I don’t know when they started gathering. I only know that at some point, early in my marriage I looked around and realized that our house was full of Infants of Prague.
Some were solid plaster, their red cloaks and frilly white robes molded into permanence on small, cracked and dented bodies. Others came with lush seasonal vestments: red, purple, and gold. I could change them for Lent and Easter or pop off the tiny crown to polish it up.
Of course, I didn’t seek out these tiny, overdressed Christs. In fact, I didn’t have much of a devotion to the Holy Child at all. When He started to nudge His way into my heart all I could see were His anachronistic clothes and fluffy curls. He certainly lacked the grandeur I liked to see on my Christs.
After a while though, I began to wonder if that’s sometimes the way other people see me – out of place, draped in fabrics. An over-dressed and under tended relic of old-world aesthetics. Displaced, like my little statues, in a world of Target fashions.
Sometimes our looks can keep the world distracted – they see the clothes, the rings, the tangled hair and they think they know what’s inside.
For a long while, the Infant of Prague’s clothing did just that to me. My eyes skimmed over Him, never really seeing. But He’s persistent. When I realized that He’d made my tiny house His own, I knew I had to meet Him at last.
History of the Infant of Prague
The Infant of Prague has been a devotional image for hundreds of years. No one knows exactly when or how the devotion began. Medieval art is full of statues of the Imperial Christ Child – often holding a globe or a small bird in His hands.
At some point, one of these statues made its way to the city of Prague. That statue was rumored to have belonged to St. Teresa of Avila. She gave it to a Spanish princess, who married a Bohemian nobleman and brought the statue with her to her new life in Prague.
Later, a pious princess gave that same statue to an order of Carmelite friars, promising them that if they honored the image of Christ, He would take care of all their needs. The friars were faithful and devoted. They even professed their vows in the chapel where the Infant stood. But war came to Prague and in all the turmoil, the tiny King was neglected.
The Statue lay broken and forgotten for years. When it was finally found, its tiny waxen hands had broken off. But the priest who found it prayed before the image and heard the voice of Christ 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”. The statue was repaired and has stayed in a position of honor ever since.
Ever since then, pilgrims have come to honor the waxen image of the Child Christ. Copies of the statue are everywhere around the world – including my tiny house.
Devotions to the Infant
Two of my Infants come to me through my mother. The larger statue still has the quarter she taped to His back as a child. He has changeable robes and a bright crown.
These days, He triumphs over our family altar, and besides my mother’s quarter, we have our own coin tapped to His back. It’s a way of entrusting our family finances to the Christ Child. According to legend, He’s promised that all who care for His statue will never want.
The Infant as a financial advisor is such a delightful devotion. Entrusting our money to the generous Child, who was born in a stable and grows to tell a rich young man to give away all is an act of hope.
The Infant of Prague reminds us that He is a King who’s willing to lose everything for love’s sake, and we, His followers should do the same. But He also whispers, ‘consider the lilies of the field’ and promises to give us peace.
In times of famine and poverty devotion to the Infant of Prague grows as families realize that there is no certainty apart from God. For those of us who find ourselves facing under-employment, unemployment, mounting debt, and economic instability, the Infant of Prague is an ideal patron.
Watching the Weather
But the Infant doesn’t just tend to our worldly security. His reach is wide. Like many old-world saints, the Infant is known for His attention to the weather. The Church has always been full of prayers for good weather, gentle seasons, and the blessing of the land. These devotions have fallen away recently, but many priests and enthusiastic parishes are bringing them back.
It’s a good idea, as we watch the earth rage and suffer in these recent years, to rekindle our prayers for the land itself. Devotions to calm the weather and heal the earth are beautiful and helpful. The Infant of Prague is one of those earth-healing devotions.
Like all children, the Christ Child loves the natural world; as it’s Creator, He can also calm it when it’s angry. Traditional Irish devotions set the statue in a window so that He can watch over the land and keep it from devastation. In our house, I give the statue a stone necklace to wear and pray ‘Arise, O Lord, and redeem us for thy Name’s sake” when violent weather threatens.
Protector of Children and the Sick
Of course, the Holy Infant is a special patron of children. There is a flying novena in honor of the Infant of Prague especially for children in dire need. Every hour, for 9 hours, say the novena to the Infant of Prague for the child, and entrust him or her to the Holy Child.
Other devotions for children involve 9-day novenas as well. We like to leave out slices of cake or burn votives before the statue of the Infant to ask His intercession for struggling children, unborn babies, and confused teenagers.
Christ is a tender shepherd though, and He never limits His ability to heal. The Infant of Prague is famous for healing diseases and hopeless disorders. Just as Christ went around healing the sick during His earthly ministry, He continues to heal through devotion to the Infant of Prague.
The Generous Child
Devotion to the Infant of Prague has spread throughout the world. In grand basilicas and humble, rural homes, He holds a place of honor. But sometimes, visitors still look at Him in wonder. This overdressed Child in His puffy, white robes looks like a child destined for playground bullying.
He doesn’t fit our mass-marketed, product-saturated world. He’s out of place, and He reminds us that we are all out of place. We’re all made for something greater.
The lush, abundant Infant of Prague teaches us to see the world with new eyes. He introduces us to the wisdom of children and the magic of beauty. Oscar Wilde once said that “we are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”
Entrusting ourselves to the Infant of Prague, we learn to look up again and see the stars with the wonder of a Child.