Hatty Arenivar is incredibly happy. Naturally concerned. Occasionally tired. Absolutely glowing.
She is 24 weeks pregnant with a little boy she and husband, Chufo Ramirez, have already named “Mateo.”
While she jokes about how Mateo keeps her up at night, when he starts wiggling around right about the time she goes to bed, she couldn’t be more thankful for this gift God has provided them. And she will do everything she can to protect her beloved son.
Last week Arenivar and Mateo received a special, newly approved blessing: “Rite for the Blessing of a Child in the Womb.” Its final text, originally approved by the U.S. bishops in 2008, was recently confirmed by the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, just in time for Mother’s Day.
“Life is precious, it’s a gift from God and I want the best for my baby,” said Arenivar, 25, a parishioner of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Denver. “I know that having a special blessing will be the best for him … with God protecting him against everything.
“There is only so much I can do, and the rest, God will do.”
The blessing was prepared to support parents awaiting the birth of a child, and to encourage others to pray for them as well.
“In the Book of Blessings we had a blessing for expectant mothers,” explained Deacon Charles Parker, director of the Denver Archdiocese’s Office of Liturgy. “The bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities felt it was important that we develop a blessing for the child as well.”
The new blessing incorporates the child, mother, father and any other family members present. It can be offered within the context of a Mass, or individually requested to a priest or deacon.
“It was the desire for the (bishops’ pro-life) committee to heighten the awareness of the need to bless the child in the womb,” said Deacon Parker. “So as the ritual says the blessing ‘…sustains the parents by imparting grace and comfort in time of concern and need, unites the parish in prayer for the unborn child, and fosters respect for human life within society.’
“It really fulfills a need,” Deacon Parker continued, “and was pretty prophetic of the bishops to move forward in developing this kind of blessing … at a time when human life is constantly being challenged.”
The archdiocese’s Office of Liturgy is producing 12,000 prayer cards, in English and in Spanish, with the Prayer for the Blessing of a Child in the Womb. The cover image is the “The Visitation of Mary to St. Elizabeth” painted by Eduard von Steinle in the 19th century. Cards will be distributed to all clergy as early as this week.
“We wanted to get it in their hands as quickly as we could,” said Deacon Parker, “to make the blessing available to expectant mothers.”
Prayer cards will also be distributed to the two Gabriel House pregnancy outreach locations (Denver and Boulder), Lighthouse Pregnancy Center in Denver, area Catholic hospital chaplains, and staff in pastoral care departments. Eventually the blessing will also be available on the U.S. bishops’ website, www.usccb.org; and in a printed prayer booklet.
For now, Deacon Parker encouraged expectant women to request the blessing from a priest or deacon before or after Mass. Going forward, he anticipates some pastors in the archdiocese will offer Masses specifically for expectant women and provide the blessing in context with the Eucharist.
“All blessings are important because sacramentals have an important place in the life of the Church,” he said. “They help people prepare for sacraments and they help people become more Christ-like.”
Arenivar is grateful for the support from Holy Mother Church.
“I feel really blessed and loved and supported by my Church,” she said. “I’m very thankful for (the bishops) thinking about the baby in the womb and how precious that gift is.”