Four Stories – One Face, Part 1

Byzantine iconoclasm 9th Century
Byzantine iconoclasm 9th Century

There are at least four separate historical accounts of a veil or cloth of miraculous origin, “not made by human hands,” bearing an image of the Face of Jesus Christ. Each account relates, in its own way, that the Sacred Image came into contact with the living Face of Jesus. Human nature, being what it is, has altered the story, over the centuries, like the old game of “telephone” where one child whispers a story to the first child in line and by the time it has reached the last child the narrative has become very different.

Humanity has journeyed through millennia of dangers, persecution, wars, and intrigue since Christ walked on the earth (and on water), which obscured the facts of the origin of the Holy Veil of the Face of Jesus. The stories of the Veil were handed down to us today by way of history, tradition, literature, art, and music. Somewhere within these intertwined stories is the truth, but, one must have the humility to acknowledge before such a great mystery that we don’t know the whole of the story because God, whose “ways are not our ways,” has allowed them to be hidden.

There are many clues (read anything written about the Holy Face by Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI or Pope Francis to find those clues) as to why the Holy Face is taking such a prominent role at this particular point in history to draw humanity back out of the abyss of darkness it now finds itself submerged in. It seems that God, in His Mercy, is “drawing back the veil,” in these dark days, allowing facts to come to light. The four stories point us to one image in particular.

To begin, each are said to depict the Face of the living Christ on a sheer veil or cloth–a human face of a man who has suffered, with traces of wounds, bruises, and swelling visible. His wavy hair is long and parted with a small, short lock of curls at the center. His beard is sparse as though torn, and divided in two. cropped-image-14-version-2.jpegHis open eyes are peaceful and looking slightly to one side. His mouth is partially opened. The images each were reported to have been miraculous not only in appearance, but also as an instrument of healing.

1024px-heinrich_kiepert-_asia_citerior-cappadociaThe oldest story of such an image is the Camulia—named for where it was found, the town of Kamuliana, in Cappodocia, Turkey. The story is of a pagan woman name Hypatia who was receiving Christian instruction and had difficulty believing in Jesus unless she could see Him. “How can I worship Him when He is not visible and I cannot see Him?” She asked. One day she drew from the water of a well, a cloth, with His Holy Face. She became a believer from that moment on. Although there is no longer any trace in art history of the Camulia, the image was described by Theophylactus Simocattus as “the image of the God incarnate…said since ancient times and to the present day that divine art created it, that it was not produced either by a weaver’s hands nor was it painted by the colors of a painter.” The Camulia was cited as a historical image during the iconoclast war against sacred images. During the second council of Nicea in 787, a deacon named Cosmos demonstrated how the iconoclasts wanted to destroy evidence of testimony of the Eastern Fathers in favor of images of the Face of Jesus. He held up a martyrology from which pages of the story of the Camulia had been ripped out. That was the last mention of the Camulia in history.

The history of the Camulia overlaps with another historical narrative, also originating in Turkey, of an image of the Face of Christ–The Mandylion of Edessa– which will be continued in the next post, “Four Stories – One Face, Part 2.”

“I want to Gaze on God Always” – St. Elizabeth of the Trinity!

St. Elizabeth of The Trinity
St. Elizabeth of The Trinity

“It is Your continual desire to associate Yourself with Your creatures…How can I better satisfy Your desire than by keeping myself simply and 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.”

–Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity, O.C.D.S.

Elizabeth, a strong-willed three year old.
Elizabeth, a strong-willed three year old.

