Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Her Children

Queen Beauty of Carmel

“How fair you are, O Virgin Mary! Your face is resplendent with grace.” — Carmelite Proper

Mary has many titles, each having a special significance and meaning.  Our Lady of Mount Carmel recalls the ancient beauty of Mount Carmel in the Holy Land, the place where the prophet Elijah, zealous for the worship of the one, true, and living God, steadfastly sought the Face of God in silence and in prayer.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel personifies the”enclosed garden” created solely for God and watered by Him, containing all beauty, grace, and virtues. All mankind has been entrusted to her maternal heart; she gathers her children into the garden of Carmel to learn from her the way of perfection. The children of Our Lady of Mount Carmel are drawn by her — to “contemplate God in the human Face of Jesus” and follow in her footsteps which lead to fullness of prayer and communion with her Son. With docility to the Holy Spirit, Mary’s children seek to imitate their incomparable Mother in her pilgrimage of faith, hope in trials, and faithfulness in love, with trust in His mercy and purity of heart which will enable them to see the Father’s Face.

“The Beauty of Carmel has been given to them, they will see the glory of the Lord and the splendor of our God.”– Carmelite Proper

Here are a few of her sainted Discalced Carmelite children and what they have learned about seeking God’s Face in prayer …

St. Teresa of Jesus: “He is always looking at you; can you not turn the eyes of your soul to look at Him?”

“He will gaze on you with beautiful, compassionate eyes, and will forget His own grief to solace yours, only because you went to comfort Him, and turned to look at Him.”

“Never set aside the Sacred Humanity of Christ…If we can, we should occupy ourselves in looking at Him who is looking at us; keep Him company; talk with Him; humble ourselves before Him; have our delight in Him…the Lord is within us and we should be there with Him.”

St. John of the Cross

St. John of the Cross:  “The soul can only be satisfied with God’s Face.” To seek God’s Face is to seek Him in prayer, to look at Him is to take the time to contemplate Him, even in the darkness of pure faith. When we do this, St. John of the Cross tells us, God is doing great things! He shines His Face upon us, to restore by a “gentle touch” His image in our souls.  

“O my God, the more gently You touch, the more You are hidden in the purified souls of those who have made themselves aliens on earth, and whom You hide in the secret of Your Face.”

“Courage then, O soul most beautiful! You now know that your Beloved dwells hidden within your own breast. Endeavor therefore to be truly hidden with Him.”

St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face: “Your Face is my only wealth./ I ask for nothing more./ Hiding myself in it unceasingly,/ I will resemble You, Jesus/ Leave in me, the Divine Impress/ of Your features filled with sweetness.”

“O Jesus, whose adorable Face ravishes my heart, I implore Thee to fix deep within me Thy Divine Image and to set me on fire with Thy Love, that I may be found worthy to come to the contemplation of Thy glorious Face in Heaven. Amen.”

St. Elizabeth the Trinity: “Nothing shows forth the love which the Heart of God bears for us as does the Eucharist. It means union, consummation, He in us and we in Him. Is not that heaven on earth, heaven in faith, while we await the face to face vision for which we so yearn? Then, when His glory appears, we shall be satisfied when we see Him in His light. Do you not find that it rests the soul to think about that meeting with Him whom we love supremely? Then all else vanishes and we feel that already we are penetrating into the Mystery of God!

It is Your continual desire to associate yourself with your creatures…How can I better satisfy Your desire than by keeping myself lovingly turned towards You, so that You can reflect Your own image in me, as the sun is reflected through pure crystal?…We will be glorified in the measure in which we will have been conformed to the image of His Divine Son.  So, let us contemplate this adored Image, let us remain unceasingly under it’s radiance so that it may imprint itself on us.” 

St.Teresa Benedicta of the Cross: “Prayer is looking up into the face of the Eternal. We can do this only when the spirit is awake in it’s innermost depths, freed from all earthly occupations and pleasures that benumb it. being awake in body does not guarantee this consciousness, nor does rest required by nature interfere.”

“Contemplate the Lord who hangs before you on the wood, because he was obedient even to death of the cross. He came into the world not to do his own will but that of the Father. And if you wish to be the spouse of the Crucified, you must renounce completely your own will and have no other aspiration than to do the will of God…The eyes of the Crucified will gaze upon you. They question you and appeal to you…What will your response be? ‘Lord, where shall I go? You alone have the words of life.’ “Ave Crux, spes unica! Hail to the Cross our only hope! 

