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Lessons about life, love, and courage from three feast days this week

Reflections on the Feast of the Holy Innocents, the Feast of St. Thomas Becket, and the Feast of the Holy Family.

Holy Family depiction at Immaculate Conception Cathedral, Dili, East Timor (Kok Leng Yeo/Wikipedia)

This week, we have three significant feast days in a row. First, on December 28, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Innocents. On December 30, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. And between them, on December 29, we celebrate the Feast of St. Thomas Becket.

On the Feast of the Holy Innocents, we remember those babies callously ordered to be slaughtered by King Herod. Out of fear, upon hearing of the birth of Christ, he ordered that all males under two be killed. Imagine the anguish those parents faced as the babies were ripped from their arms and their lives. It is truly a parent’s worst nightmare and utterly heartbreaking.

On the Feast of the Holy Family, we contemplate the beauty of family—led by St. Joseph, nurtured by Mary, and lovingly gifted by God with Baby Jesus. In a 2001 Angelus message, St. John Paul II said, “The Redeemer of the world chose the family as the place for his birth and growth, thereby sanctifying this fundamental institution of every society.” The Holy Family should serve as a model for all families.

And in between these two, we celebrate a courageous saint who stood up to a king and who was martyred for his faith. Thomas Becket once said, “For the name of Jesus and the protection of the Church, I am ready to embrace death.” Becket was a brilliant man and a friend of King Henry II. He served as an archdeacon in the diocese of Canterbury and then later chancellor before the king appointed him Archbishop of Canterbury. In that position, Thomas stood in opposition to the king, who wanted to usurp the rights of the Catholic Church in England. Thomas refused to go along with the king’s demands and spent several years in exile. When he returned to England, he remained adamant in his protection of Church teaching. In a fit of rage, the king cried, “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest!” Four knights took this as a command and killed Thomas in Canterbury Cathedral.

As I ponder these consecutive feast days, I think about how fitting it is that they are celebrated together. We have a day that causes us to weep for the parents who lost children, a day to celebrate the courageous protector of the Church, and a day to honor the gift of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. In this progression, we see the brokenness of our world in the slaughter of innocents, a brokenness that a saint attempted to overcome, and a brokenness made whole by the birth and subsequent death of Christ. Our Lord and His Holy Family give us the most perfect example of what we should strive for in our families and in our lives.

This is vital because, as we look around our world today and at the atrocities committed by people who have no respect for life or for the Church, we must remember the terrible tragedy of the innocents, but we know that in Christ’s birth we can overcome all death and evil.

The reality is that the slaughter of innocents happens every day in our country. Babies are torn apart under the guise of “reproductive freedom,” and the sick and elderly are discarded and killed under the guise of “compassionate care.” These innocent and vulnerable people are today’s threats to those in power. They are unwanted, unloved, and dismissed often out of fear—fear for a lifestyle lost, fear of the unknown, and a fear of suffering. Our woke culture teaches that this slaughter is acceptable, even preferred in some cases.

And it has become so deeply engrained in the beliefs of young people that some in the so-called Generation Z are so traumatized by the Dobbs decision that they have threatened to leave their current states or even the country. This fear of an inability to kill a preborn child makes no sense to those of us who understand the sanctity of life. That is why we need the example of saints like Thomas Becket. He exemplifies the courage we need to stand up for Church teaching, even when those in power attempt to pervert this teaching.

And we then look to Christ and His earthy parents as models for how to live our lives and as models for how to raise children to stand up for their faith, no matter how difficult it is. This is no easy task, but it’s one we must find the courage for.

So, as we embark on a new year, let us look to our broken past with the knowledge that evil exists in our world but also with the confidence that Christ overcame this evil and that it will never have the last word. Until then, we must live as St. Thomas Becket lived and be ready to embrace even death “for the name of Jesus and the protection of the Church.”

If we are to live for eternity with Christ in heaven, there can be no other way.

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About Susan Ciancio 14 Articles
Susan Ciancio is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and has worked as a writer and editor for nearly 19 years; 13 of those years have been in the pro-life sector. Currently, she is the editor of American Life League’s Celebrate Life Magazine—the nation’s premier Catholic pro-life magazine. She is also the executive editor of ALL’s Culture of Life Studies Program—a pre-K-12 Catholic pro-life education organization.


  1. One can only wonder if the Feast of St Thomas Beckett has any significance in the increasingly modern teaching of Pope Francis given the clandestine agreements with Communist China.

  2. “My Lord Jesus, I find it difficult to talk to you. What can I say, I who have turned away from you so often with indifference? I have been a stranger to prayer, undeserving of your friendship and your love. I’ve been without honor and feel unworthy. I am a weak and shallow creature, clever only in the second-rate and worldly arts, seeking my comfort and pleasure. I gave my love, such as it was, elsewhere, putting service to my earthly king before my duty to you. But now, they have made me the shepherd of your flock and guardian of your church. Please, Lord, teach me now how to serve you with all my heart, to know at last what it really is to love, to adore, so that I worthily administer your kingdom here upon earth and find my true honor in observing your divine will. Please, Lord, make me worthy” (from movie Becket 1964. Script Edward Anhalt. Based on the play “Becket” by Jean Anouilh). Would that all clergy made this prayer at the time, Vat II 1962-65. And kept to it.

