QUAERITUR: The “Churching” of Women after childbirth

From a reader:

Can the Churching ritual be performed directly after the baptism, or should it be done on a different day? I ask this for clarity, as this will be the priest’s first time performing a baptism in the EF and is not very familiar with Churching.

This custom should be brought back, and brought back soon and brought back everywhere.

This is one of those über-Catholic things we should know and love and revive.

Thank you, Lord, for Pope Benedict and Summorum Pontificum.

I usually “Church” directly after a baptism, but the really traditional way is to wait for 40 days after childbirth.  If the baptism is more than forty days after the birth of the child, this is a moot point.  Forty, however, is that special Biblical number.

Just as the Mother of God went to the Temple, bringing the Christ Child, according to the Law, so too a Christian mother should desire to present herself and her children in church to obtain graces.

The older Rituale Romanum and the Collectio Rituum can be used for the Churching of women after childbirth. Pastors may and should always use the Rituale Romanum.  Churching cannot, I believe, be delegated to a deacon. The Rituale says “priest” throughout.  I think it must be done by a priest.  Sorry, guys.

Furthermore, I hope that one of the results of the “gravitational pull” created by Summorum Pontificum, is that the “Book of Blessings” (a misnomer, since most of the prayers in the book don’t actually bless anything) gets pulled into a black hole and is never seen again.  I would settle for all but a few copies to be burned.

So, some of you may be asking, “But Father! But Father!  What’s ‘Churching’?”

Churching is a nickname for a blessing given by the Church to mothers after recovery from childbirth.  It must be given in church (thus the name) and not just any place.

Traditionally, 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, receives it. It is not a precept.  It is a pious and praiseworthy custom, dating from the early Christian ages.

The guidelines for “Churching” were obviously from before people were dreaming up all manner of ways to twist and usurp God’s role in the nature he gave us.  Thus, I would refuse, even in front of media cameras to “Church” a lesbian who, with her lesbian partner, in an obvious scheme to entrap and embarrass the Church, came along to my parish of St. Fidelia carrying their test-tubular stupor mundi.

A mother would go to church when she could, to thank God for her delivery, and to obtain graces though the priest’s blessing the graces to help her raise her child in a Christian manner.

The prayers indicate that this “Churching” blessing is intended solely for the benefit of the mother. Therefore, it is not necessary that she should bring the child with her, which could be a consolation to mothers whose children may be premature.  However, it could be edifying for the whole family to be there, especially for girls, to watch, listen and learn.

And there is a blessing for newborns that can also be given.  We mean old women-hating male hierarchs think of everything.

“Churching” can to be impart to the mother even if her child was – absit - stillborn or – quod Deus avertat - died without baptism.

During the rite, the mother kneels in the vestibule or within the entrance to the church, carrying a lighted candle.  The priest sprinkles her with holy water and recites Psalm 23, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof”.  She kisses the priest’s stole and he leads her forward into the church, saying: “Enter thou into the temple of God, adore the Son of the Blessed Virgin Mary who has given thee fruitfulness of offspring.”  She advances to the main altar, or a side altar (perhaps one dedicated to Mary or a patron) and kneels before it.  The priest recites the prayers of the blessing and again sprinkles with holy water saying: “The peace and blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, descend upon thee, and remain forever. Amen.”

Not complicated.  Call it “noble simplicity” at its most practical.

Here is a prayer from the Rituale for “Churching”:

Let us pray.

Almighty everlasting God, who by means of the blessed Virgin Mary’s childbearing has given every Christian mother joy, even in her pains of bringing forth her child; look kindly on this servant of yours who has come in gladness to your holy dwelling to offer her thanks. And grant that after this life, through the merits and prayers of that same blessed Mary, she and her child may be deemed worthy of attaining the happiness of everlasting life; through Christ our Lord.
All: Amen.

The Collectio Rituum for the U. S. A there is this blessing for the child (children, I guess, if they are twins, etc., mutatis mutandis):

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, begotten before time was, yet willing to be an infant within time; who love childhood innocence; who deigned to tenderly embrace and to bless the little ones when they were brought to you; be ready with your dearest blessings for this child as he (she) journeys through life, and let no evil ways corrupt his (her) understanding. May he (she) advance in wisdom and grace with the years, and be enabled ever to please you, who are God, living and reigning with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, forever and ever.
All: Amen.

