The Infant of Prague and Childhood Innocence

It was my privilege today to visit the National Shrine of the Infant of Prague in Prague, Oklahoma. (They pronounce it Prage). This was a very interesting stop because the pastor of the parish is a convert from Episcopalianism. Also, it was intriguing because I have to admit that the devotion to the Infant of Prague is not something which is, errr, shall we say,  immediately accessible to the male Evangelical convert to Catholicism.

In the end I bought an image of the Infant of Prague for my little chapel and learned to appreciate this not immediately winsome devotion. I felt happy about this: I like the Infant of Prague now! I guess that means I’m really a Catholic at last…

Here’s how it happened: 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 thinking about innocence and children, lo and behold, I come home and check my emails only to find this horrible link: specially designed condoms for twelve year olds. Can you imagine? The world rightly bewails pedophilia and the sexualization of children, then turns around and offers pole dancing kits to little girls and condoms called ‘Hotshots’ for seventh graders.

So, may the Infant of Prague deliver us from such evils, protect our children and grant us the gift of spiritual childhood.

About Fr. Dwight Longenecker
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17683997133292184115 Rob

    It was the Child Jesus that asked Mother Angelica to build a temple for him. She did – the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14485768454161100884 Neophyte

    WOW Father,The Spring is overflowing.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02487748842744745860 StevieD

    Linking this old and sweet devotion (a favourite of my Irish Granny) to the fight against the sexualisation of children is inspirational. How about composing a prayer, Father?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08353696433987975754 Karen

    Those disturbing links really make me wish my husband would let me homeschool our girls. It's amazing how many people are completely off their rocker these days.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08532906102654768874 Wm

    Father L, make sure you put a penny under your Infant of Prague–that way you'll never go broke! My mother always did and we never went broke. Close to, however!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08801584133028591211 Laura R.

    Thanks for some very helpful thoughts about this, as you say, not immediately winsome devotion. I was in Prague last May and was staying in a hotel right around the corner from the church where the Infant is kept, so I went in to visit a couple of times, but could not really grasp the significance. However, the link with St. Therese of Lisieux in that church is clear; if I remember correctly, her chapel/side altar was next to that of the Infant.I like your idea of this Child as the focus of our prayers for the innocence of our children, never more needed than in our time.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00637040610221274842 Jacqueline Y.

    Thank you Father, for tying these thoughts together, and for bringing back a fond memory of mine. When my oldest child was a toddler, I brought him to a weekday Mass at a church that had a lovely statue of the Infant Jesus in the "cry room". Jesus was shown almost life size, about two years old, and carrying the globe of the world in one hand. My son shouted, "I want his ball!"And those who read French may want to look up a poem by the great French poet, playwright and diplomat Paul Claudel, entitled "L'enfant Jesus de Prague".

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17884455503379229264 Patm

    My husband's patron for 2010 is the Infant of Prague. Thanks for this.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08166757508370920050 Tertium Quid

    When my husband and I were leaving the Catholic boarding school where he had been teaching a parent brought us an Infant of Prague along with a devotional booklet and $1.00 coin. We knew nothing about it but were also told to put the coin under him and have him facing any entrance to the house in order to always have a little financial security. This parent was a lawyer! We thought it seemed rather superstitous and weren't quite sure about it but did it anyway. We never followed the devotion but He sits on our piano facing the front door. Now you help me to think about how our lives have always been about teaching children and how the Infant can help us in our calling. I'd say he should be prominent at any Catholic school!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01469622835449220113 Dymphna

    When I was a child my school had an Infant statue in the stairwell. He was almost the size of a first grader and many of us would stop and visit him on the way to class.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04004788275956822219 Revamarie

    Oh my sweet Jesus, can we possibly correlate the significance of this devotion of the Holy Child to the plight of the unborn holy child? Can we grasp that maybe this age old devotion is the answer to the protection of the children of the womb, and all children? Are we recognizing and standing for Jesus, the child prince, in every unborn child of the world? I think when we can worship, have devotion to, the Holy Child Jesus in every unborn child and in our parishes, then we will stop the culture of death within our hearts and live a culture of Life, for life, for eternal life for every holy child in the world today. Please, help me, help you bring this devotion to every parish so the Holy Child will be respected and honored, so every holy child will be respected and honored within the beacon of light in the world, our one Holy Catholic Church and in our own sacred hearts.Revamarie Savagevoiceofthevalley@yahoo.comPittsburgh Pa

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08786751364932792988 Jim

    Nice going Father! What an honest, charming, sweet, personal and inspired reflection on the Infant of Prague. Placing this lovely devotion to the Child Jesus in the context of our call to Gospel childlikenss and childhood innoncene can renew us all in our love for the Infant of Prague. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I hope parents all over the world see this so they can pray to the Infant of Praguefor their children's innocence and offer Him as their modal to remain pure and holy in their childhood.P.S. I think you will have an important role in the great work of establishing the Ordinariates of Anglicans within the Catholic Church. I pray for you and your priestly ministry especially in your ministry of ecumenism and of unity with the Catholic Church.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09836449580543223483 ears8662

    From my childhood:"Infant Jesus bless me,and keep me close to you.I want to please you Jesus,In everything I do.Help me Little Jesus,both in my work and play;And help me love you, Jesus,more and more each day."

