Mary Conliffe recalls her mother’s utter devotion to the Infant of Prague


It always intrigued me as a child to see my mother Kitty devoting such time and reverence to the statue of the Infant of Prague with its magnificent ornamental crown and large red cloak.

The statue had a position high up on a wooden shelf beside the Blessed Virgin, Saint Joseph and Saint Anthony in our kitchen in Borris-in-Ossory. Each statue was called on for different favours during the year depending on the urgency of what was needed in the household.

During rosary time we all obediently knelt facing my mother’s ornate altar of worship. Included in her bundle of prayers was a powerful Novena to the Infant of Prague, one of her long trimmings after the rosary.
We believed that our prayers would be answered if we recited the novena: ‘O Jesus, who hast said, ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you, through the intercession of Mary, thy most Holy Mother, I knock, I seek I ask that my prayer be granted’…. You would mention your request at this point.

The statue was given to my mother in 1950 as a wedding present which was the custom in Ireland in the late nineteenth and twentieth century.
Some people placed the statue outside the bride’s house under a hedge, or even buried it in the garden. Others placed the statue outside the church on their wedding day. The custom developed from a belief that the statue could control the weather.

My sisters, Teresa and Monica, and my brother, Michael, were constantly blessed by my mother’s statue usually before an important exam or embarking on a long plane journey. My mother would reverently take it down from the wooden shelf and touch our heads and make the sign of the cross on our foreheads.

During my pregnancies in the Coombe Hospital, she brought the statue up from Borris-in-Ossory on the train from Ballybrophy Station in a brown suitcase – an early example of a moving statue!

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own