Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Infant of Prague

Those of you who know me well will know that I have a devotion to the Infant of Prague. In fact as I write this, there is a statue of the Holy Infant on my desk. You may have, at times, wondered why a man would have like a devotion that is represented by a statue of the child Jesus dressed up in vestments that to most look like "a dress." I have always associated this devotion with innocence and purity, and so I was very pleased to see Fr. Dwight Longenecker write about this very thing on his blog, Standing on My Head. Here are some excerpts of what he had to say:

Catholics should understand that the Infant of Prague is very alien to the typical Bob Jones graduate...The first impression is, "Good heavens! Why is baby Jesus dressed up like that? Is that some kind of fancy Catholic idol or what?" But putting my prejudice on one side and wanting to 'affirm and not deny' I learned about the history of the devotion and was given a very nice tour of the shrine including a look at a cupboard full of all the different outfits they had for him. It prompted a question on the drive back, "Can you get Infant of Prague kits? You know, buy the baby in diapers and then you buy the outfits separately? What does baby Jesus wear under the royal robes?"

Seriously, I wanted to try to understand this rather unusual devotion. Then I learned that the Infant of Prague actually started out with Saint Theresa of Avila. She had a devotion to the child Jesus. Bingo! A connection with my favorite Therese of Lisieux who also had a devotion to the child Jesus and spiritual childhood and spiritual innocence. I'm beginning to get it.

So after the tour I thought I'd kneel down and see if I could get hold of this a little bit more. As I'm kneeling I begin to understand the child dressed in
royal robes and crown, for the whole image tells us that although he was a child born naked and squawking in a stable he was at the same time the royal prince of the house of David. He was a simple child, yet King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Furthermore, this is my destiny. I cannot enter the kingdom unless I become as a little child, but to enter the kingdom and be a royal adopted prince, a Son of God and a brother of Jesus is my ultimate destiny.

Then as I'm kneeling there I begin to see that this child is also the focus of our prayers for spiritual childhood and innocence for ourselves, but it should also be the one we turn to pleading for protection for our own children and for the innocence which is being lost every day to the corrupt morals of our day...

Then a few days later he has another post on his blog that says:

So I find myself in Oklahoma at the National Shrine of the Infant of Prague. I have recounted how I was surprised to find myself attracted to the infant. I had never quite made the connection that beneath the dress up baby Jesus doll was a devotion to the child Jesus, and that this was connected with one of my favorite saints, Therese of Lisieux. OK, so the connection was made, and I prayed to the Infant Jesus for a special prayer request which is deep down and personal and by golly, the prayer has been answered amazingly.

Then last week I am in Florida with the eighth graders...


...I make my way to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and there is a large, beautifully dressed Infant of Prague. I kneel down to pray and start laughing because I think God is laughing at me. The Infant of Prague! For me he was always kind of the extreme of Catholic devotion...a cultural mystery to me and while I never mocked, it is true that I never understood. Then suddenly before this image my experience at the Shrine in Oklahoma sweeps over me again. I can see it all, but can't put it into words. Just to say that I experienced great joy and a great knowledge of God's sense of humor. He's almost saying to me, "Look you silly proud person. I was trying to get through to you all these years, and you didn't even give me a second thought. I've got you at last, and it was through the Infant of Prague...that image and that devotion you looked down on as silly and sentimental and girly. Ha!! Gotcha!!"

It was a precious moment and I got up from my knees with a goofy grin of joy on my face and admitted to myself that I loved the Infant of Prague, that I thought him beautiful and I even liked his fancy outfit. I walked out of the Cathedral thinking about His beautiful embroidered robes and thought to myself...'to be clothed in His righteousness.' Now wouldn't that be something?

I guess men can have a devotion to the Infant of Prague and not question his masculinity. Thank God!

Prayer to the Infant of Prague

O Holy Child Jesus, who shed Your blessings on whoever invokes Your name, look kindly on us who kneel humbly before Your holy Image, and hear our prayers. We commend to Your mercy the many poor and needy people who trust in Your Divine Heart.

Lay Your all powerful hand upon them and help them in their needs. Lay Your hand upon the sick, to cure them and sanctify their suffering; upon those in distress, to console them; upon sinners, to draw them into the light of your divine grace; upon all those who, stricken with grief and suffering, turn trustingly to You for loving help.

Lay Your hand also upon all of us and give us Your blessing. O little King, grant the treasures of Your divine mercy to all the world, and keep us now and always in the grace of your love!


Claire Christina said...

My babcia (Polish grandmother) loved the Infant of Prague. I have one of her statues at home, to be driven out here eventually. I don't have much devotion to the Infant, but He holds a soft spot in my heart because of her.

concerned said...

Jesus, as an infant should really be emphasized in this age when there is so little care for the unborn.