St. Teresa of the Andes: “Are you perhaps afraid to draw near him? Look at him, surrounded by little children. He caresses them, he presses them to his heart.  Look at him in the midst of his faithful flock, bearing the faithless lamb on his shoulders. Look at him in the tomb of Lazarus, And listen to what he says of the Magdalene: ‘Much has been forgiven her, because she has loved much.’ What do you discover in these flashes from the Gospel except a heart that is good, gentle, tender, compassionate; in other words, the heart of a God?”

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Flos Carmeli

Flower of Carmel,
Tall vine blossom laden,
Splendor of heaven,
Child-bearing yet maiden.
None equals thee.

Mother so tender,
Whom no man didst know,
On Carmel’s children
Thy favors bestow.
Star of the Sea.

Hail Gate of Heaven,
With glory now crowned,
Bring us to safety
Where thy Son is found,
true joy to see.

St. Teresa of the Andes

St. Teresa of the Andes, professed Discalced Carmelite nun, born July 15,1900. She died April 20, 1920, just before her 20th birthday. Feast Day July 13

“Right now, try to get to know Jesus. Walk in His presence always. Look upon Him constantly. It is essential that you fall deeply in love with Him.  After Communion, ask Him for that love. By loving Him, you will learn to overcome and offer yourself.”  — St. Teresa of the Andes, OCD

Benedictines and the Holy Face

“Truly Seeking God” – Benedictines and the Face of Christ

“It is Your Face, O Lord, that I seek.” (Ps 26:8)

St. Benedict
St. Benedict, Feast Day July 11

In the Rule of his Order St. Benedict gives the key to discerning a true vocation in those seeking admittance to the Benedictine Order: “Let us examine whether the novice is truly seeking God.” (Ch. 58, Rule)  Since the Order’s inception, up to this day, the sons and daughters of St. Benedict have taken for their motto “Ora et Labora.” This “Prayer and Work” for many Benedictines is truly seeking the Face of God in the “prayer” of contemplation and the “work” of reparation to the Face of God covered with the blood, wounds, dust and spittle of  blasphemy–to stand, together with the Blessed Mother, before the endless crosses on which the Son of God continues to be crucified.  If there is a common thread among the holy men and women of the Order, it is woven through the veil of the Face of Christ.

But, they will tell you in their own words…

St. Gertrude by Migul Cabrera 1763
St. Gertrude by Miguel Cabrera 1763

St. Gertrude (1256-1302), while making reparation to the Adorable Face of Jesus, wounded and disfigured, said to Him, “Tell me, O Lord, the remedy that can soothe the suffering of Thy Divine Face!” Jesus replied: “If anyone meditates upon my sufferings with tenderness and compassion, his heart will be to Me as a soothing balm for these wounds.” Jesus gave St. Gertrude this promise: “All those who meditate frequently on my Divine Face, attracted by the desires of love, shall receive within them, through My Humanity, a bright ray of My Divinity, which shall enlighten their inmost souls so that they shall reflect the light of My Countenance in a special manner throughout eternity.”

St. Mechtilde (1240-1299) once exclaimed to her sisters, “Let us all, full of holy desire, hasten to venerate the sweetest Countenance of Our Lord, which will in Heaven be our all–all that a glorified soul can desire!” 

Bl. Columba Marmion
Bl. Columba Marmion

Blessed Columba Marmion O.S.B.(1858-1923) writes that our relationship with God hinge upon two things; our walking in the truth of our nature as creatures, who remain always in humble adoration before our Creator and our dignity as children of God.  “Our adoption as children supposes that we act always as loving children towards Our Heavenly Father, constantly seeking His good pleasure: Seek His Face evermore!  This Facies Dei, Face of God, is the smile of His loving approbation.  If you always keep the truth of this twofold relation, you will be more and more fixed in truth and in peace.”  “Look your Heavenly Father in the Face, and show him your soul in truth,” Bl. Marmion counsels, “…do not forget that He is God the Infinite!  The love of the creature, in order to be true, must be the love of adoration; the spirit of fear of the Lord.  If you keep the eye of your soul fixed on God alone, you will receive many graces.”  “It is good sometimes, when alone with God, to stretch out our hands and look at Him in faith showing Him the depths of our soul that His eye may penetrate into those abysses that are hidden in the recesses of the heart.  Then our prayer is pure and very powerful, for the child gazes into the Father’s Face, seeking His Face, that is to say His good pleasure:  “Seek ye the Lord, seek His Face EVERMORE!”

