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?