The Holy Innocents

The Feast of the Holy Innocents is fittingly celebrated soon after Christmas Day since the Holy Innocents stood in the place of the Child Jesus and saved Him from death by their own shedding of blood. Parents have an opportunity to explain that the Holy Innocents are the special patrons of small children; they help them to please the Infant by obeying their parents, loving their playmates, sharing their toys.

After morning Mass it is becoming customary in some communities for the children to gather around the crib in the parish church for the special blessing of children by the parish priest. If this is not possible, then the family gathers in the evening around the crib, and the father leads everyone present in the Our Father. Then he says the versicle, "O Lord, hear my prayer," and all respond, "And let my cry come unto You." The father proceeds with this prayer, taken from the blessing for children:

Let us pray. O Lord Jesus Christ, once You embraced and placed Your hands upon the little children who came to You, and said: "Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, and their angels always see the face of my Father!" Look now with fatherly eyes on the innocence of these children and their parents' devotion, and bless them this day through our ministry. (The father signs the forehead of each child with the sign of the cross.)

In Your grace and goodness let them advance continually, longing for You, loving You, fearing You, keeping Your commandments. Then they will surely come to their destined home, through You, Savior of the world. Who lives and reigns forever and ever.

All answer, "Amen."

Then the father says to the children: "May God bless you. And may He keep your hearts and minds--the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit."

All answer, "Amen."

The father then sprinkles the children with holy water. (The Church's official blessing of children is included in the Roman Ritual.)

This feast day, when the father blesses the children with holy water and signs their foreheads with the sign of the cross, reminds us that the father of the family stands at the head of the "little church" which is the home. In this capacity, he has the privilege of blessing the children not only today, but every day. Perhaps the ceremony suggested above could inaugurate the custom of the father blessing the children each evening at family night prayers.

Since the feast of the Holy Innocents particularly concerns young children, the youngest child in the family is today given special privileges. He chooses the dessert for the family dinner, for example; he leads the family in Christmas carols, turns on the Christmas tree lights for the evening's festivities or performs other functions held in honor in the home.

A delightful centerpiece for the family table today can be made by surrounding the large Christ-Candle with smaller white candles representing the Holy Innocents.

The number of small candles might be as many as there are children in the family. Each child is allowed to light one small candle from the flame of the Christ-Candle, signifying that inasmuch as he received his life from Christ, he will live and if need be die for Christ just as the Holy Innocents did. The following round may be sung by the children.

Light of Christ, let me be a tiny flame reflecting thee.


- from EWTN