Mother Marie des Douluers, Foundress of the Benedictines of Jesus Crucified
Mother Marie des Douluers, Foundress of the Benedictines of Jesus Crucified

Mother Marie des Douleurs (1902-1983) Foundress of the Congregation of the Benedictines of Jesus Crucified emphasizes the relationship between the Sacred Heart of Jesus and His Holy Face:  “We must discover on this Face the revelation of the secrets of His Heart.” She also points to the Holy Spirit, whose work it is to restore the image of God in our souls: “Devotion to the Holy Face is the particular aspect by which the Holy Spirit makes us learn all we need to know to become the saints that Jesus desires.  This devotion is of such central importance and so vital for us that we cannot live without it!”

Bl. Ildephonsus Cardinal Shuster, O.S.B.
Bl. Ildephonsus Cardinal Shuster, O.S.B.

Blessed Ildephonsus Cardinal Shuster, O.S.B.  (1880-1954) wrote, “The Face of Jesus in Heaven is the cause of joy to the angels, but on earth it is a token of pity for sinners.  We say to the Father Respice in faciem Christi tui, (Ps 83:10) (Look upon the Face of Thy Christ) but let us fix our own gaze on that Face of Jesus, lest we lose sight of it.  As the Eternal Father, when He beholds the Face of Jesus, is touched with compassion for the wretched children of Adam, so let us show a holy reverence for that Sacred Face and for those pure eyes that look on us so tenderly; let us take care that all our actions are worthy of the ineffable sanctity of that Divine regard.”

Last but not least, is the Servant of God, Ildebrando Gregori O.S.B. (1894-1985) founder of the women’s religious congregation the Benedictine Sisters of Reparation of the Holy Face. The devotion to the Holy Face was rooted and imprinted on his Congregation: “The title that sets you apart is Reparation of the Sacred Face of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the story of Jesus’ Passion that manifests itself, in a particular way, in the love which St. Benedict had for that Face. The Face of Jesus which was seen dripping blood, crowned with thorns, spat upon; His eyes were bruised, the broken eyebrows, broken lips. His Face, more beautiful than Paradise, appeared like the face of a leper. So Adorers of the Holy Face, Reparation of his wounds in the contemplation of prayer (Ora), in the service of the needy (Labora)… (adoration of the Face of Christ) is essential to make reparation, to create harmony with Christ Jesus who makes us love what the beloved loves, to want what He wants and rejecting what brings Him pain, injury, suffering.”

This apostle of devotion to the Face of Christ applied the Rule of St. Benedict to a work of   human and spiritual formation for the poorest and most abandoned children, victims of World War II, in whom he saw the suffering face of Jesus.  He later extended that work to include the elderly.  At the time he was Abbot General he met Blessed Mother Maria Pierina de Micheli, of the Daughters of the Immaculate Conception, to whom Our Lord gave the mission of the propagation of the Holy Face Medal.  He became her Spiritual father and director until the time of her death in 1945. Padre Gregori shared with Bl. Mother de Micheli the love, devotion and deep desire to make reparation to the Face of Jesus and to propagate the Holy Face Medal throughout the world.

Servant of God Idlebrando Gregori, OSB
Servant of God Idlebrando Gregori, OSB

 

“I wish that the Lord bless you as He blessed the holy pious women, that He will fill you with His holy Love.  His Blessed Face is your ideal, and will piously torment you with the desire to give Him love and praise, this is the perfect reparation. “–Servant of God Ildebrando Gregori OSB

The Precious Blood on the Face of Christ

“Il Volto Santo” The Holy Face of Manoppello. (Photo by Paul Badde/EWTN)

“You were not redeemed with corruptible things as of gold or silver… but with the Precious Blood of Christ, as of a lamb unspotted and undefiled.” (1 Peter 1:18)

