Padre Pio and the Christmas Graces of the Infant of Prague

I’ll be honest: Until recently, I’d never felt drawn to the Infant of Prague. Probably because I never took the time to learn more about the devotion, and it didn’t occur to me to try harder to figure it out.

But a few weeks ago, I read something about the Infant of Prague that caught my attention. It was in a book called Stories of Padre Pio, written by one of Padre Pio’s spiritual children, Madame Katharina Tangari.

In the book, Madame Tangari writes that, in December of 1951, she was invited to San Giovanni Rotondo. Her neighbor, who had a crippled daughter, found out that Madame Tangari was going to see Padre Pio, and immediately asked her to beg his prayers for the complete healing of this child. The little girl, Claretta, had been diagnosed with a congenital dislocation of the thigh bone and almost a total lack of joint on the left thigh bone. Wearing casts from toe to torso, Claretta spent her days sitting on the balcony in her little wheelchair, sadly watching the children running and playing on the street below.

Madame Tangari agreed to deliver the message to Padre Pio. Starting at midnight on Christmas, she attended Padre Pio’s first Mass; then, at 2 a.m., his second Mass; and finally, at 4 a.m., his third Christmas Mass. By 5 a.m., the crowds had dispersed and Madame Tangari had a chance to approach Padre Pio on his way to the sacristy.

 

When he spoke to her, she was so overcome by his humble gentleness, his wisdom and simplicity, and his smile, that she nearly forgot to make the request; but an expectant look from him reminded her of her purpose.   

“Padre Pio, Claretta’s thigh bone!” was all she could manage to say.

“On St. Joseph’s day!” Padre Pio answered, smiling kindly. “On St. Joseph’s day!”

When Claretta’s mother heard this news from Madame Tangari, she was crestfallen. How could they wait nearly three months for their daughter to be healed? St. Joseph’s day seemed an eternity away. Her hopes dwindled.

But on the morning of March 18, Claretta awoke to find that her casts had split apart and fallen off. Her parents rushed her to the doctors for new casts. The next day, March 19, the feast of St. Joseph, test results showed that the thigh bone was healing. The doctors said that Claretta did not need new casts, and that she could begin walking again.

It was the miracle she had begged for—but Claretta’s mother had trouble trusting it. She feared what might happen if she let her little daughter try to walk. She thought Claretta’s legs would be too weak, her muscles too frail. So the mother carried her everywhere. Months passed, and still, burdened by the weight of her fears, the anxious mother carried the little girl everywhere.

The following Advent, Madame Tangari visited Padre Pio again and strongly recommended Claretta’s mother to his prayers.

That’s when Padre Pio brought up the Infant of Prague.

He gave Madame Tangari a beautiful little picture of the Infant Jesus of Prague, and told her that Christmas time was “particularly suitable for asking for graces.” He blessed the picture, and advised her to “entrust everything to the Child Jesus.”

Claretta’s mother joyfully accepted the picture and faithfully heeded his advice. That Christmas, at midnight Mass, when a procession with the Child Jesus went through the church, the mother asked him for help “with all her heart.”

Indeed, that very Christmas morning, Claretta walked happily from her bed to greet her mother. The child spent the day running around the house, never tiring, “happy as a little bird,” to her mother’s great joy.

Hope and Trust in the Infant Jesus

This story hit home for me, especially this Christmas. I’ve been struggling with deep interior pain from a harrowing family situation, and I recognized myself in this mother’s hesitancy to trust in God’s timing.

Again and again, I have cried out to the Lord in anguish. I have begged the prayers of all my favorite saints, of the souls in purgatory (may they rest in peace), of family and friends. Still, my hopes have waned as months have come and gone without the miracle I’ve asked for. I have struggled to keep hoping, when so many times my hopes have been dashed and my heart broken.

Yet I know I must “wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yea, wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14) And as Christmas approaches, I believe there is a reason that He led me to Madame Tangari’s story about Padre Pio. Since reading this story, I’ve learned more about the statue’s history—how a princess gave the statue to the Carmelites in Prague, how they venerated it for centuries, how saints such as St. Therese and St. Teresa Benedicta venerated it, and how it has been associated with obtaining many favors and graces.

Even more than factual knowledge, I’ve gained a spiritual understanding that those who turn to the Infant Jesus of Prague are in fact turning to Baby Jesus. It seems obvious now, but that connection had long eluded me. The Infant of Prague had always felt unfamiliar, while the child in the manger in our Nativity set was Baby Jesus. It’s clear to me now that they are one in the same. And when we turn to the Infant of Prague, then Jesus, who told us to “turn and become like one of these little children,” (Mt 18:3) will help us to turn and become like Him.

Like Claretta’s mother, I need the graces of greater hope and trust. And I believe God led me to this story so that I would know whom to ask. Since Padre Pio said that Christmas time is particularly suitable for obtaining graces from the Infant of Prague, I intend to beg the Child Jesus for the miracle I’ve been longing for—and also for the graces that will bring me closer to Him as I wait for the answers to the deepest prayers of my heart.

Urgent Novena to the Infant of Prague     

For those in urgent need, here is a nine-hour novena to the Infant of Prague. It can be done in one day by praying at the same time every hour for nine consecutive hours. (It can also be done over nine days.)

Jesus, You said, “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you.”

Through the intercession of Mary, Your holy Mother, I knock, I seek. I ask that my prayer be granted.

(Make your request.)

Jesus, You said, “All that you ask of the Father in My name, He will grant you.”

Through the intercession of Mary, Your holy Mother, I humbly and urgently ask Your Father in Your Name that my prayer be granted.

(Make your request.)

Jesus, You said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My word shall not pass.”

Through the intercession of Mary, Your holy Mother, I feel confident that my prayer will be granted.

(Make your request.)

Maura Roan McKeegan

By

Maura Roan McKeegan is the author of a series of children's picture books about biblical typology, including: The End of the Fiery Sword: Adam & Eve and Jesus & Mary; Into the Sea, Out of the Tomb: Jonah and Jesus; and Building the Way to Heaven: The Tower of Babel and Pentecost (Emmaus Road Publishing). Her articles have appeared in publications such as Catholic Digest, The Civilized Reader, Franciscan Magazine, Guideposts, and Lay Witness. You can contact her at Maura.Roan.McKeegan@gmail.com.

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