Since the sixth century, on December 28, the Church has celebrated the memory of those children killed because of Herod’s rage against Christ (Mt 2:16-17). Liturgical tradition refers to them as the “Holy Innocents” and regards them as martyrs.
Throughout the centuries Christian art, poetry and popular piety have enfolded the memory of the “tender flock of lambs”(125) with sentiments of tenderness and sympathy. These sentiments are also accompanied by a note of indignation against the violence with which they were taken from their mothers’ arms and killed.
In our own times, children suffer innumerable forms of violence which threaten their lives, dignity and right to education. On this day, it is appropriate to recall the vast host of children not yet born who have been killed under the cover of laws permitting abortion, which is an abominable crime. Mindful of these specific problems, popular piety in many places has inspired acts of worship as well as displays of charity which provide assistance to pregnant mothers, encourage adoption and the promotion of the education of children.
As recorded in the gospel of Matthew, after the visit of the Magi, Herod, in rage and jealousy, slaughtered all the baby boys in Bethlehem and surrounding countryside in an attempt to destroy his perceived rival, the infant Messiah. These “innocents” are honored by the Church as martyrs.
In countries where our own innocents are daily being slaughtered by abortion, this feast day is a special time to remember the unborn, to pray for their cause, and perhaps to picket or pray at facilities where unborn babies are killed through abortion.
The Feast of the Holy Family celebrates the family unit and the Holy Family: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The feast usually falls on the Sunday after Christmas. If Christmas is a Sunday, then the feast is celebrated on December 30th.
This year the feast falls on December 28, 2008.
Let us pray
help us to live as the Holy Family,
united in respect and love.
Bring us to the joy and peace of your eternal home.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Let us pray
Father in heaven, creator of all,
you ordered the earth to bring forth life,
and crowned its goodness by creating the family of man.
In history’s moment when all was ready
You sent your Son to dwell in time,
obedient to the laws of life in our world.
Teach us the sanctity of human love,
show us the value of family life,
and help us to live in peace with all men
that we may share in your life forever.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen
Lord Jesus Christ,
who, being made subject to Mary and Joseph,
didst consecrate domestic life
by Thine ineffable virtues;
grant that we,
with the assistance of both,
may be taught by the example
of Thy Holy Family
and may attain to its everlasting fellowship.
Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.
Jesus, our most loving redeemer,
You came to enlighten the world
with your teaching and example.
You willed to spend the greater part of Your life
in humble obedience to Mary and Joseph
in the poor home of Nazareth.
In this way, You sanctified that family,
which was to be an example for all Christian families.
Graciously accept our family,
which we dedicate and consecrate to You this day.
Be pleased to protect, guard, and keep it
in holy fear, in peace,
and in the harmony of Christian charity.
By conforming ourselves to the Divine model
of Your family,
may we attain to eternal happiness.