Mankind is suffering, it seems, as though on a scale never before seen on earth, by countless acts of humiliation and degradation of human beings by other human beings: child abuse, slavery, human trafficking, pornography, abortion, euthanasia and countless other evils. Human beings have been stripped of their God-given dignity and intrinsic worth, which is derived from having been made in the image and likeness of God. This suffering is signified by the Precious Blood covering the Face of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

“Precious blood indeed, for it is a terrible thing to fall under the wrath of God. Precious blood, shed but not lost, given up by God to be gathered, every drop, by God and held for eternity: the boundless treasure by which self-made slaves are freed from the penalties sin demanded of the strong arm of God. Who else but God could stay the power of God’s justice? Precious Blood ‘because the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you, that you may make atonement with it upon your souls: and the blood may be for an expiation of the soul.'” (Leviticus 17:11)  “The Precious Blood is the key to the heavenly Paradise.”–from the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas on the Precious Blood 

So, let us offer to the Father, who loves each soul as though they were His only Son, this Precious Blood on the Divine Face of Christ, in expiation and atonement for the sins against humanity.  Contemplate the bloodied sorrowful Face of Jesus, crucified and then risen. It is a source of light, hope, and means of salvation for mankind…and by contemplating His Face, the image and glory of the Father, through the Holy Spirit, the dignity of mankind may be restored.

Precious Blood of Jesus, Save us!

Prayer of St. Therese

Eternal Father, since thou hast given me for my inheritance the adorable Face of thy Divine Son, I offer that Face to thee, and beg thee, in exchange for this coin of infinite value, to forget the ingratitude of souls dedicated to thee, and to pardon all poor sinners. 

O Jesus, who in thy bitter Passion became “the most abject of men, ‘a man of sorrows’, I venerate thy Sacred Face whereon once there did shine the beauty and sweetness of the Godhead; but now it has become for me as if it were the face of a leper! Nevertheless, under those disfigured features, I recognize thy infinite love and I am consumed with the desire to love thee and make thee loved by all men. The tears which well up abundantly in thy sacred eyes appear to me as so many precious pearls that I love to gather up, in order to purchase souls of poor sinners by means of their infinite value.

O Jesus, whose adorable Face ravishes my heart, I implore thee to fix deep within me thy Divine Image and to set me on fire with thy love, that I may be found worthy to come to the contemplation of thy glorious Face in Heaven. Amen.

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For the Healing of a Nation

“…and if my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek My Face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from Heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land.” (2 Chr. 7:4)

To the Sacred Heart

“For God so loved the world”

To the Sacred Heart of Jesus

by St. Therese of the Holy Face and the Child Jesus

At the Holy Sepulcher, Mary Magdalene,
Searching for her Jesus, stooped down in tears.
The angels wanted to console her sorrow,
But nothing could calm her grief.
Bright angels, it was not you
Whom this fervent soul came searching for.
She wanted to see the Lord of the Angels,
To take him in her arms, to carry him far away.

Close by the tomb, the last one to stay,
She had come well before dawn.
Her God also came, veiling his light.
Mary could not vanquish him in love!
Showing her at first his Blessed Face,
Soon just one word sprang from his Heart.
Whispering the sweet name of: Mary,
Jesus gave back her peace, her happiness.

O my God, one day, like Mary Magdalene,
I wanted to see you and come close to you.
I looked down over the immense plain
Where I sought the Master and King,
And I cried, seeing the pure wave,
The starry azure, the flower, and the bird:
“Bright nature, if I do not see God,
You are nothing to me but a vast tomb.

“I need a heart burning with tenderness,
Who will be my support forever,
Who loves everything in me, even my weakness…
And who never leaves me day or night. ”
I could find no creature
Who could always love me and never die.
I must have a God who takes on my nature
And becomes my brother and is able to suffer!

Your heard me, only Friend whom I love.
To ravish my heart, you became man.
You shed your blood, what a supreme mystery!..
And you still live for me on the Altar.
If I cannot see the brilliance of your Face
Or hear your sweet voice,
O my God, I can live by your grace,
I can rest on your Sacred Heart!

O Heart of Jesus, treasure of tenderness,
You Yourself are my happiness, my only hope.
You who knew how to charm my tender youth,
Stay near me till the last night.
Lord, to you alone I’ve given my life,
And all my desires are well-known to you.
It’s in your ever-infinite goodness
That I want to lose myself, O Heart of Jesus!