We have a new Saint in the Church as of October 16th–the French Discalced Carmelite nun, St. Elizabeth of the Trinity! Elizabeth Catez, known to her family as “Sabeth,” was born July 18th, 1880, near Bourges, Frances, the daughter of a military officer.  Early in life she lost her father. Under the firm guidance of her mother, Elizabeth, a very strong-willed child, learned to master her temper. (Just look at that glare!)  At the age of fourteen, Elizabeth heard in her heart a call to be a Carmelite nun but due to her mother’s objections she was not able to enter Carmel until the age of 21.  Her life was “a praise of glory” of the Most Blessed Trinity present in her soul and loved amid interior darkness and excruciating illness. A praise of glory “is a soul that dwells in God, loves Him with a love that is pure and disinterested… a silent soul, which remains like a lyre beneath the mysterious touch of the Holy Spirit…a soul that gazes steadfastly upon God in faith and simplicity; it is a reflection of all that He is…” IMG_0944

In the mystery of the divine indwelling she found her “heaven on earth.”

“It seems to me that I have found my Heaven on earth because Heaven is God, and God is in my soul.  The day I understood this, everything became clear to me, and I would like to proclaim this secret aloud to those whom I love, so that they also may always cling to God in everything.”

Elizabeth suffered greatly from the effects of Addison’s disease.  As she was dying she realized that God had also chosen her to be “conformed to the image of His Son” and that this meant “sharing in His sufferings and becoming like Him in His death.” She died on November 9th, 1906, after five brief years in Carmel.  Her Feast day is November 8th.

O My God, Trinity Whom I Adore

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!  But I feel my weakness, and I ask You to clothe me with Yourself, to identify my soul with all the movements of Your Soul, to overwhelm me, to posses me, to substitute Yourself for me that my life may be but a radiance of Your life.  Come to me as Adorer, as Restorer, as Savior, O Word Eternal, Word of my God.  I want to spend my life listening to You, to become wholly teachable that I may learn all from You.  Then, through all nights, all voids, all helplessness, I want to gaze on You always and remain in Your great light.  O my beloved Star, so fascinate me that that I may not withdraw from your radiance.  O consuming Fire, Spirit of Love, come upon me, and create in my soul a kind of Incarnation of the Word; that I may be another humanity for Him, in which He can renew His whole Mystery.  And You, O Father, bend lovingly over your poor little creature; cover her with your shadow, seeing in her only the Beloved in whom You are well pleased.  O my Three, my All, my Beatitude, infinite Solitude, Immensity in which I love myself, I surrender myself to You as Your prey.  Bury Yourself in me that I may bury myself in You until I depart to contemplate in Your light the abyss of Your greatness.  November 21, 1904 — St. Elizabeth of the Trinity


The Face of Christ in the Rosary

IMG_1246When 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.”

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

The entire month of October is dedicated to the Holy Rosary and October 7th is celebrated as the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. The feast, originally named for Our Lady of Victory, commemorated the stunning victory, against all odds, obtained by Our Lady in the Battle of Lepanto through the prayer of the Rosary–which saved Christendom on October 7th, in 1571. By keeping our eyes fixed on the Face of Jesus as we pray the Rosary, together with Mary, through her maternal intercession, we too 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.




May the Lord Bless and keep you! – The blessing of St. Francis

Blessing of St. Francis to Brother Leo

Within the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi is a precious relic: a small, crumpled piece of yellowed parchment with the writing of St. Francis, now displayed in a silver reliquary. It was written on Mount La Verna after St. Francis had received the stigmata. The first biographer of St. Francis, Bl. Thomas of Celano wrote that for a long time St. Francis’s friend, Brother Leo, had greatly desired to have some memorial from the words of Our Lord written by St. Francis:

St. Francis of Assisi
St. Francis of Assisi

“One day Blessed Francis called him, saying, ‘Bring me paper and ink, for I wish to write the words of God and His praises which I have been meditating in my heart.’ What he asked for being straightway brought, he writes with his own hand the praises of God and the words which he [his companion] wished, and lastly a blessing of the brother, saying: ‘Take this sheet for thyself and until the day of thy death guard it carefully.’ All temptation was at once driven away; the letter is kept and worked wonders for the time to come.” Brother Leo kept it faithfully; folding it in four, he carried it in his pocket and guarded it jealously for a good forty-six years.  The text in the middle, written in black, and marked with a large “Tau” cross is in Francis’s own handwriting, he writes the praises of God* and grants to Brother Leo the blessing from the Book of Numbers 6: 22-27 which later became known as “the Blessing of St. Francis.”

