The first blessing the Church gives a child is when the baby is still in his mother’s womb. Giving a mother and, through her, the child a blessing is like welcoming them with open arms. This is what the women and mothers of the Schoenstatt Movement want to transmit with the “Blessings for Moms and Dads” initiative, a practice that is adopted by increasing numbers of dioceses and parishes.
The emotional and real time of the pregnancy, the blessing that is given in a simply and unconditionally, the experience of audible and tangible affection: these have become a special religious experience and not just something superficial.
An idea is born
This initiative emerged from questions such as: what can we do to create a positive atmosphere for the life that is about to be born? How can we support and show our admiration and appreciation for mothers who are expecting a child as well as their families?
The implementation of this idea is creating a positive and varied atmosphere because the blessing for moms and dads is not just a religious moment – it becomes more credible and attractive. This is what the Mother’s Branch and some of the Movement couples are working on, based on the following premises:
- A place that offers the opportunity to promote life and protect it,
- Meet women and/or couples who are expecting a child,
- Accompany pregnant mothers through talks or support them in a more practical way with preparations for the baby’s arrival,
- Pray together in the first nine days of each month for life in pregnancy.
Blessing for Moms and Dads in a concrete way
Everything starts with an invitation to pregnant mothers – both those who are married or alone – to attend a blessing ceremony. This ceremony is part of the liturgy of the Mass or a blessing for children in different parishes, shrines and increasing numbers of churches in the dioceses in 139 places across Germany in 2010. In 2008 in Osnabrück, the Blessing for Moms and Dads was part the programme of activities for Katholikentag (a meeting of Catholics in Germany that takes place every three years).
The prayers, readings and hymns focus on the treasure that each person and each human life possesses. Moms and dads pray for their unborn child and then the priest invites them for a personal blessing. Little hand-knit baby shoes or a prayer booklet is often given as a memoir of the event.
The main act is the personal blessing. The bishop or priest places his hands on the shoulders of each of the mothers and fathers and blesses them, each in a very personal way. How many people have ever had the opportunity to talk to the bishop? Who has had the opportunity to feel God so close – a God that who doesn’t demand certificates of good performance but who is simply there to give His blessings?
The blessing is associated with gestures (for example: the laying of hands or even the gesture of the blessing), which symbolize the transcendence and impact of God’s charity in the person or object that is being blessed. Blessing therefore means a life-giving strength. In the midst of such secularization, the ancient medieval practice of blessing to cure, purify, strengthen and “live well” has slowly been replaced by technology. Today, when we have reached the limits of what is technologically possible, available to anyone with the money to pay for it, and when consequences are no longer humanitarian, we once again have the blessing – the blessing over the earth in light of the threatening climatic disasters, the blessing of cars taking into account the increased number of accidents, the blessing over the unborn child in the light of a cold-hearted society.
Testimonial – so much more than only words
- “I was amazed to see so many children and pregnant mothers in the square outside the cathedral. So I decided to enter and that is how I took part in this celebration. I was so moved when my son and I received the blessing.”
- Nobody asked me whether or not I belonged to the church, it was as if someone was waiting for me with open arms…and I simply ran towards them.”
- “This time I wanted to come without my children, alone and calmly to relive the beautiful experience I had with my husband last year. I was pregnant for the third time and our daughter arrived healthily into this world. Each time I put on her little shoes, my heart fills with joy when I gratefully think about this celebration. Today I simply want to say thank you to them.”
- “After the blessing I felt a peace come over me and that is when I became truly happy for the birth of my son.”
- “To have a healthy son is not a certainty. God’s blessing gave me the confidence.”
- “My husband always encourages me by reminding me of the blessing ceremony: You’ll see, everything will be alright, we have received the blessing!”
- “In the fifth month of my pregnancy, we lost our child. This was and still is very difficult for us. But I am happy that my child and I at least received this blessing together.”
- This blessing gave me a lot of courage and strength for what was coming. It feels good to know that there are people praying for us.”
Similar initiatives exist in various South American countries around the Day for Unborn Children. We hope to present these soon.
Translation: Sarah-Leah Pimentel, South Africa
Material and information (in German)
Schönstattbewegung Frauen und Mütter
Berg Schönstatt 8
Tel: +49 2 61 / 65 06 – 2202
Fax: + 49 2 61 / 65 06 – 168