This new blessing was originally developed in March 2008 by the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities for inclusion in the Book of Blessings and Bendicional, and further refined by the Committee on Divine Worship and the body of Bishops. The introduction to the rite observes that the blessing of an unborn child “sustains the parents by imparting grace and comfort in time of concern and need, unites the parish in prayer for the unborn child, and fosters respect for human life within society. (According to Fr. Z’s blog)
“We hope the use of this blessing will provide not only support and God’s blessing for expectant parents and their child in the womb, but also another effective witness to the sanctity of human life from the first moment of conception,” said Archbishop Gregory Aymond, chairman of the Committee on Divine Worship of the USCCB.
I think it will do just that, and here’s 5 reasons why:
1. It asks God to bless the unborn baby
A few years ago when I was pregnant with twins at age 42, I had what was dubbed a “triple high-risk pregnancy.” My concern was primarily for the identical babies, and I wanted us to be blessed right away. I was working for the Archdiocese at the time in the Office for Marriage, Family and Life. A priest from Africa was down the hall, and he gave us a lovely blessing off of the top of his head. When I (notice I said “I”) received the official blessing from our church, it was geared more toward me and not the babes in the womb. A few months later, Archbishop Neinstedt asked our office to review this new Rite for the Child in the Womb, and I was honored to do so. I was thrilled to see that it not only asked God to bless the unborn child, but also to give him/her constant protection, a healthy birth, and to comfort the mother in all her anxiety. I really needed all of those requests!
2. It has a blessing for the mother
You will notice that this blessing also asks for the blessing of the unborn baby (as stated in #1).
God, author of all life,
bless, we pray, this unborn child;
give constant protection
and grant a healthy birth
that is the sign of our rebirth one day
into the eternal rejoicing of heaven.
Lord, who have brought to this woman
the wondrous joy of motherhood,
grant her comfort in all anxiety
and make her determined
to lead her child along the ways of salvation.
3. It has a blessing for the father
Isn’t it great that Daddy can be a part of this blessing? He needs all the Grace he can get, too!
Lord of all ages,
who have singled out this man
to know the grace and pride of fatherhood,
grant hin courage in this new responsibility,
and make him an example of justice and truth
for this child.
4. It has a blessing for the family
Siblings, grandparents, aunties, cousins…they all play an important role in forming this child. How nice for them to receive a blessing! (Plus, this shows the brothers and sisters–who are often left out– how important they are!)
Lord, endow this family
with sincere and enduring love
as they prepare to welcome this child into
Lord, you have put into the hearts of all men and
women of good will
a great awe and wonder at the gift of new life;
fill the parish community
with faithfulness to the teachings of the Gospel
and new resolve to share
in the spiritual formnation of this child in Christ
who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
5. It can be used within the Mass or outside of it
I told a priest that this was a nice feature because sometimes a woman hasn’t told anyone that she is expecting yet. If the blessing is done during the Mass, and it is done in a general style (meaning that she doesn’t have to stand up or go to the altar), then she doesn’t call attention to herself. Having a blessing of a baby in the womb during Mass is a great way to witness to the congregation, and encourage people to embrace Life.
Having a blessing outside of Mass (hospital, home, chapel…) is nice, because the whole family could be a part of it, and it could offer a different type of privacy if needed.