St. Francis of Assisi by Jose Beniliure y Gil
St. Francis of Assisi by Jose Beniliure y Gil

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in his homily for the World Day of Peace, 2013, spoke of this blessing from the Book of Numbers which was for the priests and the people of Israel. “The blessing repeats the three times Holy Name of God, a Name not to be spoken, and each time linked to two words indicating an action in favor of man. Peace is the summit of these six actions of God in our favor, His most sublime gift, in which He turns toward us the splendor of His Face.”


The Shroud of Turin
The Shroud of Turin

This is the great blessing that St. Francis desired to impart to his friend, Brother Leo:

“May the Lord bless and keep you; may He make His Face shine upon you and be merciful to you; may He turn His Countenance toward you and give you His Peace!”  (Num. 6:22-27)



*(St. Francis’s “Praises of God” are now now quite faded, but, this much can be still read: “Thou art holy, Lord God, who alone workest wonders. Thou art strong. Thou art great. Thou art most high. Thou art the Almighty King, Thou, holy Father, King of heaven and earth. Thou art the Lord God Triune and One; all good. Thou art good, all good, highest good, Lord God living and true. Thou art charity, love. Thou art wisdom. Thou art humility. Thou art patience. Thou art security. Thou art quietude. Thou art joy and gladness. Thou…”)


St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face

"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."
“Jesus, Your ineffable image is the star which guides my steps. Ah, You know, Your sweet Face is for me Heaven on earth.”


Prayers for Sinners
By St. Therese of The Child Jesus and The Holy Face

Eternal Father, since Thou hast given me for my inheritance the adorable Face of Thy Divine Son, I offer that Face to Thee, and I 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.

Drawing of The Shroud of Turin by Sr. Genevieve of the Holy Face (Celine Martin, the sister of St. Therese)
Drawing of The Shroud of Turin by Sr. Genevieve of the Holy Face (Celine Martin, the sister of St. Therese)

O Jesus, Who in Thy bitter Passion didst become “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.

St. Therese – Feast day Oct. 1st

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. Therese Icon by Patricia Enk
St. Therese Icon by Patricia Enk

For information on The Mass of the Roses in honor of St. Therese please click here or here.

Father, through Saint Therese, help us to trust with a childlike disposition in your mercy and love.  Saint Therese, remember your promise to do good on earth.  Shower down roses on us and hear our prayers.  Amen. 

Saint Therese’s Canticle to the Holy Face

Devotion-sideJesus, 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.

Oh! To console You I want
To live unknown on earth!
Your beauty, which You know how to veil,
Discloses for me all its mystery.
I would like to fly away to You!

Your Face is my only homeland.
It’s my Kingdom of love.
It’s my cheerful meadow.
Each day, my sweet sun.
It’s the Lily of the Valley
Whose mysterious perfume
Consoles my exiled soul,
Making it taste the peace of Heaven.

It’s my Rest, my Sweetness
And my melodious Lyre
Your Face, O my Sweet Savior,
Is the Divine Bouquet of Myrrh
I want to keep on my heart!

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,
And soon I’ll become holy.
I shall draw hearts to You.

So that I may gather
A beautiful golden harvest,
Deign to set me aflame with Your Fire.
With Your adorned mouth,
Give me soon the Eternal Kiss!

“The Polar Star of Christianity” – The Face of Mercy

Veil of Manoppello (hand of Kurt Cardinal Koch seen through transparent veil) Photo: Paul Badde

“We saw in the Face the mercy of God”: A dialogue with Cardinal Koch

Paul Badde interviews the president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity on a special event
By Paul Badde
(Manoppello, September 2016 / 9:15 a.m.)

