Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Sunday 25 July |
The Feast of Saint James the Great
home iconChurch
line break icon

Exclusive photos: Witness the Feast of the Holy Innocents on the streets of Manhattan


Jeffrey Bruno

Jeffrey Bruno - published on 12/29/19

New York City celebrates the lives of the First Martyrs with this epic procession.

On an uncharacteristically mild morning in the Midtown, the sun bathed the streets with its warming rays, causing the hibernating apartment dwellers to take to the streets to enjoy the unusually warm midwinter weather. As they strolled past the storefronts whose creaking gates were being rolled open by shop owners, they were greeted by a sight that occurs only once each year and brings those who witness it to a dead stop …

There was a time when seeing a religious sister or priest on the street was commonplace, but in 21st-century New York it’s something that’s grown quite rare. That’s one of the reasons that the commemoration of the Feast of the Holy Innocents, a traditional Christmas-week event, is such a special day. Hundreds of clergy and religious from throughout the city gather at the Shrine Church of the Holy Innocents to join in an inspiring procession.

The procession begins on West 37th Street and winds its way up to 42nd Street, where it heads crosstown to Second Avenue and then pauses to pray the Rosary for those whose lives are most vulnerable.

“Brothers and Sisters, in religion, we know that when we wear the habit, wherever we are, we are giving a witness to Christ …,” stated Fr. Fidelis of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in his homily in the Mass that preceded the procession “and please God, as we process across midtown Manhattan, everyone who sees us will be reminded, that God is real, God is present and that God’s Grace is calling us …”

To witness hundreds of flowing habits and Roman collars making their way through the corridors of concrete and steel is breathtaking. It’s a visual portrayal of the life of Christ alive and moving in the hearts of those who responded to His call in a city that often has neglected its own spiritual life. It brings the truth of the Church directly into the public square in a powerful way.

The Feast, which occurs during the Octave of Christmas, recalls the slaughter of all the male children in Bethlehem at the orders of a fearful and jealous King Herod, after he realized that the Wise Men from the East had not returned bearing information as to the newborn Jesus’ whereabouts.

Rachel Weeping For Her Children

Read more:
What does Rachel “weeping for her children” have to do with the Innocents, or with Mary?

St. Stephen is often referred to as the first martyr of the faith, but the Holy Innocents are considered the first martyrs in that they were sentenced to death out of a deep hatred for Christ while Jesus was still a tiny baby.

Today the Holy Innocents are hailed as the patron saints of babies and the innocent.

Holy Innocents, please pray for us.

CatholicNew YorkSaints
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Philip Kosloski
This morning prayer is easy to memorize
Cerith Gardiner
8 Powerful quotes from Nightbirde that will fill you with hope
Daniel Esparza
5 Curious things you might not know about Catholicism
Philip Kosloski
Why is Latin the official language of the Church, instead of Aram...
Daniel Esparza
3 Legendary pilgrimages off the beaten path
Daniel Esparza
Who are the cherubim in the Bible?
Zelda Caldwell
Did Jesus wear “tefillin” as some observant Jews do t...
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.