"God knows that what so many of us want at this moment is the chance once again to mother the beloved children whom we have lost."—Fr. Peter John Cameron, O.P., St. Rose of Lima Church, Newtown, CT, Dec. 23, 2012
Today the Church observes the Feast of the Holy Innocents, in remembrance of the murder of an unknown number of boys age two and under by King Herod after he heard about the birth of "the newborn king of the Jews" (Matthew 2:2).
Of course this observance is more poignant than ever this year because of the gunning down of twenty children at an elementary school in Connecticut just a little more than a week before Christmas.
It has also long been a poignant remembrance for women who mourn the loss of their children to abortion, in a culture that mostly refuses to recognize the connection between Herod's massacre and our own ongoing murder spree, between the grief of the first-century mothers whose children were killed by Herod's soldiers and the grief of post-abortive mothers in our own century.
The Office of Readings for today's feast includes the following from a sermon by Saint Quodvultdeus, a fifth-century bishop: "You destroy those who are tiny in body because fear is destroying your heart. You imagine that if you accomplish your desire you can prolong your own life, though you are seeking to kill Life himself." Quodvultdeus was speaking of Herod, but whether consciously and acknowledged or not, women have abortions because, for one reason or another, we (or someone who coerces us) are afraid, like Herod, of a baby.
Today's Gospel reading ends by quoting Jeremiah 31:15: "A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more." Fr. Cameron, in his homily to parishioners of St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown on the Sunday before Christmas, offered sentences with similar sentiments from the Spiritual Canticle of St. John of the Cross:
Why, since You woundedYes! My own heart cries out like this sometimes, for my child, and for other (though less innocent) loved ones who are no longer present. But like the Psalms, which always end with hope and praise, and like the Gospels, which end not with Jesus' death but with His resurrection, and the promise of ours, St. John's Canticle continues:
This heart, don’t You heal it?
And why, since You stole it from me,
Do You leave it so....
Extinguish these miseries,
Since no one else can stamp them out.
And may my eyes behold You,Fr. Cameron too ended his homily to his stricken community—who, after all, came—with hope, expressed to the Mother of our Lord, "Tell Him whom we love most … that we sicken, suffer, and die. But we do not despair! Because you come to visit us … and we leap with joy in our darkness to receive the Communion of love who is the Fruit of your womb."
Because You are their light,
And I would open them to You alone.