We recently posted on the tragic fact that the grace of God is being withdrawn from the Church and the world due to the disobedience of the popes and their hierarchy to the clear commands of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary. With each disobedient act, the popes have caused a further loss of grace. As grace recedes, sin, darkness and suffering increase. In a similar way, each time we ignore the daily opportunities for sacrifice, for reparation, we lose the graces which we could have attained, essential graces necessary for our salvation.
With the loss of grace, and the ever-strengthening malignancy of satan, even those Catholics striving to hold firm to the faith begin to find themselves beset by doubts and distractions in their devotions and at times, the lethargy and heavy sense of foreboding and gloom seem to become overpowering. This is the devil’s work and it is only counteracted and driven out by the Mother of God. We access this help by the practice of our spiritual childhood in devotion to Mary our Mother. There is no other way.
In the revelations of Fatima, we find Our Lord appearing to Sister Lucia as the Child Jesus on three occasions. In two of them, He asked for compassion and reparation for “the Heart of your Most Holy Mother”. Thus, Our Lord indicates His desire that we turn to Mary as our Mother and make loving reparation to her. This salutary devotion is something that will never appeal to the modernists, and is even spurned by many unfortunate traditional Catholics. But it is an essential devotion.
In a small series of posts, we will try to trace out this devotion, beginning with devotions to the Child Jesus from around the world. Then, in a later post, we hope to show how devotion to the Child Jesus is included in the Message of Fatima and finally, we will examine the example of spiritual childhood given us by the children of Fatima: Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia.
Devotion to the Holy Infant is complementary to that of Fatima. Both call us to mortification, true humility and perfect obedience. And devotion to the Divine Infant is a necessary part of the devotion recommended by St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, the beloved Little Flower.
Devotion to the Infant Jesus originated in Spain and then spread to many countries in a variety of manifestations. Many saints have been favored with this devotion, notably St. Anthony of Padua/Lisbon, St. Teresa of Avila and St. St Thérèse of Lisieux and Sister Lucia of Fatima. Notably, the Child Jesus appeared to Sister Lucia three times between November, 1925 and February, 1926.
Here’s a bit of background on just a few of the numerous devotions to the Holy Infant Jesus:
Santo Niño de Atocha
According to tradition, devotion to the Santo Niño de Atocha originated in devotion to Our Lady of Antioch and her Divine Child and “Atocha” derived from “Antioch” over many centuries. The original statue is said to have been sculpted by St. Luke the Evangelist and so dates to very early times. By 1162, the devotion had spread to Spain and became immensely popular. The following story is taken from the site El Santo Nino de Atocha:
The pious legend of the wonder working little Santo Niño is set in Spain.
In Atocha, a suburb of Madrid, many men were imprisoned by the Moors (Muslims) who terrorized the Christians there because of their faith. The prisoners were not fed by their jailers, so food was taken to them by their families. The caliph issued an order that no one except children twelve years old and younger would be permitted to bring food to the prisoners. Those with young children would manage to keep their relatives alive, but what of the others?
The women of the town appealed to Our Lady, begging her to help them find a way to feed their husbands, sons, and brothers. Soon the children came home from the prison with a strange story. Those prisoners who had no young children to feed them were being visited and fed by a young boy. None of the children knew who He was, but the little water gourd He carried was never empty, and there was always plenty of bread in His basket to feed all the hapless prisoners without children of their own to bring them their food. He came at night, slipping past the sleeping guards or smiling politely at those who were alert.
Those who had asked the Virgin of Atocha for a miracle began to suspect the identity of the little boy. As if in confirmation, the shoes on the statue of the child Jesus were worn down and dusty. When they replaced the shoes with new ones, those too were quickly worn out. After Ferdinand and Isabella drove the Moors from Spain in 1492, the people continued to invoke the aid of Our Lady of the Atocha and her Holy Child.
And so we see in the foregoing the miraculous intervention of the Holy Virgin and Child to assist Catholics against muslim persecution. Perhaps a useful devotion for our present times, isn’t it?
Santo Niño de Atocha in Mexico and New Mexico
In Mexico, the devotion to was brought by the Spanish and carries on the tradition of devotion to the little pilgrim Child Jesus. A major shrine is in the state of Zacatecas in Fresnillo/Plateros, where many miracles were attributed to the Holy Infant Who miraculously saved miners who had been trapped in an explosion in the Fresnillo silver mine. In New Mexico, the Shrine is near the Sanctuary of Chimayo. Among the many veterans of World War II, were the brave New Mexicans who survived Corregidor, the Bataan Death March and internment in Japanese prison camps. When they returned, some 2,000 made a pilgrimage to the Holy Infant of Atocha at Chimayo, many walking barefoot.
