By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz delivered the keynote address at the annual Church Teaches Forum July 12 at the Galt House Hotel in downtown Louisville.
His address was titled “Rite of Blessing of the Child in the Womb: A First Evangelization and a New Evangelization.”
The Catholic teaching conference, held July 12 and 13, centered on the themes of the new evangelization and the Year of Faith. The annual conference was sponsored by the Eternal Life group based in Bardstown, Ky.
Before the banquet and keynote address, Archbishop Kurtz concelebrated Mass with Cardinal Raymond Burke, the prefect for the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome.
During his address, Archbishop Kurtz spoke of his new booklet recently published by Our Sunday Visitor called Gift of Joy. The booklet looks at the Blessing of the Child in the Womb, a new blessing for an unborn child which originated with the archbishop when he was bishop of Knoxville, Tenn. He noted that the blessing came about for two overlapping reasons.
First, it’s a strong pro-life gesture; and second, it’s an evangelizing gesture.
“It’s a way of extending the gracious invitation of Christ in and through his church,” he said. “First of all to the child — the first evangelization. And then secondly, to the mother, the father and the family a new evangelization that stirs up the faith that’s necessary to properly bring that child into the world and to prepare that child for the sacrament of baptism.”
Archbishop Kurtz noted that the blessing contains four purposes. The first is to express joy for the child; the second to offer grace and compassion to the family. The third purpose is to unite the parish together in prayer for unborn child and the fourth blessing is to foster respect for human life in society.
Archbishop Kurtz said that today it’s becoming more common for a couple to delay the baptism of a child. He said some couples, or a single parent, do so either out of fear or embarrassment.
“Perhaps they have been distant from the church and they are afraid if they call they will get a lecture or a whole list of things to do or simply and perhaps more commonly, a lack of priority,” he noted.
“We have found in the Archdiocese of Louisville that over the last 10 years there have been just as many children born in these 24 counties but there has been a decrease in the number presented for baptisms.”
The Gift of Joy booklet, he said, is meant to be a “bridge between a blessing that goes to a young couple and their child and the parish so they can prepare for baptism.”
Archbishop Kurtz said his goal with the blessing is to make it a part of the regular rhythm of parish life throughout the U.S.
“Now who is going to make that happen?” he asked. “I believe you are.”
He called on the 200 or so gathered in the Galt House ballroom to reach out to couples or expectant mothers and pass on the booklet to them.
“We need to deepen the presence of Christ in the lives of those who have the potential to come closer. That’s the work of the new evangelization,” he said.
Other speakers at the two-day conference included Father Roger Arnsparger, a priest in the diocese of Charlotte, N.C., and president of Eternal Life; Father Edmund F. McCaffrey, an oblate Benedictine priest and former Abbot Ordinary of Belmont Abbey in Belmont, N.C.; and Cardinal Burke.
Dates for the 2014 Church Teaches Forum have already been set. It will be held July 18 and 19 in Louisville.