The Holy Innocents – martyrs: Feast: December 28

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Home > Media > News > The Holy Innocents – martyrs: Feast: December 28
The Holy Innocents – martyrs: Feast: December 28

By Michael McKenna, Director of the Office of Liturgy

Jeremiah recounts a prophecy: “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” (Mt 2:16-18)

During the Christmas octave the Church recalls the male children of Bethlehem whom Herod in his fear ordered put to death. On this fourth day of Christmas we commemorate those glorious martyrs of Bethlehem who died not only for Christ, but in His stead and our Christmas joy is tempered, if just briefly, with a somber sadness.

The bishop and confessor at Carthage, Saint Quodvultdeus, rebukes Herod’s awful, self-serving fear:
“Why are you afraid, Herod, when you hear of the birth of a king? He does not come to drive you out, but to conquer the devil… You imagine that if you accomplish your desire you can prolong your own life, though you are seeking to kill Life himself.”

The feast should remind each of us that choosing to follow this small and vulnerable King, requires that we be ready to lay down our own lives - even if it be in the daily death to self that faithfulness demands.

In a world where legislators still sign innumerable death sentences into law the Holy Innocents might well be compared to many young people in today’s world, who are afflicted by wars, abuse and violence for which adults are responsible. If Herod’s crime was to so desperately seek to keep his power, even at the price of the blood of infants, so today there are those who seek to keep their comfort, control and absolute autonomy at no less of a cost.

Nothing is more unbearable for humanity than the pain of children. And there is nothing more diabolical than the pain caused to children. Yet those in power and influence today have become so disconnected from the reality of God as to leave too many children who survive the womb broken, damaged and deprived of the love and care their vulnerability demands.

The Church names the Holy Innocents patron saints of babies. Let us entrust our children, our grandchildren, and godchildren to their prayers but especially the suffering children of our time. Those for whom Christmas brings little joy.

Pope Francis asks: “Can Christian joy even exist if we ignore the cry of our brothers and sisters, the cry of the children?” So like Rachel, may we too be so moved as to refuse to be comforted!