This Thursday, 24 June, is the Solemnity of the Nativity of St John the Baptist. John the Baptist is the only figure other than the Blessed Mother and Jesus Himself whose birth is celebrated in the Church’s liturgy. This is because he had the unique vocation of being the Forerunner, the one whose preaching and witness prepared the way for Christ. He had the amazing privilege of baptising the Lord and was later called to anticipate Christ’s Passion by shedding his own blood for the truth.
Pope Francis has said: “Let us learn from the one who was the forerunner of Jesus the ability to bear witness to the Gospel with courage.”
The painting above is by Francesco Granacci (c.1506-7). It has scenes from the life of St John the Baptist. In the background, Zechariah presents his sacrifice in the Temple and is told of the birth of John; in the middle, the Visitation, wherein St John is sanctified in the womb; on the right, the birth of St John the Baptist.