Praying My Way Through Prague

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. ~ King James Bible, Matthew 7:7

I looked at the calendar today and realized that I missed an anniversary. Not my wedding anniversary, but a rather delightful one nevertheless.

It was two years ago this month that Sausage was conceived.

I know, I know, TMI. Well, it’s my blog, and I’ll talk about whatever I want to. So there.

Anyway, two years ago, in mid-August, Loving Husband and I went on a trip. We were still living in Sicily at that point, and we were coming up on our return to the US, so we were trying to get as much travel in as we could while we were so advantageously situated.

We packed a bag and hopped on a plane to Prague. That’s in the Czech Republic, for those of you who don’t know (it’s okay, I too am a product of an American public school education, I understand).

I had been wanting to go to Prague for a long time. It’s a beautiful city — it managed to avoid heavy bombing during World War II, so much of its Art Nouveau and medieval architecture remains intact. I was excited to go to the Mucha Museum, and Loving Husband was delighted to go to a country with heavy, Eastern European food. Needless to say, we looked forward to consuming much in the way of art and goulash.

Wild boar goulash with ginger dumpling and cranberry sauce. GET. IN. MY. FACE.

But a little backstory is in order here, as well. See, at this point we had been trying to have a baby for a year. I had had two miscarriages and countless tests to determine why I couldn’t maintain a pregnancy. I had been in therapy for nearly a year, since just after the first miscarriage my doctor and I decided that, with my history of depression, I was at a high risk of relapse. So we arrived in Prague soul-aching and damaged, clinging to whatever we could find of hope and normalcy.

The Czech Republic proved to be a very welcome distraction from doctor visits, blood tests, and therapy sessions. We stayed in the Ambassador Zlatá Husa Hotel, right on Wenceslas Square, which is the commercial center of Prague. It was walking distance to everything, and there were street meat carts out on the square, which meant that Loving Husband was just about in heaven.

Wenceslas Square in the evening.

I won’t go into all the things that we saw and did. If you look at a guidebook for Prague, we hit all the major sights — the cathedral, the palace, the astronomical clock tower. We saw a Black Light Theater show, and bought an insanely overpriced calendar at the Mucha Museum. We took a day trip to Kutná Hora, where we saw the famous Sedlec Bone Church, the less-famous silver mine, and our first wild hedgehog. We drank Czech beer with every meal and sopped up our gravy with savory dumplings. We walked and walked and walked until I thought my feet would fall off, and then we walked some more. We talked trash about other tourists and how obnoxious they were.

Kozel Dunkel. Reason enough to head to the Czech Republic.

And I prayed.

Now, I’m not religious. Spiritual, yes, but not religious. I have problems with organized religion and, frequently, with its followers. But in the Czech Republic, I prayed.

There have been a lot of holy people who have made Prague their home over the years. People who founded churches, who did good deeds, and are still revered. I made a point of learning about them so that I could pray to them.

The first one we encountered was Saint John of Nepomuk. There is a large statue of him on the Charles Bridge, over the river Vltava — this commemorates his martyrdom, thrown from the bridge into the river on the order of the king. A few meters (yards plus a little, for you Americans again) away from the statue, though, is a small cross and (relatively) modest image of the saint, supposedly marking the actual spot from which he was thrown. Legend has it that if you touch that cross and the image of the saint, and you make a wish, it will come true within a year and a day. You can only do so once in your life, so you’d better make the wish a good one. I wished for a healthy baby.

Praying to John of Nepomuk.

The second holy man that we encountered was Rabbi Loew, a famous scholar, philosopher, and Jewish mystic in the 16th century. Legend has it that he built the Golem of Prague, which made my nerdy little D&D-playing heart happy. Rabbi Loew is buried in Prague’s Old Jewish Cemetery — a site so fascinating that it could be a whole post all by itself — and people frequently leave prayers at his monument, written on slips of paper and weighted with pebbles. I left my prayer on a small ledge at the back of the monument, under a pink pebble. I prayed for a healthy baby.

A tombstone from Prague’s Old Jewish Cemetery. Yes, I did the flare on purpose. Because I’m ARTSY, that’s why.

The third pilgrimage I made was a rather odd one. Actually, I found it to be downright weird and uncanny, but there you go. In the Church of Our Lady Victorious, an important artifact is housed — it’s called the Infant of Prague, a small statue of the child Jesus that supposedly once belonged to Saint Teresa of Avila. I pretty much just saw a really creepy doll with a whole lot of expensive changes of clothes, but there you go — I’m not Catholic, I don’t get it. Nevertheless, the church was flooded with devotees, lighting candles and chanting the novena prayer which was printed in every language imaginable. I lit my candle, I said the words. I ask that my prayer be granted … I urgently ask that my prayer be granted … I know that my prayer will be granted. I prayed for a healthy baby.

Now, lest you fear that I had become a little bit crazy, praying to every statue and poppet that promised me a wish come true, you can be certain that Loving Husband and I did, in fact, remember to do all those other things that are required when you want a baby. Repeatedly.

It was fun.

Sausage’s future Mama and Daddy.

And two weeks later, we had a positive pregnancy test.

