There is a tradition associated with baptism and childbirth which is part of the traditional ritual, but has fallen out of practice, at least here in our diocese, that is called the “Churching of Women”.
From the Catholic Encyclopedia:
A blessing given by the Church to mothers after recovery from childbirth. Only a Catholic woman who has given birth to a child in legitimate wedlock, provided she has not allowed the child to be baptized outside the Catholic Church, is entitled to it. It is not a precept, but a pious and praiseworthy custom (Rituale Romanum), dating from the early Christian ages, for a mother to present herself in the Church as soon as she is able to leave her house (St. Charles Borromeo, First Council of Milan), to render thanks to God for her happy delivery, and to obtain by means of the priestly blessing the graces necessary to bring up her child in a Christian manner. The prayers indicate that this blessing is intended solely for the benefit of the mother, and hence it is not necessary that she should bring the child with her; nevertheless, in many places the pious and edifying custom prevails of specially dedicating the child to God. For, as the Mother of Christ carried her Child to the Temple to offer Him to the Eternal Father, so a Christian mother is anxious to present her offspring to God and obtain for it the blessing of the Church. This blessing, in the ordinary form, without change or omission, is to be given to the mother, even if her child was stillborn, or has died without baptism (Cong. Sac. Rit., 19 May, 1896).
The churching of women is not a strictly parochial function, yet the Congregation of Sacred Rites (21 November, 1893) decided that a parish priest, if asked to give it, must do so, and if another priest is asked to perform the rite, he may do so in any church or public oratory, provided the superior of said church or oratory be notified. It must be imparted in a church or in a place in which Mass is celebrated, as the very name “churching” is intended to suggest a pilgrimage of thanksgiving to the church, and as the rubrics indicate in the expressions: “desires to come to the church”, “he conducts her into the church”, she kneels before the altar”, etc. Hence the Second Plenary Council of Baltimore (No. 246) prohibits the practice of churching in places in which Mass is not celebrated.
It is such a beautiful custom and I am so thankful that I was able to receive it once again after Rose’s baptism this past Monday!
The woman will make arrangements with her priest (ideally, the priest should know the women of his parish and make the offer to her). At the appointed time, she will kneel in the Narthex, holding a lighted candle. The priest, wearing a white stole, will bless her with holy water, and say:
V. Our help is in the Name of the Lord.
R. Who made Heaven and Earth.
ANT. She shall receive.
Psalm 23 1
The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof; the world, and all they that dwell therein. For He hath founded it upon the seas; and hath prepared it upon the rivers. Who shall ascend into the mountain of the Lord: or who shall stand in His holy place? The innocent in hands and clean of heart, who hath not taken his soul in vain, nor sworn deceitfully to his neighbor. He shall receive a blessing from the Lord, and mercy from God his Savior. This is the generation of them that seek Him, of them that seek the face of the God of Jacob. Lift up your gates, O ye princes, and be ye lifted up, O eternal gates: and the King of glory shall enter in. Who is this King of glory? the Lord Who is strong and mighty: the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your gates, O ye princes, and be ye lifted up, O eternal gates: and the King of glory shall enter in. Who is this King of glory? the Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory.
Glory be to the Father.
ANT. She shall receive a blessing from the Lord, and mercy from God her Savior: for this is the generation of them that seek the Lord.
The priest places the end of his stole in the woman’s hand and leads her into the church while saying:
Enter into the temple of God, adore the Son of the blessed Virgin Mary, who gave you fruitfullness of offspring.
Outside the sanctuary, the mother kneels before the Altar and prays, thanking God for her child.
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. (Now the Our Father is said silently)
V. And lead us not into temptation.
R. But deliver us from evil.
V. Save your handmaid, Lord.
R. Who hopes in Thee, my God.
V. Send her help, Lord, from the sanctuary.
R. And defend her out of Sion.
V. Let not the enemy prevail against her.
R. Nor the son of iniquity approach to hurt her.
V. O Lord, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come to Thee.
V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with thy spirit.
V. Let us pray.
Almighty, everlasting God, through the delivery of the blessed Virgin Mary, Thou hast turned into joy the pains of the faithful in childbirth; look mercifully upon this Thy handmaid, coming in gladness to Thy temple to offer up her thanks: and grant that after this life, by the merits and intercession of the same blessed Mary, she may merit to arrive, together with her offspring, at the joys of everlasting happiness. Through Christ our Lord.
The priest sprinkles the mother with holy water in the shape of a Cross.
in which case it is more like a shower! 😉
The peace and blessing of God almighty, the Father + and the Son and the Holy Spirit, descend upon you and remain forever.