Our Lady of Victory
Among shrines dedicated to Our Lady of Victory, that at Prague has become world-famous because it is also the home of the statue of the Infant of Prague.
The story of the shrine is an unusual one. In 1620 the Austrian Emperor Ferdinand II and Prince Maxmilian of Bavaria gained a major victory over a coalition of Protestant armies in the battle of the White Mountains near Prague. The previous day, Rev Fr Dominic of Jesus-Maria, a discalced Carmelite, had found in the castle of Strakowicz a picture representing the nativity of Christ. It showed the Blessed Virgin kneeling before her Divine Son, while St Joseph stood behind her holding a lantern. In the background were two shepherds. The Calvanists had shown their fanaticism by piercing the eyes of Mary and her spouse, St Joseph.
Carrying the picture to the camp, the monk held it up and urged the soldiers to restore Mary’s honor. His words decided the hesitation of the generals and gave courage to the men. They adopted Mary’s name as their battle cry and Mary blessed their efforts. In the moment of success, they hailed the painting as Our Lady of Victory and carried it in triumph into Prague, where their leaders adorned it with rich jewels.
In gratitude to God for his great success, and in recognition of the help given by Father Dominic, Ferdinand II founded several Carmelite monasteries, including one at Prague which was solemnly blessed under invocation of Our Lady of Victory.
Before this time, however, Father Dominic had taken the picture of Our Lady of Victory to Rome where it was first venerated in the Basilica of St. Mary Major, then carried – in the presence of Pope Gregory XV – to the church of St Paul near the Carmelite convent, on May 8, 1622. Pope Paul V subsequently changed the name of the church to Our Lady of Victory, and the feast was officially inaugurated.
The original painting was destroyed in a fire in 1833 and has been replaced by a copy. Another copy hangs in the church of Our Lady of Victory in Prague, in a building erected in 1706 replacing the earlier church.
From the Shrine of Our Lady of Victory in Prague, came to the entire world the devotion to the Infant of Prague.
Our need for Mary’s help continues as long as we live, and so long, too, we need her guidance. The struggle between the forces of evil and the forces of good will continue until the end of time. The devil whose intelligence and power exceed those we can command in our own right, has an acute appreciation of the value of our souls bought with a great price. Our sure way to defeat him is to range ourselves under Mary’s banner, to call on her to bring us victory, and to acknowledge her as Our Lady of Victory when she protects us from dangers and brings us triumphant through temptation.