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The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary
by Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich

27. ELIZABETH TAKES THE BOY JOHN AGAIN TO THE WILDERNESS.




During the sojourn of the Holy Family in Egypt the child John must have again stayed in secret with his parents at Juttah, for I saw him at the age of four or five being once more taken into the wilderness by Elizabeth. When they left the house, Zechariah was not there; I think he had gone away beforehand so as not to see the departure, for he loved John beyond measure. He had, however, given him his blessing, for each time he went away he used to bless Elizabeth and John.

Little John had a sheepskin hanging over his left shoulder round his breast and back, fastened together under his right arm. Afterwards in the desert I saw him wearing this sheepskin sometimes over both shoulders, sometimes across his breast, sometimes round his waist--just as it suited him. This sheepskin was all that the boy wore. He had brownish hair darker than Jesus', and he still carried in his hand the little white staff which he had brought from home before. I always saw him with it in the wilderness.

I now saw him hurrying along hand in hand with his mother Elizabeth, a tall woman with a small face and delicate features. She was much wrapped up and walked quickly. The child often ran on ahead; he was quite natural and childlike, but not thoughtless. At first their way led them northwards for some time, and they had water on their right hand; then I saw them crossing a little stream. There was no bridge, and they crossed on logs lying in the water, which Elizabeth, who was a very resolute woman, ferried across with a branch. After crossing the stream they turned more eastwards and entered a rocky ravine, the upper part of which was waste and stony, though the lower slopes were thick with bushes and fruits, among them many strawberries, of which the boy ate one here and there.

After they had gone some way into this ravine, Elizabeth said good-bye to the boy. She blessed him, pressed him to her heart, kissed him on his forehead and on both cheeks, and started on her journey home. She turned round several times on her way, and wept as she looked back towards John. The boy himself was quite untroubled and wandered on farther into the ravine with sure steps.

As during these visions I was very ill, God granted me the favor of feeling as if I were myself a child in presence of all that happened. It seemed to me that I was a child of John's own age, accompanying him on his way; and I was afraid that he would go too far from his mother and would never find his way borne again. Soon, however, I was reassured by a voice which said: Do not be troubled. The boy well knows what he is about.' Then I thought that I went quite alone with him into the wilderness as if he had been a familiar childhood's playmate of mine, and I saw many of the things that happened to him. Yes, while we were together, John himself told me much about his life in the wilderness. For example, how he practiced self-denial in every way and mortified his senses, how his vision grew ever brighter and clearer, and how he had been taught in an indescribable way, by everything round him.

All this did not astonish me, for long ago as a child, when I was all by myself watching our cows, I used to live in familiar fellowship with John in the wilderness. I often longed to see him, and used then to call into the bushes in my country dialect: Little John with his little stick and his sheepskin on his shoulder is to come to me.' And often, little John with his little stick and his sheepskin on his shoulder did come to me, and we two children played together. He told me and taught me all kinds of good things, and it never seemed to me strange that in the wilderness he learnt so much from plants and beasts. For when I was a child, whether in the woods, on the moors, in the fields, with the cows, plucking ears of corn, pulling grass, or gathering herbs, I used to look at every little leaf and every flower as at a book. Every bird, every beast that ran past me, everything around me, taught me something. Every shape and color that I saw, every little veined leaf, filled my mind with many deep thoughts. But if I spoke of these, people either listened with surprise or else, more often, laughed at me, so that at last I accustomed myself to keeping silence about such things. I used to think (and sometimes think still) that it must be so with everyone, and that nowhere could one learn better, because here God Himself had written our alphabet for us.

So now, when I followed again in my visions the boy John into the wilderness, I saw, as before, all that he was about. I saw him playing with flowers and beasts. The birds especially were at home with him. They flew onto his head as he walked or as he knelt in prayer. I often saw him lay his staff across the branches; then at his call flocks of bright-colored birds came flying to perch on it in a row. He gazed at them and spoke familiarly with them as if they were his schoolchildren. I saw him, too, following wild animals into their lairs, feeding them and watching them attentively.











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