The Prague Child: A Legend through the Ages
by Lourdes Policarpio
Long ago, a pious monk named Joseph lived in a monastery not far from the wealthy Spanish city of Seville. Protected from the outside world by the thick monastery walls, he spent his life in silent prayer and meditation. But one night the peace was disrupted when a horde of wild Moors rushed in. They killed all its inhabitants, and only Joseph and three of the other brothers were able to escape.
When the handful of monks who had survived returned to the burnt shell of the monastery, they all turned to Joseph in silent question… Joseph decided that they will stay. Out of the ashes of the old monastery they began building a new one with their bare hands. They worked until they were exhausted: clearing the debris, erecting new walls, preparing the soil of the charred garden…
Soon though, they found themselves at the end of their strength. Their numbers could be counted on just one hand, and the work never seemed to end. Each did the work of three men. Joseph took care of the garden. From morning to night he worked planting and watering so that they would have something to eat in the winter.
One afternoon, he sank to the earth, exhausted from his toil beneath the burning sun. He lay on the parched grass and thought to himself tiredly: “Lord, without your help, we will never build a new monastery!” Suddenly a shadow fell across him. When he opened his eyes, a curious, childish face looked down on him.
“Who are you?” he asked, smiling at the child.
“I am Jesus” said the Boy, laying a hand on his hot forehead. “And I want you to know that I stand beside you.”
The monk, incapable of uttering a single word, gazed into the beautiful face of the Child. He followed the direction of Jesus’ gaze and, before his amazed eyes, the monastery appeared, flourishing like a garden in spring, newly built, and a hundred times more beautiful than before.
“Oh, that would be…” he turned around. The Child was gone. He had disappeared, and the image of the renewed monastery along with it. Joseph fell to his knees in joyful prayer and, from his heart, gave thanks to the Lord.
Years passed and with the help of God, the monastery was rebuilt to surpass even its former beauty. It looked exactly as it had appeared to Joseph during his wondrous meeting with the Son of God. The monastery flourished, but the aged Joseph, could not leave this world in peace. It was as if he still had some responsibility. Not a single day passed in which he did not think of his meeting with the Infant Jesus. That beautiful childish face kept appearing before him. He attempted to capture it on paper, carve it in wood, and model it from wax.
However, this sort of work was hard for him. His old fingers no longer wanted to obey him. As time passed, it was harder and harder to recall that beautiful face exactly. He continually prayed for the Infant to appear to him one more time.
One day he was working in the garden and during rests he kept trying to sculpt the features of the young Christ in wax. Suddenly he heard quiet steps behind him. He turned around and caught sight of the Child. He would have recognized him from among a thousand, for He had not changed at all over the years. The Child looked at Joseph’s statue and smiled kindly.
“You have come, my Lord?” the aged monk fell to his knees before him.
“I am here so that you can finish your work.”
Joseph began to work the wax anew with his suddenly agile and skillful fingers. The wax softened obediently beneath his hands. By night, he had an exact copy of the Little Jesus before him, a standing figure. It was a flawless piece of work, a faithful image of that heavenly face which would guide people along the path of goodness through the ages.
The Child smiled in satisfaction at the sculptor, placed His small hand into Joseph’s old, wrinkled hand, and together they walked away through the blooming garden, the aged monk and the heavenly Child, hand in hand.
When the brothers from the monastery found Joseph’s cold body in the garden with the statue of the Infant Jesus beside him, they understood at once from the joyful smile on his face how his master work had come about. They took the Holy Infant and displayed it in the cathedral. They held it in deep respect and so the monastery prospered. Spain was freed from Moorish rule, and the government was returned to the hands of the Catholic king.
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