Following the Feasts of the Holy Innocents and Holy Family

The Feast of the Holy Innocents and the Feast of the Holy Family are back-to-back this coming weekend.

In one, we lament the cruelty of King Herod, who felt so threatened by Baby Jesus that he ordered all the boys under the age of two in Bethlehem and its vicinity killed. These were the first humans to shed their blood for Christ.

In the other, we celebrate the most beautiful and loving family to ever exist—Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.

Adoration of the Shepherds – Andrea Mantegna

As we reflect upon the dichotomy of these two things—the murder of innocent babies and the celebration of family—let us seek the help of the Holy Family to protect not only our families, but to protect the innocents who are destroyed every day.

“The Creep”

Our bishop concelebrated Mass at my parish this past weekend. In his sermon, he talked about what he called “the creep.” The creep, he explained, is how secular society takes hold of us, while its ideas, notions, and beliefs creep into our own lives and take over, attempting to convince us that what they teach—rather than what the Church teaches—is right. It skews our thinking and leads us to do things we normally would not have done. He gave examples of this from biblical history, including Abraham, Solomon, and many others, and explained how this also happens today.

He also explained that, as society likes to co-opt holidays or special days like Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day, and All Saints’ Day, we should always opt for the Christian version when we can. We should remember Christ on Christmas! And during Halloween season, by all means, remember All Souls’ and All Saints’ Days.

While it was a nice sermon, I found that it was also lacking in substance. I wanted him to go a step further and to really teach what I see as “the creep,” but he did not. I wanted him to explain that our society devalues children so much that 48% of Catholics say they support legal abortion, and 89% of Catholics use some form of contraception. I wanted him to talk about how the family is the foundation of society, but that secular society’s immoral behavior has creeped into the family and now 28% of Catholics who have ever been married have since been divorced. I wanted him to talk about how important it is that children have both a mother and a father, and that a truly sacramental marriage is comprised of one man and one woman.

But he said none of that.

“Massacre of the Innocents” – Duccio di Buoninsegna

I wanted him to remind us about the two feast days coming up and talk about the fact that, while everyone understands the tragedy that unfolded when Herod had little boys killed, we cannot seem to understand the tragedy that occurs in America today, when roughly 2,900 innocents are killed every day in abortions. That’s a staggering statistic. Yet he said nothing.

Last week, I stood outside Planned Parenthood with about 30 other people. We said the rosary and sang Christmas carols. We prayed for the innocent babies who are slaughtered inside. And I thought about Herod and how callous many of the political leaders of today are—and how they are just like him. These people not only advocate for abortion, but they cheer for it. It’s sickening.

I wanted our bishop to talk about how we should fight this creep and protect preborn babies, and how we must use the Holy Family as a model for all of our families and ask their intercession to protect today’s holy innocents. You see, we cannot revere one and ignore the other. We cannot hold the Holy Family in the highest of regards and then forget about the babies who are slaughtered every day. Families are the cornerstone of society. Indeed, we cannot forget that, regardless of the circumstances, a baby is always a blessing because a baby is willed and created by God. To throw away this gift of a child is akin to saying no to our own holy family.

The Catechism and Scripture

When we are complacent, the creep slithers into our lives. Sometimes we aren’t even aware that it’s enveloping us—choking us. Its insidiousness replicates something good or harmless, and if we aren’t vigilant, it will swallow us.

To build a Culture of Life, we must start in our own families. And what better family to model our own families after than the Holy Family. The Church teaches the importance of family; we need only listen. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The importance of the family for the life and well-being of society entails a particular responsibility for society to support and strengthen marriage and the family. Civil authority should consider it a grave duty ‘to acknowledge the true nature of marriage and the family, to protect and foster them, to safeguard public morality, and promote domestic prosperity.’”

In addition, the Catechism says:

The family is the original cell of social life. It is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life. Authority, stability, and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society. The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honor God, and make good use of freedom. Family life is an initiation into life in society.

The family should live in such a way that its members learn to care and take responsibility for the young, the old, the sick, the handicapped, and the poor.

See, the Culture of Life begins in the family and moves outward. The family that takes care of itself then takes care of those around it. This spreads to those in the local community and those in the wider community.

So how do we use the Holy Family’s example to strengthen our own families?

We can look to Scripture and to the actions of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.

Even though Joseph was never quoted in Scripture, we know that he was obedient, that he loved Mary and Jesus very much, and that he cared for them. He heeded the angel’s message about marrying Mary and raising Jesus as his own. Then, when an angel appeared to him and told him to flee to Egypt, and then return later upon the death of Herod, Joseph did not hesitate. He did what was necessary to protect his family. Today, we look to him as an example of strength and love and as the perfect example of the leader of a family.

“The Flight into Egypt” – Capella dei Scrovegni

Then we see our spiritual mother. Mary’s love knows no bounds, and it has been proven many times—from her “fiat” when the Angel Gabriel asked her to be the mother of Christ, to the love and care she gave Jesus throughout His life, to the pain she felt as she watched Him suffer and die on the cross.

Finally, we see the obedience of Jesus and how He listened to Mary and Joseph. When Jesus was just 12 and lost, Mary and Joseph were sick with worry. They looked for him for three days, and when they finally found him, He was in the temple teaching. He returned with his parents obediently. We see another example of His obedience when He performed His first miracle at the wedding of Cana.

Truly, this Holy Family is an example to us of how we are to treat those within our families.

The creep exists, but it is infinitely more pervasive than the bishop dared speak.

As these two important feast days approach, let us not be afraid to talk about how the Culture of Death has creeped into our society, blinding us to God’s words, to the love of our fellow human beings, and to the understanding that families, babies, the elderly, and all our brothers and sisters in Christ—born and preborn—are valued and loved.

We can stop the creep, but it will take effort and strength. And this strength can only come from our spiritual father and mother, and from Christ Himself.

About Susan Ciancio

Susan Ciancio has a BA in psychology and a BA in sociology from the University of Notre Dame, with an MA in liberal studies from Indiana University. For the past 17 years, she has worked as a professional editor and writer, editing both fiction and nonfiction books, magazine articles, blogs, educational lessons, professional materials, and website content. Ten of those years have been in the pro-life sector. Currently Susan writes weekly for HLI, edits for American Life League, and is the editor of its Celebrate Life Magazine. She also serves as executive editor for the Culture of Life Studies Program, an educational nonprofit program for k-12 students.

1 Comment

  1. Jennifer Minnick on January 4, 2020 at 7:39 AM

    This is perfectly written for the Christmas season and has a wonderful message. I really enjoyed it! Thank you!

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