Walking with Mary

Ein Karem road - image by Djampa under CC BY-SA 4.0Two travelers are on a road in the hill country. One is Mary, who’s thinking: “I’m so excited! The Messiah is coming! I feel as if I could dance the entire trip ahead of me. I can’t wait to see Elizabeth.”

Imagine you’re the other traveler: an apprentice carpenter. You’ve been charged with an important duty: caring for your boss’s beloved. Can you keep her safe? Just look at her! She’s practically running! What’s her secret? She has one, you can tell. She was so eager to get going. Joseph said she’s going to visit a cousin, but there’s more to her story.

And this is a hot journey. Do you have enough water? You’re thirsty already.

As you watch, Mary’s mood suddenly changes. Now she is pensive, and her pace slows. What is she thinking about?

You’d be surprised if you knew! She’s thinking, “Oh, God! I’m pregnant. What will Joseph say? How will I tell him? Or will he notice my belly on my return? What have I agreed to do? Why send the Messiah as a baby? To me? How can I raise a Messiah?”

Mary asks you, “Do you ever think about the Messiah coming?”

“Sometimes,” you reply. “I wonder if he is born already.”

Mary, laughing, replies, “Oh, I’m sure he’s not!”

You’re puzzled. Why is she so sure? Now she’s skipping again. You hustle to keep up. It’s easy to see why Joseph loves her. Her light heart compliments a cheerful spirit.

Now you watch her mood change again. Her footsteps slow. She begins praying, quoting Deuteronomy 6:4–7: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone.” She intones in a sing-song voice, “you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”

The pleasant lilt in her voice makes the monotonous but hasty journey contagiously joyful.

“And these words,” Mary continues, “which I command to you this day, shall be in your heart. And you shall teach them diligently to your children.…”

Mary stops abruptly. Her eyes widen. She begins singing again. “And you shall teach them diligently to your children.” She pauses significantly. And you shall “talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.”

Mary grins widely as you stare. She appears to wake as if from a dream, laughing as she notices your overprotective expression. She starts walking again.

“Everything will be fine,” Mary reassures you in a confident tone.

And she ponders again: “I’m pregnant, and bringing the Messiah on his first visit. If only this apprentice knew he was accompanying the Messiah on his first journey! He’d probably be even more nervous than I see he is already. I should stop chuckling. I can’t help it. This kind fellow has no idea that he accompanies the Son of God on his first pilgrimage.”

Mary begins almost running again, twirling like a little girl up the road.

“Oh, baby Jesus inside of me,” she thinks, “you are right here. I can’t help but dance and give praise! I will never be alone again.”

Image by Djampa under CC BY-SA 4.0.

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Loretta Pehanich
Loretta Pehanich is a Catholic freelance writer and the author of 2022: A Book of Grace-Filled Days, Women in Conversation: Stand Up!, and Fleeting Moments: Praying When You Are Too Busy. A spiritual director since 2012, Loretta is trained in giving the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Her involvement in ministry and parish life includes 20 years in small faith-sharing groups and Christian Life Community. Loretta gives retreats and presentations on prayer and women’s spirituality and is commissioned as an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist. She and her husband Steve have four children and 10 grandchildren.


  1. JOY is always a sign of hope. I imagine Mary noticed some emotions like fear and confusion, but her faith in God and her Yes! to God, who was asking Mary to be the Mother of God must have produced many gifts of God’s spirit, and her joy noted while walking with her has filled me with joy too!!!

    Thanks, Loretta!!! what a gift!

  2. So delighted that I discovered your meditation on a Facebook post this morning. In the midst of so much sadness and distance this advent of 2020 I so immediately imagined and joined in this graced moment.

  3. Loretta,
    Thank you for this beautiful reflection. I loved being pregnant, and I well remember the light-hearted joy I felt with each precious baby, as well as the serious side of the miracle within me. Your words put my feelings into a reality I was not able to share until now.
    Thank you so much!
    God Bless!

  4. I beg to differ on this meditation. I see Mary rather confused and this confusion would have been with her all her life which is a source of empathy to those who suffer but she has a profound trust in God because of what the angel said to her. I don’t think she would be skipping as the sadness which lay ahead of her also would have been at the back of her mind. When the spirit prompted Elizabeth’s baby to jump as a source of confirmation to Mary that what the angel said to her was true. I see Marry as a woman of sorrow.

  5. This has always been one of my favorite New Testament stories. Thanks for inviting us to journey with Mary! I felt the dust under her feet and the stirring in her heart! Years ago in a retreat I attended, we were invited to consider that this encounter between the very pregnant Elizabeth and her young cousin the newly pregnant Mary as a call to live out the spirit of each of these blessed women. Through Elizabeth who upon seeing Mary immediately proclaims that the child in her womb stirred ( in acknowledgement of the presence of the Christ), we are called to see the blessed spirit of God in each person we meet. Through Mary’s generous and arduous journey to aid her cousin, we are reminded that we are each to joyfully bear the spirit of Jesus to others, no matter the personal sacrifice this may require on our part

  6. I like to imagine Mary and Elizabeth exchanging their miracle stories. Mary: “How did you know to call me the ‘Mother of my Lord'”? Elizabeth: “My baby leapt for joy at the sound of your greeting!” Mary: “So?” Elizabeth: “Well, my baby’s special, too. Let me tell you the story…” After she told the story of Zechariah in the Temple, I imagine her asking Mary, “And what prompted you to come visit me?” Mary: “As it turns out, I have a story, too!” That exchange of stories would put a ton of joy into the Fourth Joyful Mystery!

  7. Loretta, I can see myself as that apprentice carpenter accompanying Mary. Your imaginative contemplation gets to me. Even the imagined thoughts of Mary. So down to earth. It’s like you put a wonderful movie right into my head and I find myself imagining…and praying. Thanks Loretta for this tool that gently opens me up to prayer. All the way here in Manila Philippines.

  8. Oh, Loretta, thank you! Reading your reflections today filled my heart and soul. NOW – pulling out my beads and praying the JOYFUL mysteries with new insights.
    Happy Advent!

    • And I can imagine Mary arriving at the house. She runs ahead to embrace her cousin. I can’t hear what they’re saying, but I see hugging and crying and laughing and dancing all at the same time.

  9. I wish I could express to you how much I enjoy your writing! You give me so much to consider. Thank you for using your gifts so generously!
    Merry Christmas and wishing you abundant blessings throughout the New Year!


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