ORIGIN & DEVOTION TO THE INFANT JESUS OF PRAGUE
Devotion to the Infant of Jesus of Prague is devotion to the Child Jesus. It is veneration of the Son of God, who in the form of an infant chose a stable for a palace, a manger for a cradle, and shepherds for worshippers. Our Savior grants special graces to all who venerate His sacred Infancy.
The image of the Child Jesus known as the “Infant Jesus of Prague” was in reality of Spanish origin. In the 17th century, this beautiful statue was brought by a Spanish princess to Bohemia and presented to a Carmelite monastery. For many years this statue has been enshrined on a side altar in the Church of Our Lady of Victory in the city of Prague. It is of wax, and is about nineteen inches high. It is clothed in a royal mantle, and has a beautiful jeweled crown on its head. Its right hand is raised in blessing; its left holds a globe signifying sovereignty.
So many graces have been received by those who invoke the Divine Child before the original statue that it has been called “The Miraculous Infant Jesus of Prague.” We read the following in an old book printed in Kempt: “All who approach the miraculous statue and pray there with confidence receive assistance in danger, consolation in sorrows, aid in poverty, comfort in anxiety, light in spiritual darkness, streams of grace in dryness of soul, health in sickness, and hope in despair.”
In thanksgiving for the numerous graces and cures received, the miraculous statue at Prague was solemnly crowned on the Sunday after Easter, in 1665.
What is said of the original statue may be applied also to the images of the “Little King” which are venerated all over the world. From small beginnings, this devotion has grown to great proportions. The Divine Child attracts an ever increasing number of clients who appeal to Him in every need.
Origin of the Devotion
As previously mentioned, the statue of the Infant of Jesus of Prague was brought to Bohemia by a Spanish princess, whose mother had given it to her as a wedding gift. This noble lady, in turn, presented the image to her daughter. When the latter’s husband died, in 1623, she resolved to spend the remainder of her days in works of piety and charity.
She was particularly generous to the Carmelites of Prague who, after Emperor Ferdinand II, their founder, had removed his residence to Vienna, fell into such utter destitution that at times they had scarcely enough to eat. Accordingly, she presented her beloved statue to the religious with these prophetic words: “I hereby give you what I prize most highly in this world. As long as you venerate this image you will not be in want.”
Her prediction was verified. As long as the Divine Infant was venerated, God showed Himself a kind helper, through His Son, and the community prospered both spiritually and temporally. But when the devotion to the Infant was relaxed, God’s blessing seemed to depart from the house.
The statue was set up in the oratory of the monastery, and twice a day special devotions were performed before it. Here the religious sought relief in their bitter need from Him who for love of mankind had become poor.
The novices were particularly devoted to the Holy Infant. One of them, Cyrillus a Matre De, who was most devoted to the Holy Infant, found sudden relief from interior trials through this devotion.
However, the devotion to the Divine Infant was short-lived. On account of the disturbances of the Thirty Years’ War, the novitiate was removed to Munich, Germany, in 1630. With Brother Cyrillus and the other novices, the most fervent worshipers of the Infant of Prague had departed. The special devotions held before the image were gradually neglected. The prosperity of the community declined, and need and distress were again felt.
Then, King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, the inveterate foe of Catholicism, invaded Germany. Many inhabitants fled from Prague, among them all but two of the members of the Carmelite monaster.
On November 15, 1631, the enemy took possession of the churches of the city. The Carmelite monastery was plundered, and the image of the Infant of Prague was thrown upon a heap of rubbish behind the high altar. Both hand were broken off by the fall, but, though made of wax, it was otherwise undamaged. Here the Miraculous Infant lay for seven years, forgotten by all. During this period the monastery suffered many reverses.
One the feast of Pentecost, 1637, Father Cyrillus a Matre Dei, the very one who, while a novice, had been delivered from a most annoying dryness of soul through his fervent devotion to the Holy Infant, returned to Prague. Unfortunately, Prague was again overrun by hostile armies. The distress was indescribable. In this extremity the prior assembled the community to offer humble prayers to appease God’s wrath.
Father Cryillus now remembered the favors formerly received through the Infant of Prague, and with the prior’s consent searched the monastery, until he found the long-lost treasure, almost buried in dust. Full of joy and gratitude, he kissed the disfigured statue and then placed it on an altar in the oratory. The long-forgotten devotions were now revived with renewed vigor. The religious disclosed their needs to the Divine Infant, and with Him they found strength and consolation.
