During the Sunday vigil in Gaudete, the 3rd Sunday of Advent, when the Church is called to “rejoice” (Gaudete!), The mass in the cathedral at 5.30 pm will be the auspicious occasion for the “Blessing”. of the child in the womb ”. “
In the past, parents and family members have gathered in surprisingly good numbers for this blessing, drawn by their desire to rejoice in the next birth of their child and to pray amid the swirling emotions that accompany each birth.
When we first started this annual tradition, I wondered if there would be any, but it has become very popular, and I invite you to reach out to pregnant women and invite them and their families, to the blessing.
The “Official Rite for the Blessing of a Child in the Womb” was approved by the Vatican just nine years ago on the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord on March 25, 2012. As it befits the day where we, as the Church, celebrate at the very moment of the conception of our Savior Jesus in the womb of his Blessed Mother Mary, and we recall his generous and faith-filled “yes” to his vocation.
The blessing has special meaning for me. In 2008, I received a phone call from Father Frank Brett, a retired priest from the Diocese of Knoxville, who claimed that he had unsuccessfully sought an official blessing for the child in the womb as he worked with many young couples who were having their first child. To my surprise, I looked through the official Vatican approved Catholic “Book of Blessings” and while I was able to find a blessing for pregnant women and a blessing for a child once born, there is no such thing as a blessing for pregnant women. had no blessing to be found for the child. in the womb.
I happened to be on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ committee on pro-life activities at the time, so I raised the issue of such a blessing in a meeting. This discussion ultimately culminated in the “Rite for the Blessing of a Child in the Womb,” prepared by the USCCB’s Office of Divine Worship and approved in November by the American Bishops for inclusion in the official “Book of Blessings”. . In 2012, the Holy See approved the English and Spanish text for a blessing of a child in the womb.
There are many good reasons to promote the blessing of the child in the womb today. First, as a culture we are to rejoice in the gift of new life, and blessing is a perfect way to do so. I wrote a little pamphlet with Mgr. Brian Bransfield titled “Gift of Joy: The Blessing of the Child in the Womb” in 2013 to capture the meaning of the blessing.
By emphasizing the joy in the hearts of mothers and fathers, Mgr. Bransfield and I pointed out that in the same act God creates a child and transforms a man and a woman into a mother and a father. This joy should animate the whole Christian community and our whole culture. (If you want to know more or give a copy to expectant parents, Click here.)
A second important reason for promoting the blessing is highlighted each October during Respect for Life Month. Each child conceived is a testimony to the great dignity of the human person. Forty years ago, in the apostolic exhortation “Familiaris Consortio”, Saint John Paul announced that “… the future of the world and of the Church passes through the family” (n.75). The public blessing of the child is a call to our culture to safeguard and cherish the precious gift of human life.
As the Supreme Court deliberates on the important issue of constitutional protections for life, we pray that human life will be protected from the first moment of conception and we pray that as a Church we will “walk with them.” mothers’ who need help.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has promoted concrete ways to help mothers and their children, born and unborn. There are excellent programs run by Catholic Charities of Louisville, in organizations such as the Little Way Pregnancy Center, and through a variety of church efforts. Next month’s annual “Opportunities for Life” collection gives you and I the chance to financially support these great efforts.
Evangelism or the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ to those who yearn to hear Jesus’ saving message is a third justification for blessing. In 2012, I had the privilege of being a delegate to the Synod of the Holy Father on Evangelization. At synods, delegates are invited to prepare “speeches” that serve as proposals for action through the synod process. In my intervention, I emphasized the blessing of the child in the womb as the first step for the Church to reach out to expectant mothers and fathers. If some future parents have been estranged from the Church, it is a way of reaching out to them with the encouragement and welcome of the Church before preparing for baptism.
Yesterday, December 8, was the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the moment filled with grace when our Blessed Mother was conceived in the womb of her mother, Saint Anne, and prepared for her special vocation to be the mother. of Jesus, our Savior. Join me through the intercession of Mary, conceived without sin, to pray for the children in the womb of their mothers. May this blessing touch all of our hearts!
This Tuesday, December 14 will mark the 10th anniversary of the death of Archbishop Thomas Cajetan Kelly, OP. Please join me in prayers for the rest of his soul and in gratitude for his blessed service to Christ and his people.