In my group of friends, I was the first to get married and it was a honor to watch many of them enter into the same sacrament that brought so much joy to my life.
These women were pillars in my life before and after my wedding day but I found that as we each entered into our vocations, our friendship deepened and took on a new life.
Today’s feast of the Visitation has much to teach us on the beauty of friendship, especially while living out our vocations. Henri Nouwen writes:
“The story of the Visitation teaches us the meaning of friendship and community. How can we ever let God’s grace fully work in our lives unless we live in a community of people who can affirm it, deepen it, and strengthen it? We cannot live this new life alone. God wants us to form new friendships and renew community – a holy place where grace can grow to fullness and bear fruit.”
The grace conferred on us on our wedding day is meant to strengthen the couple in their love for one another, allowing their love to reflect that of the Creator. And while this grace is a gift freely given, we must cooperate with that grace.
But we can’t do that alone, or even simply with our husbands. We need community.
We need women with whom we can walk side-by-side as we strive to live out our wedding vows. We can not pursue holiness in our vocation in isolation. We especially need the friendship, solidarity, and wisdom given to us by other married women.
After receiving the news that she was to become the mother of God, Mary was also told by the angel of her cousin Elizabeth’s miraculous pregnancy. And so, Mary went in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth.
Mary did not undertake this arduous journey to verify the news that what the angel said was true, her but because had faith that God had worked in this woman’s life and she wanted to be there for her to rejoice with and support her.
Similarly Elizabeth, having only heard Mary’s greeting, was “filled with the holy Spirit...and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb…’”
The joyful reception of Mary and Elizabeth perfectly illustrates the way that two women, who recently realized a new depth to their feminine genius, can recognize and build one another up in the graces God bestowed on them.
Pursuing holiness in marriage isn’t easy. I often find myself turning in a special way to the other married women in my life when I need encouragement and support in my role as a wife, and when I need a reminder about my identity as a daughter.
I look to them as examples of what holiness looks like.
I look to them to speak truth into my life when doubt and fear creeps in, and to recognize God’s presence in the seemingly mundane.
I look toward the women who can recognize the same grace in my life that has and continues to work in theirs, to strengthen it and help it bear fruit.