Ah! I know well, all our righteousness
Is worthless in your sight.
To give value to my sacrifices,
I want to cast them into your Divine Heart.
You did not find your angels without blemish.
In the midst of lightning you gave your law!…
I hide myself in your Sacred Heart, Jesus.
I do not fear, my virtue is You!…

To be able to gaze on your glory,
I know we have to pass through fire.
So I, for my purgatory,
Choose your burning love, O heart of my God!
On leaving this life, my exiled soul
Would like to make an act of pure love,
And then, flying away to Heaven, its Homeland,
Enter straightaway into your Heart.

“Jesus, Your ineffable image is the star which guides my steps. Ah, You know, Your sweet Face is for me Heaven on earth. My love discovers the charms of Your Face adorned with tears. I smile through my own tears when I contemplate your sorrows.”~St. Therese

The Eucharistic Veil and Mary

“Jesus, whom now veiled, I by faith descry,

What my soul doth thirst for, do not, Lord, deny, 

That thy face unveiled, I at last may see,

With the blissful vision blest, my God, of Thee. Amen”

–Last line of Hymn “Adoro te devote” by St. Thomas Aquinas   

 

“While they were eating, He took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take it; this is my body.’” (Mk 14)  

Mary, Mother of the Most Blessed Sacrament and Mother of the Church, pray for us!

How few truly believe the words of Jesus when He said, “This is my Body.”  God wills that the glory of Jesus’s Face be veiled under the humble appearance of bread, so we will not fear to approach Him.  Acknowledging ourselves to be sinners, we repeat the words of the centurion as we come in faith to the altar, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof…” (Mt. 8:8)

Because our faith is weak, St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe recommends an even better way to approach Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament; he says that one should never fail to remember Mary’s presence. She who was conceived without sin in order to receive the Son of God into her womb, will help prepare us to receive Him. Although Mary’s eyes sought and contemplated the Holy Face of her son Jesus from His infancy to His Ascension, like us Mary would have to look upon the Eucharist with eyes of faith. “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” (John 20:29) So, we should invoke Mary, who is “most blessed” and unite ourselves to her, and she will help us receive Him with love and devotion, to know Him better, adore Him more, to increase in us the virtues of faith, hope, and love, until the time when the Eucharistic Veil is lifted–then, together with Mary, Our Mother, we will behold the glory of His Holy Face forever in Heaven.

Cardinal Tagle elevating the Body of Christ at the Basilica Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello, Italy (Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)

“I need nothing in this world in order to be happy. I only need to see Jesus in heaven, Whom I now see and adore on the altar with the eyes of faith.” – St. Dominic Savio

What greater sign of His Love than the bread and wine become His Body and Blood?

 

 

Trinity, whom I adore

Illumina Domine Blog - Devotion to The Holy Face

Holy Trinity – Andrei Rublev

O My God, Trinity Whom I Adore

St. Elizabeth of The Trinity, Discalced Carmelite nun

O My God, Trinity whom I adore,  help me to forget myself entirely that I may be established in You as still and as peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity.  May nothing trouble my peace or make me leave You, O my unchanging One, but may each minute carry me further into the depths of Your Mystery. Give peace to my soul, make it Your heaven, Your beloved dwelling and Your resting place.  May I never leave you there alone but be wholly present, my faith wholly vigilant, wholly adoring, and wholly surrendered to Your creative action.  O my beloved Christ, crucified by love, I wish to be a bride for Your Heart; I wish to cover You with glory; I wish to love You…even unto death! …

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I Only Have Eyes for You

“Those in love try to see each other. People in love have eyes only for their love. That’s logical isn’t it? The human heart feels this need. I would be lying if I denied my eagerness to contemplate the Face of Jesus Christ. ‘ Vultum tuum, Domine, requiram.’ I will seek your Countenance, O Lord”–St. Jose Maria Escriva

 

The desire to seek the face of a loved one is written in the human heart by God, who loves each soul as though it were the only one on earth.  God in turn, longs for us to return His love, like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, searching the horizon each day for the sight of his lost son.  Visit any airport terminal and you will find someone standing with eyes riveted on the arrival gates with anxious anticipation for the familiar face of a loved one to appear, followed by great joy when their hope is fulfilled.

