Living and Leading in the Deep – Mary and Elizabeth

August 13, 2023

I shared last week, in my weekly Word From Becky email, how the birth of Ignatian Ministries has felt like living and leading in the deep.  There continues to be an invitation in prayer for me to look back over these past few years to savor God’s unfolding Mystery.  Ignatius got it right for us, inviting us to look back in order to better understand where God brought us.  Today I want to share a few important memories that I only now understand are key to Ignatian ministries birth. 

The Image of Mary, Elizabeth, Me, and Other Women:  

During my annual silent retreat in October of 2016, a very clear image emerged in prayer that helped guide me for these past years. That year one of my favorite spots of prayer was in a rocking chair in the kitchen overlooking the ocean.  Mary and Elizabeth and the nativity and infancy narratives were my accompaniers.  I spent hours rocking in that chair, drinking coffee and tea, and having conversations with Mary and Elizabeth.  I was drawn to their faith, their womanhood, their motherhood, the joy they experienced in life, and also their real experience of sorrow.   

I prayed repeatedly with Luke 1: 39-45.  The Holy Spirit kept calling forth the image of Mary and Elizabeth coming together in my imaginative prayer.  One young and one old.  Both filled with faith and both filled with a growing miracle inside of them.   I watched how them coming together in a loving embrace birthed something greater than themselves.  

Elizabeth’s greeting to Mary brings forth a blessing to Mary and to the “fruit of her womb”.  We hear her offering words of encouragement and strength to Mary.  Can you imagine what it must have felt like for Mary to hear her cousin’s words, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.?  What a blessing that offers an increase in faith, in courage and in hope!

All throughout my retreat, I would pray with Mary and Elizabeth.  Watching them come together.  Watching how their faith was grown to believe in the birthing that was happening inside of them.  I have no doubt that God was showing me the power of what happens when women come together in faith.  

Towards the end of my retreat, the image in prayer shifted.  I was suddenly with Mary and Elizabeth, surrounded by their embrace and love in my home.  Then, Mary invited me to walk with her.  We walked and met her Son, Jesus, and brought him fully into my home.  The image continued to shift and refine. Mary and I would go out together, and we would meet a woman, and we would bring her home to meet Mary’s Son, Jesus.   Then the next time Mary, me and the new woman, would go out again.  Find someone new, and bring her home to Jesus.  Over and over again.  Go out together, meet the one, and bring her home to Jesus.  Eventually, the image showed many of us going out with Mary and bringing multiple people home to Jesus.  

The Image from my Retreat in Real LIfe: Kathy Powell says “yes”

The image was great comfort to me at the time.  Ministry felt at this moment like a “party of one”.  I was writing and preparing for my first book to be published.  I was meeting people for spiritual direction and doing retreat work.  So much of my ministry felt solo…me and God.  I yearned for others to collaborate with.  In my personal life, we had recently moved from Dallas to Baton Rouge, our children were young, and my grandfather had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.  I was yearning for a community and support in all areas of life.  

The desire for the image God brought in this retreat to be real grew in me for four months.  In February 2017, I reached out to a long time colleague and friend, Kathy Powell.   I re-read the email I sent to her recently. I asked her if she would be willing to brainstorm with me regularly.   And she thankfully said “yes”! 

We began meeting and praydreaming together on February 15, 2017, and God bore so much fruit in our time together, Kathy began working with me on a regular basis as my first team member October 2018.  

God brought me the first woman from the image of prayer.  Tears of consolation fill my eyes as I remember and savor the journey of working with Kathy.  Neither she nor I knew that God would eventually call both of us to found a home of accompaniment.  

Our ministry together these past years brought forth so much fruit because of Kathy’s openness to the Holy Spirit, her courage, and her willingness to take on Elizabeth’s role in my life.  She helped me and continues to help my faith be stronger.  She has held my hand as God invited me to leap into the unknown.  She has reminded me time and time again I am not alone.  

Learning to Live the Posture of Mary and Elizabeth: 

Kathy and I call our friendship and praydreaming posture- the Mary and Elizabeth posture.  We learned that together we are stronger, and together God births something far greater out of us than we could ever do alone.  God pulls “Magnificats” out of us just like God pulled out of Mary’s mouth when Mary and Elizabeth came together in faith.  

Kathy is one of the many people God brought into my life to go out with Mary and gather others to bring home to her Son, Jesus.  Our community multiplied because of Kathy’s “yes” to being an Elizabeth in my life. As our trust and friendship has grown, she and I are able to flip back and forth into the Mary and Elizabeth roles for each other.  Knowing when it is one person’s to encourage and the other person’s to leap.  

Embrace the Mary and Elizabeth Posture with Us Tomorrow: 

Tomorrow, we birth Ignatian Ministries into the world!   A growing seed of an idea that feels like a miracle growing in all of us.  I cannot wait to open the doors and welcome you to YOUR home of accompaniment.  Because it is here in this home that you will be tended to, cared for, and loved.  You will be brought home to Mary’s Son, Jesus.  It is also from here that we invite you to go out with us and Mary to bring more people home to her Son, Jesus. 

Going Deeper:

  • Pray for our team as Ignatian Ministries is birthed.
  • Ask God, as Becky invites you to consider, who you might invite to our Ignatian Ministries community to go out with us, and Mary, to bring more people to her Son, Jesus.

Photo is of Becky’s statue of Mary and Elizabeth

Becky is an Ignatian-trained spiritual director, retreat facilitator, and writer. She is the author of the Busy Lives and Restless Souls (March 2017, Loyola Press) and The Inner Chapel (April 2020, Loyola Press). She helps others create space to connect faith and everyday life through facilitating retreats and days of reflection, through writing, and through spiritual direction. With nearly twenty years of ministry experience within the Catholic Church, Becky seeks to help others discover God at work in the every day moments of people’s lives by utilizing St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises and the many gifts that our Catholic faith and Ignatian Spirituality provide.

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