The Churching of Women

Today, after our solemn Mass, a nice family that was visiting asked me if I would give the “Blessing of a Woman after Childbirth” from the traditional (1962) Roman Ritual — also known as “the churching of women”. Read the Catholic Encyclopedia article on it HERE.

This blessing harks back to the biblical tradition of a woman’s needing to be ritually “purified” after childbirth — a tradition observed by the Blessed Virgin Mary herself, when she presented Christ in the temple. It also relates to a woman’s natural desire to give thanks to God in a formal way for the gift of her child. And in former times, when the recovery after childbirth was typically longer and more difficult, it was also the first time that a woman came back to church after having convalesced and nursed her child for a few weeks.

The rite consists of a few prayers that take less than 10 minutes to recite. It starts at the entrance of the church, where the mother holds a lighted candle and the priest reads a Psalm. Then he places the left end of his stole on the woman and leads her up to the step of the sanctuary, where she kneels (if possible) — he then says the following prayer over her:

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. Amen.

Finally, he gives her a blessing and sprinkles her with holy water.

I’ve been a priest over 11 years now and this was the first time I was asked to give this blessing. What a joy that there are still new (old) things to discover and to share with others!

Many thanks to the family for taking the photo and allowing me to share it.

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