How can you and your family participate in the Little Innocents Project? Most importantly, by setting aside the 28th day of each month as a day of prayer and penance for the end of abortion, especially through the intercession of the Holy Innocents. There are no required prayers or practices, but the following are some suggestions based on traditional penitential practices:
- Divine Office/Liturgy of the Hours
- Little Office of the Holy Innocents
- Hymns and Carols
The best prayer of all is the Mass, which the Catechism of the Catholic Church calls ” the culmination … of the worship men offer to Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit” (CCC 1325). Try to attend Mass on the 28th of the month and offer it for the intention to attend abortion, and encourage your priest to offer a Votive Mass of the Holy Innocents if possible.
If you are unable to attend Mass, the following links provide the prayers of the Mass proper to the feast of the Holy Innocents, which you can pray devotionally in your own home:
- Extraordinary Form (1962 Missale Romanum)
- Ordinary Form (2002 Missale Romanum) – coming soon!
Divine Office/Liturgy of the Hours
The Divine Office, or the Liturgy of the Hours, is the daily public prayer of the Church. Priests and deacons are required to pray the Office daily, but the laity are encouraged to pray it as well, according to their state in life. The daily Office consists of seven or eight hours, depending on which form is used, that are prayed at various times throughout the day. You can pray them all, or you can choose one or more to pray at times that are convenient for you.
Below are links to the Office as it is prayed on December 28th, the feast of the Holy Innocents. If prayed on December 28th according to the prescribed rubrics, it is the official liturgical prayer of the church; if prayed on the 28th of any other month, it is simply a devotional practice.
- Extraordinary Form (1962 Breviary) – coming soon!
- Ordinary Form (Liturgy of the Hours) – coming soon!
Little Office of the Holy Innocents
Little Offices arose in imitation of the Divine Office, but in a simpler form. They were popular among the laity in the middle ages, who did not have access to the full breviary or time to pray the entire Divine Office, but still wanted a way to sanctify their day according to the canonical hours.
The following Little Office was composed in the style of the medieval Little Offices using texts from the Divine Office for the feast of the Holy Innocents:
In the extraordinary form, when two feasts coincide with one another under certain conditions, the lesser feast is commemorated at the celebration of the greater feast. In the Divine Office, this takes the form of the Magnificat antiphon, versicles, and collect of the lesser feast being prayed after the collect of the greater feast at Lauds (and sometimes Vespers). This form makes for a great prayer even outside of the Divine Office.
Commemoration of the Holy Innocents
Innocéntes pro Christo infántes occísi sunt, ab iníquo rege lacténtes interfécti sunt: ipsum sequúntur Agnum sine mácula, et dicunt semper: Glória tibi, Dómine.
V. Sub throno Dei omnes Sancti clamant.
R. Víndica sánguinem nostrum, Deus noster.
Deus, cujus hodiérna die præcónium Innocéntes Mártyres non loquéndo, sed moriéndo conféssi sunt: ómnia in nobis vitiórum mala mortífica; ut fidem tuam, quam lingua nostra lóquitur, étiam móribus vita fateátur. Per Dóminum nostrum Jesum Christum, Fílium tuum: qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitáte Spíritus Sancti Deus, per ómnia sǽcula sæculórum.
Innocent babies were slain for Christ, sucklings were killed by a wicked king. Now they follow the Lamb without spot and cry without ceasing, Glory be to thee, O Lord.
V. From beneath the throne of God all the saints cry out.
R. Avenge Thou our blood, O our God.
Let us pray.
O God, whose praise the martyred Innocents on this day confessed, not by speaking, but by dying: destroy all the evils of sin in us; that our life also may proclaim in deeds thy faith, which our tongues profess. Through Jesus Christ, Thy Son our Lord, Who lives and reigns with Thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.
Texts courtesy of The Divinum Officium Project.
A novena is a prayer said on nine consecutive days. When a novena honors a particular saint or feast, it is timed to end on the day before the feast (its vigil). These novenas in honor of the Holy Innocents should begin on the 19th of the month and end on the 27th. They can also be used as one-time prayers.
First Novena to the Holy Innocents
By their wordless profession of faith in your Son, the Holy
Innocents were given a martyr’s crown in the early days after the
Savior’s birth. Knowing how precious they are to you we call on them to
join in our prayer for an end to abortion and all forms of violence
That the President of the United States, all other elected
officials and judges may come to acknowledge the humanity of every child
in the womb and to enact laws and policies to defend them, we pray:
Lord, hear our prayer.
That everyone throughout the world may be given the light to see
beyond all doubt the full humanity and unique value of every child who
has ever been conceived, we pray: Lord, hear our prayer.
That all innocent children who suffer the scourges of war, the
wrath of abuse, and the pain of neglect may come to know the power of
God’s prevailing love and healing mercy, we pray: Lord, hear our
For these intentions and in union with the Holy Innocents, we pray as the Lord Jesus taught us: “Our Father, who art in heaven…”
Imprimatur: (2009) Jaime Soto, Bishop of Sacramento (courtesy of Priests for Life)
Second Novena to the Holy Innocents
O Holy Innocents, in the name of Jesus, for whom your blood was shed, pray for exploited and abused children.
O Holy Innocents, who, for the sake of the Christ Child your sacrifice was offered, intercede for the captive and suffering children.
O Holy Innocents, whose blood was sanctified by the precious blood of the Savior, preserve the purity and innocence of children and be their help and comfort.