Sausage was born the following May. A healthy, beautiful, wonderful baby.

But we decided against naming him Infant Nepomuk Loew. We’re grateful and all, but seriously. Poor kid’s going to have enough issues when he finds out that I call him Sausage on my blog.

Hedgehog!

40 responses to “Praying My Way Through Prague

  1. wonderful story..simply beautiful like the writer

  2. “I too am a product of an American public school education, I understand)” — bahahahaha! — boo hoo hoo!

    Nice backstory…

    I wanna go to Prague, someday, someday…

  3. What an absolutely beautiful story. I’m so happy you got your wee babe.

  4. Such a sweet story with an extremely happy ending! Yay Sausage!

    But now I can’t stop thinking about bread dumplings. Thanks a lot.

  5. What an awesome story of the conception of Sausage! We went the whole prayer gamut too. I asked my Catholic friend to pray a novena that I’d get pregnant and literally three weeks later we saw the two lines. I don’t think doing “all the other things” hurt either, though. I’d also love to go to Prague someday.

  6. Kathy,
    When I first started reading your post, I already had my joke prepared, something about Milan Kundera, obviously. And the more I read, the more the joke dissipated. I think this most be my favourite post of yours… And no chance I can screw Kevin Clash’s name here…
    Le Clown

    • Le Clown,

      Thanks! I’ve been wanting to write about this for a while, and today it just felt right. Who knows? Maybe the Infant of Prague in his finest bejeweled doll clothes was telling me to go for it. Or Rabbi Loew — that dude was quirky, I can see him reading my blog on occasion. You know, for laughs.

      Kathy

  7. Teresa Cleveland Wendel

    I love conception stories. I conceived my youngest after a trip to the zoo. The mama gorilla was cradling her newborn so tenderly, it made me want to have another baby. Hapless Hubbie, of course, was most obliging.

    • Ah, those Hapless Husbands! I may have had problems maintaining a pregnancy, but we were always pregnant within three months of deciding to be so. That took some effort, let me tell you, but he was always up for the job. Tee hee.

  8. Kathy, this was sooooo beautiful and I think it works — prayers. Obviously it did for you. I loved this part you write (you’re such a great writer): “I left my prayer on a small ledge at the back of the monument, under a pink pebble.: That’s the stuff of famous/great novels. Gorgeous writing.

    You’ve also made me want to go visit Prague. Goulash and dark beer sounds right up hubby and my alley. Thanks for sharing this and congrats on your TMI anniversary.

    • Thank you, Brigitte! I have a very clear visual memory of leaving that prayer, and I wrote it as I saw it — I’m surprised and humbled that you found so much to love in that.

      Everyone should visit the Czech Republic. The food is great, the people are great, the landscape is great, and the saints make pretty great babies.

  9. Lovely, darlin’. Lovely and hilarious and just enough mention of heavy Eastern European food.

  10. I don’t know what I like more- the wild boar dish photo, or your comment to go with it. Classic.

  11. What a lovely story of Sausage’s origin! It made me feel very, “Awwwwwwwww!” I know a few women that have suffered miscarriages that wonder if they’ll ever carry a child to term. This uplifting post is inspiring. Thanks for the food and brew pix! … So how did you hit on Sausage’s name?

  12. Prague sounds like a lovely place to conceive. Stew and Dunkel and Sausage. Suddenly my oreos seem a little sad.

  13. i love, LOVE that you’ve created your own witness protection program-like photos of you and loving husband for your blog. i seriously love that you do that. that’s point 1. point 2 — when wifesy and i lived in the uk we’d get hedgehogs in our backyard all the time! our french bulldog would go outside and bark at them and then they curl into little balls as a defense and then she would try to push the hedgehog ball with her nose and come up all bloody. it was cray-cray. point 3…sicily?? went there and absolutely loved it. how did you find it? xo, sm

    • Point 1: Thank you. It’s part of my super-stealthy anti-identity-theft plan. And also, I think it’s funny. Point 2: This was our first hedgehog, they’re not very common in Sicilian backyards. As you can see in the picture, he wasn’t the least bit afraid of us — he sort of stared us down, daring us to try to pet him. Point 3: I want to say something glib, like “I swam east until I hit Spain, and then I swam some more,” but I won’t. I found Sicily because Loving Husband’s job sent us there, and I found it to be lovely and charming and hot and chaotic. It was a pretty amazing four years, living there.

  14. I saw you leaving little happy “likes” on my recent posts and I thought! Oh delightful Kathy must be back online and perhaps a new post is here. Sadly now new post 😦
    Still glad you stopped by and visited my own blog! Hope you are well and enjoying this lovely long weekend (which is ending much too soon!)

    • Nope, no new post yet. I’ve been hit by a plague — or maybe just a cold, but it feels pretty awful — so I haven’t had the energy to write. I caught up on reading a little, but only had energy for happy ‘likes’. Hopefully I’ll be back to myself soon and I’ll be writing all sorts of things!

  15. Pingback: Reggie Reader Profile #10 (A MOTHER OF A CAPTION Contest Winner!) | Sweet Mother

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