Remembering the Grieving Mothers

10:03:00 AM

Mary and Joseph are curled up on the floor together with the child Jesus. They are trying to keep their eyes tightly closed. An angel in a long flowing gown appears through the doorway and grabbing Joseph’s arm, she shakes him roughly to wake him up.

“Get up and take Mary and Jesus and go into Egypt,” the angel announces loudly.

Soon Mary and Joseph are gathering their belongings. Mary scoops up Jesus and they disappear through the doorway.

It is Epiphany and our children are taking part in a play watched by a group of homeschooling parents. Everyone has a part including Gemma-Rose even though she is only two or three years old. She is one of the Holy Innocents. 

Callum bends down to speak to Gemma-Rose. “Now all you have to do is pretend to cry when Herod’s soldiers come. OK?”

Gemma-Rose looks up solemnly and nods her head. She can do that. Easy.

Now Callum, as Herod, strides across the stage and in a commanding voice he orders his soldiers to hunt out every young male child two years and younger, in and around Bethlehem. “Kill them!” he yells.

Through the doorway, a few young boys appear trying to look big and tough. They are brandishing their swords and they shout, trying to deepen their voices in a threatening manner.

And then there is a soul piercing scream. It rises in terror and my blood runs cold. Germma-Rose is petrified. She is trying to get away but there is nowhere to go. She is under a table and she pushes herself right into the corner of the room as far away from the ‘soldiers’ as she can. Tears are pouring down her face as she sobs.

Tears are also pouring down my face. I look around and see tears streaming down Gemma-Rose’s Godmother’s cheeks too. I want to get up and rescue my distraught daughter. Then I notice that Imogen is under the table pulling Gemma-Rose out. When they stand up, Gemma-Rose is clinging to her older sister, her arms tightly around her neck, and she is still sobbing uncontrollably. Imogen hugs her tight as she finishes her last speech then she brings her over to me. I enfold Gemma-Rose in my arms and our tears mingle.

This happened a few years ago. On that day, for the first time, I really reflected on how the Holy Innocents felt as they were taken from their mothers. How terrified they must have been. And how heartless were the soldiers who ignored their screams and killed them.

The other day we were talking about the Epiphany play. All the children remember it very clearly except for Gemma-Rose. She, thankfully, has forgotten what a traumatic experience it was. We had to tell her the story of the Holy Innocents. When I’d finished telling her how these innocent children lost their lives dying in Jesus’ place, Gemma-Rose asked, “But what about the babies’ mothers? Didn’t they feel very sad when their babies were killed?”

Of course these mothers must have grieved terribly. What would it be like to stand by and watch your child taken and killed and not be able to do anything to save him? A sword would have gone straight through the heart of every mother.

A voice was heard in Ramah,
sobbing and loud lamentation;
Rachael weeping for her children,
and she would not be consoled,
since they were no more.

Today is the Feast of the Holy Innocents. Maybe we could add “and their grieving mothers”. The Holy Innocents are regarded as martyrs; they died not only for Jesus, but in His place. But their mothers also sacrificed so much and sorrowed deeply and could not be consoled.

Once someone told me, “Sue, you have suffered the death of one of your children. That is the greatest suffering a mother can know.”

I don’t know if this is true but I do know that it is an enormous suffering. I think back to the death of Thomas and I think of the deaths of the Holy Innocents. Yes, all mothers are united when they grieve for their children.

I watched Thomas die and, like the mothers of the Holy Innocents, there wasn’t anything I could do about it. Tears streamed down my face and there was a huge pain in my heart and I didn’t want to say goodbye and let him go. But Thomas was not screaming in terror as he died. He was safely enfolded in my arms with all his family close by. His death was a gentle death. He quietly slipped away from us and this life on earth and was, I am sure, very quickly enfolded in the welcoming arms of God.

On this Feast of the Holy Innocents, and their grieving mothers, that is something to be very thankful for.

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  1. Sue, this post also reminds me of the horrifying terror of the unborn as the abortionist's instrument probes for and finally grasps a part of their tiny bodies and begins to pull apart a living child. And for these innocents, there have never been the loving arms of a mother, and very likely, there is no one to mourn them as they meet an end too horrible to describe.

    I prayed outside the local abortion clinic yesterday, as we are in the midst of 40 days for life here. Later, I was thinking of my grandbaby who is nine weeks in utero now. Looking up some pictures of a baby at this stage, I came across a young mom's ultrasound pictures of her 16 week old baby. The precious little one was curled up and snuggled against the wall of mom's womb...probably asleep. I thought of how safe and warm and cozy that precious little baby felt, and thank God, she was loved and wanted. Countless babies like her don't realize that their lives are soon to end. They rest peacefully in mom's womb....not knowing it will be their death chamber. I almost cried too reading about Gemma Rose trying to hide. And I thought of these babies who must try to cling to mom's womb, not knowing that she has brought them for execution.

    If this is too graphic to publish, I understand. I guess being at that horrible place yesterday really got to me! I will never understand anyone could do anything but love an innocent baby. I hope these poor ltttle vicitms of our selfish culture find themselves immediately in Mary's most loving arms. Surely, God could never bear that they not know Love.

  2. Patricia,

    Of course your comment isn't too graphic to publish. We have to think about such things though many people don't want to. It's amazing how we have the ability to close our eyes and push unpleasant inconvenient thoughts away from us.

    I just realised I never posted the little video that goes with this story. It is a very unprofessional snippet of a very unprofessional Holy Innocents play performed by our children. The photo at the top of this post came from the video. I just watched the video again and I could feel Gemma-Rose's pain even though it happened 8 years ago now. Her reaction was so unexpected, such pure agony. It couldn't fail to make us cry. I had tears streaming down my face. Of course, if we look at the other children's faces, they wren't affected the same way. Sophie is smiling so widely as she was being 'killed'. But that's little kids. They don't really understand. She was more concerned with her chance to act.

    I am sure that all the innocent babies have a very special place in heaven surrounded by Love. We used to think our unbaptised children went to limbo rather than heaven. But I read a while back that that belief is no longer held by the Church. Why should children, though no fault of their own, be denied heaven? It never made sense to me. I guess one day we will discover so much we can only wonder about at the moment.



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