When we hear the term “Infant of Prague,” we think of the small statue that adorns many churches and outside shrines. We may not realize that there is a Prague (captital of the Czech Republic) and there is a statue of the Infant Jesus in the church of Our Lady of Victories in the capital of that country. After you read this story, you will never look at the statue in the same way again.
The Infant Jesus of Prague statue came originally from Spain and was sent to Bohemia (The Czech Republic) as a wedding gift in 1556. The statue was then given to the Discalced Carmelites attached to the church of Our Lady of Victory in 1628. During the Thirty Years War, the statue suffered along with the people and was discovered by a priest, Father Cyril, abandoned in a corner with both hands broken off. It seemed to Father Cyril that Jesus was saying to him:
Have mercy on Me and I will have mercy on you.
Give Me hands and I will give you peace.
The more you honor Me, the more I will bless you.
Father Cyril restored the hands and from then on, the city and the people seemed to be blessed and miraculous healings were attributed to devotion to the Infant Jesus. Many saints have had a love for the Divine Child as an expression of their profound reverence for Jesus in His Incarnation. St. Anthony of Padua comes to mind as well as St. Therese of the Child Jesus and St. Francis of Assisi.
Twenty years ago, after the fall of Communism in then Czechoslovakia, Father Anastasio Roggero, a Discalced Carmelite from Italy, was asked by Archbishop Vlk to take over the ruin of the church housing the Infant Jesus of Prague statue. The family who held the key to the unused Church used the sacristy as a room to hang their laundry. There was rubble everywhere and the miraculous status (can you imagine!) was in a side altar, abandoned and forgotten.
Today, four Carmelite Fathers that guard the Church welcome over 1,000,000 visitors a year to the shrine. Their most famous recent pilgrim was Pope Benedict XVI who visited in 2009. He “canonically crowned” the statue with a new crown that presently adorns the statue. (See YouTude video of the crowning). A Canonical Crowning is the highest honor a pontiff can convey on a statue of Jesus or Mary. It is one of two statues of Jesus in the world to receive such an honor. The President of Aid to the Church in Need, Father Joaquín Alliende, said at the time, “The gesture of the Holy Father is an expression of a profound truth. Even as a Child, Christ is already a King. The Child Jesus is the only King who can bring peace to the world.”
Read the whole story on the Aid to the Church in Need Website.