Devotion to the infancy of God incarnate is actively practiced in many centers of Christianity. Any one who attentively and frequently reads the New Testament discovers immediately the Origins of devotion to the Infant Jesus. St. Luke in particular seems to have had a particular devotion to the Christ Child. He at any rate highlights the genuine source of this devotion namely, the heart of Mary. If Mary is to be considered the model of all Christian contemplation, her devotion to her Infant is enough inspiration for all Christians to do the same. Christians always longed to show their deep reverence to the incarnate Word of God, Jesus Christ. The Child Jesus was adored by Church Fathers like St. Athanasius and St. Jerome. St. Jerome was attracted by the mysteries of the birth and childhood of Jesus. He even went to dwell in Bethlehem living near the cave, which Christians believed to have been the birth place of the Divine Child.
Other great worshippers are St. Bernard of Chlairvaux, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Anthony of Padua. St. Francis of Assisi considered the birthday of the Infant Jesus as the feast of feasts because the Son of God lowered himself to become a poor child. It is St. Francis of Assisi who is said to have prepared the first crib for the Christmas of 1226.
St. Teresa of Avila who always traveled with here sculpture of the Infant Jesus during founding new convents, cultivated devotion to the Infant Jesus. St. Therese of the Child Jesus popularly known as the Little Flower is credited for her teaching on spiritual childhood. The infancy of Jesus was for her a source of inspiration. It is said that one day Teresa met a small child inside or near the cloister who asked her name. She replied, “Theresa of Jesus” and the child retorted, “I am Jesus of Teresa.”
A New Beginning
In the 17th century when Protestants and Catholics were fighting one another furiously the Protestant army besieged the city of Prague in Central Europe. Owing to which the reigning Catholic King Fredrick II sought the help of Pope Paul V. The Pope deputed Ven. Fr. Dominic, the Superior General of the Order of Discalced Carmelites who had great devotion the the Virgin Mary to assist the frightened troops. The Protestant army was defeated and the victory was attributed to the fervent prayers of Fr. Dominic. Hence as a token of gratitude the King built three monasteries for the Carmelites. They were also given the Church of the Holy Trinity that had belonged to the Protestants. The Carmelites changed its name to that of Our Lady of Victory in remembrance of the victory gained in the was. In His great Divine plan God deigned that this Church should be the cradle of the devotion to the Infant Jesus.
From Spain to Prague.
A number of sculptures of the Holy Child were made in Spain and these were made of Wax, ivory and bronze and were dressed in garments reflecting the aristocratic fashion of that period. The noble family of Manrique de Lara owned one such statue. When Dona Isabella's daughter Duchess Maria Maximiliana Manrique de Lara, married the Czech nobleman Vratislay of Pernstein in 1556, she received this rare family treasure as a wedding gift and brought the Infant Jesus statue to her new residence in Prague. This noble lady in turn presented the Holy Infant to her daughter, Lady Polyxena of Lobkovice when she got married in 1587. When Polyxena's husband died in 1623, she resolved to spend the remainder of her days in works of piety and charity. The Carmelites were her friends and spiritual guides.
From the Royal Family to the Order of Carmel Miss
The Carmelites who were newcomers to Prague had to withstand the hostility of the Lutherans and were experiencing financial difficulties. They were struggling even for their daily bread. At this critical moment the Carmelites revived the devotion to the Infant Jesus. They were struggling even for their daily bread. At this critical moment the Carmelites revived the devotion to the Infant Jesus. They were convinced that with the blessings of the Infant Jesus they would be able to surmount the economic difficulty. Seeing the faith of the Carmelites in Infant Jesus, cone day in 1628 the Princess Polyxena presented her beloved statue to the Carmelites at the Church of Our Lady of Victory with these prophetic words, "I hereby give you what I price most highly in this world. As long as you venerate this image you will not be in Want." This statue then became known as the Infant Jesus of Prague, and has a beautiful jeweled crown on its head. Its right hand raised in blessing, its left holds a globe signifying sovereignty. Those prophetic words proved true in a very striking way in subsequent years, not only with regard to the Carmelite community, but in respect to the faithful as well. As long as the Divine Infant was venerated, God showed Himself as a kind helper through His Son, and the community prospered both spiritually and temporally. However when the devotion to the Infant Jesus was relaxed, God's blessings seemed to depart from the House.
A Period of Crises
Among the novices being trained in that monastery there was a certain Father Cyril a late vocation who had a very special devotion to the Infant Jesus. He used to pray regularly for the grace of final perseverance. Because of imminent threats to the monastery the novices including Fr. Cyril were transferred else where. In 1631, the Protestants did infect break into the monastery looting and destroying, as were their custom. When finally the Catholic armies liberated Prague the novices returned and with his religious profession. The monastery was rebuilt but Fr. Cyril's memory found something missing namely the statue of the Infant Jesus. He searched for it until he found the statue behind the alter partly damaged. Overcome with grief and urged by his devotion he made what repairs he could and set the statue once again in a place of honor.
One Day, when praying before the statue, Fr. Cyril distinctly heard these words: "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.'
Father Cyril was struck with awe on hearing these words but had no money to incur the expenses. Fr. Cyril had recourse in Infant Jesus who wrought a miracle. Fr. Cyril was happy to get some money from a Prague citizen for repairing the broken arms. Any number of miracles followed.
A gift of Carmel to the World.
The devotion to the Infant Jesus, which till then had been restricted to the friars in the monastery, now began to spread among the people of Prague. On April 4, 1655, the devotion to the Infant Jesus received ecclesiastical approval when the auxiliary bishop of Prague, Joseph De Corti, crowned the Infant Jesus. Thus the devotion of the Infant Jesus, which had begun in the monastery of Prague quickly spread throughout Prague and was taken subsequently by the Carmelites wherever they w4ent. Like the devotion to the scapula, the devotion to the Infant Jesus is also close to the heart of Carmelites. The devotion has flourished in all the places that Carmelites have had their presence. After Prague the Carmelites at Arenzano near Genoa run one of the most famous shrines of ht Infant Jesus. The Carmelites of Tamilnadu maintain a shrine of the Infant Jesus in Thanjavur. In Mangalore at Carmel Hill and Mysore in Naidunagar too there are shrines served by Carmelite Fathers. However this devotion has spread even to places where the Carmelites have not reached such as Mugalasarai in Uttar Pradesh, Nashik in Maharashtra and Viveknagar in Bangalore. For more details of shrines of Mangalore and Mysore visit the following web site.
Rev. Fr. Nelson Pinto
email : email@example.com