Jesus waits for us, with great longing, but do we have the same longing to see Him? It would be the greatest tragedy if we simply walk past Him because we didn’t recognize Him. Why is it so difficult to keep our focus on seeking the Face of the One who loves us most?  The reason may be that we see His Face “only dimly.” Every day a million distractions prevent us from recognizing Jesus, and divert us from seeking the Face of the One who should be our “All in All.”

 “At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully as I am known. So Faith, Hope, and Love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is Love.” (1 Cor: 12-13)

Jesus tells us, “Seek and you will find.”  To seek the Face of God requires an exercise of the virtue of Hope united with Faith and Love to come to know Him.  We can seek Him not only by  spending more time in prayer which is the source of our love, but also in recognizing His loving presence in Scripture, in the Eucharist and in our neighbor. One way to exercise the virtue of Hope, in Faith and Love is to repeat often the words of King David: “Come,” says my heart, “seek God’s Face”; your Face, LORD, do I seek! Do not hide Your Face from me!” (Psalm 27:8-9) …and to remember that He “Only has eyes for you!”  Though we may forget to seek God, He never ceases to seek us so we may find life and happiness in Him. His love is blind, though sins have marred our souls, He seeks only to beautify and fill with virtue each individual soul, created in His image and likeness, so that by His gaze, He may find there the original truth and beauty – a reflection of His Face.

Holy Face of Jesus of Manoppello (photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)

I Only Have Eyes for You

My love must be a kind of blind love,
I can’t see anyone but you.
Are the stars out tonight?
I don’t know if it’s cloudy or bright.
I only have eyes for you, dear.
The moon may be high
but I can’t see a thing in the sky.
I only have eyes for you.
I don’t know if we’re in a garden
or on a crowded avenue.
You are here and so am I,
Maybe millions of people go by,
but they all disappear from view
and I only have eyes for you.

(By songwriters Al Dubin and Harry Warren)

Come Holy Spirit

“Truly, truly, I tell you the truth. Whoever will invoke the Holy Spirit, he will seek me and he will find me, and it is through the Spirit that he will find me.” ~Our Lord to Sr. Miriam of Jesus Crucified.

 

 

News Updates:

The Annual Feast of the Holy Face of Manoppello and Procession was celebrated on May 20, 2018. A beautiful account of the day, written by Antonio Bini, together with many wonderful photo’s may be found here on the HolyFace of Manoppello Blogspot.

A new documentary about the Holy Face of Manoppello will be released soon. To read more about it click here for the article on Holy Face of Manoppello blog.  

(A preview – in Italian)

 

 

Peace is Within Our Reach – Contemplating the Face of Christ with Mary

Dear Readers,  

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has asked the faithful to join him on May 1st in praying the rosary for peace, especially in Syria, and to pray the rosary each day in May with peace as the intention.  So, for the beautiful month of May, dedicated to Our Mother Mary, I hope you will not mind this re-post from Oct. 7. 2017, “To Bring Peace to the World.”  Please join in the Holy Father’s intention in praying the Rosary…peace is within our reach!

(Please include in your rosary intentions: “Protect Ireland from abortion” Peace in the womb)

                        “To Bring Peace to the World”

“Do not be afraid, I will not harm you.  I come from heaven…Are you willing to offer yourselves to God and bear all sufferings He wills to send you, as an act of reparation for the conversion of sinners?  Then you are going to have much to suffer, but the grace of God will be your comfort.” –The words of Our Lady to the three shepherd children of Fatima.

One hundred years ago, on May 13th, 1917, the Blessed Mother appeared to three children in Portugal with a message from Heaven for the world.  She requested that the children, Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco, come on the 13th of the month for the next six months. Our Lady told the children that Jesus wanted to use the children to make His mother known and loved, and to establish devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary throughout the world.  In each apparition, the Blessed Mother asked that the Rosary be prayed every day “to bring peace to the world.” In her last visit on October 13th, 1917, she told the children, “I am the Lady of the Rosary.”

“To bring peace to the world” is no little thing.  The world is filled with division, violence, and death.  It would take a miracle of God to bring peace from the chaos that surrounds us.  God has always willed to show forth His power and glory through the smallest and weakest.  He has sent his own Mother to earth with a delicate Rosary in her hands as an unlikely but powerful weapon against evil, if only we co-operate with His Divine Plan by praying it.  It is not a vain repetition of words, but the contemplation of the Face of Christ through the eyes of His Mother; and therein lies its power.

