As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, “‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’—St. Matthew 11:7-10.

We will look at five ways in which the holiness of St. John the Baptist is unparalleled:

1. In the above passage from St. Matthew, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is saying that his first or second cousin, St. John the Baptist, is a direct fulfillment of the Old Testament prophet Malachi who saw through time and wrote of the Baptist: Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord Whom you seek will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver.—Mal 3:1-3a.  Very few people in the New Testament are directly prophesied in the Old Testament (like Jesus and Mary and John the Baptist.)

2. St. John the Baptist was conceived in original sin, but born without original sin. How did this happen? The voice of Mary (Lk 1:40) greeting her cousin Elizabeth at the Visitation completely and totally cleansed John of all original sin, even in his mother’s womb. This is not devotional, but dogmatic.  The old Divine Office applies this to St. John the Baptist: Before I formed thee in the bowels of thy mother, I knew thee: and before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee, and made thee a prophet unto the nations.—Jer 1:5.  Not only was St. John the Baptist born without original sin. He never committed a mortal sin, but he never committed a mortal or even a venial sin. And yet still in his profound humility, the Baptist says of the Christ: I baptize you with water, but He Who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of Whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.—Luke 3:16.

3. St. John the Baptist is a required saint-icon in the iconostasis (wall between sanctuary and nave) in many of the Eastern Rite Churches. In fact, I had heard that in the first millennium of Western Catholicism, the two sides of the Church were not the St. Mary and the St. Joseph side (as found in many post-Tridentine, pre-Vatican II Churches, like in Ireland) but maintained the two sides as:  St. Mary and St. John the Baptist side.  If St. John the Baptist was nearly mandatory in certain architectural decisions in the building of Churches, you can see that he was not just “another saint,” but singular in holiness. This unique holiness is next to only Jesus and Mary and Joseph.

As a side note, St. Joseph was probably cleansed seconds after conception of original sin as seen here, and Pope Leo XIII names St. Joseph doctrinally as the second most holy saint, next to Mary, in Quamquam Pluries where he wrote, “In truth, the dignity of the Mother of God is so lofty that naught created can rank above it. But as Joseph has been united to the Blessed Virgin by the ties of marriage, it may not be doubted that he approached nearer than any to the eminent dignity by which the Mother of God surpasses so nobly all created natures.”

St. John the Baptist is mentioned in the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) several times.  I don’t mean he is only mentioned in the propers of his feast days.  I mean St. John the Baptist is mentioned in every single TLM at several points all year.  Sadly, the innovators with Bugnini removed him in the 1960s from the Confiteor, the final Gospel (which mentions the Baptist a few times in John 1) and the following Suscipe prayer found in every TLM in the offertory, translated into English here:

Receive, O holy Trinity, this oblation which we make to Thee, in memory of the Passion, Resurrection and Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in honor of Blessed Mary, ever Virgin, blessed John the Baptist, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and of all the Saints, that it may avail unto their honor and our salvation, and may they vouchsafe to intercede for us in heaven, whose memory we celebrate on earth. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

One must then ask:  Why did the innovators of Vatican II and the Mass of Paul VI feel the need to take out at least three references to St. John the Baptist?  Was it because he called all to repentance and called the hierarchy of his own day a “brood of vipers”?

4. Yesterday’s Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist was in white vestments at Holy Mass.  Notice this is his earthly birthday. Why is this important? Normally, the Catholic Church celebrates the feasts of the heavenly birthday (eg the day a martyr was crowned with glory into heaven at his or her earthly death.)  But only those born without original sin get to celebrate not only their entrance into heaven, but also their earthly birthday.  (We’ll have to get the earthly birthday of St. Joseph on a new-old calendar!)  You see, this is why St. John the Baptist is celebrated at his earthly birthday today (24 June) but also his heavenly birthday (29 August.) In fact, Dr. Taylor Marshall proves here at time-stamp 5:00 through 9:30 that St. John the Baptist was indeed born on the 24th of June in 0 AD.

5. It is perfect that St. John the Baptist is born on the 24th of June, because it is so close to the longest day of the year (21 June.) I find this providential since Jesus Christ said of the Baptist: He was a burning and shining lamp (lucerna ardens et lucens) and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.—John 5:35.  Thus, just as St. John the Baptist prepared the way for Christ’s first coming as a light to the Jews, so also will Elijah return to earth to prepare them for Christ’s second coming as yet another ardens et lucens lucerna.