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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 September 30, 2020

Either we must speak as we dress, or dress as we speak. Why...

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September 30

 

Either we must speak as we dress,
or dress as we speak.
Why do we profess one thing and display another?
The tongue talks of chastity, but the whole body reveals impurity.

St. Jerome


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

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Jerome

He became seriously ill and had a dream that profoundly impa...

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St. Jerome

St. Jerome is a Father and Doctor of the Church who is best known for his compiling of the Vulgate version of the Catholic Bible, now the standard edition in use.

He was born about the year 347 at Stidon, near Dalmatia, to wealthy Christian parents. Initially educated at home, his parents soon sent him to Rome to further his intense desire for intellectual learning. There he studied and excelled at grammar, Latin and Greek, rhetoric, and philosophy, and lived a deeply materialistic life alongside his fellow students. Jerome was baptized in his late teen years, as was the custom at the time, around the time he finished his schooling.

After spending many years in travel and, notably, discovering and investigating his extreme interest in monasticism, Jerome’s life took a sudden turn. In the spring of 375, he became seriously ill and had a dream that profoundly impacted him, because in it he was accused of being a follower of Cicero – an early Roman philosopher – and not a Christian. Afterwards, Jerome vowed never to read any pagan literature again – not even the classics for pleasure. He separated himself from society and left to become a hermit in the desert so as to atone for his sins and dedicate himself to God. Having no experience of monasticism and no guide to direct him, Jerome suffered greatly and was often quite ill. He was plagued terribly with temptations of the flesh and would impose harsh penances on himself to repress them. While there, he undertook the learning of Hebrew, as an added penance, and was tutored by a Jewish convert. When controversy arose among his fellow monks in the desert concerning the bishopric of Antioch, Jerome left to avoid the tension of the position he found himself in.

Having developed a reputation as a great scholar and ascetic, Jerome was ordained to the priesthood by the persuasion of Bishop Paulinus, on the condition that he be allowed to continue his monastic lifestyle and not be obliged to assume pastoral duties.

In 382, he was appointed as secretary to Pope Damascus, who urged him to undertake a Latin translation of the Bible from its original Greek and Hebrew origins.

After the death of the Holy Pontiff, Jerome left Rome for the Holy Land with a small group of virgins who were led by his close friend, Paula. Under his direction, Paula established a monastery for men in Bethlehem and three cloisters for women. Jerome remained at this monastery until his death around A.D. 420, only leaving occasionally for brief trips. He is the patron saint of librarians and translators.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In his book, The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort...

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The Rosary, the Devil and the Queen

In his book, The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort relates that Blessed Thomas of St. John was a great devotee of the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As such, he was known for his powerful, moving sermons on the Rosary, which led people to adopt this devotion to their great benefit.

Furiously jealous of the holy man’s success with souls, the devil began to so torture Thomas that he fell sick, and was so ill for so long that the doctors gave up on saving his life.

One night, when the poor man thought he was near death, the devil appeared to him in a hideous form, coward that he is, seeking to frighten Thomas into despair.

But, making an effort, the good priest turned to a beautiful picture of Our Lady near his bed crying out with all his heart and strength:

“Help me, save me, my sweet, sweet Mother!”

No sooner had he pronounced these words, the picture came alive and extending her hand, the heavenly Lady laid it reassuringly on the priest’s arm, saying:

“Do not be afraid, Thomas my son, here I am and I am going to save you. Get up now and go on preaching my Rosary as you did before. I promise to shield and protect you from your enemies.”

No sooner had Our Lady pronounced these words, than the devil fled in a hurry. Getting up, Thomas found that he was perfectly healed. 

Thanking the Blessed Mother with tears of joy, Blessed Thomas again went about preaching the Holy Rosary, now with renewed favor and gumption, and his apostolate and his sermons were enormously successful. 

St. Louis the Montfort concludes this story saying, “Our lady not only blesses those who say her Rosary, but also abundantly rewards those who, by their example, inspire others to say it as well.”

 


 

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In his book, The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort relates that Blessed Thomas of St. John was a great devotee of the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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