Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
The Holy Innocents—28 December AD 2008
“A voice in Rama was heard, lamentation and great mourning;
Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted,
because they are not.”[1]

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass of the Holy Innocents

    The wailing of Rachel refers to the book of Jeremia.  Although “wailing for her children,” the passage seems to indicate all of the people who were murdered by the Babylonians six or seven centuries before the birth of Christ.  This was an unjust invasion, of course, but seems somewhat less evil than the murder of the innocent children by King Herod.  Herod’s action was not an act of war—justified or unjustified—it was an act of maniacal furry directed at those who had committed no crime and offered no opposition whatsoever to his rule as king.

    Herod was a madman.  He murdered his wife, four of his in‑laws, and even three of his own sons—all because he feared that they would seize his throne, either by virtue of their popularity, or by outright conspiracy against him.  Caesar Augustus is said to have joked that it would be better to be Herod’s pig than to be Herod’s son, for the Jews did not eat pork, and would have no reason to kill a pig.

    We are not sure just how many babies were put to death—the estimates very from fourteen or fifteen, up to few tens of thousands, or even the one hundred forty four thousand mentioned in the Apocalypse.  Certainly, Herod was not in the same league with Hitler, Stalin, and Mao with their multi-millions of murders;  not even in the league with the Babylonians who put “Rachel’s children” to death.  But the idea of putting children to death—even one’s own sons—seems like the work of a particularly evil man.

    The Church venerates the murdered Innocents as martyrs, in that in having to seek them out and murder them, Herod’s soldiers were otherwise occupied as Joseph and Mary flew into exile in Egypt.  The Innocent sons of men gave their lives for the infant Son of God, who would return the favor only a few decades later.  Their souls left this world for the Limbo of the Just, soon to be called to Heaven before the face of God on the day between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.  Only on Sunday is this Mass celebrated in red and with the Glória in excélsis, for Sunday corresponds to the Resurrection and Holy Innocents experience of the beatific vision.  Other days the vestments are purple.

    In our own time we have witnessed a much more ghastly slaughter of innocent babies, as well as a growing number of relatively innocent adults whose only “crime” was disability.  In 1973, in a burst of raw judicial arrogance, the U.S. Supreme Court usurped the jurisdiction of the States and nullified the laws of all fifty States which protected unborn babies from being destroyed.  It likewise claimed the fifth, ninth, and tenth amendments to be inoperative, making believe that they were somehow reversed by the fourteenth amendment, in which they hallucinated a “right to privacy” superior to one’s right to life.  In the thirty-six years since Roe vs. Wade, roughly 50‑million American children have been put to death by medical practitioners who used to swear an oath to do no such thing:

    We’ve had the Hippocratic oath for many centuries:  “I will prescribe ... for the good of my patients ... and never do harm to anyone.  I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked ... I will not give a woman a pessary to cause an abortion.”

    And in 1948, in response to the atrocities of the World Ward II era, we have the Declaration of Geneva, which reads in part: “I will maintain the utmost respect for human life, from the time of its conception, even under threat, I will not use my medical knowledge contrary to the laws of humanity;”  Unfortunately, in 1968, the global medical community eliminated the part of the Declaration which respects human life “from the time of its conception” and “I will not use my medical knowledge contrary to the laws of humanity;”[2]

    Fifty-million American children in only thirty-six years!  Only God knows how many throughout the world!  Particularly in China where having more than one child is a crime—imagine a land in which the words “brother,” “sister,” “aunt,” “uncle,” and “cousin” are becoming meaningless.[3]  Countless innocents who may very well never enjoy that vision of God enjoyed by the martyrs.  But the victims go far beyond those slain under the guise of law, and any theological speculation we may care to make about Limbo and the fate of the un‑baptized:

    Think of the poor young mothers, scared to death about the social stigma associated with giving birth unwed; not sure how they will provide for the child;  perhaps under pressure from the boyfriend or the family;  for many the grief for a child that that was not‑allowed‑to‑be never goes away.  “I've been to crying for unborn children that would have made me complete....”[4]  That kind of grief may effect men as well as women.  For the women there is a statistical link to breast cancer.[5]

    Think of society at large.  The musicians, the physicians, the engineers, the philosophers, the artists that would have been among those fifty‑million, but were not‑allowed‑to‑be.  Think about a society that views its own children as something like a disease, to be prevented by medicine or surgery.  Think of the numbing effect that countenancing fifty‑million deaths has on the conscience of a nation—that is a death toll consistent with fighting a major war—but, in this case, a war against ourselves.  Think of Western Civilization which is not reproducing itself.  All of those European and American birthrates under 2.1 which point to a society disappearing from the face of the Earth

    Perhaps above all, consider the magnitude of the sin against Almighty God!  Can a nation ask for God’s blessings, unrepentant of such an outrage?  Unrepentant of a sin that “cries out for vengeance” like the shedding of the blood of Abel the Just, but millions of times over—“What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.”[6]  Will not the blood of our tiny brothers and sisters cry out against us in a chorus fifty-million strong?

    Fortunately, the blood of our Lord shed on the Cross also cries out—it cries out for repentance and forgiveness.  But the one must come before the other—repentance before forgiveness.

    What can we do?  First of all we must pray.  The Holy Innocents will be powerful intercessors on the part of the unborn if we beseech them with prayers; likewise Saint Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary who almost lost her Son to the madness of the baby killers.  We must ask God’s forgiveness for any of the sins that we ourselves may have committed against the holiness of marriage and the sanctity of human life.  Perhaps we should do some penance for such sins, and for those who will not do penance for themselves.

    We must never do anything that would drive a woman to destroy her child.  Trying to shame people into chastity seems not to work, and produces a sin of much greater magnitude.  The woman who would carry her child to term ought to be esteemed as a virtuous woman for her willingness to do so.

    There are alternatives.  There are many people seeking to adopt the children that they could not have themselves.  There are some numbers in the phone book under “abortion-alternatives”; the Internet produces many more.[7]  Even if you don’t need their help, consider sending them a donation once in a while.  Or see if they can make use of hand‑me‑down baby clothing or furniture if you have some of that.[8]

    Finally, there is the political issue.  Our representatives in government must know where stand.  Can a government that fails to protect the lives of the innocent be legitimate?  Can one that forces taxpayers to pay for the murder of the unborn?  One that forces physicians to violate their own conscience, and perhaps an oath “to do no harm”?  What other draconian measures will come next from such a government.  The right to life may not be the only issue in an election, but it certainly has highest priority—for those deprived of life, nothing else the government does matters at all.

    Finally, I urge you once again to prayer.  Our parish offers a Mass for the Right to Life on the fourth Wednesday of each month without fail—consider attending if at all possible.  Pray that through the intercession of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and the Holy Innocents that the Herods of the world may be stopped!


[1]   Jeremia xxxi: 15.

[3]   Thanks to Carol Brusca for this linguistic insight.

[4]   Cf. Charlene, “I’ve never been to me,” Motown, 1977

[6]   Genesis iv: 10.

[7]   E.g. Priests for Life-800 numbers for various organizations

[8]  Birthline, 1040 S. Federal Highway, Suite 101
Delray Beach, FL 33483  Phone: (561) 278-0894; Hotline: (561) 278-0880;


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