When I was on a silent retreat weekend during college, I came across a statue of the Visitation that made me fall in love with the feast. The statue embodies Mary and Elizabeth fully embracing each other; holding each other in strength, vulnerability, joy, and love. Coming back to look at the statue became my most worn path of the weekend.
Sometimes it is challenging to articulate why we are attracted to certain places, images, or people. In looking back, I think that Fr. Anthony Lauck’s statue evoked the experience of what it is to be held and loved. As their hearts and their pregnant bellies touched, Mary and Elizabeth had an experience of being known and being loved by each other. This gift of loving presence is one that we can offer to our friends, spouses, and children every day, and perhaps most especially today as we celebrate the Feast of the Visitation.
Consider these five ways to live the Visitation today.
Read and pray with the Magnificat (Luke 1: 46-55).
Right after learning that she is pregnant (with the Son of God, no less!), the Angel Gabriel tells Mary that her elderly cousin Elizabeth is also pregnant. First-trimester-pregnant Mary journeys to be with Elizabeth. As soon as Mary greets Elizabeth, John the Baptist leaps in Elizabeth’s womb, and Elizabeth is filled with joy at God-bearing Mary. Mary responds with her own song of praise, the Magnificat.
In this moment of my life, the verse that stands out to me is, “the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name” (Luke 1:49). In the midst of sometimes feeling frustrated and insecure with the reality of working full time and also wanting to be present with my children, the Holy Spirit inspires gratitude in me through this verse. Gratitude for the miracle of bearing and raising children, gratitude for my adoring and supportive husband, gratitude for my faith, gratitude for generosity shown to me and the desire to be generous with others. For these things and more, I praise and thank God.
Take a moment to read the Magnificat and ask, how is God speaking to me today through Mary’s prayer?
Go out to lunch with a life-giving friend.
The Visitation is a model of deep friendship, and friendship based in the love that faith brings. We have certain friends who help us to be the best versions of ourselves, friends we can share our hearts with, friends who help us feel revived after time together. Plan a coffee date, lunch, or glass of wine with one of your life-giving friends.
Make a meal for a pregnant friend.
Catholic blogger Kendra Tierney celebrates the Visitation by making a casserole-style dish, freezing it, and delivering it to a pregnant friend. It’s not traveling across the Judean countryside, but making a meal is an act of loving sacrifice. I can recall opening enchilada casserole, lasagna, bags of fresh cut vegetables, and homemade muffins during newborn days with our children. When you spend your day caring for others at home, at work, or both, there is a deep sense of gratitude and humility that comes when someone cares for you. Meals not only nourish our bodies, but also our souls. It’s the experience of living the Eucharist in our own homes.
Plan a day to volunteer in your community.
The Visitation is a celebration of service. Even though she was pregnant and had a lot to think about after encountering the Angel Gabriel, Mary left to see Elizabeth “in haste” and then stayed with her for three months. Find a way to live Mary’s disposition of service this week. The service does not need to be complicated, because ultimately what Mary offered was herself. It was the gift of being present to Elizabeth.
How can you be present to someone in need near you? This can take many forms- asking how you can help a family member in poor health, putting away your phone to be totally available for your spouse and children, going to a Catholic Worker home to make a meal and chat with the homeless folks who live there, or working with a nonprofit whose mission you connect with. There are many opportunities for us to be present like Mary with those who surround us.
Call a woman who has been a Mary or Elizabeth for you.
Who is a woman in your life who has seen and affirmed God in you? Who is a woman in your life who has pointed you toward God? Whether she lives 30-minutes or a plane flight away, give her a call today. Take time to catch up, to listen, to be grateful for who that woman is in your life, and maybe voice that gratitude to her. It can be sacred space to intentionally honor meaningful women in our lives.
Happy Feast of the Visitation!