Heavenly Father, I ask that you look with great mercy upon the peril of innocent children being violated in the world and deliver them from every evil. I beg your mercy through the sacrifice of the Holy Innocents and through the sacrificial love of your beloved Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
(Our Father, Three Hail Marys, Glory Be)
From the Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Calgary (courtesy of Roman Catholic Man)
Hymns and Carols
- Audit tyrannus anxius
- With terror doth the tyrant hear
- Salvete flores martyrum
- All hail ye infant martyr flowers
- Coventry Carol
Audit tyrannus anxius
The hymn for Matins on the feast of the Holy Innocents. For an English translation, see With terror doth the tyrant hear. Music coming soon!
Audit tyrannus anxius
adesse regum principem,
qui nomen Israel regat
teneatque David regiam.
Exclamat amens nuntio,
successor instat, pellimur;
satelles i, ferrum rape,
perfunde cunas sanguine.
Quid proficit tantum nefas,
quid crimen Herodem juvat?
unus tot inter funera
inpune Christus tollitur.
Jesu, tibi sit gloria,
qui natus es de Virgine,
cum Patre et almo Spiritu,
in sempiterna saecula. Amen.
With terror doth the tyrant hear
An English translation of Audit tyrannus anxius, the hymn for Matins of the feast of the Holy Innocents. Music coming soon!
With terror doth the tyrant hear
the King of kings hath come to dwell
where David’s court shall widely rear
A sceptered reign o’er Israel.
Then cries out, raging at the word:
“He comes to stand where we have stood:
Hence, soldier, and with ruthless sword
deluge the cradles deep with blood!”
What profiteth a crime so dread?
What hope shall Herod’s bosom sway?
Alone amidst the thronging dead,
The Christ is safely born away!
All glory for this blessed morn
To God the Father ever be;
All praise to Thee, O Virgin-born,
All praise, O Holy Ghost, to Thee.
Translated by John Mason Neale (1818-1866)
Salvete flores martyrum
The hymn for Lauds and Vespers on the feast of the Holy Innocents. For an English translation, see All hail ye infant martyr flowers. Music coming soon!
Salvéte, flores Mártyrum,
Quos lucis ipso in límine
Christi insecútor sústulit,
Ceu turbo nascéntes rosas.
Vos prima Christi víctima,
Grex immolatórum tener,
Aram sub ipsam símplices
Palma et corónis lúditis.
Jesu, tibi sit glória,
Qui natus es de Vírgine,
Cum Patre et almo Spíritu,
In sempitérna sǽcula. Amen.
All hail ye infant martyr flowers
An English translation of Salvete flores martyrum, the hymn for Lauds and Vespers of the feast of the Holy Innocents. Music coming soon!
You, tender flock of lambs, we sing,
First victims slain for Christ your King:
Beneath the Altar’s Heav’nly ray
With Martyr-palms and crowns ye play!
For their redemption glory be,
O Jesu, Virgin-born, to thee!
With Father, and with Holy Ghost,
For ever, from the Martyr-host! Amen.
Translated by John Mason Neale (1818-1866)
This carol comes from the medieval pageant of the Tailors and Shearmen, which depicted the slaughter of the Holy Innocents. Music coming soon!
Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child,
By by, lully, lullay.
O sisters too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day?
This poor Youngling for Whom we sing
By by, lully, lullay?
Herod the king, in his raging,
Chargèd he hath this day
His men of might, in his own sight,
All young children to slay.
That woe is me, poor Child for Thee!
And ever morn and may,
For thy parting Neither say nor sing,
By, by, lully, lullay.
Lully, lullay, thou little tiny Child,
By by, lully, lullay.
Fasting is a great way to honor the Holy Innocents, request their intercession, and make reparation for the sin of abortion. The traditional fast of the Church is to eat only one small meal per day, typically in the evening, possibly with one or two light collations if needed to maintain strength throughout the day. It is also traditional to abstain from meat when fasting.
According to current canon law, each conference of bishops determines the exact nature of the fast for the faithful in their dioceses on the days when it is required. In the United States, the USCCB regulations on fasting are as follows: “When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal.” Because this fast is not required by the Church, it can take whatever form you like. It is laudable, of course, to follow the traditional practice of the Church even when it is not required.
Almsgiving and Other Activities
There are many forms almsgiving can take for Little Innocents Day. Here are some ideas for how to give, along with other appropriate activities for the 28th of the month:
- Donate to your local crisis pregnancy center. If you’d rather donate supplies instead of money, they will be able to tell you what they need the most. There are many sites online, such as optionline.org and crisispregnancycentermap.com, that can help you find one near you.
- Donate to a pro-life organization that either gives assistance to those at risk for abortion or lobbies to enact pro-life legislation. You may even be able to schedule a recurring donation for the 28th of each month. The Pro-life Healthcare Alliance has a list of pro-life organizations, and many others can be found online.
- Volunteer at your local crisis pregnancy center. Many rely on the help of people like you to provide assistance to mothers before, during, and after pregnancy, encouraging and enabling them to choose life for their children instead of abortion. See above for information on how to find one near you.
- Pray outside your local abortion clinic, and offer to talk to the men and women seeking abortion there. Many do not know that assistance is available that could help them keep the baby they feel they have no choice but to abort. Many have been abandoned or pressured by family and friends because of their pregnancy. It is good to show them that there are people who do care about them and want to help them choose life for their children.
- Contact your local government officials and encourage them to sponsor and support legislation to end abortion and infanticide. Find your elected officials at usa.gov.