Find the entire text of the Gerard Manley Hopkins poem “The Blessed Virgin Compared to the Air We Breathe” online and pray with it in a contemplative way, akin to lectio divina where you listen for a word or phrase that shimmers, let that word or phrase unfold in your imagination, and then listen for an invitation. Conclude by resting into the silence for a while.

The early desert monks would try to pray continually by aligning words with their breathing. The most common prayer of the time was “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.” We can create our own breath prayers to help us to follow St. Paul’s invitation to “pray without ceasing.” Consider finding your own words to companion your inhale and exhale. Perhaps it is Hopkins words: Breathe in, “Wild air,” and breathe out, “world-mothering air.” Or it might be something simple: Breathe in, “Mary be with me,” and breathe out, “with my every breath.” You could also create a breath prayer to help sustain you in the journey of gestation. Perhaps: Breathe in, “Mary, breathe with me,” and breathe out, “wait with me.”

In our journeys of discernment it can be helpful to ask if we are breathing as fully into our lives as possible, or if we are breathing and living in a shallow way. Breath helps us to deepen our connections to our bodies and souls. Paying attention to the breath can help slow us down and companions us while we wait.

Ask Mary to reveal the places in your life where you could breathe more fully. How might breath be a close and treasured companion during this time of gestation?

Christine Valters Paintner in Birthing the Holy