Contemplating the Face of Christ with Mary

Pope St. John Paul II

When he placed the New Millennium under “the Radiant sign of the Face of Christ” Pope St. John Paul II wrote:

“To contemplate the Face of Christ, and to contemplate it with Mary, is the ‘program’ which I have set before the Church at the dawn of the third millennium…It is the Church’s task to reflect the light of Christ in every historical period, to make His Face shine also before new generations of the new millennium. Our witness, however, would be hopelessly inadequate if we ourselves had not first contemplated His Face.” 

The Rosary is a traditional Christian prayer directed to the contemplation of Christ’s Face. “Without contemplation, the Rosary is a body without a soul,” says Pope St. John Paul II, “and runs the risk of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas, in violation of the admonition of Christ.”

Virgin and Child,1510

Contemplation is a gift, a grace, from God. It is a communion in which God transforms a soul into His likeness. To put it more simply, as St. Teresa of Jesus says, contemplation is “a close sharing between friends…taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us.”  Contemplation is not something beyond our reach however–we have an incomparable model in Mary; the eyes of her heart were always turned toward His Face. To dispose our souls to receive this great gift of God we need only reach for a Rosary and pray it with humility, listening attentively in the Spirit together with Mary, in silent love–that veil of mystery–to the Father’s voice. When we contemplate the scenes or mysteries of the Rosary in union with Mary, the Rosary becomes an unceasing praise of God; a way to learn from her about her son, Jesus, to discover His secrets and understand His message for us.

To recite the Rosary, which can be called a compendium of the Gospel, Pope St. John Paul II says, “is to contemplate the Face of Christ in union with, and at the school of, His Most Holy Mother…Against the background of the words of the Ave Maria the principal events of the life of Jesus Christ pass before the eyes of the soul. They take shape in the complete seriesIMG_0915-1 of the joyful, [luminous,] sorrowful and glorious mysteries, and they put us in living communion with Jesus through–we might say through the heart of his Mother…The Rosary belongs among the finest and most praiseworthy traditions of Christian contemplation…To look upon the Face of Christ, to recognize its mystery amid the daily events and sufferings of His human life, and then to grasp the divine splendor definitively revealed in the Risen Lord, seated in glory at the right hand of the Father; this is the task of every follower of Christ and therefore the task of each one of us. In contemplating Christ’s Face we become open to receiving the mystery of Trinitarian life, experiencing ever anew the love of the Father and delighting in the joy of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul’s words can then be applied to us ‘Beholding the glory of the Lord, we are being changed into His likeness, from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.’” (Rosarium Virginus Mariae) 

"The contemplation of Christ's Face cannot stop at the image of the Crucified One. He is the Risen One!"~St. Pope John Paul II
“The contemplation of Christ’s Face cannot stop at the image of the Crucified One. He is the Risen One!”~ Pope St. John Paul II, ( Holy Face of Manoppello – the Sudarium of Christ, Photo: Patricia Enk)

By keeping our eyes fixed on the Face of Jesus as we pray the Rosary, together with Mary, through her maternal intercession, we may obtain great victories through the heart of her Son Jesus, who obtained for all mankind the greatest victory over sin and death by His Resurrection.

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“I dare to summon the whole Church bravely to cross this new threshold, to put into the deep…so that now as in the past the great engagement of the Gospel and culture may show to the world ‘the glory of God on the Face of Christ’ (2 Cor 4:6). May the Lord bless all those who work for this aim.”  ~Pope St. John Paul II

The Bride Must Resemble Her Betrothed

Paten viewed through the Veil of the Holy Face of Manoppello. Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

O Jesus, hidden God, 

My heart perceives You

Though veils hide You;

You know that I love you.

