In the first two parts of this series, we looked at a few practices and a sacramental that went to the wayside after Vatican II that redefined genuine femininity. In this final part, we’ll talk about the public recitation of the Rosary and a ceremony known as “the churching of women”.
To read part two of this series, click here.
Genuine Femininity and The Most Holy Rosary
This is something that, happily, is changing but the fact that it needed to is disconcerting in itself. Before beginning this series, I polled some traditionalist Catholics. To my surprise, more than one commented on a public recitation of the rosary being something that went out the window after Vatican II.
According to an article from Aleteia,
Since Vatican II the Rosary has suffered a precipitous decline in popularity among post-conciliar Catholics. Some fault the Rosary for being too mechanical, repetitive and boring.
Others contend that the Rosary is an exercise in false piety and even a superstition. Many of the Church’s so-called reformers have chided the Rosary for being “theologically retrograde,” a veritable relic of the preconciliar church, destined to the ash heap of outmoded devotions.
Being an optimist, I like to think that the rosary is making a slow comeback, thanks to numerous books in defense of the rosary and because of pro-life rallies and protests, where demonstrators recite the rosary.
The rosary, championed by saints and Our Lady alike, once served as a Psalter for illiterate laity who still wanted to join in the daily prayers of the Church. It’s one of the most highly indulgenced prayers in the Church and there are fifteen promises for those who devoutly recite it.
As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima, people talk about the rosary and feature it in numerous commemorations. Hopefully, as time passes, public recitation of the rosary will be the norm everywhere rather than for a lucky few parishes and pro-life gatherings.
Genuine Femininity and “Churching of Women”
Despite popular belief, women were never barred from returning to Mass after birth because of “ritual impurity”. Pope St. Gregory himself stated that a woman should not be barred from receiving sacraments after birth. The Church, being a mother herself, always allowed women plenty of time to heal and readjust. Currently, a woman can stay home from Mass for up to six weeks.
This misconception may have arisen from a practice known as “churching of women”. Intended to be a celebration of a woman returning to Church life, it vanished after the demolition of the liturgy via Vatican II.
Because of high mortality, families baptized infants at church soon after birth, before the mother could leave her bed. Baptisms generally include a special blessing for parents but the mother would have missed this. Therefore, she had her own ceremony once she was able to return to parish life.
Churching of women was never a requirement but a “pious practice” a woman could opt to have. The ceremony blessed and edified her, showing that the Church supported her. It also gave her an opportunity to thank God for her baby.
The Churching ceremony is beautiful in its simplicity. The woman, sans infant, kneels at the church’s entrance with a candle, which alludes to the Feast of the Presentation. The priest, wearing a stole, blesses her with holy water. The woman takes hold of his stole and allows herself to be led into the church. She kneels again at the altar and blessed a second time. The priest read Psalm 23(24).
Today, the current rite of baptism includes a blessing for mothers. In a post-Vatican II world, most families wait weeks, months, or longer before baptizing their child. Therefore, the churching of women has faded into obscurity, practiced only by diehard traditionalists.
How Does Genuine Femininity Thrive In A Post-Vatican II World
There are many other devotions and practices that vanished or changed after Vatican II. We haven’t even looked at Rogation Days (similar to Ember Days), for example. However, just because the wider Church does not practice these devotions does not mean you cannot.
There are traditional communities cropping up the world over, fostered by groups like the Fraternity of St. Peter. Hopefully, one day the SSPX will be brought back into regularity with the Church. This will only allow more people to access treasures locked away by the Council. With these treasures will come an abundance of grace much needed in today’s world.