The Holy Child Jesus is believed to travel through the countryside, seeking poor sinners to heal and help. In some areas, He is thought to be absent from the church at night, due to His peregrinations in search if souls to save.
Santo Niño de Cebú
In the Philippines, devotion to the Holy Infant Jesus known as “Santo Niño” was brought by the Spanish to Cebu in about 1521 when
a member of Magellan’s crew gave the local queen a statue of the Santo Niño as a baptismal gift. The little statue has a wonderful, miraculous history and has been known to survive many calamities, as far back as 1565, when, after a battle in which the then-village of Cebu burned to the ground, soldiers found the wooden box containing the sacred statue unscathed amongst the ruins.
And again, during World War II, when the Santo Niño Church was bombed, the statue of Santo Niño de Cebú was found to be completely undamaged. There are many other such miracles both for the statue and for the devout Filipinos who treasure devotion to the Holy Infant Jesus of Cebú. Devotion to the Holy Infant is an excellent example of humility, and is the basis for the practice of spiritual childhood .
In the Philippines, according to site, SantoNinodeCebu.org, the Feast day of El Santo Niño is celebrated on the third Sunday of every year and many Cebuanos and Filipinos in general, do not consider the Christmas season over until the Feast of the beloved Santo Niño.
Santo Bambino di Ara Caeli
Italy also has a devotion to the Divine Infant with an interesting history. Santo Bambino di Ara Caeli is a lovely devotion to the Holy Child. The Church of Santa Maria di Ara Caeli is built over the ruins of what was once the pagan Roman temple of Juno. The Emperor Augustus, who reigned at the time of Our Lord Jesus Christ’s birth, was told by the Sibyl that the “King of Ages” would soon come. Upon hearing this prophesy, Augustus is said to have received a vision of a holy Virgin, standing upon an altar, surrounded with golden light and bearing in her arms an Infant. An altar was soon raised to this vision of a future King and was called the “Altar of Heaven”, or Ara Caeli.
The Church of Santa Maria di Ara Caeli was built on this site in the Sixth century but it was not until the 15th century that the Santo Bambino arrived in a miraculous manner. A Franciscan Friar in Jerusalem carved the statue of the Santo Bambino out of olive wood from the garden of Gethsemane. It is said that angels painted the statue while he slept, after he ran out of paint. And then, when the friar was taking the Bambino to Rome, his ship foundered in a storm. Although the holy friar survived, he arrived in Italy dejected because of the loss of his beautiful statue of the Child Jesus. As he was walking on the beach in Livorno, while praying to the Santo Bambino to return, he saw with amazement the his lovely statue resting in the sand at his feet, where waves had tenderly deposited it.
Other devotions to the Holy Child are the “Little King of Grace” in Beaune, France and the Holy Child of Remedy in Madrid, Spain. In Bogota, Colombia, a miraculous statue of the Divine Infant resides in the Santuario del Divino Nino.
The one thing that all these devotions have in common is the devotion to the sacred humanity of the Child Jesus which shows to us His perfect obedience to His Father as well as His unfathomable love for us. God our Father has placed in our hearts an instinctive love for helpless infants and children and it pleases Him when we honor His beloved Son, who, being rich became poor for us that by His poverty we might become rich. (2 Corinthians, 8,9).
Holy Infant of Prague
My own devotion is to the Holy Infant of Prague and is a very personal devotion because of my children, many of whom were lost to us through miscarriage and several more who have lost their faith. Here is some background on the Holy Infant of Prague:
The statue of the Infant of Prague is said to have been brought there by a Spanish noblewoman, Duchess Maria Maxmiliana (Marie) Manrique de Lara, who married the Czech nobleman Vratislav of Pernstejn in 1556. Tradition tells us that she received this rare treasure as a wedding gift and brought the Infant Jesus statue to her new residence in Prague.
During the terrors of the Protestant revolution, the church which housed the statue was pillaged and in time, devotion to the Divine Infant was neglected and eventually ceased altogether. The image of the Infant Jesus of Prague was thrown upon a heap of rubbish behind the high altar. Both hands were broken off by the fall, but even though the statue was made of wax, it was otherwise undamaged. Here the Divine Infant lay, forgotten by all for several years.
In 1637, a Father Cyrillus rescued the Divine Infant and with miraculous assistance, eventually restored the statue, hands and all.
One of my favorite quotes is the one from the legend of the Infant of Prague where the Child Jesus told Father Cyrillus, “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.” We should all lend Him our hands, that is, strive to do all that we can, each day, for love of Him to honor Him and make reparation for those who will not serve Him in this time of arrogant disobedience which parades as humility.
