By JESSICA ABLE
Record Staff Writer
Catholic churches in the United States will be able to celebrate a special new blessing — which originated with Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz — for an unborn child, just in time for Mother’s Day.
The new “Rite for the Blessing of a Child in the Womb” has been approved by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.
The Vatican has given its approval — or “recognitio” — to a publication in English and Spanish. The blessing will be printed in both languages in a combined booklet.
The blessing originated with Archbishop Kurtz when he was bishop of Knoxville, Tenn.
“A retired priest from Knoxville wrote to me asking if such a blessing existed,” the archbishop recalled in a recent interview. “I knew there was a blessing for a child after birth, a blessing for a child before baptism and a blessing for women that are pregnant, but I couldn’t find one for a child in the womb.”
Archbishop Kurtz asked the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Pro-life Activities if such a blessing existed. When it was discovered that one did not, the pro-life committee drafted a text and submitted it to the divine worship committee in 2008, Archbishop Kurtz said.
From there the proposed text was sent to the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments. The announcement was made in late March of this year that the blessing would be ready to use by this coming Mother’s Day.
The blessing was prepared for parish communities to support the parents awaiting the birth of a child and also for the recognition of the child in the womb, Archbishop Kurtz said.
“When we promote church teachings, there’s always an element of defending — regarding the child in the womb. This (blessing) is also about lifting up and promoting that gift of a child,” he noted.
The blessing can be offered during a regular Mass or in a special service outside of Mass. Additionally, it can be offered for an individual woman or a group of expectant couples.
If the blessing is offered outside of Mass, the prayer service should include introductory prayers, Scripture readings, the prayers of the faithful and the actual blessing, Archbishop Kurtz said.
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.”
Also included in the new rite are intercessions for the expectant mother.
“May almighty God, who has created new life, now bless the child in your womb,” it said. “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.”
The blessing will be included in the Book of Blessings when it is revised, which includes others rites such as blessings for anniversaries, rosaries and new pastors.
Archbishop Kurtz noted that this new blessing would be very important to the rhythm of life in a parish community.
“A child is a gift of life from the moment of conception,” the archbishop said. “This blessing not only upholds that in the family but in the parish community as well. It’s a very positive way to be pro-life.”