“The Triumph of the Innocents,” painted by William Holman Hunt (1827-1910) circa 1883. (Public Domain/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

This feast recognizes all the boys of Bethlehem younger than two who were martyred by King Herod after St. Joseph had been warned to flee with his family to Egypt. This feast is particularly worth noting as an opportunity to pray for the innocent unborn who are killed through abortion.

According to a Catholic News Service article, estimates of the number killed range from 10 or 12, based on the likely population of Bethlehem at the time of Christ’s birth, to 64,000, a fantastic figure cited in the Syrian liturgy. This feast has been celebrated in the West since the fifth century.

“You are not restrained by the love of weeping mothers or fathers mourning the death of their sons, nor by the cries and sobs of the children,” writes St. Quodvultdeus, rhetorically addressing Herod, found in the Office of Readings for that day. “Yet your throne is threatened by the source of grace — so small, yet so great — Who is lying in the manger.”

The Holy Innocents are the patrons of foundlings.