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Lillian Mondello crowned the Infant of Prague stuate with help from Deacon Charlie Bacher after Mass at St. John Nepomuk Chapel in St. Louis on Sept. 9.
Lillian Mondello crowned the Infant of Prague stuate with help from Deacon Charlie Bacher after Mass at St. John Nepomuk Chapel in St. Louis on Sept. 9.
Photo Credit: Teak Phillips

St. John Nepomuk continues 75-year tradition of crowning Infant Jesus of Prague statue

Lillian Mondello patiently waited for the hymn to end before she ascended a step stool and gently placed a bejeweled crown fit for a king atop a statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague.

The 7-year-old became the newest in a long line of young ladies who have crowned the Infant of Prague statue at St. John Nepomuk Chapel. The Mass and crowning Sept. 9 carried on a 75-year tradition at the Czech-founded church in Soulard, giving honor to the Christ Child and his worldwide kingship.

Lillian’s mother, Michelle, who crowned the statue in 1992, said the annual event has been an important way to spread devotion to the Infant Jesus of Prague and to talk to her children about Him.

Michelle became aware of the devotion through her grandmother, who was a longtime housekeeper for the church rectory. “We have a statue that we got from her,” Michelle said. “She would find them and give them to us. When she would clean the church, she would tell us how (the statues) were watching us. She loved it and would take holy water and bless us all the time. She was a riot.”

The original families of St. John Nepomuk, the first Czech church to be founded in America in 1854, brought the devotion to the Infant Jesus of Prague with them when they came to the U.S. A tornado in 1896 reduced most of the church to rubble, including its statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague.

Then-pastor Msgr. Joseph Hessoun wrote to the Carmelite monastery in Prague, where the devotion originated, requesting another statue. It was installed in the newly rebuilt brick church in 1898. In honor of St. John Nepomuk’s 100th anniversary in 1948, pastor Father Albert Prokes asked parishioners and friends to donate gold and precious stones to make a crown. A custom jeweler melted the gold into one piece and made the crown, which was designed by Father Prokes.

The crown is divided into seven segments, each set with stones that represent the sacraments: pearls for baptism, representing the pearl of great price and sanctifying graces that are received; a ruby for the fire of the Holy Spirit of confirmation; white opal to represent the various colors of the graces of holy Communion; amethyst for the purple of penance; black opal to represent the sacrament of anointing; golden sapphire for the gold of holy orders; and three diamonds to represent the holy trinity of matrimony: father, mother and child. The crown also features a cross at the top, with a blue zircon to represent Mary at the cross. It is set on a small globe, containing a diamond, emerald and ruby to represent faith, hope and charity.

Above all, the statue of the infant Jesus is a reminder of the mystery of God’s incarnation. He came into this world as an infant to dwell among us and to reveal His plan for salvation. While praying in front of the statue, Father Cyrillus of the Carmelite monastery in Prague heard a voice speak to him: “The more you honor me, the more I will bless you.” The words he heard have since become a centerpiece of the devotion the infant Jesus.

“He was filled with wonder as he prayed to God, who became a child because of His love for us,” said Virginia Brush, who attends St. John Nepomuk with her mother, Pat, and crowned the statue in 1975.

The devotion has spread throughout the world, and so have the blessings that have been received by those who pray for the infant Jesus’ intercession, Virginia said. “Health has been restored, financial problems solved, gifts of peace of mind and soul, and many healings, both physical and spiritual. God has been astonishingly generous to those who are devoted to His infant Son.”

Pat Brush said she believes God’s blessings always come back more than expected. “Even when we were having hard times, and we’d make a donation or something, my husband would get this extra job, enough to really replace that donation,” she said.

“I encourage people to have a devotion to the Infant of Prague and see what happens in your life,” Virginia said. “You will be pleasantly surprised.”

>> History of the the Infant Jesus of Prague statue

Tradition holds that the original statue was once possessed by St. Teresa of Ávila and was brought to what was then known as Bohemia by a Spanish noblewoman upon her marriage to a Czech nobleman named Vratislav of Pernstyn. Their daughter, Princess Polyxena von Lobkowicz, gifted the statue to the Discalced Carmelite friars and the Church of Our Lady Victorious in Prague in 1629.

The statue is about 19 inches tall and crafted of wax-coated wood. The left hand holds a miniature globe, surmounted by a cross, signifying the worldwide kingship of the Christ Child. The right hand is extended in blessing. The first two fingers are upraised to symbolize the two natures of Christ.

When she presented the statue to the Carmelites, Polyxena is to have said: “Venerable Fathers, I bring you my dearest posession. Honor this image and you shall never want.”

During the Thirty Years’ War, the Swedes occupied Prague, and the Carmelites fled. The monastery was ransacked, and the baby Jesus was thrown into a trash pile. It lay there for several years with the hands broken off. When the Carmelites returned in 1637, Carmelite Father Cyrillus found the statue and placed it in the church’s oratory.

