Celebrating life: How to plan a prayer gathering for a mother-to-be

One of my friends is expecting a baby. As we were thinking about how to celebrate this little one, her second child, another friend mentioned that she had recently attended an evening of prayer for an expectant mother.

I loved the idea of coming together in prayer to celebrate this new life, and so did the expectant mother, who is Catholic. We considered several different approaches, but we decided to go with simple and turn to a traditional Catholic prayer, the rosary.

Everything turned out beautifully, and not because of my efforts. The rosary is such a lovely prayer, and coming together to pray it for a common purpose felt so right.

As we were praying, I looked around our circle and felt such a sense of connection with our group, with the Blessed Mother, with her Son, with the saints in heaven, and with the little one we are waiting to meet. I have prayed the rosary in a church full of people, and I have prayed it in a small group with my family. But this was special.

Tips on planning your own prayer gathering:

1.       Choose the date. Since it isn’t a baby shower, you can hold your prayer gathering as soon as your friend announces that she’s expecting. You don’t need to wait to find out a gender, or give her time to register. Bring on the prayers!

2.       Decide on the guest list. My friend helped me choose a small group of close female friends and family who would be comfortable praying together. Ten people came. We could have had a few more, but I think the event worked well because it was so intimate.

3.       Select prayers. We prayed the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary, using brief meditations we found online. I inserted the names of the mother, father, and baby, and printed them. Right before we started praying, I asked whether any guest would like to lead a mystery, and four people volunteered. That left the fifth mystery for me.

4.       Explain the event on the invite. I called the event a prayer gathering and said that we would pray the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary. I wanted to make sure the guests knew what to expect, especially since I had never attended an event like this myself. That took away any potential awkwardness, and most people arrived with rosary in hand.

5.       Invite guests to bring a spiritual bouquet. Since the day was focused on prayer rather than presents, I invited each guest to bring a flower and a spiritual bouquet—a set of prayers for the baby and the parents-to-be. The flowers made a lovely bouquet for the mother-to-be to take with her. And she can hold onto the spiritual bouquets and know how loved and anticipated this child is already.

6.       Select a menu. I was considering making a rosary out of cupcakes or even out of fruit. Then I thought of making a cake and putting a rosary on top of it. Then I started thinking about how warm it is in July, and I decided on ice cream sundaes.

The guests were excited when I invited them to assemble their sundaes. And that was before they saw that I was offering cut-up Bergers Cookies as an ice cream topping.

I also offered some crunchy appetizers, mainly eaten by my children when they arrived for the end of the event. And I made a blueberry cake because I didn’t want to assume everyone would like ice cream. If I were to hold a similar event in the winter, I might serve tea and hot chocolate with cookies or cake—something simple.

7.       Create a holy card. A few weeks earlier I asked the mother-to-be to pick a favorite prayer. Then I created holy cards for each guest to take home to pray for the mother and baby in a special way. I made them in Microsoft Word and had them printed on card stock.

8.       Offer a little something extra. We bought glass ice cream dishes for the ice cream bar and the guests each took one home with a holy card. It wasn’t necessary, but I liked the idea that each person would have something special to remember the event by, and perhaps to say a small prayer for the baby and parents each time she uses her dish.

As I was washing the dishes after everyone left, I found myself thinking about how absolutely pleasant the whole experience was.

By making prayer the focus of our gathering, we were able to turn everything over to the Blessed Mother and then just enjoy our time together. We didn’t ooh and aah over gifts, and we didn’t debate the wonders of breastfeeding or swaddling—which would have been fun, too, but it also meant no delivery horror stories. The mother wasn’t really in the spotlight, which she loved.

I also like that you could hold this type of event for any pregnancy—whether a first or a thirteenth—or while waiting to adopt. You could have a similar event before a wedding, while trying to sell a house, celebrating a new home, sending a child to college, or for a thousand other reasons. My mind is turning, thinking of the possibilities.

Of course, I won’t have time to plan another prayer gathering any time soon because I didn’t listen to Leo when he helped me make my spiritual bouquet. He told me we should just write “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy” on each petal, but I didn’t feel that looked like enough.

So I’ll be pretty busy praying—while I eat that extra ice cream.

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.