There is another prayer in the case of a still born child as well as a fine prayer for an expectant mother.

Thus, you know more about “Churching” women. Thank you for your attention.

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51 Responses to QUAERITUR: The “Churching” of Women after childbirth

  1. Volanges says:

    It seems that Churching, like Solemn Communion, was a cultural as much as a religious practice. While at one time it was a common thing in this parish, one woman who’d had it done with every birth ran into a priest who had no idea what she was talking about when she had her last in the late 60s.

    I didn’t hear about it until I was in my 40s and moved to this community. It certainly wasn’t a practice in my Acadian community in New Brunswick, Canada, otherwise my mother would have mentioned it, and would have probably insisted that I present myself for the ritual.

  2. gracie says:

    Didn’t Churching come from the Jewish custom whereby a woman was considered unclean as a result of childbirth and she had to present herself at the temple to be ritually cleansed? I thought Christian Churching historically was for the same reason.

    [Whatever its origin, and I explained some, not all, of that, the purpose is revealed in the Church's PRAYERS.]

  3. mschu528 says:

    Being a post-Vatican II Catholic who never knew anything of the older form of the Roman Rite until Summorum Pontificum (thank you, Pope Benedict!!!), I have never seen the Churching of Women performed.

    Is the Churching ritual different from the Presentación which the Hispanic Catholics regularly have?

  4. milhon1 says:

    My wife and I are due to have our first child in a few weeks. We are planning on having her ‘Churched’ If there are pictures taken I will submit them if my wife allows it.

  5. The Sicilian Woman says:

    There’s a blog by a devout, Trad Catholic woman that details how she and her husband are raising their several children in a thoroughly Catholic upbringing, and by that I mean their daily lives and homeschooling are consistently intertwined with the Faith. (I fully expect at least two of their children to have religious vocations.) Although I don’t have children, I enjoy the blog immensely for what I learn from it. To the point, that blog is where I first heard of churching, among other things, as she’s had a churching for every one of her children and has blogged about it, complete with photos. Seems like yet another lovely custom about which those of us “catechized” in the 70s and 80s and beyond have been robbed of learning.

  6. MyBrokenFiat says:

    I had no idea something like this existed. I actually got teary-eyed reading it. How beautiful. Thank you so much for expounding upon this.

    I so very much love our faith. It is impossibly full of the most beautiful traditions. Praise be to God for His goodness.

  7. Sword40 says:

    I remember when we were having our kids, my wife asked our priest about this and he just said “we don’t do that stuff anymore”. (that was back in the 70′s and early 80′s). we would have loved to had such things available to us. [These are happier times. Think of the number of young priests and seminarians who read this blog. They will get it, don't worry.]

    In the last several years we had the oportunity to have a Dominican priest offer this to a friend of ours soon after her baby was born.

  8. Cheesesteak Expert says:

    It’s still practiced in most eastern churches. Worthwhile read on the topic here:
    http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/view/wehr-the-churching-of-women

  9. Bill Russell says:

    ” Churching” does have elements of ritual purification, and is also associated with the Feast of the Purification (with the mother holding a candle.) In Ireland the superstitious thought that “Churching” would protect a mother leaving the birthing bed from being kidnapped by fairies.

    The “Churching of Women” is not only Catholic – although one might contend that Protestants derived it from Catholics ceremonial. It was especially practiced when childbirth was even more dangerous than it is now. It was also the practice, until recently, for “laying in” to take much longer. When it became the practice to be delivered in hospitals rather than at home, it was not unusual for the mother to remain one week before being released. Of course, that is greatly altered (pun intended) now that the Episcopal ecclesial community permits transgendered clergypersons to bless same-sex unions. The 1929 Book of Common Prayer (for the United States) has the rubric for “The Thanksgiving of Women after Child-birth, Commonly called the Churching of Women.” : “The Woman, at the usual time after her delivery shall come into the Church decently apparelled, and thee, shall kneel down in some convenient place, as hath been accustomed, or as the Ordinary shall direct.” There follows some beautiful prayers:

