by Lindsay Schlegel
The Church dedicates the month of May to Mary, the Blessed Mother and the Mother of us all. Through Mary we learn trust in the Lord, joy in His promise, humility in our vocations, and so much more.
At the end of this month, we will celebrate the feast of the Visitation, which recalls when Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth and stayed with her as she prepared to give birth to John the Baptist. Here, as elsewhere, Mary gives us a tremendous example of good parenting. She shows us the value of community as we grow our families.
Mary traveled to Elizabeth out of service to her cousin, an expectant mother and one for whom pregnancy was likely challenging, because of her age. Mary recognized the need in the other, and she responded to it without hesitation—we’re told she went “in haste.”
When Mary arrived, Elizabeth spoke words that would become part of the Hail Mary. While the glory goes to God, I imagine these words still encouraged and strengthened Mary for what was to come.
In this interaction, we see two women, two new mothers, support each other in their own ways. They are generous with one another. Together, they praise God.
It Starts with Friendship
How can we do this today?
We can bring meals to expectant and postpartum moms in our communities. We can make an effort to check in via text with moms who might be struggling—and even those we don’t think are struggling, as not everyone is vocal about her challenges. And we can pray for each other, offering up the thing we’re finding difficult for the good of other parents in our communities.
Sometimes that’s going to mean making the first move. You might stay after Mass to greet another family or approach someone you recognize, but haven’t yet met, at the playground. You might reach out to your pastor and ask if there are any new families in the parish you can minister to. Another way to meet new families is to volunteer with baptism preparation, if your church has an opportunity for that. If you’re not sure, just ask!
You can be sure there is someone out there who could use a friend. Humans were made for community, on both physical and spiritual levels. It may mean stepping outside your comfort zone, but evangelizing is never without cost. In this situation, though, there is also a great deal to gain for you, your family, and your parish community.
For Today and Tomorrow
Raising a family in the Catholic faith is countercultural, and both we parents and our children need community to encourage, inspire, and support us. As adults, we need friendships with other parents who appreciate the difficulty of enforcing boundaries in the home that are not respected elsewhere. Our children will benefit from having friends who are learning about the Lord alongside them. While we shouldn’t limit our friendships to those who believe the same things we do, we do need families with whom we can pray, fast, and feast.
When we look back at Mary and Elizabeth, we see that each woman responded to the other in her own way. Mary gave service. Elizabeth offered praise and witness. We are each called to friendship in our own ways as well. Consider what gifts you might offer a new friend. Are you a good listener? Do you have wisdom on being a mother of a special needs child? Can you make someone laugh? Can you offer to pray for someone? Can you create a safe space for a book club or Bible study, to facilitate even more women (and men!) finding new friends?
We all have something to offer, and we all have something to gain. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you who in your community needs someone to reach out to her. May the example of our Blessed Mother and her cousin Elizabeth foster beautiful friendships, starting today.