Devotion to the Crucified Child Jesus
Pichincha Mountain is the mighty sentinel which overlooks Quito, Ecuador, and was the setting for a wondrous vision of the Child Jesus, crucified for love of poor sinners. Although the vision occurred in 1628, it bears especial relevance for these times.
The Vision of the Crucified Child Jesus on Pichincha Mountain
Towards the end of 1628, one midnight, Mother Mariana de Jesus Torres was praying in the Conceptionist Convent in Quito Ecuador when she received a vision of Our Lady of Good Success carrying in her arms the Divine Child Jesus. Our Lady commanded her to look to the Pichincha Mountain, “where you will see this Divine Infant … crucified.”
Mother Mariana then saw the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael carry the Divine Child to Pichincha Mountain, which overlooks the city of Quito. Here the Child Jesus took the form of a boy of about 12 to 15 years of age, His expression sweetly majestic. He prostrated Himself on the ground with His arms extended as on a cross and prayed to His Eternal Father to look with favor on Ecuador.
A celestial light enveloped the whole mountain, and the Christ Child rose and stood before a cross with the inscription INRI at its head. On its left arm hung a crown of sharp thorns; on its right, a white stole.
The three Archangels reappeared, with St. Gabriel carrying a white Host. St. Michael bore a long white tunic speckled with stars and St. Raphael carried a mantle of a magnificent rose color unknown on this earth. The Child Jesus vested Himself in the white tunic and stole, and over them draped the magnificent mantle. Then He approached the cross, took the crown of thorns and placed it on His Head. He extended His arms and remained crucified, but without any nails appearing either on His hands or feet. Down His cheeks streamed large tears, which were gathered up by the Archangels St. Michael and St. Raphael and dispersed throughout the new nation.
He then ordered St. Gabriel to place the Host behind His head, where it became a kind of halo. Three resplendent beams of light streamed from it. On the center ray appeared the word LOVE, on the ray to His right, ECUADOR, and on the ray to His left, SPAIN. His expression reflected an intense pain, but also a serene joy to suffer for those whom He loved so dearly. As drops of blood fell from the wounds on His hands, feet and forehead, He fixed His gaze on the country and said these words:
“I can do no more to show My love for you. Ungrateful souls, who repay the great love and attentions of My Heart with contempt, sacrileges and blasphemies. At least you, My beloved and hidden spouses, be My consolation in My Eucharistic solitude. Keep watch in My Company. Do not be overcome by the sleep of indifference to God, Who loves you so much. Always be the heroines of your country during the bitter and dire times that will come. Your humble, secret, and silent prayer and voluntary penances will save it from the destruction toward which its ungrateful sons will lead it. For these wretched ones, rebuffing and despising the good, will exalt and serve the evil and self-serving satellites of Satan.”
Thus was the Child Jesus crucified on the grand Pichincha Mountain. (Dr. Marian Horvat, “The Child Jesus of the Cross on Pichincha Mountain”, Tradition in Action.)
In her article, Dr. Horvat explains that the vision of the young Child Jesus, aged 12-15 presents us with a poignant picture of the young Jesus who embraces the Cross in His love for mankind, which is a powerful antidote for the deluge of temptations that beset our young people today, who are hammered with invitations to worldly pleasures and self-indulgence on all sides.
Follow This Child
In all the above devotions, the Holy Ghost enlightens us with the graces of spiritual childhood, which are humility, obedience, purity and above all a loving, childlike trust in God and in Mary, whom He has given us for our Mother even as He was dying on the Cross. In modern times, when the Child Jesus appeared to Sister Lucia on the evening of Thursday, December 10, 1925, when she was just 18 years old and a postulant in the convent of the Dorotheans. Lucia tells us of this extraordinary visit:
The Most Holy Virgin appeared … and by Her side, elevated on a luminous cloud, was the Child Jesus. The Most Holy Virgin rested Her hand on (my) shoulder, and as She did so, She showed her heart encircled by thorns, which She was holding in Her other hand.
“At the same time, the Child said: ‘Have compassion on the Heart of your Most Holy Mother, covered with thorns, with which ungrateful men pierce It at every moment, and there is no one to make an act of reparation to remove them.’ “
Note that Jesus did not say, “My Mother”, but instead referred to “the heart of your Most Holy Mother”. Thus He echoes His last words on Calvary where He simply said, “Behold thy Mother”, demonstrating that this is not some new development, but has always been so. Let us renew our devotions to the pure and holy Mother who seeks only to save her children and bring them safely to heaven, even though the fury of satan rages against us.
~ by evensong ~
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