A few years ago, my husband and I approached our Pastor after Mass and asked him to give a blessing over the newly-formed baby growing within me. I was expecting a simple blessing, something like him making the Sign of the Cross over me and saying a couple of quick words. Instead, he brought us to the sacristy and pulled out the Book of Blessings. I didn’t expect him to pray over me with a prayer specifically written for mothers before childbirth. It moved me deeply.
The Blessing of Expectant Mothers
Before the blessing itself, the priest spoke of how Jesus Himself became human through the Blessed Mother’s womb. He then spoke a few words in preparation saying:
The reason for the blessing of a mother-to-be is that she may await her hour of delivery in faith and hope, as the partner of God’s own love, may already cherish with her maternal love the child in her womb.
Wow! Awaiting my “hour of delivery in faith and hope”! I did not realize how much I needed that prayer until I heard the words spoken over me. How frequently I fell into doubt and despair, fearing the worst for my child: miscarriage, infant loss, a high-risk pregnancy, etc.
But here, in the early weeks of life growing inside of me, I was called out of the temptation to grasp in vain for a “control” that I could never truly attain.
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The Prayer of Blessing
Then, the Prayer of Blessing was prayed over me:
Creator of the human race,
your Son, through the working of the Holy Spirit,
was born of a woman,
so that he might pay the age-old debt of sin
and save us by his redemption.
Receive with kindness the prayer of your servant
as she asks for the birth of a healthy child.
Grant that she may safely deliver a son or a daughter
to be numbered among your family,
to serve you in all things,
and to gain eternal life.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Centered on Salvation
In the very first sentence, the life of the Trinity takes center stage, just as it does in our Baptism and in the words of the Apostles’ Creed. As it reads in the Catechism, “The faith of all Christians rests on the Trinity…It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them.” It is so fitting that this blessing should include the transformative power of the Sacrament of Baptism, as well as be a reminder of how we are to live out our call baptismal call.
Honoring a Mother’s Heart
Then in the second paragraph the prayer shifts its focus to the mother receiving the blessing, as well as her unborn child. It honors the desire of every mother’s heart: a healthy child, a safe delivery, and an eternal home among our family in Heaven.
These desires may be simple, but I just love how the Church recognizes the very real and practical hope a mother has for her child’s health and safety. Yes, their eternal health and safety, but their earthly safety too! It’s not selfish to want things like an uncomplicated pregnancy, a smooth delivery, and prompt recovery. We may not always be granted these things, but the Church honors the very real and human concerns so present during this time.
A Petition for Virtue and Strength
The blessing ends with the concluding rite:
May God, the source of all life,
protect you by his goodness.
May he deepen your faith,
build up your hope,
and constantly increase the gift of his love in you.
At the hour of delivery
may he be attentive to your prayers
and strengthen you with his grace.
and may almighty God bless you all, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
These final lines repeat the sentiment of the preparatory words asking for deepened faith and rising hope. It then asks for the virtue which mothers need most, the virtue of charity. God’s grace is needed for a mother to hold within her a nurturing spirit and a heart of patience.
I also love how this prayer asks specifically for help “at the hour of delivery.” In my own experience, this is the most unknown, intimidating, and vulnerable hour of the 6,720 hours of pregnancy! Praise God we have a prayer for it!
Pregnant Mothers, Ask for This Blessing!
If you are expecting and haven’t yet asked your Priest for a blessing over your pregnancy, I can’t encourage you enough to do so. For me, it was an experience both of strengthened faith and greater comfort in the maternal nature of our Church. A Church so ready and eager to pour out God’s grace, sometimes even when we don’t realize we even need it.
Are you expecting a child? Have you ever received this blessing?
For those struggling with infant loss and/or infertility, Blessed is She devotional writer Laura Kelly Fanucci has a beautiful resource. She has written beautiful prayers for pregnancy, including one specifically for couples trying to conceive. You are not alone in this cross you are carrying. I am praying for you!
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