The Churching of a New Mother: Kerry Guidone

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Proud parents Michael and Kerry Guidone are Benedictine Oblates of the Monastery of the Glorious Cross in Branford, Connecticut. Before the birth of little Michael Mario, Michael and Kerry asked for the Blessing of Expectant Parents; after his birth, Kerry asked for the rite of the Churching of Woman After Childbirth, a sacramental dating back to the fourth century. Essentially, the rite is an office of thanksgiving. The new mother, returning to church forty days after giving birth, is greeting at the door of the church by the priest. Holding a lighted candle in one hand and the end of the priest's stole in the other, she is led to the altar where, kneeling, she receives a special blessing and offers thanksgiving to God for the birth of her child. The text of the rite, as given by Father Weller in his Roman Ritual, follows:

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BLESSING OF A MOTHER AFTER CHILDBIRTH

1. After giving birth to a child a mother may wish to give thanks to God in church for a safe delivery, and to obtain the Church's blessing. This has long been a devout and praiseworthy practice. The priest, vested in surplice and white stole (assisted by a server who carries the aspersory), goes to the threshold of the church. The woman kneels there, holding a lighted candle.

The very fact that the priest goes to meet her and escort her into the church is in itself a mark of respect for the mother, and puts one in mind of a bishop who meets a royal personage or anyone of high rank when the latter comes to a cathedral to attend a solemn function. The rest of the rite speaks for itself; but it may be pointed out that Psalm 23, which the priest recites over the woman, is a psalm of majesty, praise, and gratitude.

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The priest sprinkles her with holy water, saying:

P: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
All: Who made heaven and earth.

He then says the following antiphon and begins Psalm 23 which is alternated with the assembly. In some places the Magnificat is recited in place of Psalm 23.

Antiphon: This woman shall receive a blessing from the Lord and mercy from God, her Savior; for she is one of the people who seek the Lord.

Psalm 23

The Lord's is the earth and its fullness, *
the world and they that dwell therein.

It is he who set it on the seas; *
on the waters he made it firm.

Who dares climb the mountain of the Lord? *
Who shall stand in his holy place?

The man with clean hands and pure heart, +
who desires not worthless things, *
who has not sworn so as to deceive his neighbor.

He shall receive blessings from the Lord *
and reward from the God who saves him.

Such is the generation of those who seek him, *
seek the face of the God of Jacob.

O gates, lift high your heads; +
grow higher, ancient doors. *
Let him enter, the king of glory!

Who is the king of glory? +
The Lord, the strong, the mighty, *
the Lord, the mighty in war.

O gates, lift high your heads; +
grow higher, ancient doors. *
Let him enter, the king of glory!

Who is he, the king of glory?
He, the Lord of armies, *
he is the king of glory.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son *
and to the Holy Spirit.

As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, *
world without end. Amen.

Antiphon: This woman shall receive a blessing from the Lord and mercy from God, her Savior; for she is one of the people who seek the Lord.

2. Then the priest places the end of the stole hanging from his
left shoulder in the hand of the woman and leads her into the
church, saying:

Come into God's house. Adore the Son of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
and thank God who has given you the grace of motherhood.

3. The woman kneels before the altar, giving thanks to God for
the benefits He has bestowed on her. The priest continues:

P. Lord, have mercy.
All. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
P. Our Father (the rest inaudibly until:)

All: And lead us not into temptation.
All: But deliver us from evil.

P: Save your servant.
All: Who trusts in you, my God.

P: Lord, send her aid from your holy place.
All: And watch over her from Sion.

P: Let the enemy have no power over her.
All: And the son of iniquity be powerless to harm her.

P: O Lord, heed my prayer.
All: And let my cry come unto you.

P: The Lord be with you.
All: And with your spirit.

Let us pray.
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 N. 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.
All: Amen.

The "Collectio Rituum," both for Germany and the U. S. A., provide the following blessing for the child:

Let us pray.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, begotten before time
was, yet willing to be an infant within time; who love childhood
innocence; who deigned to tenderly embrace and to bless the
little ones when they were brought to you; be ready with your
dearest blessings for this child as he (she) journeys through
life, and let no evil ways corrupt his (her) understanding. May
he (she) advance in wisdom and grace with the years, and be
enabled ever to please you, who are God, living and reigning with
the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, forever and ever.
All: Amen.

4. The priest again sprinkles her with holy water, saying:

May the peace and blessing of almighty God, Father, Son, + and
Holy Spirit, come upon you and remain with you forever.
All: Amen.

5 Comments

Thank you for including the beautiful photos, Father. It is so good to see you!

This was a very beautiful sacramental rite. Unfortunately, it seems to be unknown in most of the modern church. If every woman were welcomed back to the altar like this after childbirth, one can only imagine the positive repercussions! Deo gratias!

This is a beautiful rite, but does the mother really have to wait 40 days before she can return to church and go to Mass?

What a lovely rite!

Is it necessary to wait 40 days? I took my baby to mass with me for the first time the week after she was born.

Dear Dom and Melanie, No need to wait forty days. Yes, it is a lovely rite by which the Church affirms and blesses motherhood and family life.

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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