"He who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst."
St. John 6:35
Hail, flowers of the martyrs! the Church sings in her Office of the Holy Innocents, who were the first to die for Christ; and in every age mere children and infants have gloriously confessed His name. The Jews of the city of Trent, assuredly possessed at that moment by the demons of hell, determined in 1472 to vent their hatred for the Crucified by slaying a Christian child at the coming Passover. One of their number was commissioned to trap a victim, and found a bright, smiling boy named Simon playing outside his home, with no one guarding him. The boy, who was not yet two years old, began to call and cry for his mother when he found himself being led from home; it was apparently these cries which led later to the discovery of the kidnappers. At midnight on Holy Thursday the work of butchery began. Having gagged his mouth, they held his arms in the form of a cross, while they pierced his tender body with sharp-pointed instruments, in blasphemous mockery of the sufferings of Jesus Christ. After an hour's torture the little martyr lifted his eyes to heaven and gave up his innocent soul.
The murderers cast his body into a stream, after a search had begun for the child. Their crime was discovered nonetheless, when they themselves, to appear innocent, advised the police that a child's body was floating in the water. A physician called to examine him wrote a report by order of the bishop, who afterwards transported his remains as a precious relic to the church of Saint Peter in Trent. A multitude of miracles followed, and the assassins were apprehended and punished.
William of Norwich is another child martyr. His parents were simple country folk, but his mother was instructed by a vision to expect in her son a Saint. As a boy he fasted three times a week and prayed constantly. He was only an apprentice twelve years of age, at a tanner's in Norwich, when he won his crown. A little before Easter in the year 1137, he was enticed into the house of an enemy of Christ, and there gagged, bound, and crucified in hatred of the Saviour of all men. Five years passed before the body was found, then it was buried as a saintly relic in the cathedral churchyard. A rose tree, planted close by, flowered miraculously in mid-winter, and many sick persons were healed of their diseases at Saint William's shrine.
Reflection. Learn from the infant martyrs that, however weak you may be, you still can suffer for Christ's sake, and by suffering win your crown.
Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler's Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894); Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 3