. One day during the summer of 1969, my mom needed to go to the grocery store, so she put me in charge of watching my eight younger brothers and sisters. About an hour after my mom left, having forgotten that I was babysitting, I grabbed the canvas bag that I used to carry newspapers, and I left the house to walk six blocks to Stafford’s Dairy. That’s where I picked up my bundle of newspapers every day.
On my way to the dairy, while I was walking along the shoulder of Farmington Road, unbeknownst to me, my mom drove past me. She was on her way home, and I didn’t see her car. I went about my business of picking up and delivering the newspapers.
When I returned home about an hour later, my mom blew up at me. She expressed shock and outrage over my irresponsible behavior. At that time, my brother Steve was two years old, and my sister Rosemary was less than a year old. I made the mistake of arguing with my mom and attempted to excuse my behavior. I told her that I had completely forgotten that I was babysitting, and that ultimately it didn’t matter because everyone was okay.
She wasn’t willing to listen to what I had to say and ended up grounding me. She then spoke the same exact words my wife said to me 21 years later: “I’ll never trust you again!”
So here’s my question for you: Do you think the Blessed Mother told St. Joseph that she would never trust him again when she found out that he had lost track of their 12-year-old son, Jesus?
There were three primary emotions that were triggered in my mom and in Georgette when they each realized that I had neglected their children: panic, fear, and anger. All those emotions were completely justified and would be triggered in any good mother who was in the same situation.
Here’s what St. Luke had to say about the incident in which Mary and Joseph lost their child:
Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when he was 12 years old, they went up according to custom; and when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the company they went a day’s journey, and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances; and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions; and all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when they saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.” And he said to them, “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And they did not understand the saying which he spoke to them. Luke 2:41-50.
It is believed that when Mary and Joseph began their journey to return to Nazareth, they followed the custom of splitting up, with Mary traveling with the women and Joseph traveling with the men. While they both assumed that their son was traveling with the other person, Jesus slipped away and stayed behind.
It took my mom and Georgette less than five minutes to find out that their children were okay. The Mother of God suffered for three days while she and her husband frantically searched for Jesus. If she experienced any anger, it would have been directed toward herself for allowing her son to escape from her watchful eyes.
She had no way of knowing whether her son was alive or dead. Simeon had warned her that a sword would pierce her heart. Herod had ordered that Jesus be captured and killed. Her suffering was so intense that she likely did not stop to rest, which meant no sleep for three days.
Did she look to heaven and say to God the Father, I’ll never trust you again? The answer to that question is no. She had complete trust in Him, but her confusion and anguish had to be extreme. There were no drugs available, such as Xanax or Zoloft, to relieve her anxiety. No Amber Alerts could be pushed out to everyone’s smartphone. All she could rely on was her faith in God.
The loss of the child Jesus in the Temple is the third of The Seven Sorrows of Mary. Maybe the Mother of God really does know something about suffering. She is someone we can trust to comfort us when we are suffering. All we have to do is reach out to her in daily prayer.