Joyful Scenes Inspired by the Joyful Mysteries

newborn - photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

As an on-call shelter volunteer, I spent some evening hours in a mother-baby unit with a woman whose child was less than a day old. Her family was too far to be physically present; we volunteers offered round-the-clock patient advocacy and, most importantly, motherly love.

I sat from 8 until 10 p.m. while mom nursed, dozed, and observed what seemed like a thousand measurements and tests for her newborn. I was too tired to do much after a hectic day of my own, so I used the rosary to engage my hands and the mantra-like Hail Marys to keep me focused on God amidst distractions.

I prayed the five Joyful Mysteries, and my mind wandered to someone telling me that these are the mysteries of unexpected guests: First an angel arrives unexpectedly (1); then John the Baptist jumps in Elizabeth’s womb during his first awareness of Jesus (2). Who would expect shepherds and kings to visit a newborn (3)? Then two old people show up for the presentation of Jesus in the Temple (4). I’m sure the religious leaders never expected a 12-year-old to teach them (5).

And here I was, an unexpected guest in this hospital, supporting an exhausted mother on her own.

After finishing the traditional Joyful Mysteries, I wanted to continue unobtrusively to pray while activities swirled around mother, baby, and nurses. I assume Mary and Joseph experienced many joys in addition to those we traditionally use. Using my imagination, I pondered these joyful scenes:

A Sixth Joyful Mystery: Mary Makes Baby Clothes.

An Egyptian woman speaks: “This poor little family! I’m so blessed to be able to host them. I’ve given Mary some of my old clothes that are no longer in fashion here in Egypt. And that resourceful mother is making them into adorable outfits for her little boy. Who taught her to sew so well? She doesn’t have a cent in the world, but she overflows with a peace and love that I would take over all my wealth and possessions.”

A Seventh Joyful Mystery: Mary Joins a Young Mothers Group.

Another woman explains: “A group of us with babies two years and younger meet to talk about ways we can be excellent parents and women of courage for our families. We pray, each in our own way, and discuss our special gifts of nurturing and supporting our families through kindness, quiet service, and listening. Afterwards, I love showing Mary some Egyptian recipes.”

An Eighth Joyful Mystery: Joseph Takes Out the Trash.

“Our kind hosts didn’t need to remind me to pitch in on household chores,” says Joseph. “I’m trying not to worry about Mary and Jesus, so taking out the trash actually calms my spirit. What other activities can I do to make life easier for others?”

A Ninth Joyful Mystery: Joseph Meets Some Traveling Hebrews.

Joseph continues, “How lucky that they invited Mary, Jesus, and me to return with them to Israel! Well, not lucky really. It’s God’s generous and providential action. Why do I ever waste my energy worrying? God provides. Now we hear that Herod is dead, and we can finally return to our homeland. It’s time to bid our joyful goodbyes to these foreigners who have generously hosted us over the past many months. I will feel safe traveling with a group. Thank you, Lord of Hosts, for providing once again!”

When my shift ended, I put away the rosary, I blew kisses to mother and child, and I shut the door quietly behind me. I left the hospital wondering what other mysteries I could contemplate, such as Jesus crying for Mary and a night feeding, Joseph bathing his son, and more.

What joyful mysteries come to your mind?

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Loretta Pehanich is a Catholic freelance writer and the author of 2022: A Book of Grace-Filled Days, Women in Conversation: Stand Up!, and Fleeting Moments: Praying When You Are Too Busy. A spiritual director since 2012, Loretta is trained in giving the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Her involvement in ministry and parish life includes 20 years in small faith-sharing groups and Christian Life Community. Loretta gives retreats and presentations on prayer and women’s spirituality and is commissioned as an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist. She and her husband Steve have four children and 10 grandchildren.


  1. I’m 81 years old and don’t enjoy surprises as much as I once did. So, what a beautiful wake up call this reading was—and hopefully will continue to be. Surprise gifts from God are all around me if I but really look and really see. My recently adopted cat is whipping her tail against my leg telling me to wake up, feel her soft fur, look at that sunset, get out her favorite can of cat food—now! And, by the way, telling me to call my spiritual director for an overdue meeting. Perhaps everything in my life is a surprise to savor and enjoy?
    Blessings, Louise

  2. The “added” joyful mysteries are so thoughtful – and clever. They make the Holy Family seem more real and relatable in the modern world. Thank you for these insights.

    • Thank you for your kind comments, everyone. We meet the holy family often in disguise: like when I hear a wailing coming from somewhere in the back of church. Jesus was like us in every way–human with parents who did their best but most likely made a few mistakes on the way, too.


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