Every year, on the first Sunday of September, many faithful arrive at the Shrine of Arenzano for the traditional feast of the Infant Jesus of Prague where, the Discalced Carmelites, welcome and celebrate the liturgies.
Two days of celebrations around the statue of the Infant Jesus adored by many: the traditional "kiss" in the Shrine gardens, where the statue is exhibited for the veneration of the faithful, the blessing of children and the procession through the streets of the town with navigation at sea. The brotherhoods with the "crucifixes", the band and the National Alpine Association also participate in the procession: a stop at the parish church for the greeting of the parish priest and then on the pier for the greeting of the Mayor. The evocative sea procession and the blessing of the boats is very much awaited, followed by a prayer vigil throughout the night.
As always, there are traditional stalls on the climb leading to the Shrine.
The incarnation and the childhood of Jesus have been depicted since the early days of the Church. The love for the humanity and the childhood of Jesus marked the life and spirituality of St. Teresa of Jesus († 1582) and St. John of the Cross († 1591), who transmitted it to the Order of the Discalced Carmelites founded by them. In particular, St. Teresa always carried to the monasteries she founded, some pretty statues of the richly adorned Infant Jesus, as it was the taste of the Baroque era.
Among the countless testimonies of this veneration, the most famous is the statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague, donated to the Carmelites of that city in 1628 by Princess Polissena Lobkowitz: it depicts Jesus Christ in gifted garments and with the sign of the sovereign, in the act of blessing, emphasizing together with the true humanity of Christ, also his divinity. In front of this image an increasing number of people have raised their prayers by receiving comfort, thanksgiving and miracles and it has rapidly spread throughout the world, especially by the Carmelites.
The devotion of the Infant Jesus came to Arenzano in 1900, thanks to a small picture depicted by the Carmelites in the small church. This simple act of piety called starting an extraordinary movement of devotion, accompanied by graces and miracles. In 1902 the painting was replaced by a statue similar to that of Prague.
The growing influx of devotees motivated the construction of the Shrine - the first in the world dedicated to him – that began in 1904 and inaugurated in 1908. In 1924 the statue was solemnly crowned by Cardinal Raphel Merry of Val, sent by Pope Pius XI who, in 1928, inscribed the Shrine of the title of Basilica.
In 1951, at the wish of the Provincial Superior of the Carmelites, opened the Seminary of the Infant Jesus, which still welcomes middle school boys and above in preparation for the priesthood and consecrated life.
In the 1960s the Basilica was expanded with the creation of the transepts, enriched with Angelo Biancini’s majolica, the statues of G. Galletti and the permanent ceramic nativity scene of E. Salino. Since 1971, the missionary animation center has been active in connection with the Republic of Central Africa. Today the Shrine is among the first in Liguria for the number of pilgrims coming from all over Italy and from abroad.