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VG: ‘Holy Innocents’ shouldn’t be cosmetic

Mother Tenisha Phillips looks on as her daughter, 14-month-old Keithisha receives a blessing from Fr Sirju.

Story and photo by Lara Pickford-Gordon

The Feast of Holy Innocents should not be a “cosmetic” exercise but a time for parents to reinforce the faith formation given throughout the year.

Cathedral Administrator, Vicar General Fr Martin Sirju said: “I think that if parents just send their children to a feast like this but do not fulfil the role of parenting throughout the year; it is just cosmetic. It does not do much for the children…so this must really be a kind of little crown on what they do throughout the year.”

Fr Sirju spoke to Catholic News after presiding at Mass for the Feast — an observance recalling the murder of young children in Bethlehem by King Herod in his attempt to kill the infant Jesus (Matt 2:16–18). Deacon Lennox Toussaint assisted.

It was his first Christmas as Cathedral Administrator and he reported low attendance at the Christmas Masses at the Cathedral and Sacred Heart.  He linked the presence of few children at the Mass for the Feast to the need for greater faith formation in the Church.

“It is one of the serious problems; it is a lack of faith formation and we have to discover why that is so. I think we have to hold ourselves as clergy, catechists partly responsible for that, parents also,” he said.

Fr Sirju has taken a stance not to bless toys.  He surmised this may be a factor for some parents not attending with their children. “We need to ask ourselves what is the meaning of the blessing of the toys? …I just think it shifts the serious focus of today’s feast,” he commented.

While delivering the homily he interacted with the children seated in the front pews about the meaning of the Feast. Fr Sirju preferred to bless them than toys because the Feast was not about blessing toys.  He drew their attention to the suffering of children today, advising “we must pray for all children who are abused”.

Fr Sirju asked the parents and guardians in attendance to take their children to visit a sick child at a hospital, nursing home, or in their community as part of their observance of the Feast. He recounted Jesus’ words, “when I was sick you visited me”. “You will receive many, many more blessings than the blessing of toys,” he said.