It has been almost 10 years now since my wife and I came back to the United States after living in Rome for the first eight years of our marriage.
Rome has a funny way of becoming part of you though, as even tourists and casual visitors can attest. For us, a lot of our memories of that time are as warm and real and comforting as those many cappuccinos we consumed at the bar around the corner from our apartment.
The memories are living connections, too, to people there, including Pope Benedict XVI himself. Before he became pope — I may have told this story in this space before — my wife stopped him on the street one morning while he was walking to his Vatican office, looking like any other priest and carrying his battered black leather briefcase. She was seven-months’ pregnant with our first child, and she asked him, in Italian, to bless our baby. His face softened into a small smile, he set his briefcase down between his feet, he placed his hands on top of her stomach and he said a blessing.
I asked my wife recently if she remembered the words he used. She doesn’t. What stands out for her was his kindness and gentle attention.
My guess, though, is that what he said was probably along the lines of a new blessing for an unborn child that the U.S. bishops put together, received Vatican approval for, and published recently. The text of it, in English and Spanish, was posted on the bishops’ website earlier this month(see http://osv.cm/JAJga2).
It is called the “Rite for the Blessing of a Child in the Womb,” and can be administered during Mass or outside it, with an individual mother, couple or group of expectant parents. In addition to the prayer for the child and the mother, there are optional blessings for the father, the family and the parish community.
Here is a taste of it:
“God, author of all life, bless, we pray, this unborn child; give constant protection and grant a healthy birth that is the sign of our rebirth one day into the eternal rejoicing of heaven.
“Lord, who have brought to this woman the wondrous joy of motherhood, grant her comfort in all anxiety and make her determined to lead her child along the ways of salvation.
“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.
“Lord, endow this family with sincere and enduring love as they prepare to welcome this child into their midst.
“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.”
Ask your pastor about it! And write firstname.lastname@example.org.