Kurt Cardinal Koch observes the transparency of the Veil of Manoppello. Photo: Paul Badde
Kurt Cardinal Koch observes the transparency of the Veil of Manoppello. Photo: Paul Badde

In 2017, it will be 500 years since in the West the Lutheran brothers and sisters began to separate themselves from the Pope and from the Roman Catholic Church. However, even older than the Reformation and the division of the Western Church is the Great Schism of the East, and the division of Christianity into the Church of the East and the Roman Catholic Church in the West, which occurred in 1054 between Rome and Constantinople. Only on December 7, 1965 Pope Paul VI from Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras from Istanbul solemnly cancelled the reciprocal anathemas “from the memory and from the center of the Church” “abandoning them to oblivion.” But the Eastern Church and the Western Church remained estranged, above all from the cultural point of view. Now, however, at the invitation of Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto, on September 18, 2016, seventy Orthodox bishops celebrated the “Divine Liturgy” of Saint John Chrysostom under the Face of Christ, there exposed above the principal altar, together with two cardinals and numerous other prelates of the Roman Catholic Church in the Basilica of the Holy Face of Manoppello.

CNA: Lord Cardinal, Archbishop Bruno Forte calls the “Holy Face” of Christ “the polar star of Christianity.” For him, there is no reasonable cause to doubt that the image on the veil is the sudario of Christ that John cites in the Holy Sepulchre near the burial clothes. But is it not also a provocation for the Orthodox brothers?

Cardinal Koch: Christians believe in one God who showed his concrete face in Jesus Christ. When we know more closely the Face of Christ and when we more deeply identify ourselves with him, the more deeply we become one, as well. For this is a miraculous event to be in front of the Face of Christ, to pray, to venerate the Face, because it fulfills his [Christ’s] desire that we be one.

Catholics have something to bring to the Orthodox. Also for the Orthodox it is so, as for instance for their culture of the veneration of icons. Could it be that from this day forward also in the Catholic Church the images can come to be understood and evaluated in a new way – in the midst of that mighty “Iconic Turn” that the experts of communication today note, in which the images expect a general role in communications like never before?
Yes, the very profound mystery of ecumenism is an exchange of gifts. Today the Church has her gifts. And a particular gift the Orthodox have are the icons. So I think that also many Christians in the West can find a new access to the icons and thus deepening the faith. It is a great gift. It is very important that we also re-evaluate the images in the Western tradition. With the Reform of the sixteenth century, we have placed a whole new accent on the word. But the Word has become flesh, the Word became visible, so also the images belong to the faith. This is a gift from the Orthodox that we welcome gratefully.
At Chieti, in these recent days the delicate question of the theological and ecclesiological relations between primacy and synodality in the life of the Church, then the role of Peter and that of all bishops, was discussed within the commission that has come on pilgrimage to Manoppello. Ten years ago Peter came here in the vesture of Pope Benedict. Since then, there has been an enormous turning point in the evaluation of this image of Manoppello that has become famous throughout the world. What significance do you think will be given to this day of pilgrimage, in which the synod of bishops gathered here?
It is very beautiful that we could come here on this anniversary ten years later. Pope Benedict came in the name of the whole Catholic Church. Today is present here the Church of the East and of the West. So this anniversary maybe can also help in the search for the unity between the Church in the East and the Church in the West.
You, as president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, are responsible to Rome for ecumenism. In this regard, Pope Francis affirmed: “Look at Christ and go ahead with courage!” Which next step would indicate to you today to go with courage to encounter Christ, in a day in which notwithstanding the difference between the Eastern Church and the Western Church you have come together before this image?
In reality, we are always on the way towards Christ. Because it is His Will that we find unity, it is not a human project. Christ himself on the eve of His Passion prayed that His disciples might be one, that the world might believe. The credibility of this testimony depends on the fact that we are one. This is also a particular request of Pope Francis, when he says that when we can walk on the same road toward Christ, then we find unity.
Misericordiae Vultus”: with these first Latin words begins the Bull of Indiction with which Pope Francis announced this year of the Jubilee of Mercy. The “Face of Mercy” has given to this year a very particular meaning. What do you sense today being here before the merciful gaze of Jesus, who looks at us from this wonderful veil?
It is a magnificent message that we can have a merciful God, for which we know that there are no cases without hope. Per as long as a man can fall down, he can never fall lower than the hands of God. Now you can really see this face, encounter it, it is naturally a marvelous deepening of this message of the Holy Year. The men of today need nothing more than the mercy of God. And if they can look on the Face of the merciful God it is a marvelous gift.
And what will you tell Pope Francis about this event in case you will have the opportunity?
I will certainly tell him that we saw in the Face his great message of the mercy of God. And that this Face is important for the whole Church. It is in a certain way the manifesto of the Church: the merciful Face of God!