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02318768515684961837 mary

    This is so interesting that I would see this on your site today. I was just speaking with other mothers, after exercise class. They were telling me: "there are middle school girls performing sexual acts on boys, in the school bathrooms. Our 14 year old tells me that she hears other students "cursing and swearing all day, at her high school." Some kids are doing innappropriate expressions of affection on the school bus. I have always wanted to home school, but my husband does not agree, so we send them to school in a supposedly "good neighborhood." Our older kids, who are now married and have children of their own, are real fighters for the faith. They went to college at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. The formation we gave them at home and their formation at this wonderful, and still authenically Catholic University, has been such a blessing to our family. Infant of Prague protect the children! Mary

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04445580471634900150 Mariamante

    Father, it was such a nice suprise for me to open your site and find out that you had spent the day with one of my favorite priests Fr. Oswalt. He is a perfect host and very knowledgable on the subject. I am glad that you now know that you have the Infant Jesus to assist you. Peace of Christ be with you always.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06771093357635122152 winkyb

    Remember the Child Jesus is God. He is trully the Son of God. The 2nd Person of the Trinity, the Word made Flesh and dwelt among us. The reverence due Him is the same whether he is a babe in swaddling clothes or Just Judge. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords even in His littleness. St Therese of Avila is a saint whom has gumption and not a meek personality. Her partron was chosen for His powerfulness and authority. The Child Jesus is approachable in his littleness he becomes nothiness in His dignity so you may approach Him who are nothing before Him. blessing in the other reminds His enemies and the unknowing he is all powerful and has all authority and to His friends His all able and approachable and generous. St. Therese of Avila did not pick little she picked the Most Powerful.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16468381289451226335 AGATHA

    In Feb.7,2–7 I wrote this prayer to the Child Jesus. CHILD JESUS, MODEL OF HUMILITY AND OBEDIENCE-AWAKEN IN THE CHILDREN OF OUR TIME YOUR SUBLIME CHILDHOOD VIRTUES. FRANT THAT THE CATHOLIC PARENTS OF THIS AGE MAY NOT NEGLECT THE CAREFUL EDUCATION OF THEIR CHILDREN ACCORDING TO THE PRINCIPALS OF OUR CATHOLIC FAITH. GOD THE FATHER AND HOLY SPIRIT PLEASE ANOINT US ALL WITH YOUR SPIRITAND LOVE AND DRAWER US CLOSER TO THE HOLY EUCHRIST. HELP US TO FOLLOW THE HOLY FAMILY, ST. JOSEPH,MOTHER MARY AND CHILD JESUS, IN OBEDIENCE AND LOVE TO GOD THE FATHER, AMEN

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18338964413627032927 Black

    We need The little Child of Prague and His Holy Mother back in schools – over the years so many have been the scenes of violence and Murder of students, breeding grounds for drugs, bullying, profanity and ignorance of faith = only lately a young Child of five was lead away from school in HANDCUFFS by police – A SPECIALISED school that played ignorance of how to handle a tantrum child – This is America no wonder the children are growing up without respect, understanding, appreciation of who they are – America is fast becoming a breeding ground of godless, violent selfish parasites that care only for themselves….and who is responsible for all this …..YOU….. for repeatedly electing Mass murders of Unborn children, for standing by while the Supreme Court throws out God from the classrooms and workplaces, For allowing free access to Porn on the media for all warped tastes, for the turning of a blind eye to corruption, drugs, alcohol, and improper dress of your children and for not practising your own Faith and not encouraging the practise of the Ten Commandants, for not praying with your Children and for all those in places of responsibility that used their position to commit vile abuse against children there by planting the seed of distrust, and Love for God – satan walks freely in America – you better change and dam quick for the Hand of God is upon YOU and the Nation

  • http://openid.aol.com/jblessing1991 Jen
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06839882674758833524 David Lindsay

    The work of Fr John Saward on spiritual childhood, especially in 'The Way of The Lamb', is particularly important.And the Infant of Prague is also an image, not only Christ in all His Meekness and Majesty, but also of that specifically in terms of a thoroughly multiethnic empire predating the rise of ethnic nationalism in Europe, an integral and central part of the Modern project. To this day, certain German, Magyar and Slavic surnames are found throughout the former Austria-Hungary.Such (such as Lusotropicalism, such as Unionism and Commonwealth patriotism) is the Kingdom of God, which those who do not accept it as little children will never enter.

  • Cate

    Thanks so much for this article Fr. L and all of you for sharing your stories! I’m a convert (2009) and would like to understand this better since spiritual childhood has been cropping up over the last 3 years. First, of course, in praying the Rosary and thinking of Mary with the little child Jesus. Easy to enter in to that because I have a son of my own. Then, I encountered Him with St. Anthony of Padua who is always holding the Child, then St. Therese of Lisieux and her Little Way, and recently I discover that St. Teresa of Avila had this devotion. There are many more Saints that share this devotion. Recently, a friend received an unwanted Infant of Prague from our Priest, so she’s been sharing stories of her own experiences in prayer to the Infant.
    Fr. L your article is so helpful in forming my own devotion. Thanks again!


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