The annual celebration of the Miraculous Infant Jesus has started at the Infant Jesus Church and Shrine in Bangalore, India. Although there are many churches and shrines throughout the world dedicated to the devotion of the Infant Jesus of Prague, this is one of the most special. This year’s festivities kicked-off with a flag hoisting event on January 4, 2023, and continue with a novena of Masses celebrated each day from January 5 to January 13. The culminating Feast Day will be celebrated on Saturday January 14, 2023 with the Archbishop of Bangalore, Rev. Dr. Peter Machado presiding. During the novena days, the Masses are celebrated in six different languages reflecting the diversity of the parish and the devotees of Infant Jesus who will flock from far and wide for this annual festival. For those unable to attend in person, the Archdiocese of Bangalore is again recording all of the events and posting them to its YouTube site which can be found by searching “Bangalore Archdiocese”. Here is the link to the Flag Hoisting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPEErhBaG4Q
History of the Devotion to Infant Jesus and Connection to the Carmelites
The origin of the devotion begins in the mid-16th century with a small wax-over-wood statue, about 1.5 feet tall, of a figure depicting both the innocence and kingship of Christ, as manifested in the nativity scene at Bethlehem. The image shows Jesus as a child of 4 to 6 years of age and is adorned with a golden crown and a regal robe. In His left hand, He holds a miniature globe with a cross on the top depicting His status as King of the World. The 2 fingers on His right hand are extended and symbolize the 2 natures of God and Man.
The statue was reportedly made by a monk based on a miraculous vision in Spain (not Prague) and came under the care of the Spanish Princess Maria Maximiliana Manrique de Lara y Mendoza who took the statue with her to Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic) when she went north to marry Vratislav, Chancellor of the Czech Kingdom (1530-1582). She later gave the precious statue to her daughter, Princess Polyxena of Lobkovic, who venerated the statue and received much consolation and help.
Princess Polyxena donated the statue, in 1628, to the monastery of Discalced Carmelites at the Church of Our Lady Victorious, a group with roots in Spain, the same as the heritage of her mother and of the holy statue. While in the Carmelite monastery, young monks learned of, and appreciated, the virtues of the young Jesus. One of the young novitiates, Father Cyril of the Mother of God, returned to Prague in 1637, a few years after leaving, to find the holy statue discarded in the rubble of the monastery which was desecrated and plundered during the 1631 invasion by the Saxons. As Father Cyril was viewing the armless statue of the Infant Jesus and contemplating, in awe, the mystery of the all-powerful God becoming a child; the statue spoke to Father Cyril saying, “Have mercy on me and I will have mercy on you. Give me my arms and I will give you peace. The more you honor Me, the more I will bless you.” Father Cyril repaired the statue and placed it in the Carmelite Chapel, and after receiving multitudes of adoring visitors, and the occurrence of many miracles, in 1741, the statue was relocated to its present, more spacious, location in the Church of Our Lady Victorious in Prague. See more information about the church at the Official Site of the Infant Jesus of Prague https://www.pragjesu.cz/en/
Veneration of the Infant Jesus in Prague ceased during the latter part of the 18th century, and again with the occupation of Prague by the Nazi’s, then Communists from 1939 to 1989, but eventually returned to stay, not only in Prague, but worldwide. The global devotion initially took root to the greatest extent in Spain from where the Infant Jesus image originated, and in Portugal; then the practice spread with missionaries, colonizers, and immigrants to India, China, the Philippines, and North and South America. In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI visited the Church of Our Lady Victorious in Prague and offered a crown as a present for Infant Jesus.
The devotion to Infant Jesus is notably strong in India in both the Roman Catholic Church and the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church with many parishes dedicated to the sacred Infant. There are several shrines to the Infant Jesus including the large and famous Infant Jesus Church and Shrine in Bangalore. The Philippines also has many followers of Infant Jesus where He is called Santo Nino de Cebu or Sto. Nino (The Holy Child of Cebu, or Baby Jesus). In Cebu, Philippines, the Infant Jesus is also honored each January during the Sinulog Festival, one of the most popular celebrations in the country. The Sinulog Festival, fills Cebu with devotees who celebrate for up to two weeks before the Feast Day occurring on the third Sunday in January. Read more about Infant Jesus and the Infant Jesus Church and Shrine in Bangalore at https://churchwonders.com/churches-shrines/india-churches/infant-jesus-church-shrine-bangalore-india/