2. BLESSING OF A MOTHER AFTER CHILDBIRTH

{This blessing is often referred to as the churching of women, but the Roman Ritual more appropriately calls it simply the blessing of a woman after childbirth. The practice of “churching a woman” developed out of a related practice in the Old Testament (cf. Lev 12.1-8). According to the Mosaic Law a woman incurred legal uncleanness in childbirth and remained unclean until her legal purification. This view, that a woman incurs some kind of defilement in childbirth, persisted even in Christian times, especially in the East, but in the West too, despite the opposition of Pope Gregory the Great (d. 604). The sufferings of childbirth were looked upon as part of the penalty imposed on Eve and on all her daughters. Yet it must be understood clearly that the Jews did not say there was actually any stain of sin on the mother in consequence of giving birth to a child, but merely a restriction imposed by law. With Christ’s coming womankind was elevated and ennobled, and motherhood too was more clearly seen as something honorable, deserving a blessing rather than a purification. The exact time of origin of this sacramental is not known, except that it is very ancient, and dates possibly from the first half of the fourth century.}

1. After giving birth to a child a mother may wish to give thanks to God in church for a safe delivery, and to obtain the Church’s blessing. This has long been a devout and praiseworthy practice. The priest, vested in surplice and white stole (assisted by a server who carries the aspersory), goes to the threshold of the church. The woman kneels there, holding a lighted candle.

{The very fact that the priest goes to meet her and escort her into the church is in itself a mark of respect for the mother, and puts one in mind of a bishop who meets a royal personage or anyone of high rank when the latter comes to a cathedral to attend a solemn function. The rest of the rite speaks for itself; but it may be pointed out that psalm 23, which the priest recites over the woman, is a psalm of majesty, praise, and gratitude.}

The priest sprinkles her with holy water, saying:

P: Our help is in the name of the Lord.

All: Who made heaven and earth.

He then says the following antiphon and psalm 23:

Antiphon: This woman shall receive a blessing from the Lord and mercy from God, her Savior; for she is one of the people who seek the Lord.

Psalm 23
(for this psalm see Rite for Burial of Children)

After psalm 23 the above antiphon is repeated.

{In the “Collectio Rituum,” both for Germany and the U. S. A., the antiphon and the psalm are omitted; and according to the same ritual the priest says first “Peace be with you”; then “Come into the temple of God”; and then the “Magnificat.” If the priest wishes he may substitute the “Magnificat” for psalm 23.}

2. Then the priest places the end of the stole hanging from his left shoulder in the hand of the woman and leads her into the church, saying:

Come into God’s house. Adore the Son of the blessed Virgin Mary, and thank God who has given you the grace of motherhood.

3. The woman kneels before the altar, giving thanks to God for the benefits He has bestowed on her. The priest continues:

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Our Father (the rest inaudibly until:)

P: And lead us not into temptation.

All: But deliver us from evil.

P: Save your servant.

All: Who trusts in you, my God.

P: Lord, send her aid from your holy place.

All: And watch over her from Sion.

P: Let the enemy have no power over her.

All: And the son of iniquity be powerless to harm her.

P: Lord, heed my prayer.

All: And let my cry be heard by you.

P: The Lord be with you.

All: May He also be with you.

Let us pray.
Almighty everlasting God, who by means of the blessed Virgin Mary’s childbearing has given every Christian mother joy, even in her pains of bringing forth her child; look kindly on this servant of yours who has come in gladness to your holy dwelling to offer her thanks. And grant that after this life, through the merits and prayers of that same blessed Mary, she and her child may be deemed worthy of attaining the happiness of everlasting life; through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.
The “Collectio Rituum,” both for Germany and the U. S. A., provide the following blessing for the child:

Let us pray.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, begotten before time was, yet willing to be an infant within time; who love childhood innocence; who deigned to tenderly embrace and to bless the little ones when they were brought to you; be ready with your dearest blessings for this child as he (she) journeys through life, and let no evil ways corrupt his (her) understanding. May he (she) advance in wisdom and grace with the years, and be enabled ever to please you, who are God, living and reigning with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, forever and ever.

All: Amen.
4. The priest again sprinkles her with holy water, saying:

May the peace and blessing of almighty God, Father, Son, + and Holy Spirit, come upon you and remain with you forever.

All: Amen.
5. The blessing of a woman after childbirth ought to be given by the pastor, if he is requested to do so. But any priest may impart it in any church or public oratory, in which case he should notify the superior.