One summer while in the convent I attended Marquette University in Milwaukee. The convent asked two things of those of us who went away to study: to pray the Office and to attend Mass daily.
This wasn’t a hardship. I liked both praying and giving thanks and I had a lot to be grateful for. I was getting to study another language—Old English—what could be better than that?
Every weekday after class, I’d step into the coolness of the campus church—Gesu. It was spacious. In my mind, like a medieval cathedral. Jesuits staffed the church. Each day one of them celebrated Mass.
Now picture this: I am at Gesu on July 2 to celebrate the feast day of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth. A Jesuit priest, one I’ve never heard preach before, steps up to the lectern.
“Today’s Gospel relates an exciting event!” he announces, surveying all of us gathered at Gesu with an air of anticipation.
Beaming, he says, “Just think of it! Mary comes to visit Elizabeth. One’s really old. One’s young. Only a teen-ager. Both are pregnant. They’re big with child. Big. Think of it. Big.”
My funny bone starts to vibrate.
He continues. “ What happened when Mary says ‘Hi!’ to Elizabeth?" He looked around at us, clearly expectant. "I ask you. What happened?”
I wait with baited breath.
“I’ll tell you what. That baby in Elizabeth’s womb gives her one swift kick and laughs out loud. Right there in her womb—kickin’ and laughin’.”
I’m laughing too, bent over with my face pressed against my thighs, tears dribbling onto the black serge—laughing so hard I begin to hiccup.
“One swift kick! Elizabeth knows something’s going on. Then Mary tells her about Jesus. John kicks again. Another swift kick. Those women are sitting there gossiping and John’s just laughin’ and kickin’. For joy. Can you see it?”