Joseph, Mary & Parenting Anxiety

Do you sometimes wish you could call on substitute parents?

After an active day, my oldest daughter didn't feel well. She'd eaten a full dinner and a snack, and mere moments after announcing nausea, was sick. I was panicked.

It happens every time one of my children is ill: My heart starts racing, and I wrack my brains over what could be causing the illness. I search the internet for symptoms and remedies. I stay awake at night, listening for every small noise. The last thing I want to do is put it in God's hands and go to sleep.

My anxiety inevitably reaches a level to where I wish I had a substitute mother, someone to whom I could say: "You’re the mama now. You do the worrying. I'm going to leave for a while. Just let me know when everyone is OK again."

Did Mary and Joseph feel anxious?

This got me thinking: did Mama Mary and St. Joseph worry about Jesus? We know they did, from brief biblical passages, such as when Christ went missing for three days at the age of twelve, and Mary said to Him, “Behold, your father and I have been searching for you anxiously.” (Luke 2:48)

And how about those scary words of Simeon in the temple, "and a sword shall pierce your own heart also”? (Luke 2:35) Simeon’s words indicate that Mary’s pain would nearly equal her Son’s. We parents internalize our children’s difficulties. We allow those difficulties to become our own, until our pain is the same as our children’s. We participate in their troubles in a very real way.

Many things happened to the Holy Family that would cause anyone to worry: the 12-16 year old Mary conceived a baby while a virgin; Joseph discovered that his betrothed was pregnant with a child not his own; Mary gave birth in a cave, with animals and refuse everywhere; the family picked up and moved long, tiring distances several times with hardly any possessions; Joseph was trying to keep Jesus safe from Herod...the list goes on.

Even ONE of those situations would set me in a panic. In many of those situations the Holy Family must have worried, but we can glean from the Bible that Jesus’ parents always accepted and trusted in God's will even when awful things happened. They never allowed the peace within them to be disturbed, even if they were also concerned. They always said “yes” to God.

Give anxieties to Joseph and Mary.

As a mother, my biggest trial is always facing some worry regarding my children. I have a few different options on how to handle the future situations, though. I can panic as I usually do, or I can accept the temptation to get "up and leave." But I have a father and a mother who can take over for me, who certainly watch over my children more than I do. Instead of caving in to panic, spiritually I can give the situation over to Jesus’ parents to handle, as I step back and help in smaller ways, whether it be administering medicine, giving hugs, or sleeping near my sick child.

Lately, I've been trying to say a Hail Mary every time something happens and to say: "Okay, Mama Mary, this is your problem now." Sometimes I ask St. Joseph for help if I'm in special need of protection or of a man’s strength. The Holy Family is always ready to help.

Once, when I was hospitalized in a life-threatening situation, I was praying to St. Joseph just to stay with me, because I had no one else with me at that time. Not long after, a woman walked in and said: “I’m from St. Joseph. Would you like to receive the Holy Eucharist?” I was flabbergasted. Of course, the woman meant she was from the local parish, but it seemed to me a clear sign that St. Joseph was helping me through that very tough time. He brought me what I needed most of all: Jesus.

Whatever difficulty you are going through, and whenever you encounter illness this season, try to put it into the hands of Mary and Joseph. They will give it to Jesus, in a way that we don’t know how to do nearly so well.

Rebecca O’Loughlin is a Byzantine Catholic mother with 5 children (newborn to tween). She enjoys running her shop (Brushes2Halos), writing, and adventuring with her children--whether on a flight with their airplane pilot dad, or through the pages of Narnia.

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