Kurt Cardinal Koch contemplates the Holy Veil of Manoppello Photo: Paul Badde
Kurt Cardinal Koch contemplates the Holy Veil of Manoppello Photo: Paul Badde

(Re-printed with the Author’s permission) Translation from the Italian by Fr. Daren J. Zehnle


“I pray that they all may be one” –John 17:21

The Holy Face of Jesus on a miraculous veil in Manoppello, Italy bought together over seventy Orthodox and Roman Catholic Bishops to celebrate Divine Liturgy and for theological dialogue on September 18th, 2016, taking one more important step toward fulfilling the prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper “that all may be one.” (Jn. 17:21)

A Sacred Dream – Originally at Catholic News Agency, re-printed here with permission of the author, Paul Badde

Veil of Manoppello photo: Paul Badde
Veil of Manoppello
photo: Paul Badde

A Sacred Dream by Paul Badde

It was a single word that brought about the decisive split between the Eastern and Western churches. It happened in May 581, at the Council of Toledo, when the bishops of the Visigoth kingdom added the Latin word “filioque” to the then-200-year-old Catholic creed of the Council of Nicea-Constantinople.

In English, the word means: “and the Son.” Ever since that day, Christians of the West pray in their creed: “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son,” whereas in the Eastern Churches to this day they pray: “We believe in the Holy spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father.” This addition first attained the rank of dogma under Pope Benedict VIII, and then again in 1215, by which time alienation between East and West had substantially increased.

However, it was but this single word that became both a stumbling block and a milestone in the separation process between the Eastern and Western Church. Thousands upon thousands of highly erudite words only further deepened the rift and never could heal it.

Metropolitan Job Getcha of Talmessos giving homily. Photo: Daniel Ibanez (CNA/EWTN) Photo:
Metropolitan Job Getcha of Telmessos giving homily. Photo: Daniel Ibanez (CNA/EWTN)

But this week, in a quiet ceremony unnoticed by most media, a single image brought the Eastern and Western Church together in way that arguably has never happened before. On this Sunday, Sept. 18, in the small town of Manoppello in the Abruzzi mountains, 70 Orthodox bishops celebrated, together with two cardinals and many Roman Catholic bishops and clergymen, the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom before the image of the “Holy Face.” The holy veil had been hidden for more than 300 years in a side chapel of St Michael’s Church, until, after the great earthquake of 1915, it was publicly displayed for the first time again, in the year 1923, over the main altar of a newly constructed building, where it can be visited and adored every day.

Pope Benedict XVI Visit to the Holy Face of Manoppello in 2006
Pope Benedict XVI Visit to the Holy Face of Manoppello in 2006

Ten years after the September 2006 visit of Pope Benedict XVI, this visit of a mixed Orthodox synod, together with their Latin brothers, marked a most significant event in the process of re-discovery of this mysterious, original icon of Christ. It had long been worshiped in Constantinople as “Hagion Mandylion,” and later in Rome as “Sanctissimum Sudarium,” before it was also given the name of “Sancta Veronica Ierosolymitana.”

