Vatican approves blessing rite for unborn children

WASHINGTON - Just in time for Mother's Day, U.S. Catholics parishes will be able to celebrate the new Rite for the Blessing of a Child in the Womb.

The Vatican has given its approval to publication in English and Spanish of the new rite, which was approved by the U.S. bishops in November 2008, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced March 26.

The blessing will be printed in both languages in a combined booklet.

"I can think of no better day to announce this news than on the feast of the Annunciation, when we remember Mary's 'yes' to God and the incarnation of that child in her womb that saved the world," said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

The blessing was prepared to support parents awaiting the birth of their child, to encourage parish prayers for and recognition of the gift of the child in the womb, and to foster respect for human life within society.

It can be offered within the context of Mass as well as outside of Mass, and for an individual mother, a couple or a group of expectant parents.

"We wanted to make this announcement as soon as possible so that parishes might begin to look at how this blessing might be woven into the fabric of parish life," said Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Divine Worship. "Eventually the new blessing will be included in the Book of Blessings when that text is revised."

The Vatican approval, or "recognitio," came from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.

The blessing originated when then-Bishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Knoxville, Tenn., (now archbishop of Louisville, Ky.) asked the pro-life committee to see if such a blessing existed. When none was found, the committee prepared a text and submitted it to the divine worship committee in March 2008.

The blessing includes intercessions "for our government and civic leaders that they may perform their duties with justice and compassion while respecting the gift of human life" and "for a safe and healthy pregnancy for all expectant mothers and for a safe delivery for their children."

It also expresses concern "for children who are unwanted, unloved, abandoned or abused, that the Lord will inspire his people to protect and care for them."

If used as a blessing outside Mass, the service includes introductory prayers, Scripture readings, intercessions, the actual blessing of the mother and child, and a concluding rite.

"May almighty God, who has created new life, now bless the child in your womb," the blessing says. "The Lord has brought you the joy of motherhood: May he bless you with a safe and healthy pregnancy. You thank the Lord today for the gift of your child: May he bring you and your child one day to share in the unending joys of heaven."

There are also optional prayers for fathers, for families and for the parish community.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 1970