  3. In contrast to Thomas Becket “stand[ing] up for Church teaching, even when those in power attempt to pervert this teaching,” we have a Pope who welcomes, embraces and endorses pro abortion politicians like Biden and Pelosi who support, fund and glorify the killing of preborn children.

  4. Kosloski at ALETEIA gives a summary of some of the knowledge we have concerning how many children “under 2” who were killed in the massacre ordered by Herod. The ending suggestion is that that they were few in number; but I am wondering about this.

    Scripture says that the order given was for Bethlehem and its environs and the “cry was heard in Ramah”. It would be saying that a calculation was made about the target boy being Judean within Judea; and the assassinations were potentially carried out within some distance from Bethlehem.

    Speculating – Herod could have had some feedback from the census agents in Bethlehem and used it to make a sort of calculated determination which towns to hit first.

    Another striking feature is the progression in the overtaking of the Temple in the Herodian Dynastic: the destruction of the inheritance proper to the Davidic line.

    This “strategic” use of information is in keeping with the ruthlessness and cunning that so characterizes Herod.

    For all that, non-Jewish boys would have been killed along with the Jewish ones. I doubt very much the killers took the time to verify identities, the decree was upon all males under 2.

    Therefore I believe that the numbers were, verily, quite substantial and not “10 or 20”. Herod was secure in his submission to Roman hegemony, he had no particular care for ensuring a Jewish militia.

  5. I am thinking about those ill-procured FISA warrants and the warrants to raid Daleiden. You might suppose that once they were issued the process could not be interrupted. Not so. In fact there are legal avenues open to insiders, who know what is underway, that they can access to cause the interruption of the otherwise imminent fulfillment of the warrants. They do not have to be public whistleblowers, they just have to invoke the legal processes that can call the warrants into question and at least cause a breach in the timeline if not also eventually succeed in vacating them.

    The area of law is broadly called petition to review and involves the various prerogative writs, including certiorari, prohibition, quo warranto; as well as judicial review options, illegality, etc. What this is revealing to you is that officers in the public service do not have to feel they are under a total obligation and “obeisance to whoever happens to be in power at the time” or in charge. Warrant orders neither dis-empower nor relieve them. Also, it is saying that if there is an imbalance in the stock of officers/agents in terms of political bias/make-up, then this has to be redressed.

  6. One new theme for pro-life for January 2023 is that of – “Victory!” To tell you the truth I am at a loss for words about it. I would really like to see and hear pro-life give us their feelings on it.

    Archbishop Gregory cancelling on youth in D.C. not only demonstrates emaciated spirit and feebleness, it is the contrary to victory and acclamation: how can you give God glory by setting joy asunder! Crummy shepherding.

    You must take the time to appreciate and value what the Lord has handed to you. And acknowledge the Giver. And see the wider import. You hear how some nutty professor ding bats are saying that “women are behind/underrated in the Church”?

    You must be kidding right! What do you want me to tell God about you when I bring you up in prayer, where I have to be biting my tongue the whole time.

    ‘ Leveraging the political power of the movement built by early pro-life leaders, Dannenfelser saw a “dramatic change” when pro-lifers held candidates accountable on the issue. All along the way, she said, “when there were candidates or officeholders who failed, it was important to make sure that they felt the sting of disapproval from the pro-life movement.” 

    Over the years, the movement “found our political voice, and once we made clear that we were a force to be contended with in the political arena,” that made “the critical Senate, presidential and Supreme Court actions possible.”


    Dannenfelser said that there is more work than ever before for the pro-life movement, noting that pro-abortion politicians can undo all the state pro-life protections made possible by Dobbs. “I think we need to be doing 10 times what we already were doing,” she said of the next steps for the pro-life movement, calling for “coordination and unity and leveraging of all of the beautiful education tools” of the movement to target the individual situation of each state, along with backing pro-life candidates who will prevent efforts, like the extreme Women’s Health Protection Act, to undo state protections at the federal level. 

    Mancini said that in response to the “cultural backlash and confusion” following the Dobbs decision, the pro-life movement should focus on continuing to reach hearts and minds by combating disinformation on the issue, redoubling advocacy efforts at the state and federal level, and increasing the existing network of resources for moms in crisis pregnancies. ‘

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Lessons about life, love, and courage from three feast days this week | Franciscan Sisters of St Joseph (FSJ) , Asumbi Sisters Kenya
  2. Lessons about life, love, and courage from three feast days this week | Passionists Missionaries Kenya, Vice Province of St. Charles Lwanga, Fathers & Brothers

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