The Holy Innocents: Martyrs of Christmas, martyrs of the modern world

Matteo di Giovanni – Massacre of the Innocents

by Donal Anthony Foley –

It is significant that the first three days after Christmas Day, during the celebratory octave, are given over to commemorate three different types of martyrdom. On December 26, we celebrate the feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr or witness for Christ after the crucifixion, who was stoned to death. The feast of St. John the Evangelist follows on December 27. He survived being cast into a cauldron of boiling oil in Rome in about the year 95 AD, and is regarded as a martyr of desire.

The feast of the Holy Innocents falls next, on December 28. After experiencing the joyous birth of Christ and adoring His image as a babe lying peacefully in a manger, we are almost immediately confronted by the dreadful, evil act of King Herod – the brutal and merciless slaughter of all male children, 2 years and younger, in the region of Bethlehem. This in response to the report by the Magi, those mysterious strangers who had come to Jerusalem in search of the newborn “King of the Jews”, having seen His star in the East.

We do not know how many children were killed, but the Church regards them as martyrs because they were murdered in Jesus’ stead – the first Christian martyrs. That is the reason why this feast, established in about the fifth century, is celebrated so soon after Christmas Day itself – although the feast of the coming of the Magi, that is the Epiphany, is not celebrated until January 6.

It is thought that several of the bodies of the Holy Innocents are buried in the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls in Rome, and that a portion of their relics can also be found in St. Mary Major Basilica.

The Holy Innocents, then, are martyrs because they shed their blood for Christ. In the modern age, the Holy Innocents have been regarded as prototypes of the millions of unborn children – the most innocent among us – killed through the equally evil and brutal act of abortion around the world.

When Our Lady appeared for the third time at Fatima, in July 1917, she warned about the errors of Russia, which she said would spread around the world if her message was not heeded. Following the Communist Revolution in November 1917, Russia became, in 1920, the first country in the world to legalize abortion. And since the 1960s and 70s in particular, abortion has spread around the world, to the extent that there now an estimated 40-50 million abortions performed globally each year.

Abortion was not the only error that Russia propagated, but it was certainly amongst the most deadly, along with the murder of millions in the Gulag camps. And now the increasing disregard of basic moral principles, which was a characteristic of Communism proper, has spread into Western society through Cultural Marxism, the ungodly offspring of Communism.

Although it is good to engage in political action against abortion, ultimately, the only thing that is going to defeat the mentality of the “culture of death” in which we are living is the promotion of an alternative “Civilization of Love,” an idea that was so greatly encouraged by St. John Paul II. That means a re-evangelization of Western culture, so that the teachings of Christ and the Church once again become a guiding light for society.

And since Our Lady prophetically pointed to the cause of many of our problems – the modern atheistic denial of God and morality – we also need to listen to what she said if we are to put things right; that is, to propagate the Fatima message, particularly devotion to her Immaculate Heart and both the daily Rosary and the Five First Saturdays devotion.

When the Church as a whole begins to do this with real zeal, we will be on the road to overturning the modern culture of death and ensuring an end to the onslaught of the modern holy innocents – all those millions of victims of abortion around the world.

Donal Anthony Foley is the author of a number of books on Marian Apparitions, and maintains a related web site at He has also written two time-travel/adventure books for young people, and the third in the series is due to be published later this year – details can be seen at:

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