Wednesday, October 16, 2013


The Infant in Prague
When I was a child in Catholic school, every classroom (at least at my school) had the INFANT of  PRAGUE. The Child had an entire wardrobe of brightly colored clothes (in those days made by the mothers who could sew (my non-Catholic mother could not). With major feasts His "dress" was changed to fit the feast, for example it would be purple all through Lent and Advent, red for martyrs, and white for very special feasts, with green throughout the "common" of the year- which meant everything else!

Devotion to the Infant King became particularly popular in the Middle Ages with great saints like  Bernard of Citeaux and Francis of Assisi. Their love for the Sacred Humanity of our Lord found expression in hymns, poems, songs, and sermons that attracted others to this devotion.

His wardrobe
I suppose it is one of those childhood memories one tucks back into the attic of the mind, so when I visited Prague in 1998 you can imagine my surprise when the first Mass I attended was at the Carmelite Church of Our Lady Victorious in Malá Strana where the original Infant lives.

The Church at first glimpse

The Infant Jesus of Prague is a 16th-century Roman Catholic wax-coated wooden statue of The Child Jesus holding an orb topped with the Cross which symbolizes Christ's (the cross) dominion over the world (the orb). It allegedly holds miraculous powers especially of healing which is how I came across it recently, looking for the patron of knee ailments (more on this later).

The statue's two fingers raised in a blessing gesture symbolizes the two natures of Jesus Christ (God and man)  and the three folded fingers represent the Holy Trinity.

The exact origin of the Infant Jesus statue is not known, but historical sources point to a small 19 inch high sculpture of the Holy Child with a bird in his right hand presently located in the Cistercian monastery of Santa Maria de la Valbonna in Asturias, Spain which was carved around the year 1340. Many other Infant Jesus sculptures were also carved by famous masters throughout Europe in the Middle Ages. Often found in early medieval work, the significance of the bird symbolizes either a soul or the Holy Spirit.

The earliest history of our statue can be traced back to Prague in the year 1628 when the small, 19-inch  high, wooden and coated wax statue of the Infant Jesus was given by Princess Polyxena von Lobkowicz (1566–1642) to the Discalced Carmelites, to whom she had become greatly attached.

Red for Martyrs
The princess had received the statue as a wedding gift  from her mother, María Manrique de Lara y Mendoza a Spanish noblewoman, to whom it had been a wedding gift in Spain (1555) and who had brought it to Bohemia. An old legend in the Lobkowicz family insists that Doña María had been given the statue by St Teresa of Avila herself.

Upon presenting it, the pious Princess Polyxena is said to have uttered a prophetic statement to the religious: "Venerable Fathers, I bring you my dearest possession. Honor this image and you shall never want". The statue was placed in the oratory of the monastery of Our Lady of Victory, Prague, where special devotions to Jesus were offered before it twice a day.

In 1630, the Carmelite novitiate was transferred to Munich. With the transfer of novices, Prague lost its most ardent devotees of the Infant. Disturbances in Bohemia due to the Thirty Years War brought an end to the special devotions, and on November 15, 1631, the army of King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden took possession of Bohemia's capital city. The Carmelite friary was plundered and the image of the Infant of Prague was thrown into a pile of rubbish behind the altar.

Elegant dress in European style
Here it lay forgotten, its hands broken off, for seven years, until it was found again in 1637 by a Father Cyrillus and placed in the church's oratory. One day, while praying before the statue, Father Cyrillus claimed to have heard a voice say, "Have pity on me, and I will have pity on you. Give me my hands, and I will give you peace. The more you honor me, the more I will bless you." Since then, the statue has remained in Prague and has drawn many devotees worldwide who go and honor the Holy Child. Claims of blessings, favors and miraculous cures have been made by many who pray before the Infant Jesus.

Amazingly enough, after a month in Eastern Europe and the area, my last Mass was again at this Church, so I was able to say "sbohem, děkuje" (goodbye and thank you).

The Infant's patronage is especially sought for vocations, health, financial well-being, good family life, schools, the welfare of children, freedom and peace, the missions and safety in travel.
In this day and age, when young children are exposed to so much that is "scarey" for them, it would not be a bad idea to reintroduce this wonderful devotion of the Child who watches over them.

Inside the Church in Prague
As I look forward to my 2nd knee replacement  this week, I pray that my childhood "Friend" will give me patience, rapid healing and increase of love for Him.  An Island friend has set me up with a laptop so I will try to keep the blog going while in "rehab".  Blessings!


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