Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Infant Jesus of Prague

My friend Sher and I decided at the beginning of the year that one of the things we were going to do together was visit each other's churches here in Prague. Now suggesting this to your pals is not something one does in one's twenties, is it? That already tells you something about us.

Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church
in Mala Strana, Prague

Is this idea one you can propose to all of your friends? No. You can have a whole passel of friends and not one of them might be interested. It's awfully nice to be able to share faith with someone though, isn't it? It seems intimate. If you were getting to know someone what greater representation of their culture is there than how they worship?

Sher and I are both Protestants but it's hard to find the same denomination over here that we went to in America. She attends Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church in Prague and so I joined her there one Sunday.

Sher's big smile
is caused by seeing sunshine!

My friend Sher lives with chronic illness, asthma and the like, and if I can brag about her for a moment, she does so with considerable humor and grace. The three weeks prior to meeting her on this Sunday she had spent in salubrious solitude (otherwise known as quarantine to those of you not euphemistically-inclined).

Imagine, three weeks in a city apartment and not being able to go outside! Could you do it? I don't think I could. She figured out how to turn it into a positive experience by setting all sorts of goals and accomplishing them.

I love going to other people's churches. Back home in America, I especially enjoyed going to black churches because the music was usually gospel and usually amazing. If a Czech went to an African-American church it might seem as exotic and as foreign to them as Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church seemed to me. I had never been to a church that was packed with people from all over the world who had come on pilgrimage to see something.

The church is sooo busy that it has multiple masses over the weekend in Czech, English, French, Spanish, and Italian. Once Sher attended a Japanese mass there just to see what it was like. This isn't the kind of church that builds great local community because the out-of-town attendees are usually here for just one service.

Why have all these people come to this church? Because they want to pray to the Infant Jesus of Prague, otherwise known as The Prague Bambino.

I first heard of the Prague Bambino in Bohumil Hrabal's book "I Served the King of England." But others have heard of it through more conventional religious means. Wikipedia has a nice, short explanation of how the legend started here. Sher also explained that many people find praying to an infant representation of Jesus less intimidating than the full grown man.

While I found the Infant Jesus of Prague statue exotic to my own faith, one thing that happened during the service unexpectedly took me right back to my childhood. The Philipino choir singing for the service sang every verse of the great hymn "How Great Thou Art." My grandmother and mom used to play it on the piano when I was growing up. Mr. Hendrickson, my childhood neighbor who sang at my wedding, also sang this hymn frequently through the years. Hearing it made me homesick. It was beautiful.

The beautiful baroque altar
at the front of the church
is almost fully restored

The priest's pulpit
off to the side.
It's unused
in our more informal times.

Pilgrims from all over the world
pray to the Infant Jesus of Prague
for deliverance from their suffering
after the service.
Note the "thank you" plaques
on the side wall for answered prayers.

The Infant Jesus of Prague
or the Prague Bambino
in his glass case and white clothes

A beautiful baroque side alter
at the church

This is how people
stay warm in these old churches.
The pumice stones attached
to the backs of the pews
radiate gentle warmth.

The spiral staircase up to the Museum of the Infant Jesus.
Seamstresses express their faith by sending the Infant Jesus
clothes from all over the world.
Several of the most spectacular outfits are on display.

The exquisite craftsmanship
on these outfits
is meticulous.

This beautiful red overcoat
with the dragon came from Vietnam.

Immediately after Sher's day out, she had to go right back into her salubrious solitude because she got sick and so did her husband. Her can-do attitude regarding chronic illness is as beautiful expression of faith as this church.

4 comments:

annuca said...

Ohh! I remember this church from my time in Prague. I went there to mass a couple of times. I remember enjoying going to different language masses (I think I had gone to an Italian and a French mass, cos those are the languages I have some kind of knowledge in). Thanks for sharing your experience there!

Karen said...

Thanks for stopping by Ann. I enjoyed reading your sweetie's account of your weekend in Cambridge on his blog. It looked awesome!

Sher said...

Hi Karen,
This is a great post about the Prague Bambino! And the pictures turned out great, too!!

You explained the prayers to the Infant of Prague in a great way! Catholics will be the first to say they are not praying to the image, itself, but are directing their prayers to Jesus and God via the statue. The Infant figure helps to focus and guide their prayers. This is a symbol of the heavenly here on earth.

This is an interesting idea for Protestants, to be sure!! As you put it--very exotic!

I'm so happy we can share the faith!!! It has been a great experience visiting your church, too. St. Kliment's has such a sense of community. I've enjoyed Pastor Yates' sermons--they make you think--which is what a sermon is supposed to do! And the people there are so friendly!! Thanks for inviting me there!!!

Have a great day!
Sher :0)

Sher said...

Hi Karen,
You've been tagged! :0) Come visit http://livingwithchronicillness.today.com to see how to play! I included a link and short review of your blog on the post...it was so much writing! :0)

Anyway, have a great weekend!
Sher :0)

 
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