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Catholic Prayer: Holy Innocents or Childermas Day: Parental Blessing of Children


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The Feast of the Holy Innocents is a children's feast; this day has also been known as "Childermas." This is a good day to begin the parental blessing of their children. Included here are also verse and Mass prayers to add to the evening Christmas prayers.


Holy Innocents or "Childermas Day" is celebrated on December 28. The Gospel tells the story simply. "Herod sent and slew all the boys in Bethlehem who were two years old or under." He had intended to include the Son of God among the murdered babies. To recall the grief of their mothers the Church wears purple today. In Mass she hushes her joyous Gloria in Excelsis and the Alleluias.

And yet there is joy in her services. Children sing with the choirs in the great cathedrals; and in ancient times other functions were given to them — hence the name "Childermas" or Children's Mass.

The feast of the Holy Innocents is an excellent time for parents to inaugurate the custom of blessing their children. From the Ritual comes the form which we use on solemn occasions, such as First Communion. But all parents need to do is to sign a cross on the child's forehead with the right thumb dipped in holy water and say:

May God bless you, and may He be the Guardian of your heart and mind — the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

As I go from bed to bed at night, I just make the sign of the Cross with my hand over each child while saying: "May God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost keep you safe this night."

The custom of blessing children is easiest to establish with a baby or toddler and it grows with them. For older children the realization that parental blessings are as old as the human race can be established from reading the Old Testament. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob blessed their children. Before his journey Tobias blessed his son with the words: "May you have a good journey, and God be with you on your way, and His angels accompany you." I have seen a newly ordained priest kneel for his parents' blessing and then give them his first blessing. It is easy for a child who receives his father's or mother's blessing to see them as God's representatives. Encouraging parental blessings, St. Ambrose says: "You may not be rich; you may be unable to bequeath great possessions to your children; but one thing you can give them — the heritage of your blessing. And it is better to be blessed than to be rich."

We commemorate the spilling of the blood of the Holy Innocents by using a cherry or strawberry sauce, the kind you buy or preserve, poured over a vanilla pudding. A traditional recipe for the day, given in Cooking for Christ, is Blanc Mange.

Prayers for Childermas include a versicle and the Collect from the Mass in addition to the original Christmas Evening Prayers. [Editor's Note: This blessing is from the older version of the Roman Ritual.]

Father: Enraged, Herod put to death many male children
All: In Bethlehem of Juda, the city of David.
Father: Let us pray. O God, whose praise the martyred Innocents this day proclaimed not by speaking but by dying, put to death all vices within us, that Thy faith which our tongues profess, our lives also by their actions may declare.
All: Amen.

Prayer Source: Christmas to Candlemas in a Catholic Home by Helen McLoughlin, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota