First Sunday of Lent

Infant of Prague

Statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague

As we enter the first full week of Lent, I can’t help reflecting on all the Catholic Christians who’ve come before us.  Today, my new parish of Saint John Nepomuk celebrates the ancient rite of crowning the Infant Jesus of Prague.  This juxtaposition of the child Jesus with the trappings of Christ the King is a wonderful symbol of the richness of our faith.

This afternoon our auxiliary bishop along with several priests and deacons will be present as a young man of the parish places the crown, made of gold and jewels donated by parishioners sixty-two years ago, on the Infant’s head.  You may or may not be familiar with the ceremony, but it’s been going on for centuries.  Our statue of the Infant Jesus is a replica of the one that is housed in the church of Our Lady of Victory in the Lesser Town district of Prague.  It’s believed that the original was crafted in Spain in the early 16th century.  You can click on the link above to find out more of the history of the statue and of the veneration.

What I really want to talk about today is the tremendous wealth of experiences we have as Catholics.  Today’s devotion will be a beautiful event for everyone who attends.  But, over the last few weeks I’ve had the privilege of watching the members of my new church family as they prepare for today’s crowning and the dinner that will follow.  To say that today’s event is a big undertaking would be a gross understatement.  It’s taken a lot of work by a lot of faith-filled people to get it done.

And you know what?  They wouldn’t have it any other way.  As a newcomer and a relative outsider, I’ve watched everything come together and I’m in awe of the spirit of love and cooperation that I’ve seen.  I think this is when our Church is at its best; when a group of people come together to put on an event that reflects our Catholic heritage, sometimes our ethnic heritage, and the spirit of a group of faithful people with a common interest.

I’m excited about today’s crowning, but I’ve already been deeply touched and inspired by the efforts of the people of my new church home.  We all owe a great debt to the men and women who have come before us.  They’ve carried on our faith, often against almost impossible odds.  My “new” parish is 157 years old and I’m deeply grateful to the thousands of worshipers whose lives have revolved around their church.  I’m humbled by the responsibility I feel to them to maintain and even to grow their parish home.

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