Laudetur Iesus Christus!
Nunc et in aeternum! Amen.
Memorial of Saint Benedict, Abbot
I don’t know if I have shared this before but I really, really love the Divine Child Jesus. I have for a very long time. One of my first holy cards was one of the Infant of Prague. My confirmation patroness is Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face.
I really feel my devotion to the Divine Child is connected to what I am discerning to be my call to spiritual motherhood. I may not have the privilege of bearing my own children (though my friends seem to think I would be a cool/good mother) but that does not mean I am “less a woman” or something like that.
I always have the Divine Child. Sure, theologically, I am His child but look at the Holy Family: Jesus was, is, and always will be God but He was still subject to His Mother and Saint Joseph. He still needed protecting and guidance. He still needed to be taught to speak (though being God, He could have just started speaking with perfect diction as a newborn but He wanted to experience what we experience sans sin) and to walk.
I have to share this holy card, it’s one of my very very very favorites because I think it’s so cute and adorable and all those things that make Catholic ladies like me get all *squee* “Isn’t Baby Jesus cute?” *squee*
Though I may not have my own children, I will still be a mother of souls. I will still have the charge of protecting and supporting my children except instead of it being in the concrete ways of a biological/adoptive mother, I will do so by my prayers and penitential actions. By those actions, I will not only be supporting my spiritual children but I will also be helping the Christ Child. Remember what the Lord said, “Whatever you do for these least of mine, you do to me.” Every good deed and every genuine act of penance offered for another is done for Christ Himself.
My particular spiritual motherhood of priests and seminarians is also connected to my love for the Divine Child in that Christ is the Eternal High Priest. Those priests and seminarians whom I take as my spiritual sons are modeled/molded after Christ, the High Priest, Who though He was God emptied Himself in an ultimate act of humility and took on human nature in all things except sin.
I have my own Infant of Prague statue. I have had Him for about a year now. My getting Him was really an act of Providence.
I was working at SJA before I entered the convent and one day I was talking with someone (probably a parishioner who had come in for something) about the Infant of Prague. I talked about how much I had always wanted an Infant of my own but they were so expensive and His vestments can be so pricey as well.
Well, a few days passed and then one day, after morning Mass, I came into the office to work when in my spot there was a big cardboard box.
“YAY! Monsignore has more polishing for me! Oh teh joy-ness!” I said quite joyfully as I went to see what the good Papal Chamberlain wanted me to polish today. He always found random things for me to polish because he knew I love polishing. He also let me clean his personal oil stock for when he goes on sick runs though I let him do the burning of the stuff I used like the paper towel, toothpicks, etc..
I look into the box and see no shiny liturgical implements.
My heart sinks.
Of course, I start looking through the box to see why it was put in my place.
Under a layer of old newspaper, my hands feel something hard. It feels like a statue.
I carefully pull it out to see what it is, expecting it to be a statue in need of rehabbing.
HOLY MOTHER CHURCH!
It’s a large Infant of Prague statue! And He’s is great condition!
I am absolutely beside myself at this point.
It’s about to get better.
I put Him down on the table and start digging some more to see what else is in this box of tricks.
My fingers feel fabric, sequins, and beading …
I pull out a handful of different color vestments (the only colors lacking were rose, green, and black) for the liturgical year.
I then pull out some lacy under-vestments that go, you guessed it, under the vestment.
Then, with perfect timing, my pastor comes over to where I am and says, “So, Ms. Allie, what do you think?”
I may have giggled a bit. But he could tell I was very happy.
“How did you know?”
“How did I know what?”
“That I have always wanted an Infant of Prague statue?!”
“You have? What? I didn’t know that. Someone just dropped this box off and I figured you would appreciate it more than anyone else.”
He’s clearly amused by my joyness because I was probably dressing the Infant up to see just how incredibly cute He was all dressed up.
“Did you empty the box?”
“You mean there’s more?”
“Yeah, take the paper out and see what else is in there. You’ll appreciate that too.”
So I giddily take the newspaper out of the box and my eyes fall on this book with a red hardcover and aged golden lettering. What is this, Christmas in July?!?!
“Are you kidding me?”
It was an antique book of saints’ lives with beautiful illustrations and sizeable bios for the saints of the day (at least one a day).
I may have smelled it. It’s one of those antique books that have those glossy pages. Those smell particularly wonderful. BTW, the smell of old book is the smell of mold reacting and perhaps consuming the paper.
“I know you would like it, Ms. Allie.”
In case you have not picked up on it, “Ms. Allie” is my nickname around SJA.
It was absolute Providence that a few days after I talk about how I have always wanted my own Infant of Prague, He comes to me with a nearly complete set of vestments.
It had to have been because only He would put the cherry on top of the sundae of awesome with that antique saints’ lives books. God knows how much of a hagiophile I am.
We were at my maternal grandmother’s house for dinner one Sunday when my family starts talking about my great-grandmother whom I never met because she died either before I was born or I was much too young to remember her. The only great-grandparent I knew was my paternal grandmother’s mother who just passed away this past March at the age of 98 though we round it up to 99 since she died less than a month from her birthday.