    “Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God, of his goodness, to give you safe deliverance, and to preserve you in the great danger of Child-birth; you shall therefore give hearty thanks unto God, and say: (then follows Psalm cxvi. “Dilexi, quoniam” in the Coverdale translation of the Great Bible and the Lord’s Prayer and then: “O Almighty God, we give thee humble thanks for that thou hast been graciously pleased to preserve, through the great pain and peril of child-birth, this woman, thy servant, who desireth now to offer her praises and thanksgivings unto thee. Grant, we beseech thee, most merciful Father, that she, through thy help, may faithfully live according o thy will in this life, and also may be partaker of everlasting glory in the life to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The service ends with a simple blessing of the baby. Then the concluding rubric:
    “The Woman, that cometh to give her Thanks,must offer accustomed offerings, which shall be applied by the Minister and the Churchwardens to the relief of distressed women in child-bed; and if there be a Communion, it is convenient that she receive the Holy Communion.”

    Communion was rarely given in this service, since the woman safely delivered might not be able to keep the fast from midnight which was a norm.

  10. Mary Jane says:

    This was done for me after our first baby – it was done right after the baby’s baptism though (7 days after baby was born). I actually didn’t know about “Churching” until Father asked, after the baptism, if I would like to do it.

    Hopefully I can have it done this time around too (baby #2 born two days ago, and is being baptized tomorrow! :)

  11. yatzer says:

    Rats! Something else I missed out on.

  12. wolfeken says:

    On a mother being Churched 40 days after child birth, it should be noted that such a long period of time probably assumes her baby was baptized long beforehand.

    My understanding is that mothers often did not attend the baptism, thus the Churching would be after she was back on her feet. I don’t think anyone would advise waiting 40 days to baptize a baby.

  13. NoraLee9 says:

    I have seen this done twice, once over at the FSSP in Pequannock and once at the SSPX in Long Island. The FSSP had one gal. At the SSPX at the time, there were so many women of a certain age that Churching was done every month on the second Sunday. When the gals got close enough to 40 days, they attended during that month’s service. It was stunningly beautiful.

    Father, I laughed until I cried at the tone of your article. I don’t know how old YOU are, but I’m 52. I was baptized Catholic at 13, in 73. I was always looking for the old church my mom used to talk about. Well, I found it. I’m with you. They can take that Book of Blessings and carry it out the same door with the table. I am headed out to HI now. When they carry the table out of the sanctuary, I smile and say an Ave for you.

  14. Volanges says:

    wolfeken, you’re right, back in the day when women didn’t go out until 40 days after birth they missed their children’s Baptism, which usually occurred on the first Sunday after birth if they were born at home or the first Sunday after they left the hospital. I remember being at my baby brother’s Baptism in ’58 (I was 5) but Mom wasn’t there.

    The same woman who told me about ‘Churching’ also told me she’d never seen at any of her 7 children baptized.

  15. Jim says:

    Here is a video (courtesy Dr Taylor Marshall of http://cantuar.blogspot.com/) of a traditional baptism and Churching.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUhAlWOPr74

    I believe the priest (Fr. Phil Wolfe, FSSP) is the same “Fr Wolfe” whose A.W.E.S.O.M.E sermons are hosted at Audio Sancto (http://www.audiosancto.org/). I could be wrong, but I think I recognize the voice.

  16. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Re: ritual purification — Being someone who’d just been doing something dangerous and/or sacred was considered sorta dangerous to others who weren’t prepared. Doing sacred things was over the threshold from ordinary life, in just the opposite way that doing something bad and yucky was over the threshold from ordinary life. Both made you ritually “unclean.”

    Childbirth of course does include a lot of blood and danger (like going to war, which is why the prayers reference Deborah), but it’s also a lot like Moses seeing God and having to go veiled to protect people after that, or like the way we dip our fingers in holy water when we’re going _out_ of Church. Churching is the rite of blessing for a mother coming back from the beyond places to ordinary life.

  17. Imrahil says:

    The bad thing about this great custom and rite was that there is a myth attached to it (whether fostered by the modernizers I don’t know) that the Church used to ban women after giving birth from entering a Church before they entered at the backdoor (the sacristy, for Churching) and were purified again.

