December 23, 2008 11:58 AM

In the months before Christ's birth, Mary went to see her cousin Elizabeth-- herself pregnant with John the Baptist. This moment is still celebrated by the Church on a day called "The Visitation" every year on May 31 (in the new calendar for you missal hawks). When they greeted each other, the baby leaped in Elizabeth's womb and she instantly knew that Mary's baby is the Lord. She exclaimed:

Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord.
Elizabeth's child would grow up to become the herald of Christ as Jesus began his ministry, much like Elijah was the prophet of the Lord in the Old Testament. But all of that would happen 30 years later from this tender moment between two women preparing for the birth of their children.

Elizabeth's exclamation of Mary's holiness because of her fiat, the consent to let the Lord's will be done, is a special moment-- Mary replies with one of the most beautiful moments in Christian history when she responded that by accepting His will was for His glory. Her words are called the Canticle of Mary or the Magnificat.

My soul doth magnify the Lord.
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid; for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
Because he that is mighty, hath done great things to me; and holy is his name.
And his mercy is from generation unto generations, to them that fear him.
He hath shewed might in his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble.
He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He hath received Israel his servant, being mindful of his mercy:
As he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever.

The Magnificat is considered the first and best Christmas Carol proclaimed by a Jewish woman (paving the way for Barbara Streisand in 1967). It is also the moment in Christian history where Mary takes the title of the Blessed Virgin.

Mary would stay with Elizabeth for a few months in these days, but would soon have to move off with her Husband to Bethlehem. The Roman government was taking a census and all men were to register their families in the family's city. Bethlehem was a small village (O Little Town, after all) and was not well suited for the influx of visitors complying with the orders of the governor, but comply they did anyway.

If you've ever been around (or been) a pregnant woman in the few days before childbirth, you know they are fairly fragile people. From my experience, women in their 8th month of pregnancy don't like going anywhere (from the store to the bathroom); imagine Mary making the 90-mile cross-country trip from Galilee to Bethlehem. Kansas Citians might imagine walking from Lawrence to Manhattan Kansas on foot by dirt roads with a pregnant woman.

Poor Mary!

(And poor Joseph!)

And when they got there, there was no room at the inn; no place to lay their head.

The silent night is coming.

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Wholly Roamin' Catholic

Dear St. Anthony