Teresa of Avila and the Infant of Prague

Did you know that the original Infant of Prague was owned by St Teresa of Avila? Here’s the story:

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!”

Read here about how this former Bob Jones boy learned to appreciate the Infant of Prague; Here’s a story about how I learned to appreciate the fancy clothes the Infant wears.

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  • http://www.twitter.com/mattswaim M. Swaim

    Which reminds me of something you said on the Son Rise Morning Show when we had you on the air discussing your attempts to overcome discomfort with this devotion: “What’s with the baby Jesus in the dress?”

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      You know the old story, the Blessed Virgin says to Jesus, “Go upstairs and change…no son of mine is going out dressed like that!”

      • http://www.twitter.com/mattswaim M. Swaim

        Also reminds me of an account I heard from a relatively moderate bishop, who was at some diocesan event or other. He got cornered by some well-meaning but poorly informed lady who asked him when the Church was ever going to get around to canonizing the Infant of Prague.

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          Or the indignant Episcopalian lady who commented on some outrage: “Jesus would turn over in his grave if he would see that!!”

          • http://platytera.blogspot.com/ Christian

            If Beethoven were alive today he’d be rolling over in his grave. But he is dead and…decomposing. Alas, as some would say.

          • rich

            wait a minute! So how did Baby Jesus end up in Prague and aren’t their miracles and other legends to the story???

  • Annette

    I had the great blessing of visiting the Infant’s shrine in Prague, Czech Republic. While veneration of the statue might seem odd to modern sensibilities one can’t help but be reminded of how babies and children are under siege in our culture of death…The Infant of Prague, in my opinion,is a reminder that God came into world as a helpless baby,too.
    The Infant’s collection of clothes is on display as well.
    The various garments were the gifts of people from all over the world and it’s
    very touching to see that so many cared to give God “baby gifts” .

  • Missy Farber

    So happy to see this–I was just praying Aspirations of Venerable Father Cyril and he mentions ”
    Like Joseph and Teresa Virgin, Thee
    We may enjoy with heaven’s court eternally.”
    and now I can understand better why.
    Thank you!
    God is so cool when Hew shows us how to connect the dots!

  • http://to-prague.eu Prague

    Great article about the Infant Jesus of Prague!


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