As in former years, Father Cyrillus was the most zealous disciple of the Holy Infant. One day, when praying before the statue, he distinctly heard these words: 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 Cryllius was awestruck at these words, for he had not noticed that the hands of the Divine Infant were missing, owing to the mantle in which the figure was clad. Hastening to the prior he begged him to have the image repaired. But the prior considered the community too poor to incur this seemingly needless expense.
Then Father Cryllius, through the Blessed Virgin, begged the Heavenly Father to send sufficient alms to have the statue repaired. His confidence was rewarded. Three days later, he was called to the sickbed of a wealthy man, to whom he related the history of the remarkable statue. The sick man at once gave a generous sum of money for the purpose of having it repaired. The prior, however, decided to but an entirely new statue. But the Divine Infant soon manifested His displeasure. Scarcely had the new statue been put in place when it was shattered by a fallen candlestick. The old and mutilated image was destined to continue as an object of veneration in the monastery.
The prior’s successor, Father Dominic of St. Nicholas, owing a lack of funds found it impossible to fulfill the wish of Father Cyrllius. Again the disappointed Father Cyrillus, through the Mother of God, begged the Divine Infant to send his superiors the necessary funds to repair the image.
One day a woman gave him a large sum of money. When he wished to thank her, she had disappeared; no one had seen her come or go. The happy friar then knelt before the altar of Our Lady of the Scapular and offered gratitude to heaven.
The prior, however, assigned to him only a very small part of the sum for the repairing of the statue. This proved to be insufficient, and Father Cyrillus found himself as far as ever from attaining his object. Once more he took his troubles to the Divine Infant. On this occasion he heard these words: “Place Me near the entrance of the sacristy and you will receive aid.” He did so and returned to his room, filled with hope, recommending all to his Heavenly Mother. Soon a stranger came to the sacristy, who offered to have the image repaired at his own expense. The prior accepted his offer and in a few days the repaired statue was exposed for veneration in the church. The Infant richly repaid the stranger for this good deed.
Meanwhile, new afflictions visited the community. A pestilence broke out in the city. The prior, too, became dangerously ill. When his attention was called to the Divine Infant, he vowed to say Holy Mass before the image for nine successive days, if he recovered. At once he felt relief and in a few days was completely restored to health. He fulfilled the vow and from that time forward fervently promoted veneration of the Miraculous Infant.
Some time later there again was great need in the monastery. The prior then led prayers to the Divine Infant, in which all the members of the community took part. After three days, a generous donation was given to them unexpectantly. The statue of the holy Infant was then removed to the church so that the people could also venerate the miraculous image.
In 1641, a woman donated a large sum of money to the monastery, expressing the desire that an altar be erected to the Most Holy Trinity. This was done, and the miraculous image was placed in a magnificent gold-plated shrine for public veneration.
In 1642, a noble woman had a chapel built for the Divine Infant. This chapel was dedicated on the feast of the Holy Name in 1644, and Mass was then celebrated in it for the first time. The feast of the Holy Name of Jesus thus became the principle feast of the Miraculous Infant of Prague.
Devotion to the Holy Infant has continued to spread throughout the world. Favors are continually reported.
THE SAINTS AND THE INFANT JESUS
Devotion to the Infant Jesus of Prague is, as was said, devotion to the Child Jesus, to the Son of God who became man for our salvation. This devotion was particularly popular in the Middle Ages with great saints like Bernard of Citeaux and Francis of Assisi. Their own tender love for the humanity of our Lord found outlet in hymns, poems, songs, and sermons that attracted others to this devotion.
Closer to our own day, St Therese of Lisieux had a great love for the Infant Savior. She is known as Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, the name she took at her religious profession. A statue of the Infant was her special charge in the Carmel. Her ‘little way’ is based on the simplicity and trust of a child in our relationship with God. Among the prayers she composed is this one: “O eternal Father, Your only Son, the dear Child Jesus, is mine, since You have given Him to me. I offer You the infinite merits of His divine childhood, and I beg You in His name to open the gates of heaven to a countless host of little ones who will forever follow this divine Lamb.”
Novena to the Infant Jesus of Prague in Urgent Need
(To be said for nine days or nine consecutive hours)
O Jesus, Who said, “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you,” through the intercession of Mary, Your most holy Mother, I knock, I seek, I ask that my prayer be answered. (Mention your request)
O Jesus, Who said, “All that you ask of the Father in My Name He will grant you,” through the intercession of Mary, Your most holy Mother, I humbly and urgently ask Your Father in Your Name that my prayer be granted. (Mention your request.)
O Jesus, Who said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My word shall not pass,” through the intercession of Mary, Your most holy Mother, I feel confident that my prayer will be granted. (Mention your request) Amen.
