Why a Devotion to the Infant King?
Since 2007, the Shrine of Christ the King in Chicago has embraced a devotion to the Infant King, including a monthly novena. The devotion is gaining more and more adherents, both locally and nationally. In response to some queries about this devotion, Canons of the Shrine answer questions posed to them by the faithful in an interview format.
The questions generally fall into three separate categories: 1) about the Infant King Statue, 2) about the Infant King devotion in general, and 3) about the practice of the novena at the Shrine, including the Children’s Blessing
Part I - About this particular statue of the Infant King
How did this image come to be chosen as the symbol of, and the object of, devotion at the Shrine of Christ the King? A. The mission of the Institute is to draw people closer to our Lord and to spread the splendors of His Kingdom. The Divine Infant, being adorable and approachable, is an ideal representation of Christ's perfections that everyone can relate to; He is attractive and imitable.
Is there a special history behind this 18th century statue? A. Devotion to the Divine Infant is old. The devotion’s true origin appears already in Sacred Scripture with the example of the Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph, the Shepherds, and, who could forget the Adoration of the Magi. The popular devotion as we know it has been particularly strong in Spain since the 15th Century. This statue at the Shrine was crafted in Spain, as part of that wave of devotion. It was gifted to the Shrine by a benefactor. Its craftsmanship, construction, and artistic merits suggest its age to be the 18th Century, if not earlier.
When the statute came into the Shrine’s possession, did it need a lot of restoration work? A. It was well-preserved and in very good condition; all it needed was some touching up and a new set of liturgical garments. You’ll notice that He wears a stole as well. This is to remind us that the Infant King is also Sovereign Priest.
Was it important that it be crowned and formally installed at the Shrine of Christ the King in Chicago, IL by Cardinal George? A. "The more you honor Me the more I will bless you" is the promise of the Infant King. The coronation ceremony is a beautiful public display of honor. Having the Ecclesiastical authority do the crowning shows that the Cardinal grants full approval of this devotion and designates the Shrine to be a particular place of honor for the Infant King. This statue is a very special sacramental. Sacramentals are one of the means through which grace is conferred. The blessing and installation of relics and statues in a church, for example, are important because they can inflame our hearts to devotion and open our hearts to grace.
What is the significance or connection of the Infant King to the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest? A. The devotion to the Infant King is a wonderful expression of Salesian Spirituality in the service of our Divine King. St. Francis de Sales, our spiritual father, had a very special devotion to the Christ Child and Christmas was his favorite feast day. It is in the Christ Child that we see majesty and sweetness; divinity and accessibility; holiness and attraction. This is the very message the members of the Institute preach: that our Faith is inviting; the practice of our Faith is joyful and sanctity awaits us.
Part II - About the novena to the Infant King
Why a novena from 17th-25th of each month? A. The 25th follows a widespread tradition of honoring the day in which the Christ Child was born.
Since the crowning ceremony by Cardinal George in 2007, have the Canons noticed the number of devotion to the Infant King increase? A. Definitely, both locally and nationally. As more people learn about the devotion to the Divine Infant, the more they grow attached to the Incarnate Word, the Second Person of the Trinity, and His love for mankind.
To your knowledge, is there another regular novena which commemorates the Nativity on the 25th of each month? A. We were not aware of any when we started this devotion; however, it is our fervent hope that the effort at the Shrine will inspire deep devotions to the Infant King in many hearts – locally as well as nationally.
Why is it important to conclude the monthly novena with a High Mass? A. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the highest form of prayer we can offer God. There is a profound harmony that binds faith, liturgy, life, and beauty in our lives as Catholics. Thus it is fitting that at the summit of our devotion to the Infant King, we give glory to God as much as we can through the sacred liturgy. Visitors to the Shrine will find a High Mass offered with glorious music on the 25th of each month in honor of the Infant King.
From your observation of the faithful, what would you say is the chief benefit of having a devotion to the Divine Infant? A. It may sound redundant, butthe chief benefit of this devotion is that we all grow in devotion, in devotedness. The Infant King devotion makes us become more devout. The adorably attractive charism of the Christ Child, not only increases the faithful’s desire for holiness, but also shows that we can get there by "baby steps"; little by little. His warm smile instantly conquers our temptations to discouragement.
What's your favourite part of the novena and why? A. (Canon Stein) my answer is two-fold. As the celebrant offering the Mass, I love having the Infant King statue so close to the Altar and I love literally taking Him into my arms for the procession. I feel a great union of heart with Our Lady, St. Joseph, St. Anthony of Padua, and so many others who truly carried the Christ Child during their lives. As the Vice-Rector of the Shrine, I love seeing the children gather and offer their young hearts every month to the Infant King. In this moment their dignity and innocence shine as an example for others and they themselves feel called to a more profound imitation of Christ’s virtues at home.
Who composed the Infant King Novena prayer? A. Venerable Cyril, a Carmelite from Prague and great devotee to the Infant Jesus, composed this prayer to the famous Infant of Prague, which, like our statute, also had its origin in Spain, but earlier, from the 15th Century.
Part III - About the practice of the devotion at the Shrine
How are the submitted intentions presented? A. All intentions are printed out and placed at the foot of the Offering stand, and they remain there for the duration of the novena. Submit your intentions here.
Why flowers and candles? A. The flowers and the candles are a wonderful, visible display of the faithful’s love, devotion and petitions.
Have specific prayers been answered by those who recite this novena each month? A. God’s magnanimity is immeasurable. However, by means of a modern form of Ex votos we have provided on the web, some faithful have chosen to share special favors and blessings they have received from praying this novena. You may read them here.
What is the tradition of Ex Votos? A. Ex votos are simply a Catholic custom of giving thanks for blessings received by means of visual representations. For over 500 years people have expressed thanksgiving by making images which have become known by the name ex voto (from the Latin "in fulfillment of a vow".) On the Infant King website, we provide an opportunity for the faithful to express their gratitude via a contemporary version of the old custom; i.e. electronically.
What is the significance of a monthly virtue meditation on your website? A. The monthly virtues are baby steps that help us imitate the virtues of the Divine Infant, which are the perfections of Christ.
At the end of the novena, a special Children's Blessing is given. Why a blessing specifically for children? A. Our Lord in the Gospel invited the little children to come to Him. They are a special source of joy for His Sacred Heart. They are pure. In contemporary culture where purity is constantly attacked, what better way to protect the innocence of children than by placing them directly under Our Lord's care and bestowing His blessing upon them.
How many children normally come to the Infant King High Mass and blessing? A. Depends. Usually we get around 40 children on weekdays, but when the High Mass is offered on a Saturday or Sunday, those numbers can double. This number is consistently on the rise and as more people become aware of this devotion they will flock to the Infant King.
How do the children like the Infant King? Have they commented on the liturgical colors of his garment? A. The children are drawn to the Infant King. They see in the beauty of His eyes and in the graciousness of His smile a warm welcome. They remark that He is usually "dressed up" in the same colored vestments as the priest, but on the 25th they see that He "puts on His best clothes" (to use their exact words).
What kinds of questions have the children asked about the Infant King? A. Children are remarkably simple and at the same time astute. They naturally accept that the Infant King be dressed (like a doll, say the little girls), but they also remark that He is dressed in a way that makes them think of a king (crown & globe) and of a priest (cope & stole). They have asked why He can’t stay "closer" to them more often [He is placed at a side-Altar after the procession where they can come very close to say their prayers.] What a wonderful desire: "Lord, remain with us." May that innocent desire of the children echo in our own heart as well.