The Visitation has always been one of my favorite images. I first came to love the Visitation because it tells the story of St. Elizabeth, my namesake. As I grew older, I came to love it because of the beautiful friendship and joy it showcased between two beautiful, God-fearing women–Our Lady and St. Elizabeth.
When I went off to college, I left behind one of my dear friends. She and I had grown with each other throughout high school, sharing our hopes and dreams, our heartaches, and our faith. She had been and continues to be, a formative person in my faith and life. She is the type of friend that after months apart, will talk to you for hours upon meeting you again. She visited me in Rome and we traveled to Krakow together. We have shared so many joyful memories with each other and we have poured out our sorrows to one another.
It is my friendship with her that began to draw me more deeply to the Visitation.
During one of our visits with each other, after mass, I was praying. I was reflecting on the beautiful gift of our friendship and the tremendous blessing it had been to my faith. And as I was praying and reflecting, I felt God speaking to my heart, “I will make of your friendship an image of the Visitation.”
I then began reflecting on the Visitation as an image of true and authentic friendship. I saw in the Visitation a meeting of souls. I sought to live out the beautiful love Mary and Elizabeth had for one another in all my friendships. I fell in love with the Visitation Mission of the Sisters of Life, in which they meet with women in crisis pregnancies and strive to journey with them as Mary did with Elizabeth. This image of love and friendship, of rejoicing in another’s joys, of being fully present to another became a central image of my spirituality. The Visitation is so close to my heart that Nicholas proposed to me on the traditional feast day of the Visitation.
I want to help others to enter into the joy of the Visitation. I want to help others enter into the joys and sorrows of those around them. I want to facilitate the meeting of souls that Mary and Elizabeth experienced with one another. And for that reason, I feel God calling me to begin a Bible Study for that purpose.
The mission of Visitation Bible Study will be to explore how we can enter into the struggles and joys of one another with a particular focus on the cross of infertility. Visitation Bible Study will seek to explore authentic love and femininity through the stories of women in the Bible and the friendships they shared with one another. It will examine how we can support one another in our struggles and joys–whether fertile or infertile, married or single. It will examine redemptive suffering as lived out in the lives of Biblical women and propose a method for living out redemptive suffering in our marriages and friendships. It will use the Eucharist as a model for being fully present to one another and for giving ourselves fully to Christ. It will seek to rediscover joy in the midst of suffering through encouraging authentic, Christ-centered friendship.
Visitation Bible Study will begin here, on my blog, but my hope is to eventually form a local, small community of women around it. Every Sunday, I will release a new reflection on a particular passage. Eventually I may compile these reflections into a book format, but for now, I want it to be available to anyone that can make use of it. The archive for the Bible Study will be located here: Visitation Bible Study. The reflections will be written in such a way that they can be used for personal study or adapted for a group. I hope that they will inspire others to form their own communities and share the Bible Study with others. Visitation Bible Study is the beginning of a ministry that I pray will expand and grow into a broader ministry focused on ministering to those struggling with infertility while creating a network of support with the mission of forming an entire community in the image of the Visitation.
We will begin with reflections on the Visitation, and then work through portions of Genesis. We will journey with Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Hannah through their sufferings and joys. We will walk with Ruth and Esther, examining their faith and courage. We will explore Exodus and the establishment of the covenant, applying the isolation, fear, and eventual trust of the Israelites to our own journeys. We will study Mary and Martha, looking at the need for rest in Christ in our lives. We will seek to understand the Eucharist and what it means to live a Eucharistic life. We will examine Christ’s Passion and death from the point of view of both Mary Magdalene and Our Lady of Sorrows. And finally, we will end with the resurrection and the ascension of Christ, seeking to understand how the resurrection should change how we view our sorrows and the sorrows of others.
We frequently forget how to walk with others in the midst of their sufferings. We forget how to approach others while they are carrying their crosses and wipe their faces as Veronica did for Christ. It is more comfortable and convenient to focus on our own sufferings and our own lives, rather than reaching out and seeking to enter into the lives of others. Opening up about our crosses and entering into the sorrows of others takes effort and a brave vulnerability. And yet, we are a Church of sinners. We are a hospital for the broken. And it is only through being present to others in our brokenness and their sufferings that we can begin to heal through the grace of Christ.
It is my hope that this meditation series might be a beginning to more deeply living out Christ’s call to love and mercy in the midst of sorrow and suffering. Please pray that this ministry may reach all that need it and that it may truly be guided by the Holy Spirit. I would love to hear topic suggestions from readers. The first meditation will be posted on June 5—I look forward to journeying with you all in prayer.
Please see the Update given on the Bible Study and Blog on 7/26/17.