In 1628 the small, 19″ wooden, wax coated statue was given by the Spanish princess Polyxena Lobkowicz to the Discalced Carmelites. The princess who was Spanish, had received the statue as a wedding gift in 1603 from her mother, María Manrique de Lara y Mendoza, a Spanish noblewoman. She, in turn, had received it as a wedding gift in 1555 and had brought it to Bohemia when she married into the Bohemian royal family. The family insisted that Doña María had been given the statue by Saint Teresa of Avila.
When I visited the National Shrine of the Infant of Prague in Prague, Oklahoma (prounounced “Prage”) I asked where all the Bohemians had gone and who visited the shrine now. Fr.Brice Oswalt–The Rector of the Shrine–(a former Episcopalian now a Catholic priest) explained that the devotion to the child Jesus was especially popular in 16th century Spain, and that the Spanish explorers brought the devotion to the New World, and thus in most village churches in Mexico and across Central America you will find a little ‘Infant of Prague’.Oklahoma now has a large Hispanic immigrant population and they therefore throng to the Shrine in Oklahoma.
The devotion to the infant Jesus was also very popular amongst Carmelites, so we see it in Therese of Lisieux–who’s name in religion is ‘of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face.’ This devotion inspired her ‘Little Way of Spiritual Childhood’ reminding us that ‘unless we become like a little child we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.”.
Connect the dots: A sixteenth century Spanish Carmelite saint, a Bohemian Princess, Spanish conquistadors, Mexican peasants, Bohemian immigrants to Oklahoma, a nineteenth century French Carmelite, a former Anglican priest talking to a former fundamentalist.
As the Methodist said when he learned that the ashes for Ash Wednesday are made from burning the palm from the Palm Sunday before: “Geesh, this Catholic stuff is all connected!”