Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Eucharistic Procession Remembers Holy Innocents

By FATHER THEODORE BOOK, Special Contributor | Published January 15, 2004

After Christmas each year, the church recalls the death of the Holy Innocents—those children who were killed by King Herod’s decree as he sought to bring about the death of Jesus, our Lord. Because they died for Christ, the church honors them as martyrs, giving testimony to our Lord even though they were too young to speak.

In our times, the memorial of these murdered children takes on a special significance, as we live in a country where thousands of unborn children are killed each day through abortion.

In order to atone for the deaths of so many American babies, usually sacrificed to our idol of convenience, the archdiocesan Legion of Mary organized its annual eucharistic procession on Dec. 27. The procession traveled for four miles from the Cathedral of Christ the King to Sacred Heart Church in downtown Atlanta.

Beginning after the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, offered by Father John Matejek, the faithful processed behind the Blessed Sacrament, singing hymns and litanies. Priests of the archdiocese took turns bearing the monstrance containing our Lord, which was carried beneath a golden canopy and preceded by servers carrying the cross, candles and incense.

The procession made its way along Peachtree Street, turning onto Spring Street, and came to a stop before an abortion mill where children are killed each day. There the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary were said, asking God’s forgiveness for women who have been seduced into aborting their children and for those who commit abortions.

After praying at this site of the tragedy of legalized abortion, the procession continued through the streets of Atlanta, arriving at Sacred Heart Church. As the Knights of Peter Claver and the Knights of Columbus served as the honor guard, Archbishop John F. Donoghue received the monstrance and processed into the church. There the archbishop preached a sermon and ended with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Afterward participants gathered for a reception.

The Second Vatican Council teaches (Guadium et Spes, 40) that the church is to be “a leaven, and, as it were, the soul of human society in its renewal by Christ.” There is no way that we show the place of the church in the middle of society as fully as by a procession through the streets of our city.

Our faith does not end when we leave through the church doors after Mass. Rather it stretches outward, embracing not only our personal lives, but our civic lives as well. If we love God, then any offense against God wounds us as well. If we love our neighbors for love of God, then any suffering that they undergo is a suffering shared by us as well.

Thus, when we follow our Eucharistic Lord through the church doors and honor him in the midst of the world, we proclaim that our faith is not just a private reality; we proclaim that our faith guides all that we are and all that we do.

When we worship God on the streets of Atlanta, we give witness that God and his church do have a place in society, that Christ’s teaching binds as surely in the legislature as it does in our homes, that God’s law informs the conscience in the courts as it does our churches.

Our faith as Catholics moves us to love those around us, and so Archbishop Donoghue closed his sermon by urging all who were present, “to keep vigilant watch over our society and to protest, by our words and our actions, the slaughter that is done, the murder of the innocents carried out every day, upon the hallowed ground of our beloved country. Christ has spilled His own blood that our souls might be saved. It is not too much for us to expend the energy of our bodies, our voices, to testify, that His salvation is meant for all, and especially for those too young, too old, or too simple and innocent to protect themselves.”

May his words help us to live our faith in all that we do, and may we not be afraid to love those around us, particularly the weak and the abandoned.

Father Book serves as a parochial vicar at St. Catherine of Siena Church, Kennesaw.