By Marnie McAllister, Record Assistant Editor
Five expectant mothers received the Blessing of the Child in the Womb during a special program at St. Patrick Church Oct. 16. The evening event, which drew about 400 people, celebrated Respect Life Month and centered on “forming a pro-life conscience.”
Monsignor J. Brian Bransfield, the associate general secretary of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, spoke about the formation of a pro-life conscience during the
night’s keynote address.
The event also featured an art show of works created by students from St. Patrick Church and School, Immaculata Classical Academy (a school in the Catholic tradition that has not received canonical recognition) and St. Mary’s Center, a center for children and adults with intellectual challenges. Participants were asked to create artwork that reflects the theme “Gift of Joy: The Dignity of Human Life.”
The art show theme is taken from the title of a booklet written by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz and Monsignor Bransfield. The booklet centers on the Blessing of the Child in the Womb, and the co-authors signed copies of the books at the end of the program.
Before he started signing books, Monsignor Bransfield spoke to the crowd of adults and teens for about 45 minutes about how a properly formed conscience will lead one to a pro-life view.
“Conscience is not simply my opinion,” said the monsignor. “Conscience is meant to discern the difference between good and evil, right and wrong.
“Conscience is a part of me, but it is bigger than me,” he said.
Conscience, he said, is the capacity to “hear the voice of God himself” as it resounds in the human heart and reveals the truth. “When I turn within to consult my conscience, I am ushered into the presence of God” to a truth that comes from outside oneself.
He noted that the conscience also is informed by looking outside oneself, to the natural world.
For example, he said, as a child, he observed the differences between rocks and plants, between plants and animals, and finally, he recognized the differences between animals and humans.
“The human being has the ability to know, to love and to understand the nature of things,” he said, early on in his talk. Later, he noted, because of his study of embryology “I know that the child in the womb isn’t a potential person. It is a person with potential.”
Unlike the rest of the created world, when God creates human beings, “He doesn’t say, ‘Let there be human beings.’ He says, ‘Let us make man in our own image and likeness.’ ”
And that, he said, is the foundation of the dignity of human life.
He noted that the debate surrounding abortion today centers on the question: “When did you and I become human?”
“Was it when we enrolled in school or began to walk or to make sounds?” he asked. “No, because there are people who can’t do these things.”
Ultrasound images, he said, call on people to “look even further” for the moment that life begins.
He concluded that life begins “at the very instant of fertilization.”
“We must treasure — not harvest, not abort — the child in the womb,” he concluded.
And just as God’s first action after he created the human person was to bless them, so too, does a new mother, father and child in the womb deserve a blessing.
Father Martin Linebach, pastor of St. Patrick, conducted the Blessing of the Child in the Womb, which can be offered to a mother and her unborn child and their entire family.
The blessing originated with Archbishop Kurtz who proposed such a blessing to the bishops’ conference. It received Vatican approval a year and a half ago.
The booklet on the blessing, which he co-wrote with Monsignor Bransfield, was published recently by Our Sunday Visitor. It’s available through the OSV website: osv.com.
Archbishop Kurtz has urged people to give the booklet as a gift to expectant families. And he has urged parishes to offer the blessing in their churches.
Students from St. Patrick, St. Mary’s Center and Immaculata Classical Academy used the booklet as inspiration to create drawings reflecting new life, motherhood and piety.
Many of their pictures in the art contest depicted babies, a handful showed Mary or another womanly presence cradling a baby and at least one appeared to depict Pope Francis or another religious leader.
Winners of the contest were chosen from each participating organization. St. Patrick parish staff and the parish school leadership team judged the artwork. The winners they selected were:
- St. Mary’s Center — Kathleen Crumbo.
- Immaculata Classical Academy — Simon Michalak.
- St. Patrick sixth grade — Christopher Osborne.
- St. Patrick seventh grade — Elise Coughlan.
- St. Patrick eighth grade — Francesca Ljubic.