Have you ever been at a family gathering and one of your elders or siblings tells a story of what you were like when you were little?
This happened to me just this Thanksgiving. My brother, who likes to embarrass me, told everyone at the table—my abbot, my prior, and the others there—examples of how I used to act when I was little. The stories were in fact not so embarrassing (they even put me in a good light), just a bit personal. And they really matched my present personality, so everyone else who heard them found them easy to believe.
I won’t share the details, but I am sure we all get the situation and the point: there is so much more about us than what the people who know us see and understand. But if they were to learn more about us from the time before they knew us, they would see the continuity with our present personality. And they would enjoy being in on the private details of our story.
Everyone likes to hear stories of great public figures from the time when they were just little people, hidden from the world. I can remember the story of little George Washington and the cherry tree. As a kid, I believed it, and given his later accomplishments I can say with the Italians, Se non é vero, é ben trovato: “Even if it didn’t happen that way, it still rings true.” (If any current day readers—millennials and other deprived generations—have never heard the story of George and the tree, they should “google” it and find out. Then they will realize how much richer was the fare that was served up to prior generations, and they might understand their parents a little better!)
There are no individuals in human history whose lives have generated more interest than Jesus and Mary. From the earliest days of the Christian era the faithful have been eager to follow the details of their lives and have sought to satisfy their devout curiosity with more scenes of their lives, and in particular of their childhood, than are available in the canonical scriptures.
Pope Benedict XVI did us all a favor by publishing his little volume on the so-called “infancy narratives” in the Gospels. He largely vindicates the traditional story against the rationalizing denials of modern scholars. The fact is that the most widely read account of the early life of Our Lady and the Savior in the ancient Church was not a canonical book of Scripture but the Protoevangelium of James, which gives an account of the birth and childhood of Our Lady and of her annunciation and the birth of the Savior. There are more early manuscripts of this work than of any of the Gospels.
Read more at Catholic Answers.