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Once upon a time, a Carmelite novice struggled with doubts about her vocation. As part of a group of sisters learning how to paint statues, she was sent to fetch an ancient statue of the sleeping Infant Jesus, much deteriorated and with the paint peeling off it. Cradling the image in her arms, she silently prayed for a sign to know whether she should remain in Carmel. Then she passed the statue out through the speakroom turn. “What!” exclaimed the artist-teacher, “You want me to repaint this? I wouldn’t touch it!” The woman spun the turn back around and the nuns gazed in wonder at the miraculously restored statue. The novice knew she had received her sign.
That novice was Mother Elias. In 1914 she led the nuns out of Mexico and on to Grand Rapids by way of Cuba and New Orleans. On the journey to the port the nuns were disguised as lay women but wearing the holy habit underneath their dresses. Mother Elias carried the sleeping Infant as part of her disguise, and women on the train commented on how quiet her baby was in comparison with their own children!
Devotion to the Childhood of Jesus dates back to the Gospels themselves. Christians have always longed to express their profound reverence for the incarnation of our God and Lord Jesus Christ. Early Fathers of the Church and medieval saints like St. Bernard and St. Francis of Assisi have written eloquently on the subject. Our Holy Mother St. Teresa was instrumental in spreading the devotion in 16th century Spain, where images of the Child Jesus soon abounded.
One such statue found its way to the city of Prague as a wedding gift, when members of the Spanish Court intermarried with Bohemian nobility. A generation later in 1628, when the Discalced Carmelite Friars were struggling to survive in war-torn Prague, Princess Polyxenia donated it to them. “I give you my most prized possession,” she told them. “Honor and respect the Child Jesus, and you will never be in want.” Subsequent history proved the truth of these words, both for the poverty-stricken Carmelites and for the lay faithful during the centuries. Today the Infant of Prague, a small statue of the Christ Child dressed as a king, His right hand raised in blessing to signify His eternal priesthood, and His left hand holding the globe to show His universal sovereignty, is one of the most widely recognized images of Christ in the world.
Images are sacramentals: sacred signs which do not confer grace in the way that the sacraments do, but by the Church’s prayer, they prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it. Venerating a statue is a means of enabling a spiritual encounter with the living Christ. The ancient tradition of dressing statues of the Infant helps us to experience the closeness of Jesus as true Man, and to express our love and reverence. Using liturgical colors for His vestments reminds us of Christ’s eternal priesthood, and to meditate on the mysteries of His life made present in the Mass.
True devotion to the Infant Jesus of Prague demands our imitation of the virtues of His holy childhood: humility, simplicity, trust, docility, silence, and meekness. He has shown us the way, and He will help us!
THE “FLYING” NOVENA
(This Novena is to be said at the same time every hour for nine consecutive hours—just One Day.)
O Jesus, Who hast said, Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you, through the intercession of Mary, Thy most holy Mother, I knock, I seek, I ask that my prayer be granted. (Make Your Request)
O Jesus, Who hast said, All that you ask of the Father in My Name, He will grant you, through the intercession of Mary, Thy most holy Mother, I humbly and earnestly ask Thy Father in Thy name that my prayer be granted. (Make Your Request)
O Jesus, Who hast said, Heaven and Earth shall pass away but my word shall not pass away, through the intercession of Mary, Thy most holy Mother, I feel confident that my prayer will be granted. (Make Your Request)
O Divine Child of Prague, and still the great omnipotent God, I implore Thee through Thy most holy Mother’s most powerful intercession, and through the boundless mercy of Thy omnipotence, an answer to the intention I so earnestly ask for in this Novena.
O Divine Child of Prague, hear my prayer and grant my petition. Amen.
For a downloadable novena with daily meditations, click here.
For additional prayers, click here.
To learn more history, visit the web site of the Shrine Church in Prague, Czech Republic.
For information about making vestments for the Infant, and other items of interest, click here.