    This is of course not true.*

    It might have its origin in the fact that women were Churched round-about their recovery, coming to think of it.

    [*Perhaps it was in some places. I've even read at an unsuspicious author that such women, without any sin of theirs, were banned from a religious funeral if they died. If that is true... well some mistakes happened in the Church too.]

  18. Supertradmum says:

    I have a general question on “churching”, as it was not done in my mother’s or grandmother’s generation in the Midwest, at least in Iowa and in Missouri. I also know that the Anglicans kept this tradition for a long time, well into the middle of the 20th century. Could it have been connected with certain ethnic or immigrant parishes and not others? Just wondering. Baptisms happened very quickly, as in the first two weeks, even in my generation.

  19. amenamen says:

    Is there a canon lawyer in the house?

    Since the Churching of a woman after childbirth seems to be a formal readmission to the Church building, was a woman officially “dispensed” from attending Mass up until the Churching ceremony? With the physical demands of nursing a newborn baby, and recovering from the stress of childbirth, it would make sense that a woman could prudently omit attending Mass. But was it a matter of canon law that she was automatically given a dispensation?

  20. Volanges says:

    I don’t know that they would have needed a ‘dispensation’. It was understood that women didn’t leave their house before their 40 days were up. They were considered ‘ill’. It’s a fairly recent development, at least in this culture, that women are out and about a few days after birth.

  21. Supertradmum says:

    Volanges, not so. If you were a peasant anywhere in the world, including Europe, and you were healthy, you could be up and about with your newborn almost at once. The fussy old Victorians, who were very prudish, did not like to see upper class women nursing and there was across Europe a movement to have one’s baby put out to a nurse-maid so that a lady did not have to nurse.

    Rubbish that child-bearing is either an illness or causes illness. Having said that, on the prairies in the States, there are statistics showing up to 50% of women dying in childbirth due to infections or bleeding to death. I did a study of this years ago for an American studies course. However, there were not enough midwives or other ladies to help.

    But the hideous idea that it was not ladylike to be up and nursing is a newish idea. It was an increasingly anti-child society even in the 19th century. I know many healthy women who do not need care after childbirth.

  22. Charivari Rob says:

    There’s a short Q&A about Churching and a description of the “form and manner” in a grand old book: Our Church, Her Children and Institutions (volume I).

    This dates from 1908. I’m not sure if there was a revised edition sometime in recent decades. However, if one searches online, one can find electronic and reprinted formats of the original*. Here’s an e-version:

    http://archive.org/stream/ourchurchherchi02coylgoog#page/n146/mode/2up

    * Well, the scanned copy has some different illustrations, and arranged differently, than the original bound copy sitting on my desk. I guess they’re different editions.

  23. heway says:

    1942 – my mother enters the sacristry where she is met by the priest for the ‘churching’. I was not allowed in, only mother. Why? Childbirth like menstruation, was considered unclean. After the specified period of time, she would be ‘cleansed’ in this manner and be able to once again attend church – as someone who worked in obstetrics for 50 years, I say “hogwash”. She did not present her child as Mary did -only her supposedly unclean body.

  24. mamajen says:

    I had not heard of this until now, but I wish I had known back when I had my son! This “churching” would have felt like a nice welcome back gift–I missed two weeks of mass due to my c-section, and even with a valid reason it’s hard not to feel kind of guilty. My son was baptized at three weeks, in part because our dear priest was being shipped off elsewhere and we wanted to fit it in before he left, but I really prefer to have it done as soon as possible. The trend around here is to delay it for several months, though.

  25. gracie says:

    Superstradmum,

    My mother didn’t attend the Baptism of my brother (born 1935) nor my sister (born 1946). She did attend my Baptism (born 1950).

    I asked her once why not them but me and she explained that in Philadelphia – where my siblings were born – mothers were not allowed at the Baptism because they were considered unclean until they were Churched. As Churching happens after the Baptism it made it impossible for her to go. She didn’t question it because that’s just how it was and everyone accepted it.

