History of the Infant of Prague
As previously mentioned, the statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague was brought to Bohemia by a Spanish princess, whose mother had given it to her as a wedding gift. This noble lady, in turn, presented the cherished image to her daughter, When the latter's husband died, in 1623, she resolved to spend the remainder of her days in works of piety and charity.
She was particularly generous to the Carmelites of Prague, who, after Emperor Ferdinand II, their founder, had removed his residence to Vienna, fell into such utter destitution that, at times they had scarcely enough to eat. Accordingly, she presented her beloved statue to the religious with these prophetic words:
"I hereby give you what I prize most highly, in this world. As long as you venerate this image you will not be in want."
Her prediction was verified. As long as the Divine, Infant was venerated, God showed Himself a kind Helper, through His Son, and the community prospered both spiritually and temporally. But when the devotion to the Infant Jesus was relaxed, God's blessing seemed to depart from the house.
The statue was set up in the oratory of the monastery, and twice a day special devotions were performed before it. Here the religious sought relief in their bitter need from Him who for love of mankind had become poor.
The novices were particularly devoted to the Holy Infant. One of them, Cyrillus a Matre Dei, The novices were particularly devoted to the Holy Infant. One of them, Cyrillus a Matre Dei, who was most devoted to the Holy Infant, found sudden relief from interior trials through this devotion.
However, the devotion to the Divine Infant was short-lived. On account of the disturbances of the Thirty Years' War, the novitiate was removed to Munich, Germany, in 1630. With Brother Cyrillus and the other novices, the most fervent worshipers of the Infant of Prague had departed. The special devotions held before the image were gradually neglected. The prosperity of the community declined, and need and distress were again felt.
Then King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, the inveterate foe of Catholicism, invaded Germany. Many fled from Prague, among them all but two of the members of the Carmelite monastery.
On November 15, 1631, over eighty Protestant preachers took possession of the churches of the city. The Carmelite monastery was plundered, and the "Popish superstition", as the Protestants called the image, was thrown upon a heap of rubbish behind the high altar. Both hands were broken off by the fall, but, though made of wax, it was not otherwise damaged. Here the Miraculous Infant lay for seven years, forgotten by all.
When the Carmelites returned to Prague, the miraculous image was entirely forgotten in the continual struggle for the means of subsistence. Want and misfortune were the lot of the community as long as this neglect lasted. A novice happened to find the image one day, but without any consideration cast it aside. .strange to say, a remarkable change came over him. Though he had been promising in every respect, he now showed such signs of a want of vocation that he was dismissed.
As long as the miraculous statue remained neglected, a peculiar misfortune rested on the monastery. This state lasted seven years.
On the feast of Pentecost, 1637, Father Cyrillus a Matre Dei, the very one who, while a novice, had been delivered from a most annoying dryness of soul through his fervent devotion to the Holy Infant, returned to Prague. Unfortunately, Prague was again overrun by the Protestant armies. The distress was indescribable. In this extremity the prior assembled the community to offer humble prayers to appease God's wrath.
As in former years, Father Cyrillus was the most zealous disciple of the Holy Infant. One day, when praying before the statue, he 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."
The prior, however, decided to buy an entirely new statue. But the Divine Infant soon manifested His displeasure. Scarcely had the new statue been put in place when it was shattered by a falling candlestick. The old and mutilated image was destined to continue as an object of veneration in the monastery. The prior grew restless and resigned his office. This was generally considered as a punishment inflicted by the Divine Infant.
The prior, however, assigned to him only a very small part of the sum for the repairing of the statue. This proved to be insufficient, and Father Cyrillus found himself as far as ever from attaining his object. Once more he took his troubles to the Divine Infant and shed many a tear of sorrow before the beloved image. On one of these occasions he heard these words:
"Place Me near the entrance of the sacristy and you will receive aid."