There were metropolitans and bishops of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (from Finland, Estonia, Crete, Patmos, Malta, Great Britain, America, Australia, the Exarchate of the Philippines, from Europe and from Mount Athos) and patriarchs, metropolitans and archbishops of Alexandria, Antioch, Damascus, Jerusalem, the autonomous Church of Mount Sinai, and the Orthodox churches of Russia, Georgia, Serbia, Cyprus, Romania, Greece Poland, Albania, Czech Republic and Slovakia, which came before the Holy Face and celebrated the Eucharist. Only the Bulgarian Church had sent no representative.

The antiphons of the liturgy were in Italian, Russian, Greek, English, Romanian and French. In his homily, given in English, Metropolitan Job Getcha of Telmessos, who headed the service as representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, praised the “image of Christ, not made by human hand” of Manoppello. He pointed out that – according to some scholars – the Image is identical with that of the Soudarion from the Gospel of the Resurrection according to John, while another tradition holds that a certain Veronica wiped the face of Jesus with this veil on his way to the Cross, though she is not mentioned in the canonical Gospels.

Archbishop Bruno Forte from nearby Chieti knows that neither bloodstains nor any residue of paint can be found in the veil. It had been his idea and initiative to bring the bishops before the face of Christ, which he likes to praise as the “North Star of Christendom.” He invited the group to Manoppello and had given the visitors a scholarly introduction on the bus trip from his diocesan town of Chieti to Manoppello.

In Chieti, the pilgrims had all participated in the 14th General Assembly of a Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox. They had discussed a document entitled “Towards a common understanding of synodality and primacy in the service of the unity of the Church.” It was a debate that began in the previous plenary meeting in the Jordanian capital Amman in 2014 and was continued in 2015 in Rome. The Commission is the official organ of the theological dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox. It was founded in 1979 and unites 14 autocephalous Orthodox churches, which are each represented by two theologians who are mostly bishops, together with Catholic representatives.

And now the same group practically traced, as a synodal pilgrimage, that first spectacular step towards the face of Christ that Benedict XVI undertook ten years ago, against much resistance, the first pope to do so after more than 400 years.

His successor Pope Francis later – on Nov 30, 2014 while flying from Istanbul back to Rome – told journalists travelling with him: “Be careful: the Church does not have a light of its own. She needs to gaze upon Jesus Christ! On that path, we must move forward courageously.”

And following on this path, the Divine Liturgy before the Divine Face this Sunday became a milestone of reconciliation on the way to unity. Heavy rainfall had been announced. But only a few drops ended up falling.

“Pray for the Christians in the Middle East as you pray before the Holy Face. They are suffering unspeakably,” an Oriental bishop said right after the final blessing to the German sister Petra-Maria Steiner, who introduces countless pilgrims to the mystery of the light of this image in Manoppello. Earlier, at the conclusion of the celebration, Anatoliy Grytskiv, Protopresbyter of Chieti, had hailed the “miracle” of the encounter in a passionate summary in Italian.

Miraculous Holy Face Veil of Manoppello Photo: Paul Badde
Miraculous Holy Face Veil of Manoppello Photo: Paul Badde

Whereto from here? “Today we have gazed upon the face of God,” Cardinal Kurt Koch told CNA outside the main entrance of the Basilica after the celebration. “Probably only in view of the face of the Redeemer may unity come about. But surely it will be difficult. After all this is like a divorce, after you have grown apart – it is hard to get back together. In this case…thousand years of separation are standing between us.”

Kurt Cardinal Koch Photo: Daniel Ibanez (CNA/EWTN)
Kurt Cardinal Koch
Photo: Daniel Ibanez (CNA/EWTN)

“Yes, but fortunately it is said in the Scriptures: A thousand years are with the Lord as one day,” Sister Petra-Maria responded with a smile to the cardinal’s sober skepticism. “Perhaps now the new day of unity arises. With God, nothing is impossible. Perhaps today we have seen the dawn of this new day. This new beginning is as thin and delicate as the Volto Santo.”