    But my Baptism took place in Michigan where by 1950 women were being allowed to attend the Baptism and my mom decided she wanted to go and so she went. When it started happening in the Mid West I don’t know but I do know (from living in New Jersey since 1973) that the changes going on in the Church in other parts of the country (for good and bad) often happen here last. We didn’t get altar girls here until 1995 and yet I remember my sister’s parish in Michigan had them by the early 1980s (the bishop turned a blind eye to it).

    I do think that women were forced to be more independent during World War II and post-war they started pushing against some of the older ways they were viewed. Being considered unclean because of childbirth was one of them and women decided they weren’t going to be looked at that way anymore and just started showing up at their children’s Baptisms and the priests didn’t say anything (so presumably it was okay with them).

    I do think it’s nice to bring it back as a blessing. I just wish they had one for the fathers because our crisis is due in large part to the absence of dads in their kids’ lives.

  26. Lori Pieper says:

    Very interesting subject. I wrote a paper about it in one of my graduate history courses. It is true that the early Church still preserved the idea of ritual impurity for some time in the early penitentials, etc. There is also a fascinating reference in the Passion of Sts. Perpetua and Felicitas on how Felicitas, who was led to martyrdom very shortly after bearing a child, was “cleansed after childbirth in a second baptism.” But the letter of Pope Gregory I to St. Augustine of Canterbury was apparently decisive for the later Church (from Bede’s Ecclesiastical History):

    “You have learned by the commandment of the Old Testament, that for a man child she should abstain [from going to church] for thirty-three days, but for a female child, sixty-six days. It should be known, however, that this is taken as an allegory (mysterium). For if she enters the church to give thanks the very hour after giving birth, she is not burdened with the weight of any sin.”

    It took a while, but this became the norm. Some of the rites I studied from the 11-13th centuries mentioned this aspect of purity (largely transformed into spiritual purity) and some actually didn’t. The mysterium Gregory mentioned lead to all sorts of allegorical interpretations connected with the Purification of the Blessed Virgin and that women were imitating her; in other cases, the idea was that of entering the heavenly temple after a symbolic forty days of penitence on earth; the temple in Jerusalem was also mentioned – this took on a special resonance during the Crusades. Many of the Psalms that were used were the “songs of ascent” of pilgrims going to Jerusalem.

  27. Lori Pieper says:

    In my paper I studied almost entirely the Western Church; in the East the traditional of ritual impurity was much stronger; the Orthodox link above demonstrates that clearly, I think.

  28. Sandra_in_Severn says:

    What if anything is done for the mother that loses her child in a miscarriage?

  29. jkm210 says:

    Sandra – The Book of Blessings contains “Order for Blessing of Parents after a Miscarriage,” but obviously a couple would have to feel comfortable sharing their situation with their priest in order to request it.

    I did not have a c-section with either of my births, so I was able to be back at church the following Sunday with no problems. My older daughter was born on Pentecost, so I did miss Mass that day. My younger daughter was born on December 9, but I made it to Immaculate Conception Mass beforehand! Both of my daughters were baptized a bit later, as we wanted their grandfather, a permanent deacon who lived out of state, to baptize them, and we had to work around his schedule.

    My husband and I were born in the early 1980s and each of us was baptized about a month after birth. Our mothers were there; my husband’s mother looks ridiculously thin in the photos!

  30. andreat says:

    I think the Churching prayers are lovely. I didn’t know that there was a blessing for a newborn infant.

    However, both my children were adopted, and neither were newborns. So I was unable to receive this particular blessing, which saddens me. The pains of adoption may not be physical, but they are certainly emotional. And I don’t see that adoptive mothers need these graces any less than biological mothers. It would be nice if the Church acknowledged adoptive motherhood in the same way – especially since we are all the adopted children of God.

  31. AnnAsher says:

    This sounds beautifully edifying and I’m sorry I missed out.

  32. Cheesesteak Expert says:

    Again – how did it happen that such a rich practice was denied to the faithful for so many years? Who orchestrated this? If it is valuable, what can be done to prevent that theft from occurring again?

  33. Alice says:

    Supertradmum, we’re from Illinois and my grandmother (who’d be over a hundred now) first heard of churching when we asked her a question in the mid-90′s after seeing something in a Q & A column in a Catholic paper. She lived in a few places as a young woman and was always involved in parish life, so if it had been practiced, she’d have known about it.

