Those who struggle with the inability to conceive, those who know the pain of losing a child before birth, and those who have faced their infant's death at the time of birth know that this season of mourning is often held inside, hidden and unseen.
But God does not abandon us. Somehow, on the other side of loss an incredible story of resilience emerges. Bodies, though they are never the same again, heal. Couples try again, adopt, or reimagine. Those who mourn in isolation find not one, not two, but a community of others with whom they can identify. God's silence is not absence; it is the patient listening of a God who knows our grief first-hand, who weeps with us, who holds us as a mother holds her child. Death is never the whole story. The hope of new life surprises, confounds, persists.
Of Womb and Tomb: Prayer in Time of Infertility, Miscarriage, and Stillbirth is a resource for individuals, couples, and parish communities who wish to accompany those on their grief journey. Filled with stories, prayers, Scripture, poems, and rituals this book may serve as a guide in creating prayer opportunities in a variety of settings.
Together, let us bear witness to the Christian mystery—that new life is born of the womb and of the tomb.
Kate Williams is Senior Managing Editor at GIA Publications, Inc. In addition to her love of shaping sung prayer with GIA’s finest composers, she serves as a music minister in the Archdiocese of Chicago, following a passion to serve in multicultural, multigenerational communities.
Once in a great while we encounter a resource that fundamentally changes the way we do ministry. We are so moved and formed and challenged that it is difficult, perhaps even impossible, to forget the sacred treasures contained within. GIA’s Of Womb and Tomb is exactly that resource.
Masterfully edited by Kate Williams, Of Womb and Tomb: Prayer in Time of Infertility, Miscarriage, and Stillbirth is more than a simple compilation of prayers. As the Foreword suggests, we can and must do better in our parish ministries to acknowledge these types of loss and walk with our sisters and brothers who live these realities. Five sacred stories at the beginning of the collection ground the work in this lived experience before offering an assortment of comforting prayers, hymns, poems, and scripture. Resources for both personal reflection and liturgical prayer give individuals, couples, families, and entire communities words to pray at times when finding words might be difficult. Four rites, ranging from a Blessing of Parents after a Miscarriage to an Evening Liturgy of the Word and Ritual of Light, provide everything needed for a complete service of prayer. A corresponding audio CD and music collection supplement the written text.
Of Womb and Tomb is a welcome gift to all who work to articulate, facilitate and live authentic liturgy, giving voice and body to an often silent and invisible reality.
This resource will be a source of comfort to all those who have struggled and grieved over this kind of loss. It is a necessary resource for all pastoral ministers tasked with the special work of walking with people in their grief. Perhaps most importantly, I believe the voices represented in this book will speak to those who grieve in silence and secret, and simply remind them that they are not alone.
...Everything we know, intellectually, theologically, spiritually, liturgically, is born from human experience—and often a painful one. So reading this book, thinking of the stories and the prayers of the ritual, was quite overwhelming. I also experienced an immense sense of privilege as I read the stories and prayers. The people who opened the door into this tender place in their lives...wow. We the readers were privileged to be a part. This book will be an amazing resource for both pastoral ministers and people living with these realities.
As someone who suffered a miscarriage, [this book] resonated tenderly. I believe in some ways it gives beautiful permission to those of us who may not have given a voice to the feelings that were happening at the time. It's almost like...let me just get through this and move on. So thank you for sharing, and for this very important work you are doing.
Kate Williams has edited a work that engages the vital intersection of a parish’s liturgical life and its pastoral care. The volume is grounded in solid liturgical, theological, and pastoral principles as it links care and consolation; poetry and prayer; scripture and song; and ritual action and reflection. Of Womb and Tomb is infused with a paschal faith and a “sure and certain hope” of the resurrection of the dead (Order of Christian Funerals). As St Paul puts it, we do not grieve like those who have no hope (1 Thess 4:13).
Of Womb and Tomb offers a well-curated collection of personal narrative, poetry, hymnody, prayer, and scripture. These key threads of all good liturgy are then woven with creativity and flexibility in model rites attentive to the many facets of ritualizing in the face of the experience of loss—from immediate family to extended family to the parish community. The hymns and ritual music examples, while focused on English-speaking assemblies, show a care for a variety of musical genres and a diversity of composers. Likewise, the prayers draw not only from RC texts, but also from the richness of other denominational worship books (e.g., ELCA and EC-USA), Jewish prayers, and other poets.
Of Womb and Tomb is not only a sourcebook for parish liturgists and ministers of pastoral care or bereavement ministry, but it also offers a resource for personal prayer and reflection for families touched by these life-changing events. Kate Williams is due our thanks for her shepherding this volume that makes an important contribution to meeting a real need in our churches.