The Barren Visitation

This is the first of 4 posts reflecting on my most recent retreat/learning experience.

Introduction: Careful What You Pray For

At first, I thought this post would be the 4th, a culmination of the other 3. I am sure I will refer back to this in the 4th, but it just seems this needs to come first.

Last week, while on retreat, I knew I would be getting to see Mrs. Fitz again. We met last January (2012) while attending the retreat/course on Love & Responsibility with Dr. Janet Smith. We only spoke a couple of times then, and really only briefly. It was late in the week before we realized our shared connection of infertility. We discovered that we read each other's blogs and promised to stay in touch. We've mostly done so through our blogs, and it was in fact Mrs. Fitz who shared Be Born in Me with me just after my Surrender in December. When we first saw each other it was a big hug and shared "how are yous" and "I'm so glad you're heres." We took our seats in the classroom, and while they were not near to one another, we each knew where the other was.

And on Monday morning (more about this in the next post), after being called to follow Jesus to that moment on the cross when he cried out "My God, my God, why have You foresaken me?" that we came to a break, and Mrs. Fitz came over and we hugged in what can only be described as a hug of desperation. As we sobbed and allowed the Truth to pierce us, causing intense agony and intense joy (at the very Truth), we shook. A fellow IFer was also present, Bill Donaghy who presented at the retreat I ran just last month, and when Mrs. Fitz and I finally made it to the hallway, he came over and we shared a hug together. We frantically spoke over one another as we all realized we had just had the very same experience.

And I said to both of them: "I am so glad you are here. You are my Simons this week. I will get through this because of you."

That evening, Mrs. Fitz and I took our tender hearts and moved into our heads, we asked the questions "why infertility" and "what does infertility mean" and "why does God allow this" and we sought answers. We came to a few conclusions (you'll have to wait for those, sorry!) and I really thought this was going to be the end of it. I again commented how grateful I was to Mrs. Fitz for her being my Simon this week.

Tuesday came, and well, the next two posts will talk all about Tuesday. Mrs. Fitz and I shared meals together and chatted during breaks while chatting with others. It was so comforting to know that someone else was there who "got it." And while I figured some of the people there probably though we were crazy, I knew I wasn't alone and I was so grateful for that.

Then, on Wednesday evening, as is custom for these retreats, the night is reserved for a Penance Service with Adoration and Confession. I'd gone to Confession on Monday, so I knew I would have an uninterrupted 2 hours with Jesus (how awesome is that! - oh, and the monstrance we used? Blessed by Blessed John Paul II!). I was reflecting on the prior two days, feeling raw and exhausted, thinking how different things seemed and yet, how they were still the same. I felt like I had no tears left and my body was sore from shaking.

And then, Mrs. Fitz came over, sobbing, shaking and rested her head on my shoulder. As I draped my arm around her and we both gazed upon Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, it occurred to me, she wasn't my Simon, nor was I hers. We were Mary and Elizabeth, only barren instead of miraculously pregnant.

We all know the story of the Visitation, when Mary, newly pregnant with Jesus travels to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, pregnant with John the Baptist. It is in this story that we get some of the words to the Hail Mary ("Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb"), and also when Mary sang her Magnificat. In Luke's gospel, the last thing that is said about the Visitation is that Mary remained with Elizabeth for 3 months.

Image links to source
Now, there is so much to be gleaned from this familiar scripture, but it is this final sentence that has been pointed out to me before, how Mary stayed with Elizabeth. It is such a "girl" thing to do, to visit and help a friend (remember Elizabeth was no spring chicken, I'd imagine pregnancy wasn't so easy on her). The Sister who shared this with me how she likes to contemplate this visit, the two women sitting together, just being there for one another.

And it was this that I recalled, sitting before Jesus, clinging to one another as tears came once again, tears I didn't know I had left. And, once again, these tears were of joy at the Truth and beauty of this friendship, and tears of agony over the fact that we have to experience infertility at all. And yet, it was true.

Mrs. Fitz wasn't my Simon, sometimes she was the Mary to my Elizabeth, bringing Christ to me, and other times I was Mary to her Elizabeth, bringing Christ to her. We both needed Him, desperately. We were both overwhelmed at our circumstances (as I suspect the real Mary and Elizabeth were), and needed one another for reassurance. And we sat together, each taking our turn as Mary, each taking our turn as Elizabeth, bringing and receiving Christ by loving one another.

And on Friday, as we hugged to say good-bye, the contrast of that hug to the one of desperate clinging on Monday morning was so much that I commented on it. We had found some peace. Yes, there was still pain and anger, but now there was peace. Only the peace that Jesus can bring, and we brought it to one another. And because of that, our visitation, despite our infertility, wasn't barren after all.

Part 2: Follow Me
Part 3: My God, My God, Why Have You Abandoned Me
Part 4: In the Service of Life


  1. WOW!!! A totally new way to be there for one another! Although cruel, infertility has its blessings.
    I can't wait for the rest of your series! Like this post, I am confident that it will be powerful to read.

  2. Oh, my. I have tears in my eyes reading this. (How many times have I said that while commenting???) I am so glad that God has blessed you with Mrs. Fitz, and that He blessed her with you.

  3. Beautiful! It brought tears to my eyes. I'm all choked up and don't even know what to say besides beautiful. So many prayers for you!

  4. Thanks for sharing your journey!

  5. Definitely brought tears. I joined the Elizabeth Ministry years ago and the leader asked me to do a theological summary paragraph that included a section on the Visitation to hand out to the members. One of the things that struck me most while "studying" it all over again was just how understandable it is that a women would run to the side of another woman in a time of intensity. I think we see this especially when Mary and Elizabeth greet each other and know what the other is thinking through eye contact and God's grace, before words are even said!
    You took that a step further and broadened it from being important because of their specific situation to being about the support of a faithful fellow woman in ANY time of intensity, which is just how we should be able to see it! God gives us fellow faithful women, I pray that everyone is able to have a Mrs. Fitz whether in person or through "blogland" so to speak :)
    Thank you for writing this, I have to go read the Visitation Narrative all over again!

  6. So beautifully profound my friend!

  7. How wonderful that you were able to share the experience with someone who "gets it."

    Mary and Elizabeth's relationship has always fascinated me, and now that I am becoming more like the latter, I can relate so much more to her experience (I just hope God doesn't send me a baby at 80!).

    What a beautiful reflection!

    Continued prayers!

  8. Thanks for the reflection. What a beatuiful way of thinking about it. As women we get it how the other feels, no words are needed.

  9. "such a girl thing to do" You've changed my reflection on this favorite Rosary mystery forever. Thanks for making it so much more real and personal. Blessings!