When you first see the Infant Jesus of Prague, you’re surprised. Much like when you finally get a glimpse of Mona Lisa at the Louvre. Both are so much smaller than their fame would have you believe.
Infant Jesus of Prague: Not an infant and not from Prague…
“Infant” Jesus isn’t exactly accurate. It’s him when he was a 4- or 5-year-old boy. Made of wax over a wooden frame, he stands about 18 inches–slightly taller than an American Girl doll. He originally held a bird in his right hand…you can decide if it symbolized the Holy Spirit or a soul. No hard facts on this, but apparently an isolated monk somewhere in Spain was inspired by a vision and created it after praying on the matter.
How this famous statue came to Prague is an interesting story of its own. It seems that Saint Teresa of Ávila gave the Infant Jesus to Doña Isabella of Spain, for reasons unknown. When Isabella’s daughter, María Maximiliana Manriquez de Lara y Mendoza–what a name!–moved to then-Bohemia in 1556 to get married, she received it from her mother.
The infant/boy was passed around to other family members, all rich and elite members of royal courts of the day. After a hundred years, in 1628, the pious Princess Polyxena von Lobkowicz donated it to the local Carmelite friars at Our Lady of Victory Church, in Prague, with the prophetic words: “Venerable Fathers, I bring you my dearest possession. Honour this image and you shall never want.”
Infant Jesus of Prague gets lost in political upheaval
Things went well for a few years. Prayers were said in front of the statue twice a day and novices took vows with Infant Jesus as their witness. Emperor Ferdinand II was so impressed with the devotion shown, he send funds to maintain the Carmelites.
The Carmelite Sisters maintained the Infant Jesus, even sewing robes for celebrations and holy days: white for Christmas and Easter; red for Holy Week and Pentecost; purple for Advent and Lent; royal blue for the Assumption; and green for hope. (They still do this; the statue now has over 100 outfits.)
Then the Thirty Years War came, one of the most brutal in European history. The church was pillaged and the Holy Child was tossed into a pile of rubbish behind the altar, hands broken off. The monks were temporarily relocated in Germany and devotions came to a halt.
Infant Jesus of Prague is restored…and the miracles begin
In 1637, a Father Cyrillus found the statue and returned it to a better spot. When he did this, Father Cyrillus claimed he heard a voice saying, “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.”
Father Cyrillus did as requested and miracles abounded. All one had to do was ask. There is a novena that claims to bring good results, if performed correctly. The prayer is offered for nine straight days…although in a pinch, nine consecutive hours may be as effective:
O Jesus, Who has said, “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened,” through the intercession of Mary, Your Most Holy Mother, I knock, I seek, I ask that my prayer be granted. (Make your request)
O Jesus, Who has said, “All that you ask of the Father in My Name, He will grant you,” through the intercession of MaryYour Most Holy Mother, I humbly and urgently ask your Father in your name that my prayer will be granted. (Make your request)
O Jesus, Who has said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away but My word shall not pass away,” through the intercession of Mary Your Most Holy Mother, I feel confident that my prayer will be granted. (Make your request)
An Infant Jesus of Prague for family and friends
I’d known of the Infant Jesus of Prague since I was little. I’m not Catholic, but grew up in a heavy Catholic area of Chicagoland, mingling with friends, classmates, and neighbors who attended those mysterious catechism classes and got parties and presents for achieving certain religious goals. (After seeing the beautiful white dresses worn for First Communion, I asked my parents to convert. We Methodists had nothing to offer in comparison. They declined.)
But I digress. The Infant Jesus was famous in my circle of Catholic contacts, always good for a helping hand, if not an outright miracle. And I’m honestly not one to snub the possibility of assistance from the universe. So when I went to Prague, I set out to find souvenirs for those I love. I hit pay-dirt in the Havelský Market in Old Town, dating back to 1232.
The market itself is delightful, with shops and restaurants surrounding the square. Fifteen, two-inch Infant Jesus of Prague ceramic replicas later, I was at one of those restaurants, toasting my “luck” with a Czech beer.
A final note: When my granddaughter was panicked that she would fail her high school math final, she tucked her Infant Jesus of Prague into her backpack. You guessed it: She passed! If you knew her struggle with math, you’d agree that it may indeed have been a miracle…
See the Infant Jesus of Prague for yourself!
Heading to Prague? Church of Our Lady Victorious is located at Karmelitská 9, 118 00 Praha 1- Malá Strana (Lesser Quarter) of the city. Easy to get to–it’s a stop on the city’s excellent tram system.
The church is open daily from 0830 to 1900, Monday through Saturday. On Sunday, 0830 to 2000. Sightseeing is permitted unless a mass is taking place.
Phone: +420 257 533 646
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