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The First Martyrs

The Massacre of the Innocents - The First Martyrs

by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
(taken from Catolicismo, N° 654 - June 2005)

 

The fresco below, representing the Massacre of the Innocents, was done by Giotto, the famous medieval Italian painter. It was painted between 1302 and 1306 and is exposed in the famous Chapel of the Scrovegni, in Padua.

Fresco by Giotto

Around the time of the birth of Our Redeemer, Herod, the Tetrarch of Galilee, ordered all boys under two years of age to be killed because the wise men had naively asked him if he had heard about the newly born king of the Jews.

Herod, figuring that there was not room on the throne for two kings, believed it necessary to eliminate that Boy. He had his soldiers look for the Child everywhere, but He was not found. So Herod ordered the slaughter of the innocents.

They were the first martyrs of the Catholic Church. Why martyrs? For a very simple reason: they were killed out of hatred for the faith and for God; out of hatred for the Child who had given them the honor of being born roughly at the same time He came into the world. Having been murdered for these reasons, they went to heaven as martyrs. They are the Holy Innocents.

When the Angels appeared on Christmas Eve, they proclaimed: “Glory be to God in the highest, and peace on earth to men of good will.” But the first actions that unfold from that day full of light, blessing and peace, are also laden with threats regarding the future. For a superficial mind, this seems to be in contradiction with the phrase “peace on earth to men of good will.” One has the impression that men of good will would neither suffer persecutions nor have to fight.

Probably some of the fathers and mothers of those children depicted in Giotto’s fresco were men of good will. Nevertheless, what happened to them? An immense tragedy: their children were slaughtered.

Herod appears on a sort of balcony, ordering the massacre. One sees the executioners looking for children whom their parents are trying to hide. In the foreground, one sees a woman who obviously does not want to give up her son. Nearby, one notices scenes of agitation and violence. It is indeed a dramatic scene.

Someone could ask, “Were they not baptized?” The answer is that they were baptized in their own blood; they were graced with the so-called “baptism of blood.” And they are, as far as one can see, the first deceased Christians to benefit from the merits of Our Lord Jesus Christ shortly after their own birth.

 

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Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for May 27, 2020

The saints in heaven, seeing God face to face, love Him abov...

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May 27

 

The saints in heaven, seeing God face to face,
love Him above all things, because they see with the most perfect evidence
that God is better than all creatures combined.
This love will never pass away.
Faith will give place to vision; hope will be replaced by possession: but
“charity never falleth away.” I Cor. 13:8.

Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange


My Mother, I will stand with you on OCTOBER 10, 2020

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Augustine of Canterbury

His ardent missionary desire, however, was not to be fulfill...

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St. Augustine of Canterbury

One day, the story goes, Gregory was walking through the Roman slave market when he noticed three fair, golden-haired boys. He asked their nationality and was told that they were Angles. "They are well named," said Gregory, "for they have angelic faces." He asked where they came from, and when told "De Ire," he exclaimed, "De ira (from wrath)—yes, verily, they shall be saved from God's wrath and called to the mercy of Christ. What is the name of the king of that country?" "Aella." "Then must Alleluia be sung in Aella's land."

This brief encounter in the Roman Forum between the monk Gregory – later Pope St. Gregory the Great – and the English youths planted in him such a desire to evangelize England that having secured the blessing of Pope Pelagius, he immediately set forth with several monk companions. This ardent missionary desire, however, was not to be fulfilled by himself but by another.

Augustine was prior of a Benedictine monastery in the Eternal City when Pope St. Gregory the Great asked him and another thirty monks to take up the evangelization of England, a project close to the pontiff’s heart.

England had been Christianized before the seventh century, but the Saxon invasion had sent Anglo-Christians into hiding.

As Augustine and companions made their way to the isle, they heard so many stories of the cruelty of their future hosts, that by the time they reached France, they decided to turn back to Rome. But Pope Gregory who had heard differently, including the fact that King Ethelbert had married the Christian-French princess Bertha, respecting her religion, insisted on the mission being carried out.

On arriving in England, King Ethelbert in fact received the monks respectfully and allowed them to preach. In 597 the king accepted baptism, and although, unlike other kings of the time, he let his people free to choose, conversions began to happen.

Augustine was consecrated bishop of the English and ruled wisely, stepping carefully around the prevalent pagan practices, Christianizing old temples, and keeping certain holidays as feasts of Christian saints.

The holy prelate had more success with the pagans then with the old Christians who had taken refuge in Cornwall and Wales. They had a strayed a little from the teachings of Rome, and though Augustine met with them many times trying to bring them back, they could not forgive their Saxon conquerors and chose bitterness and isolation instead.

St. Augustine was primate of England for only eight years, and died in May of 605.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

There was once a young country wife who practiced devotion t...

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Mary and the Simple Country Wife

There was once a young country wife who practiced devotion to Holy Mary, just as her mother had taught her to do. This simple young lady considered herself fortunate to have married a handsome soldier. Little did she know that her soldier-husband had made a deal with the devil, that he would sell his wife for a certain sum of money.

One crisp, autumn morning the couple went out for their customary walk. Oddly, this time the young man insisted on heading towards the forest. It was at the forest where he intended to deliver his young bride over to the devil.

On their way to the forest, the couple passed in front of a Church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The wife, overtaken with a desire to enter the church begged her husband to allow her to pray a Hail Mary in that church.

As the young lady entered the church, Holy Mary came forth from it, taking the form of the wife and accompanied the man into the forest.

When they at last approached the devil at the forest, he said to the man, “Traitor! Why have you brought me instead of your wife, my enemy, the mother of God?”

“And you,” said Mary, addressing the devil, “how have you dared to think of injuring my servant? Go, flee to hell.”

And then, turning to the man, Mary said to him, “Amend your life, and I will aid you.”

She then disappeared and that wretched man repented, amended his life and became a husband worthy of his simple country wife.

From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

 

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There was once a young country wife who practiced devotion to Holy Mary, just as her mother had taught her to do. This simple young lady considered herself fortunate to have married a handsome soldier.

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