Author: Dennis P McGeehan
Publisher: Self Published
Age Range: 12 and up
This is a great idea. Dennis P McGeehan has written a series of diary entries that he imagines Joseph and Mary wrote during their lifetimes. The diary entries relate to the main events described in scripture – the annunciation, visiting Elizabeth, journey to Bethlehem etc. The Christmas story and flight into Egypt takes up the main part of the journal entries, but it actually covers the lives of Mary and Joseph from when they are children right through to Jesus’ adulthood. Approaching the story in this manner, we are brought into the worldviews of both Mary and Joseph. Their characters in this story develop as we gain insight into their thoughts and feelings. I loved that we even catch a glimpse of how Mary and Joseph regard each other.
Mary writes, “I saw the look on Joseph’s face. A look of concern, but also of determination. He will protect us.”
And Joseph says of Mary, “I have noticed that Mary gains strength of body and spirit when she fulfills God’s law.”
The story that is conveyed is in turn adventurous, exciting, satisfying and sad. The emotional responses of Joseph and Mary are captured so that we are more fully immersed into their trials. Somehow, I felt the vulnerability of Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus more keenly as I read through the diary entries. Reading of their night-time escape into Egypt was very well done.
The quiet and simple domestic life of the Holy Family in Egypt was also well captured by Dennis P McGeehan. Joseph observes how easily Mary becomes part of the community of women, going about her daily business and developing her weaving skills. Mary listens out for Joseph as he works into the night in his workshop, making a good living with his carpentry skills. Jesus grows and is the focus of both Mary and Joseph. Joseph wonders at Jesus’ natural aptitude with tools.
The diary entries are, of course, fictitious, but they remain true to the characters of Mary and Joseph as we have come to know and understand them. Focussing on the details of their lives brought them to life in a way that I didn’t expect. After Joseph dies, Mary continues her diary entries until Jesus leaves to begin his ministry.
The second part of this book contains 101 questions and answers about Joseph. There is a wealth of information in this section. It is written in simple language and is easily accessible. The information in this section serves to provide more context and background to the first section.
Dennis P McGeehan
The book is very basic in presentation. I believe that this book could be beautifully repackaged and redesigned into a very special book aimed at the 10 -14-year age bracket. With illustrations, playful fonts and sketches this could be an engaging and educational book for this age group. I found the division of the book into two sections created a kind of ‘disjoint’. In my mind’s eye I can see ‘break-out bubbles’ on the diary entry pages with “Did you know…” that convey the information provided in the 101 questions section. In this way the two sections could be merged.
The Diaries of Joseph and Mary will be enjoyed by teens as a unique way of exploring the story of the Holy Family. I would recommend this book to homeschoolers and teachers. I sincerely hope that the book is picked up and republished by a major publisher one day. Currently, it’s presentation is very basic, but still well worth purchasing.
You can purchase the book HERE
Homeschool and Teaching Ideas
There is scope here to use this book in Religious Education and English, but today I’m going to focus on history as a means of helping children to enter into the life of the Holy Family and develop their understanding of the Gospel accounts.
- I had a few ideas for how students in the younger age bracket might respond to the information in the book and build their understanding. In groups, students could create a timeline that traces the events in the book – either a physical one to pin across the wall or a computer-generated timeline. Ask students to plot when each event happens.
- Your children or students might also be interested in exploring the domestic life of the Holy Family.
Toys and Games Jesus would have played: A brief look around the internet reveals that in the times of Jesus children played with dolls, tops, hoops, and balls. They wrestled, ran, made bows and arrows and spears. They dressed up and play acted as judges, holy men and soldiers.
Food that Mary would have been preparing for the family: https://hcscchurch.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/food.pdf
Your children/students might like to make up a poster of tools/food/toys from Jesus’ times. Or perhaps you could cook up a feast or meal like Jesus would have enjoyed.
- Older students could complete a project or essay on the above themes.