One day while praying before the statue, Father Cyrillus heard a voice: “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 last sentence has since become the centerpiece of the devotion to the Infant Jesus of Prague.

To learn more about the Church of Our Lady Victorious and the Infant Jesus of Prague, visit www.pragjesu.cz/en.

>> Novena to the Infant Jesus of Prague

In nine days, we want to remember Jesus’ childhood and allow him to impact and change our lives. Ultimately, these are things that touch us. Jesus came into this world and became a child for every single one of us. He knows all of us by name. Every day, the Novena offers us a childhood characteristic, which at first glance might look like a limitation, but which may be just the opposite…

Day 1 – Smallness

Jesus, you became a child; you became little even though you are the infinitely great God. By doing this you showed us where true greatness lies. You teach us that we do not need to behave in a superior way for you to notice us and be interested in us. We want to accept our limitations and draw on our gifts. Let us appreciate the little things that create our life and recognise our infinite value.

The Lord’s Prayer – Hail Mary – Glory to the Father

Lord Jesus, you became man and lived a human life from beginning to end. You understand us completely without us needing to say a word. You accept us even if we are not perfect. You reach down to us to raise us up and to make us strong and brave. Please, heal our hearts and fill our life with peace, happiness and hope. For the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen.

Day 2 – Frailty

Jesus, you took on the frailty of a child. We have all experienced the fact that our life is very fragile. Even a tiny thing can destroy our relationships, our health, our dreams, or our self-esteem. You know our fragility, you take it into account and yet and do not cease to hold us dear. Teach us to live with the awareness of our own fragility and not to forget the dignity that we have in your eyes.

The Lord’s Prayer – Hail Mary – Glory to the Father

Lord Jesus, you became man…

Day 3 – Poverty

Jesus, you came to this world as a poor child. You did not even have a roof over your head. You, to whom the whole universe belongs. Your awareness of being the beloved Son of God was your wealth. We also experience poverty, material or spiritual – helplessness, loneliness, and hopelessness. Let this always be an opportunity to discover our true wealth: our awareness of having you.

The Lord’s Prayer – Hail Mary – Glory to the Father

Lord Jesus, you became man…

Day 4 – Vulnerability

Jesus, you were not afraid to become a vulnerable child. We were also harmed in different ways – by clumsiness, misunderstanding, indifference, or even deliberately. We carry many of our injuries through our life. We do not know how to deal with them and so we hurt others. Send us those who will lead us in healing. We have hope that our injuries can be healed.

The Lord’s Prayer – Hail Mary – Glory to the Father

Lord Jesus, you became man…

Day 5 – Dependence on others

Jesus, like every child, you were dependent on others, on their care, closeness and solicitude. Like you, we cannot survive without others. We need you and need each other. We learn that loneliness does not feel good. Heal our relationships so that we may come out of isolation and give ourselves to others with joy.

The Lord’s Prayer – Hail Mary – Glory to the Father

Lord Jesus, you became man…

Day 6 – Playfulness

Jesus, playfulness and imagination were definitely part of your childhood. It is enough to watch children for a while to realise that play is often more important than “serious” work. Let us be able to be as fully in the present moment as a child absorbed in play. Let us be inspired by the truthfulness and commitment of a playing child. Let us be able to sometimes allow ourselves not to take ourselves too seriously and to be able to dream.

The Lord’s Prayer – Hail Mary – Glory to the Father

Lord Jesus, you became man…

Day 7 – Weakness

Jesus, almighty God, only love could have made you take on helplessness and become a weak child. You never wanted to use violence because it is not possible to win human hearts by power. Do not let our weakness lead us into desperation, after all, we know it is part of life. It teaches us to be patient, to pray, to be humble and wise. Only in weakness can we truly meet other people and build friendship and trust.

The Lord’s Prayer – Hail Mary – Glory to the Father

Lord Jesus, you became man…

Day 8 – Trust

Jesus, as a child you put yourself into the hands of Mary and Joseph. You have the same trust in all people and in us. Sometimes we forget that our life is in good hands, no matter what is happening. We are overcome by baseless fear and worries that bind us. When we watch you, little King, we cannot be afraid of you. Let our life be governed by trust and not by fear.

The Lord’s Prayer – Hail Mary – Glory to the Father

Lord Jesus, you became man…

Day 9 – Growth

Jesus, as a child you grew and became stronger in both body and spirit. We are also invited to grow into the fullness you created us into. Let us not focus on past mistakes and wrongs but instead look toward what is ahead of us. Let us discover the possibilities you send to our life and enable us to use them creatively. Let us allow our lives to bloom into full beauty.

The Lord’s Prayer – Hail Mary – Glory to the Father

Lord Jesus, you became man…

Source: Church of Our Lady Victorious in Prague

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