with thanks to Elise Pratt
Part of the pain of losing a child through miscarriage is the fact that the child has died without baptism. The sacrament of Baptism is so central and important to the Catholic faith, that it is obvious for many to wonder about the fate of the unbaptized, especially of unbaptized babies. They have lost the opportunity for baptism through no fault of their own. The Church's teaching on this subject is compassionate, generous and quite clear (within the necessary limits of human understanding.)
According to the new Catechism in the passage: #1261 it says:
'As regards children who have died without Baptism, the church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus' tenderness toward children which caused him to say: "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them," allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.'
In many ways, the teachings of the church are quite 'legalistic' in that they say precisely and carefully what they mean, and no more. It must be read with that in mind.
Nowhere in the section on Baptism in the catechism does it say that unbaptised infants are condemned. From this you must conclude that it is not Church teaching. In fact, the method of baptism, and what is reguired for a valid baptism are so simple and generous, that any child could be baptised before death, if the adults around fulfill their responsibilities.
In cases of an unbaptized infant, the Cathechism does say 'we don't know, but we are confident of God's mercy.' This is not fudging, or avoiding the issue, it is a genuine confession of a human inability to discern God's workings. This situation applies to many circumstances, not just infant baptism. The idea of 'Limbo' is another way to repeat 'we don't know what happens, but we are confident of God's mercy.'
There are literally hundreds of sites on the Internet offering support and information to parents who have experienced a miscarriage. Any search will reveal them. (I hestitate to recommend one over others, there are so many excellent sites.)
Prior to the delivery of their stillborn son, John-Paul, Elise and her husband received a blessing "For Parents Who Have Suffered a Miscarriage" from their pastor. He found this blessing in the Book of Blessings (which most Roman Catholic priests have in their possession.)
Blessing Of Parents After A Miscarriage
All present make the Sign of the Cross
Let us praise the Father of Mercies, the God of all Consolation. Blessed Be God forever and ever.
Blessed be God, forever and ever, Amen.
For those who trust in God, In the pain of sorrow there is consolation. In the face of despair there is hope, In the midst of death, there is life.
(N) and (N), as we mourn the death of your child, we place ourselves in the hands of God, and ask for strength, for healing and for His Divine Love.
Then the Scripture is read:
A Reading from the Book of Lamentations:
My soul is deprived of peace, I have forgotten what happiness is; I tell myself that my future is gone, lost, all that I hoped for from the LORD.
But I will call this to mind, as my reason to continue to have hope; The favors of the Lord are never exhausted, His mercies are never spent; They are renewed each morning, So great is His faithfulness. My portion is the Lord, says my soul; Therefore, I will hope in Him. (Lamentations 3:17-18; 21-24)
This is the word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
There is then a short period of silence as all recollect themselves.
Then, hands held over the parents in blessing:
Father and Creator, in whom all life and death find their meaning, We bless Thee at all times, Especially when we stand in need of Thy comfort.
(N) and (N), entrust to Thy care a life conceived in love. May Thy blessing now come upon them. Remove from them all anxiety of mind, Strengthen this love So that they may have peace in their hearts and in their home.
We ask this in the Name of Christ, Our Lord, Thine Only-Begotten Son, who said to us that anything we asked in His Name would be given us."
[Then, all make the Sign of the Cross once again.]
May the Almighty and Merciful God bless us, protect us, and grant us peace. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and through the Holy Spirit.
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