Until recently, I was someone who just didn’t “get” the Infant of Prague. It’s a beautiful statue, with a fascinating history, but it took me twenty years to make room for Him. After hearing his stories and having time to visit Prague in 2018, I’m now one of His millions of devoted attendants. In fact, my first Sunday of Advent last year was spent with the Infant of Prague.
This year, however, I’m not able to make another pilgrimage. Still, the end of Advent is a great time to pray and meditate on the Infant Christ through devotion to the Infant of Prague.
If you are looking for a way to end Advent and to prepare your heart for the Nativity, I recommend this Novena to the Infant of Prague.
A Brief History of the Infant of Prague
There are several stories that tell of the holy statue’s origin. The most popular one is that the statue belonged to St. Teresa of Avila, who had a great devotion to the Infant Jesus. While the statue certainly came from Spain, it arrived in Prague with Maria Manriquez de Lara, a Spanish noblewoman, in 1556. Already, the statue was said to be miraculous. It was then given to her daughter, Polyxena of Lobkowicz.
Polyxena witnessed many important events in European history. Throughout these events, she kept the Infant of Prague at the Lobkowicz Palace. Here Polyxena gave shelter to Catholic officials who were thrown from a nearby castle window by Protestant defensors in the Second Defenestration of Prague (yes, there was more than one). This signaled the beginning of The Thirty Years War.
Prague endured war, famine, and disease in the following decades. In 1628, Princess Polyxena of Lobkowicz gave the statue to the Discalced Carmelites at the Church of Our Lady of Victories. The pious princess told the friars, “I bring you my dearest possession. Honor this image and you shall never be poor.”
Lost & Found
The Carmelites left Prague in 1630, and Sweeden attacked the following year. The Swedish army was stopped at the river but they still looted countless cultural treasures from churches and palaces. Miraculously, the Infant of Prague was not taken from the city.
Somehow, the invaders had missed the elaborate statue, and it ended up in a rubbish pile behind the church’s altar. Perhaps they were not attracted to the baroque devotional or merely desired more expensive items. Still, the Infant of Prague survived although His hands were broken.
In 1637, a Carmelite priest named Fr. Cyril of the Mother of God found the Infant of Prague in the rubble. Fr. Cyril remembered the Holy Infant from his novitiate in Prague and knew of its miraculous reputation. Seeing the broken statue, he felt intense sorrow until he prayed and heard, “Have mercy on me and I will have mercy on you.”
Soon, the Infant of Prague was restored and later crowned by the Archbishop of Prague. More miracles were attributed to the Infant of Prague and the shrine attracted pilgrims from all over the world. Pilgrims never stopped praying before the Infant of Prague, even amidst the horrors of Nazi and Communist occupations.
Christmas Novena to the Infant of Prague
The Christmas Novena to the Infant of Prague begins on December 17th. This traditional prayer closes out our last days of Advent, a perfect time to meditate on the infancy of Christ. The final prayer is said on December 25th, the Nativity of the Lord.
Christmastime is also “particularly suitable for asking for graces,” as Padre Pio observed while encouraging devotion to the Infant of Prague. There are so many needs in the world and I’m sure you have a few in your own heart. At this sacred time, ask for the graces we need to bring the peace and joy of Christ to all.
Pray this prayer at the beginning of each day from December 17th–25th.
Dearest Jesus, little Infant of Prague, how tenderly You love us. Your greatest joy is to dwell among us and to bestow Your blessing upon us. Though I am not worthy that You should help me, I feel drawn to You by love because You are kind and merciful.
So many who turned to You with confidence have received and had their petitions granted. Behold me as I come before You, lay open my heart to You with its prayers and hopes. I present to You especially this request, which I enclosed in Your loving Heart: (request).
Rule over me, dear Infant Jesus, and do with me and mine according to Your holy will, for I know that in Your divine wisdom and love You will arrange everything for the best. Do not withdraw Your hand from me, but protect and bless me forever.
I pray You, all-powerful and gracious Infant Jesus, for the sake of Your sacred infancy, in the name of Your Blessed Mother Mary, who cared for You with such tenderness, and by the greatest reverence with which St. Joseph carried You in his arms, help me in my needs. Make me truly happy with You, dearest Infant, in time and in eternity, and I shall thank You forever with all my heart. Amen.