BEFORE AND AFTER CHILDBIRTH
[continued from yesterday]
...Here again the Church has foremost in her mind the higher welfare of the child. She has the tenderest care for the safety of body, but this safety of body must be directed to the safety of the spirit. When, therefore, a child has been brought to a happy and successful birth, the duty of its parents is to see that it is baptized as soon as possible. If the child is strong and healthy, it should be taken to church for this purpose within eight days. If the child is weak, and likely to take harm from the weather, then the priest is to be sent for. As long as it remains unbaptized it is to some extent under the power of Satan, and all unnecessary delay on the part of the parents is a grave injustice to the child.
The churching of women is an act of thanksgiving to God for having been brought through a difficult crisis. It is also a blessing given by the Church. But it is not a Sacrament.
There is a widespread impression that bad luck comes to the woman who, going out for the first time after childbirth, does not take the opportunity of being churched. So ingrained is this idea that many women look upon churching as of far more importance than Baptism. Now the ceremony of churching is of no obligation whatever, whilst that of Baptism is. There can be no comparison between the two. It is a praiseworthy custom to go to church and render thanks to God as soon as possible, but nothing more than a custom. Provided the woman does not stay away out of contempt for the ceremony, but merely for considerations of health and convenience, she commits no sin. If, on the other hand, she goes as soon as she can, she obtains a blessing for herself and her family.
The law of nature demands that mothers should suckle their own children. The Church, in interpreting this law, does not make it binding under pain of mortal sin. If the mother be suffering from bad health, or if she have to attend to business or other grave duty, then the Church does not exact this duty under any pain whatever. But wherever a nurse is called in, the mother must see that she is of good health and morals.....
From Marriage and Parenthood, The Catholic Ideal
By the Rev. Thomas J. Gerrard
Author of "Cords of Adam," "The Wayfarer's Vision," ETC.
Copyright, 1911, by Joseph F. Wagner, New York.