–St. Faustina of the Blessed Sacrament, Apostle of Divine Mercy

 

 

(Detail) painting by Hans Holbein the elder. (Photo: Paul Badde)

On October 11, 1933, Saint Marie Faustina Kowalska was struggling “with great difficulty” to remain at prayer during a Holy Hour; she felt nothing, her mind seemed dimmed, she couldn’t understand the simplest form of prayer, and unlike most of us, this made her determined to stay another hour. During the second hour her sufferings increased, together with great dryness and discouragement. Rather than call it quits, she heroically resolved to remain for a third hour, by sheer will. Kneeling with her arms outstretched, she took off her ring and asked Jesus to look at it as the sign of their eternal union and her perpetual vows. After a while, her heart was inundated with a wave of love. Jesus suddenly stood before her stripped of His clothing as in His Passion. “His body completely covered with wounds, His eyes flooded with tears and blood, His Face disfigured and covered with spittle.” The Lord then said to St. Faustina, “The Bride must resemble her Betrothed.” She says she understood these words to their very depth.  Her likeness to Jesus must be through suffering and humility.  Jesus said to her, “See what love of human souls has done to Me. My daughter, in your heart I find everything that so great a number of souls refuses Me, Your heart is My repose. I often wait with great graces until towards the end of prayer.”  Her faithfulness to prayer was rewarded with a powerful reminder that she must resemble Jesus, her spouse.

This mystery of likeness to God is tied to contemplative prayer, “a communion, in which the Holy Trinity conforms man, the image and likeness of God, to His likeness.” (CCC 2713) In contemplative prayer we seek Him whom our soul loves, with our attention fixed on Jesus, surrendering to the love of the Father. The interior life of prayer can be difficult, dry and empty; it requires pure abandonment to God when nothing is felt, resisting our natural inclination to self-love by desiring to enjoy consolation.  St. Faustina writes, “Amid the greatest torments, I fix the gaze of my soul upon Jesus Crucified.” St. Faustina’s strength was in contemplation of the Face of Jesus reflecting all the pain and suffering of His Sacred Heart: “I have ever before my eyes His sorrowful Face, abused and disfigured, His divine Heart pierced for our sins and especially by the ingratitude of chosen souls.” 

St. Faustina “Apostle of Mercy”

St. Faustina, the Apostle of Divine Mercy, had the mission of spreading His Mercy so that souls will come to know His unfathomable love, “to remove the veil of heaven so that earth will not doubt Your goodness.” She wrote, “Make of me, Jesus, a pure and agreeable offering before the Face of Your Father. Jesus, transform me, miserable and sinful as I am, into Your own self (for You can do all things), and give me to Your Eternal Father.”  St. Faustina’s desire to see the Face of God increased although darkness filled her soul as though she were in exile. In spite of that suffering, she abandoned herself to the Will of God, remaining faithful in prayer. “When will the veil be lifted for me as well? Although I see and feel to a certain extent how very thin is the veil separating me from the Lord, I long to see Him face to face; but let everything be done according to Your will.”  

“The Face of Christ is the supreme revelation of Christ’s Mercy.”–Pope Benedict XVI (photo:Paul Badde/EWTN)

St. Faustina sought solace by remaining patiently in prayer before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. “I cast upon the Tabernacle the gaze of my soul, a gaze of faithfulness. As for You, You are ever the same, while within my soul a change takes place.  I trust the time will come when You unveil Your Countenance, and Your child will again see Your sweet Face…I am listening and waiting for Your coming, O only Treasure of my heart!” 

God who made us in His image and likeness dwells in us.  His divine indwelling enables us to become who we truly are when we turn to Him with humility and perseverance in prayer.  “With God, to gaze at is to love,” says St. John of the Cross, and we are transformed by what we gaze upon.  The trouble for our human nature is that in difficulties we often forget to turn to His Face, as St. Teresa of Jesus has said, “O Lord, how true that all harm comes to us from not keeping our eyes fixed on You.”  The divine goal of the grace of contemplative prayer, which flows from His mercy, is to resemble Jesus.  St. Faustina wrote, “The Heavenly Father will recognize and glorify  our soul to the extent that He sees in us a resemblance to His Son.”

Venice, Illustration for the Divine Comedy of Dante, 13th Century”

“Be blessed, merciful God, Eternal Love, / You are above the heavens, the sapphires, the firmaments, / The hosts of pure spirits sings You praises, / With its eternal hymn: Thrice Holy.

And, gazing upon You, face to face, O God, / I see that You could have called other creatures before them, / Therefore they humble themselves before You in great humility, / For well they see that this grace comes solely from Your mercy.” –St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in My Soul 

“This Mercy of God which has a concrete face, the Face of Jesus, the risen Christ.” –Pope Francis