  34. JacobWall says:

    My wife and I just had twins 2 weeks ago, and I think that this sounds like a wonderful custom. I attend a OF parish, and I don’t think this is practiced. If my wife is interested, should she ask our parish priest to do it anyway? If they don’t (and won’t) do it, would it be correct to go to the nearest EF parish (about 45 minutes away) and ask their priest, even though it’s not our home parish?

  35. Fr.WTC says:

    A great project idea is for the collectio, even if only its English translation, to be re-published and made available at a low cost (think pamphlet) to every priest in the country. That would help facilitate an “organic development”— the near abandonment of the book of blessings.

  36. bookworm says:

    I was born in 1964. I remember seeing a picture in the family photo album, immediately following the pictures of my baptism, of my mom standing by herself with a candle in her hand before our parish priest, and the picture was labeled “‘Churching’ ceremony, 1/26/64.” My mom is deceased and my brother, who lives 200 miles away, now has possession of that photo album so I don’t have ready access to it. However, that would seem to be evidence that the “churching” ceremony was still practiced, at least by some priests, as late as 1964 in downstate Illinois. Also, I was only one week old when I was baptized and only 2 weeks old when this “churching” ceremony took place so it may not necessarily have had to wait 40 days; perhaps it was done whenever the mother requested it. My mom was a convert, by the way, and not raised Catholic so this wasn’t a family tradition of some kind for her.

  37. Suburbanbanshee says:

    JacobWall — You could call the rectory or the church office and ask around. You’d be surprised — a lot of stuff gets brought back into favor by folks of various ethnic groups asking for it, or for Catholics from other regions asking for what they’re used to.

  38. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Andreat — Obviously adopting a kid can be grueling, and obviously adoptive kids need blessings. But I’m pretty sure there are already blessing ceremonies for adoption, for both adoptive mothers and fathers. I don’t know if they’re formally part of the usual run of rites, though. Will try and find out.

    But basically, churching is a blessing of “we’re glad you didn’t die horribly in childbirth.”

  39. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Supertradmum — In societies where pregnant ladies got plenty of food (particularly stuff like calcium), they weren’t weakened by giving birth. In societies where pregnant women were given a “low diet” and bed rest to suppress morning sickness (probably needed by hyperemesis folks, but not by others), or where everybody was starving, women really could be weakened for the rest of their lives by having babies, because the nutrients they gave their babies were never replaced.

    However, a lot of the “ill” idea was 19th century trying to protect the mother from illnesses that she could pass to the baby, like the terrible scourge of German measles (IIRC?).

  40. Mother says:

    Ahh… to be able to do it all over again.

  41. bookworm says:

    Also, I think it’s worth noting that the 40-day “purification” period prescribed by the Mosaic Law and the 40-day “churching” period still coincide pretty closely with the standard 6 week medical recovery period after a normal childbirth. As far as I know — I’ve only been through it once and that was 16 years ago — it’s still common practice for a woman to have a 6-week checkup after giving birth, and for maternity leaves from work to last 6 weeks. Yes, women may be up and about just a few hours or days later but generally speaking it still takes about 6 weeks to get back to normal (which includes resuming your periods, if you are not breastfeeding; and which used to include a recommendation of sexual abstinence during that period as well).

  42. bookworm says:

    One last point about churching. An earlier posted asked whether churching was intended to signal that the mother was now recovered enough to resume her Sunday/holyday Mass obligation. That is also part of what ritual “uncleanness” in the Law of Moses meant — it didn’t mean you were “dirty” or had necessarily done anything wrong, but it meant you were excused, or dispensed, from duties and obligations that otherwise incurred.

    In the Old Testament, when women were ritually unclean due to flow of blood (whether during menstruation or after childbirth or for any reason), they could not touch any object or any other person without making them also unclean — which would have limited their ability to cook, clean and perform other work around the home. They also had to sleep apart from their husbands. Given the endless and physically demanding labor that women in ancient times had to perform — grinding their own flour, trekking to public wells to draw water, etc. — it may be that a period of “uncleanness” when they had to be left alone felt more like a welcome respite than some kind of punishment; and after childbirth, it would have given the mother a chance to bond with her baby since she wouldn’t be pulled away by other duties.

