The first time I heard of the Holy Infant Jesus of Prague, it was from my younger cousin, Angelo, who spent his grade school years in San Beda College in Mendiola. Indeed, the Benedictine monks of the Philippines are the foremost promoters of the devotion to the Santo Niño de Praga. The current statue enshrined in their exquisite cider wood retablo was carved by the celebrated santero Máximo Vicente Sr. in 1909.
Every January, the entire Philippines is abuzz with feasts that celebrate the Child Jesus. Perhaps the most famous is the one celebrated in Cebú, the Sinulog Fiesta. The Santo Niño de Cebú traces its origins also to the Holy Infant of Prague. The said image of the niño was a baptismal gift of Fernando Magallanes to Princess Humamay who after Baptism was given the Christian name “Juana” after Queen Juana of Spain. Years after Magellan’s miserable crew left the Philippines (Magellan was killed by a local warlord during a skirmish), the returning Spaniards still found the natives venerating the supposed same image of the Infant. The rest is history.
Today, the Sinulog fiesta borders into a mad frenzy of music and alcohol although many devout Cebuanos still maintain the Niño de Cebú as the feast’s central point.
In Manila, the San Miguel district celebrates the fiesta of the Santo Niño under the title of the Santo Niño de Praga as San Beda College is located in that district. Dubbed as “Frolics”, the feast is usually held on the last weekend of January and whose highlight is the procession of the image of the Holy Infant on a carroza around the district. It ends with a High Mass with the highest ranking Benedictine in the Abbey celebrating.
How do I connect to this supposed image?
Simple: I’ve seen the original image and I have a strong, unwavering devotion to it. In very honest words, I will tell you I love the Santo Niño very much especially this title of His. In my dear departed grandparents’ house in Marikina, found in the center and strategic point is a glass-encased image of the Holy Infant. I’d like to believe that the family considers it a family heirloom, a treasure we share with my lola’s other two sisters (my lola has two sisters who also have their copies of this statue).
When I prayed to the Holy Infant Jesus in 2009 for His help and assistance in an essay-contest I joined, He did not withhold His generosity: I won that contest and was able to travel to Europe for free!
How providential that one of the stops, and the only time I heard Mass in Europe, was in the actual shrine of the Holy Infant Jesus of Prague, the Carmelite church of Our Lady of Victories.
My heart was overflowing with gratitude at how things seem to have fallen in place – I was moved to tears. For several years now, I’ve been a devotee of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Sta. Teresa de Avila, foundress of the Order of Discalced Carmelites, San Júan de la Cruz, co-founder of the OCD, and Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, the Little Rose. I visit the National Shrine of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, mother church of the Carmelites in the Philippines, and also hear Masses at the Carmel of St. Thérèse in Gilmore, New Manila. Likewise, I’ve heard many very solemn and memorable Traditional Latin Masses at the Our Lady of Victories Church near my home.
I felt so fortunate, so happy, that I was able to pursue my devotion to the Infant Jesus in a shrine so relevant to my spiritual life.
The image moved me to deep prayer and thanksgiving. Although small (it is a wooden imaged covered in wax), it is majestically enshrined in an elaborate and ostentatious retablo/side altar at the Epistle side of the Our Lady of Victories church.
To return the many favors the Holy Infant of Prague has bestowed upon me and my family, I continuously bring tourists to the Abbey Church of our Lady of Montserrat (San Beda Abbey) so that they can appreciate and marvel at the image of the niño as well as the beauty of its Benedictine shrine here in Manila.
Pit Señor! Viva el Santo Niño!