Things my parents tried to teach me:

  • Love by how they loved each other.
  • Hard work by the way they worked to provide for my sister and me.
  • Values when they used the German language proverbs they themselves had learned (and which to this day pop into my head).
  • And lots more…

When I think about these things, I also realize they taught me mostly by modeling with their lives.

Mary and Joseph as parents

What did Mary and Joseph teach Jesus?

I then wondered what did Mary and Joseph teach the child Jesus? Some might think that is a strange question. Yet, we are told that “He grew in wisdom, age, and grace.” (Luke 2:52) If “he was like us in all things but sin” (Hebrews 4:15) there must have been a lot they had to teach him

How did he learn to:

  • Speak?
  • Help around the house?
  • Help Joseph in his shop?

How did he learn the:

  • Faith and traditions of his parents?
  • Customs and ways of behaving in his village?
  • Words to speak “good news” to his brothers and sisters?

What did Mary and Joseph learn in parenting?

I don’t think I ever asked what did they learn from caring for the needs of this “special” child “destined for the rise and the fall of many (Luke 2:34)?

Neither had gone to any “parenting the Messiah” classes. Their learning was mostly “on the job” learning.

I suspect they learned the “how” of parenting as most parents, especially mothers, learn,  by doing.

I suspect that because they cared deeply, they:

  • Paid attention and saw the needs of a child growing in wisdom, age and grace. But they did not just see or hear.
  • They also had to diagnose and understand the needs behind what they saw and heard as he grew.
  • They tried to act appropriately, learning when to hold their child and when to hold back as he explored. Everyone responsible for fostering growth and maturity knows there are times a child needs to held yet sometimes has to figure things out for himself.

As I thought of these elements in guiding a child to maturity something dawned on me. Isn’t this the See, Judge and Act process exemplified by saints Vincent and Louise, their followers Frederick Ozanam and Rosalie Rendu, and, recently by Pope Francis in his encyclicals “The Joy of the Gospel” and “Fratelli Tutti”?

Mary Mother of the Church and the Year of Joseph

Pope Francis shows his deep appreciation for the role models of Mary and Joseph. He has given special emphasis to Mary as Mother of the Church. He recently called for a Year of Joseph.

We can learn from their example to See – Judge – Act.

Mary and Joseph were both “nobodies” in terms of origin. They were poor, young, and inexperienced parents who had to learn on the job. Because of their love for God they saw and paid attention to the situation in which God placed them. They struggled to understand the needs right in front of them and sought to act appropriately … sometimes holding and sometimes not intervening.

I think we have here another way of understanding the role of the Church in our society today. Pope Francis is asking us to see in Mary and Joseph models as we try to discern what it means to be church today.

Have you ever thought of:

  • What Jesus, Mary, and Joseph each had to learn?
  • What we as a church have to learn about our mission in the world today?

Click below for an audio version of this Vincentian Mindwalk

What parents teach and learn