Remembering the Holy Innocents
By Leticia Velasquez
[December 28, 2010 – Feast of the Holy Innocents, martyrs]
It is disruptive to our tranquil Christmas meditations to have this commemoration of King Herod’s slaughter of the baby boys of Bethlehem come so closely on the heels of the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord. We want to linger in the manger, adoring the baby Jesus with the shepherds, angels and kings. We want to bask in the awe of Simeon and Anna who recognized His divinity at the Presentation of the Temple. However, the family who was unwelcome at the Inn is now unwelcome in their own homeland. The long-awaited Messiah – the glory of His people Israel – is pursued by soldiers with orders to kill Him. Herod will brook no threats to his power, not even from his own sons; three of whom he has murdered. It was said at that time that it would be safer to be Herod’s dog than his son.
It is a deeply disturbing image for many reasons.
This story of innocent children slaughtered by those who should defend them is all too familiar in our day, when over 50 million babies in our nation have had the tranquility of their mother’s womb invaded by instruments of death. We who love the Giver of Life join the inconsolable wailing of Rachel for her children in Bethlehem. We wonder why the Prince of Peace Himself was threatened by such violence; a violence which continues with even more ferocity today. We must resist the tendency to despair and remember that even powerful Herod, in all his bloodthirsty rage, was unable to eliminate the greatest threat to his power. He had murdered his own sons yet the Holy Family escaped – thanks to the obedience of St Joseph who heard the angel’s warning in dream to ‘rise, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt’. A simple carpenter, submissive to the Divine guidance, escaped the murderous wrath of the terror of Israel. Herod could not thwart the plan of God.
God’s power is still operating against the evil that threatens our innocents today. Rather than lead us to despair, this commemoration of these martyrs for the newborn Christ should give us hope. Although we are pressed on all sides by the Culture of Death and our wealthy and powerful leaders order the murders of the unborn and the weak – tearing apart the very fabric of the family – all is not lost. If we imitate St Joseph by being attentive to God’s voice, He will imbue us with His power and show us how to bring today’s innocents to safety. There are many more children at risk in our day than the few dozen who met their untimely deaths in Bethlehem; millions of believers who are committed to rescuing those who are led to the slaughter. We listen to the guidance of Almighty God, especially in prayer vigils around the Christmas season, and the fruits are forthcoming.
Rescuing Today’s Innocents
The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal commemorate this day with a Mass at the Church of the Holy Innocents, followed by a solemn procession and prayer vigil in front of one of the most notorious abortion centers in Manhattan. One year there were two young mothers who made the decision to choose life for their babies. The Friars and hundreds of laypeople processed back to the Church basement to celebrate the lives saved.
After several Forty Days for Life prayer vigils in front of the Planned Parenthood abortion clinic she managed, Abby Johnson finally saw the horror of what she was doing and immediately repented. The same happened to those who fought for the legalization of abortion: Dr. Bernard Nathanson, Norma McCorvey and Sandra Cano. Dr. Nathanson, who admitted to being responsible for the murder of 75,000 innocents by abortion, repented of his crimes and eventually joined the Catholic Church. He credits the daily witness of pro-lifers praying in front of his clinic in all kinds of weather who were charitably begging the mercy of God on his immortal soul. Their prayers were heard and the saving power of the cross of Christ snatched these dark souls from the death grip of the enemy.
For that is the other shadow which haunts the peace of the manger, the shadow of the Cross. Jesus was born not only to preach the Good News, but to sacrificially offer Himself as the spotless lamb for the expiation of the sin of the world – the sins of Herod, of Pilate, of the abortionist, and of us all.
We do the Nativity of the Lord an injustice when we forget that He came to transform the world and taught us that it is the meek who will inherit the earth.
Leticia Velasquez is a wife and mother to three girls. Christina, her youngest, has Down syndrome. She is the co-founder of KIDS (Keep Infants with Down Syndrome). Leticia blogs about daily life with Christina at Cause of Our Joy and about pro-life matters at Causa Nostrae Laetitae. The Velasquez family lives in rural Connecticut.