  43. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    Other commenters above have noted that childbirth is not a disease, nor did it cause disease.

    Nevertheless, it is not uncommon for some new mothers to need time to recuperate from injuries that their bodies received during childbirth. These injuries may have occurred naturally during the process of parturition (lacerations), or as a result of minor surgery performed to facilitate parturition. Until these injuries heal, walking any distance may be difficult for these mothers and and issues surrounding their restroom accomodations while away from home, may be insurmountable.

    The medical references I looked at say these injuries may be expected to be fully healed in about four weeks. And then allow a lady another week to ten days or so to begin walking around the block a few times each day, to make herself look and feel ready to face the world, and . . . voila! . . . you have approximately 40 days after childbirth.

    Our Mother is so smart!

  44. JacobWall says:

    Suburbanbanshee – thank you! I will call the rectory. Perhaps even having another person ask could help bring the practice back.

  45. bezell says:

    Fr. Z, thank you for answering this question.

    JacobWall – I, too, belong to an OF parish. I asked my pastor about this, and as he has limited knowledge of Latin and the Rituale, he gave permission for me to have another priest come to perform the upcoming baptism in the EF as well as the Churching. Long story short, approach your pastor with the request – perhaps he will perform it for you or you can have another priest come instead.

    Good luck, and congratulations on the birth of your new twins!

  46. aquinasadmirer says:

    Perhaps this was said in a different way above….

    The first I heard of it was in a homily ten years ago, or thereabouts. The essence of what he said were these items, It’s fallen out of use because it’s mistakenly seen as having to do with impurity in a hygienic sense (in our oh-so-enlightened scientific age).

    More importantly, it’s a purification akin to purifying the sacred vessels after communion. That is, when a woman receives a new soul she has, in a sense, become extraordinary. After giving birth, the church “purifies” her taking her state from “extraordinary” back to “ordinary.” This is the opposite of the modern hygienic sense of purify is always a transition from dirty to clean. That understanding misses the point.

    Our youngest is 14 months old…. Is it too late?

  47. silicasandra says:

    aquinasadmirer, you said: “Our youngest is 14 months old…. Is it too late?”

    I was thinking the same thing (except, in my case, he’s an only, and almost 16 months :))! This sounds like a beautiful tradition and although my parish is OF, I have a feeling our priests would be willing to do something like this if/when, God willing, we have more children. It’s too bad I didn’t know more about it before our son was born (though I probably would have viewed it through the mistaken “dirtiness” lens that others associate it with…thankfully, my son’s baptism brought about a renewal of my own faith and a new willingness to learn and understand what exactly made me choose Catholicism to begin with!)

  48. Cathomommy says:

    This is one of my favorite rituals of the Church! I am pleased to report that this is alive and well in our Eastern Rite (Melkite) Catholic church. Usually, the first time the mother and baby are in church on a Sunday following the birth, we have the Churching of both mother and child, after the Homily, before we proceed with the rest of the Divine Liturgy. This may or may not be on the same day as the Baptism (as we know many couples, sadly, delay the Baptism until all relevant extended family members can be present.) The mother and baby are blessed at the back of the church in much the same form as the old blessing Father Z. quoted, then the priest holds the baby up high (often causing mother to think, “Please don’t drop him! Please don’t drop him!!”) and proceeds up the aisle, walks the baby around the altar three times, and then places baby back in mother’s anxious yet happy arms. :) A truly beautiful moment.

  49. irishgirl says:

    I saw a ‘Churching’ ceremony late last year at our TLM chapel. Very moving!
    I was born in 1954, and I don’t even know if my mother had it done. My twin sister and I were born prematurely, and the doctor who did the delivery had us conditionally baptized right there in the delivery room. Then our pastor did part of the baptism rites at our house (we were still too frail to be taken outside, it seems), and then completed them a few months later after we were a little stronger.
    Maybe Mom was ‘churched’…I don’t really know….

  50. We just had a churching on Sunday! Lovely custom, becoming more common at our church after the EF MC rediscovered the rite, encouraged Father, and started asking women if they would be interested. With all the babies we have popping up in the EF families, it happens rather frequently!