Once upon a time in colonial America, there was something called a “lying in” period. This was the time, typically a month or so, following childbirth when a community would rally in support of a new mother. She would rest, regain her strength, and bond with her baby while the community kept up the household. Many of her attendants would be relatives, none of whom were paid, and the favor was returned following their own deliveries....(Via The Practicing Catholic.) Share
Let’s take a step back. What can we do in our parishes to cultivate a culture that esteems motherhood as it should? We recently attended a baptism in the extraordinary form, as it would have been celebrated until the mid-1960’s in most parishes. Included in the celebration was a largely forgotten rite called “The Churching of Women.”
The what of whom?
The Churching of Women is essentially the Church’s way of welcoming new mothers back following childbirth. Why the need to welcome back? Well, do you know the Church permits women to stay home from Mass, without culpability, for 6 weeks after giving birth? Traditionally, infants were baptized within the first weeks, if not days, of life, and the mother was often absent from the Baptism while lying in. The Churching rite not only became a means to welcome the mother back after her postpartum leave, but also a way for the mother to give thanks to God for the birth of her child. Lest ye think “Churching” is some gratefully discarded pre-Vatican II relic, the practice has been carried forward in an altered form as the “Blessing of a Woman after Childbirth,” contained in the Book of Blessings published in 1984.
Churching is an ancient practice having roots in the Jewish tradition we still commemorate on the Feast of the Presentation, February 2, forty days after the birth of Jesus. While Mary went to the Temple in Jerusalem for the ritual purification required under Jewish law, the Christian extension of that practice has an entirely different understanding. The rite is now focused on blessing and thanksgiving rather than any requirement for purification of the woman following childbirth. While the current baptismal rite contains a blessing for the mother, the Churching rite is a more pointed, special blessing and can be given individually or collectively to mothers after a Baptism or Mass. (Read more.)