Then my grandmother starts talking about how much of a devout Catholic she was. Something is telling me that she and I would have gotten along just fine.
She then talks about the Infant of Prague she had that belonged to my great-grandmother and how she has had Him in her room for years.
She then looks at me and say, “You know, Allison, I have been meaning to give it to you since I know you will take care of Him.”
I dare not say “no” because possessing my great-grandmother’s Infant is an honor and a family heirloom.
She goes to her room and brings Him out.
He’s at least a century old judging by the style of the vestments (that my great=grandmother made herself) and the look of the Infant Himself.
The only vestment I have for Him is the golden vestment that He has been wearing for years. I don’t think we’ll find the others, which is sad because those are probably works of art in themselves as well. My great-grandmother really did a bang-up epic job. His vestment is tiered and has a brocade upper layer and a smooth silky under layer that looks like watered silk.
Did I mention she made Him tulle and taffeta petticoats under His vestments more body?
His crown is gold and molded to His head and is painted with this crinkly glittery paint. I have to wash my hands after I handle Him because He is so old (the statue) that it’s pretty much a given that there is lead in the paint.
So within the span of about two weeks, I go from no Infant of Prague statue to having TWO Infants of mine own.
When I entered the convent, I took the newer one with me knowing that I would never forgive myself if anything happened to the antique Infant. Not that if anything happened to my newer one that I would not be upset. I would be very very sad.
While in the convent, I grew in my devotion to the Divine Child. I would spend time praying before Him almost every day and I tried to get into the habit of kissing His hands every morning and evening much like how I kissed my bedside crucifix and my Saint Aloysius statue.
When things got tough or when I needed guidance (thank God my Pittsburgh Passionist spiritual director was good), I would write down my intentions on a little piece of paper and tuck it into his under-vestment.
When I was contemplating leaving and whether I was doing it for the right reasons, I wrote a note to the Divine Child and I tucked it into his under-vestment, knowing that He would take care of it.
One day, after I had come home, I was changing Him and then the piece of paper feel out of His under-vestment. I opened it, read it, and thanked Him for showing me the way and reassuring me that I would be all right though I may still question it sometimes. Did I mention I need to trust God more totally than I do?
When I came home, I sit and pray my Office before Him and I always look at Him while I am getting ready for the day.
I still write my personal intentions on little pieces of paper and give them to Him
When I was in Pittsburgh, my classmate and I were thrifting at a Saint Vincent de Paul (where I got Fr. Leo Patalinghug’s cookbook Grace Before Meals for 3 bucks), I came upon this electric vigil light that looks like a red votive candle. It’s gold with a red cup thing in which I put a small nightlight. His light was always on in Pittsburgh and it is always own in my room to this day.
The Divine Child and I have a track record. I know I can always come to Him. His hands, feet, and body may be small but He’s still God. He can hold the whole world in His hand much like how He holds the orb in His left hand. He always has His right hand extended in blessing, always desiring so ardently to give us the grace we need and desire so very much. All we have to do is go to Him and trust Him.
It all boils down to trust rooted in love. Not out of some rote habit. Not because “it’s how I was taught in school” or “I was told I have to do it at church.” In order for the Lord to give us all the grace He so completely wants to bestow on us, we have to trust Him out of love.
Don’t let His small appearance fool you. In His holy childhood, He is also reminding us of humility. If God Himself can be so humble that He will empty Himself in such a way that He would take on human flesh and nature, thus giving it a singular dignity above all the rest of creation (including that of the angels), who are we to be prideful? Who are we to think that we are the source of all the good that happens to us? Who are we to think that all the good things we have, all the wonderful people in our lives, all the opportunities we have, all the abilities we have come out of ourselves?
They don’t, they come from the providential love of God. God is the source of all goodness. All of our gifts, talents, abilities, etc. come from God. Alone we can do no good.
We must learn to be humble with that ever in mind and to thank God for His eternally abundant generosity.
Another wonderful thing about the Divine Child? You can hold Him in your heart whenever you want. Look at Saint Anthony of Padua …
Saint Anthony had the total privilege and grace of being able to hold the Christ Child in his arms while He held Anthony close like any child does. I think Christ said that He was appearing to Anthony because he worked so hard to defend Him and His Church against heresy. Yes, besides finding your car keys (he has yet to find my mind), Anthony is also the “Hammer of Heretics.” He is multi-talented like that.
That is how I want my relationship to be with the Divine Child. That is how I want my spiritual motherhood to be. Especially of priests and seminarians. I want to hold them close to my heart, keep them close, and pray to God on their behalf for their protection and perserverance.
God, please let it be so, if you so will it.
BTW, I am taking the GRE this coming Saturday afternoon. Whootz. Took a practice test this afternoon; since I didn’t wait for the time to end with all the sections, I had it done in about 2.5 to about 3 hours instead of the 4.5 that it will take me on Saturday. I also didn’t take the breaks. I just wanted to get an idea of how the test would work and such. I did pretty well too. Just hope I do better on Saturday. I am taking another practice test tomorrow just to keep the neurons popping.
So if you could pray for me, that would be delightfully lovely!
All right, I am off to bed. It’s after midnight … almost one and I am getting sleepy.
Have a great night!