vatican approves blessing rite for unborn children

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This Mother’s Day, Catholics in the U.S. will have a new Rite for Unborn Children. The announcement was made this week on March 26, the Feast of the Annunciation. According to the CNS News Brief,

The blessing was prepared to support parents awaiting the birth of their child, to encourage parish prayers for and recognition of the gift of the child in the womb, and to foster respect for human life within society. It can be offered within the context of Mass as well as outside of Mass, and for an individual mother, a couple or a group of expectant parents. “We wanted to make this announcement as soon as possible so that parishes might begin to look at how this blessing might be woven into the fabric of parish life,” said Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Divine Worship. “Eventually the new blessing will be included in the Book of Blessings when that text is revised.”

This is all very nice, but leaves me puzzled. Why is blessing an unborn child considered a new rite? Was there no such rite before? Do we need an official rite?

I went to my old, tattered version of the Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers, published by the American bishops back in 1988. It includes several ‘Blessings before and after Birth’; for the Conception or Adoption of a Child: during Pregnancy, for both parents: during Pregnancy for the Mother: near the Time of Birth: Thanksgiving for a Newborn or Newly Adopted Child: Parents’ Thanksgiving: Bringing a Child into the Home: and even a Mother’s Blessing of a Child when Nursing or Feeding.

A newer version of Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers is now available. The Canadian Bishops have since published Blessings and Prayers for Home and Family, available on the CCCB web-site. We used the older book often when the children were younger. It was a handy reference for special prayers, and graces before a meal during liturgical seasons and feast days.

But, we didn’t actually need any special resources to bless the unborn children in our family. Each night, we gathered as a family and recited a list of prayers. We ended with a litany of names. God bless Mommy and Daddy. God bless Grandma and Grandpa. God bless Babcia and Dziadzio. God bless…and then began a list of all our children including cousins. For many years, the list ended with ‘AAAAAND the new baby’! It was a simple prayer of blessing, raised to the heavens by loving siblings and cousins asking for the safe arrival of the newest family member.

While it is nice that the American bishops feel the need for an official rite of blessing, I can’t help but think that attached to this official rite might be the desire to keep the act of blessing within “official” hands. It reminds me a bit of the pastors who invite non-Catholics into their communion line so they may receive a “priestly” blessing, rather than a watered down version from the lay Eucharistic minister.

We all need all the blessings we can get. And it is a wonderful idea for the parish community to have an opportunity to join in a prayer of blessing for expectant parents and their child. God bless the bishops for promoting this. The books of blessings for home and family encourage and invite us ALL to bless each other. For what is a blessing, but a shout out to God? When we bless someone, we are asking God to shower them with the courage, grace, faith, hope and love needed to live fully both the joys and sorrows of life. And, we don’t need an official Rite to do this.

(see also bless you!…can I?)

more thoughts on being an introvert

I’ve finally finished Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking The light bulb of recognition continues to click on as I become more and more aware of why I do what I do. Why I think the way I think. Yes, I am an introvert. The signs are all there. And, with this recognition, is a deep sense of freedom.

I always knew that I leaned toward introversion. As a child, I loved rain and snow storms. This meant that I could curl up with a book without the guilt of a sunny day beckoning me outdoors. Books still follow me everywhere I go; in the car, at the lake, on air travels. (I love you, iPad!)

I was never painfully shy, but I shied away from large social gatherings and events. I still do. I prefer an intimate evening with good food, good wine, good conversation and good friends.

I was always blessed with friends, but I valued quality over quantity. My nearest and dearest friends have been in my life for almost thirty years and more. Time flies when we chat over numerous cups of tea, drinks, or an over-heated telephone receiver. Sometimes all three!

Many of the women and men, who have been my mentors and models, are introverts also. At meetings, they don’t have the loudest voice at the table. The loudest voices usually monopolize the conversation, whether or not they have something of substance to share. My mentors are the ones who can sit quietly during the maelstrom of cacophonous voices.

But they are not merely sitting. They are pondering. And when they speak, everyone listens. They listen because they know that this person’s voice will carry substance. These women and men model strong leadership for me. They allow all voices to be heard before gently nudging from the side-lines. They don’t have to be front and center to be a moving force in a group.

I may be introverted, but I’m not afraid to give a talk or a presentation. But, I feel more comfortable reading a prepared speech. I will spend hours writing and editing obsessively. But, if I am happy with the end result, it increases my confidence. I have sat on panel presentations where I was the only one with a prepared talk, but this no longer worries me. Apparently, this is a common public speaking strategy for introverts.

I finished my university studies later in life. As a young student in a traditional lecture hall, I never raised my hand or contributed to a class discussion. With the introduction of online classes and asynchronous conversations, I had found my element. I love the thinking process. For me, writing is an extension of this process. Online discussion boards allow me the luxury of time to think and write carefully. The other advantage is that I don’t have to sit and squirm through long-winded diatribes from the class extrovert. I can simply scroll down through their densely worded paragraphs!

It is no surprise that many writers are introverts. Blogging is a great forum for us. It allows our voices to be heard, and to nudge a dialogue with others. If an online discussion gets over-heated, we can easily leave it to those who enjoy the energy of an aggressive debate. I don’t.

Did I mention that I’m an introvert?

another susan boyle moment!


Our world too often celebrates beauty with no talent. Think of the many faces that grace magazine covers at your grocery check-out counter. Now, do you remember that magical moment when Susan Boyle left Simon Cowell gob-smacked? The world cheered as the arrogant talent judge and star maker had his preconceived notions shattered….shattered as soon as Susan opened her mouth.

Britain’s Got Talent 2012 has just had what was quickly dubbed ‘another Susan Boyle’ moment. Jonathan Antoine is merely 17 years old, and his singing partner Charlotte is only 16. Click on the YouTube link….and prepare to be verklempt! Go Charlotte and Jonathan!!!