The origin of the celebration
+ On this day, the Church commemorates the martyrdom of John the Baptist, which took place around the year 29.
+ According to the Gospels, King Herod was entertained by a dance performed by the girl Salome on the occasion of his birthday. Herod promised to give the girl whatever she asked. Prompted by her mother, the girl asked for the head of the Baptist on a platter.
+ Against his inclination, Herod had John beheaded.
+ Early tradition states that John was buried in Sebaste and that his tomb and relics were desecrated by the emperor Julian the Apostate in 362.
+ John the Baptist ranks as one of the Church’s greatest saints and his name is included in the Roman Canon (the First Eucharistic Prayer).
Because he died for his commitment to the truth and his willingness to take a prophetic stance against the abuse of power, Christians have always honored Saint John the Baptist as a martyr.
“Through his birth, preaching, and baptizing, he bore witness to the coming birth, preaching, and baptism of Christ, and by his own suffering he showed that Christ also would suffer.”—Saint Bede the Venerable
O God, who willed that Saint John the Baptist
should go ahead of your Son
both in his birth and in his death,
grant that, as he died a Martyr for truth and justice,
we, too, may fight hard
for the confession of what you teach.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal)
Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.Access our archives of daily saint biographies here