Prayer of Thanksgiving for graces received from the Infant Jesus
I prostrate myself before your holy image, O most gracious infant Jesus, to offer you my most fervent thanks for the blessings you have bestowed on me. I shall incessantly praise your ineffable mercy and confess that you alone are my God, my helper, and my protector. Henceforth my entire confidence shall be placed in you! Everywhere I will proclaim aloud your mercy and generosity, so that your great love and the great deeds which you perform through this miraculous image may be acknowledged by all. may devotion to your most holy infancy increase more and more in the hearts of all Christians, and may all who experience your assistance persevere with me in showing unceasing gratitude to your most holy infancy, to which be praise and glory forever, Amen.
Prayer to the Miraculous Infant Jesus of Prague
Prayer Revelated by Our Lady To the Venerable Father F. Cyril OCD
O Infant Jesus, I have recourse to You and ask You through the intercession of Your Holy Mother to help me in my need, ( mention it here) for I firmly believe that Your Divinity can help me.
I hope, in complete trust, to obtain Your holy grace. I love You with all my heart and with all the strength of my soul. I am truly sorry for all my sins, and beg You, O good Jesus, to give me strength to conquer them. I shall never offend You and I am ready to suffer rather than to cause You pain.
From now on I want to serve with complete faithfulness and for love of You, O Divine Child, I will love my neighbour as well as myself. Omnipotent Child, Lord Jesus, again I implore You, help me in this need of mine (mention it).
Grant me the grace of possessing You eternally, with Mary and Joseph and of adoring You with the holy angels in Your heavenly court. Amen
Prayer to Be Said By a Sick Person
[May be used for a Novena]
O MERCIFUL Infant Jesus! I know of Thy miraculous deeds for the sick. How many diseases Thou hast cured during Thy blessed life on earth, and how many venerators of Thy Miraculous Image ascribe to Thee their recovery and deliverance from most painful and hopeless maladies.
I know, indeed, that a sinner like me has merited his sufferings and has no right to ask for favors. But in view of the innumerable graces and the miraculous cures granted even to the greatest sinners through the veneration of Thy holy infancy, particularly in the miraculous statue of Prague or in representations of it, I exclaim with the greatest assurance: O most loving Infant Jesus, full of pity, Thou can cure me if Thou willest! Do not hesitate, O Heavenly physician, if it be Thy will that I recover from this present illness; extend Thy most holy hands, and by Thy power take away all pain and infirmity, so that my recovery may be due, not to natural remedies, but to Thee alone.
If, however, Thou, in Thy inscrutable wisdom have determined otherwise, then at least restore my soul to perfect health, and fill me with heavenly consolation and blessing, that I may be like Thee, O Jesus, in my sufferings, and may glorify Thy providence until, at the death of my body, Thou doth bestow on me eternal life. Amen.
CHAPLET OF THE INFANT JESUS OF PRAGUE
This chaplet consists of 3 Our Fathers in honor of the Holy Family, and 12 Hail Mary’s in memory of the 12 years of the Sacred Infancy of our Divine Saviour. To this chaplet of 15 beads is attached a medal of the Infant Jesus [of Prague].
Chaplet of the Holy Infant Jesus
“The More You Honor Me The More I Will Bless You”
On the medal the following invocation is said:
Divine Infant Jesus, I adore Thy Cross and I accept all the cross Thou wilt be pleased to send me. Adorable Trinity, I offer Thee for the glory of Thy Holy Name of God, all the adorations of the Sacred Heart of the Holy Infant Jesus.
Each Our Father and Hail Mary is preceded by the aspiration:
“And the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us.”
On finishing the chaplet say:
Holy Infant Jesus, bless and protect us.
This devotion owes its origin to the zeal of Sister Marguerite, a Carmelite religious, who died in France in 1648. She was distinguished for her devotion to the Holy Child Jesus.
Directed by heavenly guidance, Venerable Sister Marguerite of the BI. Sacrament (1619-1648), a Carmelite nun, fashioned the Infant Jesus Chaplet. Because its recitation pleases Him so very much
Jesus promised Sister Marguerite that the faithful who recite it in memory of His Birth, His Flight into Egypt, and His Hidden Life at Nazareth, will not only be granted the special graces of purity of heart and innocence, but in addition will be unfailingly assisted by His Divine Help in all their spiritual and temporal wants. Moreover, to encourage the use of this Holy Chaplet, P. Pius IX granted a 100 days indulgence for each recitation, also applicable to the Poor Souls (Aug. 9, 1855).