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Churching of Women

The "Churching" of the Mother

From The Big Book of Sacramentals

“I will multiply thy sorrows, and thy conceptions: in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children.” Genesis. 3:16.

Queen Victoria of England was one day visiting some soldiers who had been wounded in South Africa. One young man, broken by shot and shell, deeply distressed her. “Is there anything, son, that I can do for you?” she asked in her motherly way.

“Nothing, Your Majesty,” answered the soldier, “unless you would thank my nurse for her kindness to me.”

The queen turned to the nurse and with tears in her eyes said warmly: “With all my heart I do want to thank you for your kindness to this poor, wounded son of mine.”

What a delicate and beautiful sense of gratitude on the part of that young man! He forgot himself. He thought only of giving pleasure and praise to the woman who was waiting on him so faithfully.

It is with an even more delicate and charming sense of gratitude and self-forgetfulness that a Catholic mother comes to church after the birth of her child to ask the blessing of the priest and to thank God for her safe delivery.

Every mother is a soldier. Like a soldier she endures heroically the discomforts of child-bearing. Like a soldier she sacrifices the unimportant for the great task that is hers. Like a soldier she goes down into the valley of suffering, even into the valley of death, ready and willing to give life itself to perform her duty.

One would think that all the gratitude should be given her. Yet, though we honor mothers for what they have done and endured, it is mother herself who realizes her debt of gratitude to Almighty God for the high honor which He has given her.

All the peoples of the world kept a memory of the sentence of suffering which God pronounced on the first mother and all mothers: “I will multiply thy sorrows, and thy conceptions; in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children.”

Among the Jews it was ceremonial law that a woman was considered unclean after childbirth, because woman had been the first to transgress the law of God. Sin came through a woman, Eve; redemption came through a woman, Mary.

Churching is an outgrowth and perfection of the Mosaic rite. However, there are essential differences.

The Jewish rite presumed legal defilement; the Catholic ceremony presumes honorable motherhood. The Jewish rite was necessary before a mother could assist at religious services; the Christian rite is an act of thanksgiving. The Jewish rite was of obligation; the Catholic ceremony does not bind even under pain of venial sin.

In a spirit of humility, and because Mary did it, Christian women of the early centuries began to ask the blessing of the priest, began to make their first visit to the altar one of thanksgiving for a safe delivery.

This blessing may be given only to those whose children were born in lawful wedlock. The Church urges, but does not oblige, mothers to receive it. The mother need not bring her child with her; many do.

The blessing may be given to those whose baby died, even without Baptism. Ordinarily the pastor or his representative has the right to give this blessing.

Churching may take place wherever Mass can be celebrated.

The woman shall kneel at the door of church, holding a lighted candle. In surplice and white stole the priest sprinkles her with holy water, and recites the twenty-third psalm. He presents her the end of his stole which hangs from his left shoulder, which she takes with her right hand.

They march up to the altar, as the priest prays: “Enter into the temple of God, adore the Son of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who has given thee fruitfulness of offspring.”

After certain verses and responses, and the Our Father, the priest offers this prayer: “Almighty, everlasting God, who through the delivery of the Blessed Virgin Mary hast changed the pains of childbirth into joy, look mercifully on this Thy handmaid, who comes in gladness to Thy temple to offer thanksgiving; and grant that, after this life, through the merits and intercession of the same Blessed Mary, she may be found worthy to attain, together with her offspring, to the joys of everlasting happiness. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

In the United States the priest does not generally meet the woman at the church door, but at the altar rail. He stands at the inner side of the railing to perform the ceremony. Often more than one woman is blessed at the same time.

The churching of women is done in imitation of the Blessed Virgin who presented herself in the temple for purification. Mary made an offering at that time. It is customary, though not necessary, to make one at the time of churching.

Many priests turn the money back to the mother with the words: “Get something for the baby.”

Our Blessed Mother is interested in all mothers. You mothers want to be as much like Mary as possible. Like her go to God’s temple and receive the blessing of Mother Church on yourself and your child.

What a contrast between the woman who shuns childbirth, the woman who shuns by sinful means her sublime dignity of motherhood, what a contrast between her and the woman who has her baby and then asks God to bless her joy and her privilege.

What a contrast between the woman who complains against God when He asks her to share in His powers of creation, and the woman who comes to thank God for that high honor.

You guess which of the two will be more favored of God in this life, and especially which of the two will be more favored of God in the life to come. Amen.

What is our conversation like each day, especially with the members of our family? Do we continually talk about depressing news, do we regularly voice our negative opinions about the people and situations around us? Do we talk about our own sufferings and our needs in a complaining manner? How about a different approach? Let’s talk about the positive instead. If we are talking of people, let’s make the effort to only bring up the good. Want to talk about heroes? Our grandparents, parents, ordinary folk and how they have overcome obstacles would be a good testimony to your kids. We all have stories to tell….make sure they are bringing out the best in those who are listening! – Finer Femininity 💖

Blessed Mother Graceful Cloisonné Religious Pendant and Earring Set…Wire-Wrapped, Handcrafted, Available here.

I have prepared this Lenten journal to help you to keep on track. It is to assist you in keeping focused on making Lent a special time for your family. We do not have to do great things to influence those little people. No, we must do the small things in a great way…with love and consistency…

Timeless words from the pen of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen inspire the heart and imagination as readers embark on a Lenten journey toward a better understanding of their spiritual selves. Covering the traditional themes of Lent–sin and salvation, death and Resurrection, sorrow and hope, ashes and lilies–these 50 passages and accompanying mini-prayers offer readers a practical spiritual program as a retreat from the cares and concerns of a secular world view.
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