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BOSTON -- Expectant parents and their families are invited to a special Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross at which Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley celebrate the newly approved "Rite for the Blessing of a Child in the Womb."
The Mass will celebrated at 11:30 a.m. on Dec. 16, the Third Sunday of Advent, also called Gaudete ("Rejoice") Sunday.
"For families expecting the birth of a child, the Advent season is especially meaningful. Just as Mary and Joseph eagerly awaited the birth of Jesus, families expecting a child experience the great joy of the gift of a new human life entrusted to their care," said Marianne Luthin, director of the archdiocese's Pro-Life Office.
The Church created the blessing to support parents awaiting the birth of their child, to encourage parish prayers for and recognition of the precious gift of the child in the womb, and to foster respect for human life within society.
"Within the context of this Year of Faith, the Church gives us this wonderful opportunity to rejoice for the gift of life, and to support families through our prayer and Christian witness," Father Jonathan Gaspar, director of the Office for Divine Worship, said.
After the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops completed final edits to the blessing and the Vatican granted approval in March, the USCCB published the blessing for use both within Mass and outside of Mass.
The blessing recognizes not just the unborn baby and the mother but also the father, family and community or parish supporting the new life.
"Lord of the ages, who have singled out this man to know the grace and pride of fatherhood, grant him courage in this new responsibility, and make him an example of justice and truth for this child," the blessing reads.
After blessing the family as one, the text addresses the support required by the parish or community in raising the child in Christ: "Lord, you have put into the hearts of all men and women of good will a great awe and wonder at the gift of new life; fill this (parish) community with faithfulness to the teachings of the Gospel and new resolve to share in the spiritual formation of this child in Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns for ever and ever."
Father Gaspar said, "The Christian community is invited to pray for all expectant mothers, that as they await the birth of their children they may experience tranquility and good health, and safely bring their children into the world."
He added that the rite includes both a family and parish dimension.
"This blessing offers the Church's joyful welcome to the unborn child and to the family. It also includes a reminder to the parish community that an unborn child is a gift to be respected and celebrated," he added.
For more information and a special coloring and story sheet for children explaining the significance of Advent as a time of expectation, contact the Pro-Life Office at 508-651-1900 or by email at ProLifeOffice@rcab.org. Copies are available in both English and Spanish.