Were it so, the image of Christ would indeed have briefly bridged that abyss on this Sunday, an abyss carved out, like a primeval river, by the countless words between East and West, a Grand Canyon into the very foundation of Christianity.

At those very depths, the holy “sudarium” might yet intervene, in a healing fashion, in the ancient Filioque controversy about that first word of separation. For if the veil, as John writes, was indeed lying in the grave of Christ, on the face of the Lord, it must also have absorbed the first breath of the Risen One – when the Spirit of God woke Jesus Christ from the dead – as that Spirit that is the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.

photo by Patricia Enk
photo by Patricia Enk

(Original article may be read by clicking here.)

The Holy Capuchin of Manoppello – Servant of God, Padre Domenico da Cese

Venerable Padre Domenico da Cese 1915-1978
Servant of God, Padre Domenico da Cese 1915-1978
Holy Face of Manoppello Photo: Patricia Enk
Holy Face of Manoppello
Photo: Patricia Enk

September 17th marks the anniversary of the death of the Holy Capuchin priest of Manoppello–the Servant of God, Padre Domenico da Cese. Like his friend and fellow Capuchin, St. Padre Pio, the humble Padre Domenico was a mystic and stigmatist who had extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit.

(For more about St. Padre Pio’s last case of bilocation and Padre Domenico click here.)

As a nine year old boy in 1915, Padre Domenico predicted the devastating Avenzzano earthquake in Italy. A 6.7 earthquake hit that region the next morning, killing more than 30,000 people, including two of his sisters and burying him and his father in the rubble of their church.  A man he didn’t know pulled him from the rubble to safety, whose face he later recognized on his first visit as a friar to the Shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello. When Padre Domenico knelt before the “Il Volto Santo” or Face of Jesus, the miraculous veil, he exclaimed, “This is the man who saved me from the rubble!” He remained at the Shrine as Rector until the time of his death in 1978.  To learn more about his incredible life and passionate love for the Holy Face you can watch this wonderful video of his life, “The Long Road of Fr. Domenico, from Cese to Turin” by clicking here.

Servant of God, Padre Domenico da Cese, Pray for us!
Servant of God, Padre Domenico da Cese…
Pray for us!

Mass of the Roses in honor of St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face

Fr. Ephrem Arcement, OSB (from 2015 Mass of the Roses)
Fr. Ephrem Arcement, OSB (from 2015 Mass of the Roses)
painting by Brenda Burke

It’s time once again for the annual Mass of the Roses in honor of St. Therese “The Little Flower! This year’s celebration will be held on Sunday, October 2nd at the Discalced Carmelite Nuns Monastery on River Road in Covington, Louisiana.  St. Therese, whose Feast Day is October 1st, was a French Discalced Carmelite Nun who died of tuberculosis at the age of 24.  She became a Saint and Doctor of the Church, inspiring others by her “Little Way” of doing small things with great love to attain holiness. She promised that when she died “a shower of roses” would fall from Heaven in the graces obtained through her intercession.

“Your Face is my only wealth, I ask nothing more.  Hiding myself in it unceasingly, I will resemble You, Jesus.  Leave in me, the Divine Impress of Your features filled with sweetness, and soon I’ll become holy.  I shall draw hearts to You.” — St. Therese of The Child Jesus and The Holy Face

Children getting ready for procession with their roses photo: Patricia Enk
Children getting ready for procession with their roses
photo: Patricia Enk

This year’s Mass of Roses will be a triple celebration; not only in honor of St. Therese, but also in honor of the Jubilee Year of Mercy and the Golden Jubilee of Sr. Joan!  Shuttle service from off-site parking to the Monastery will be available beginning a 8:15 am.  At 9:00 am  there will be a flute prelude by Sr. Grace, OCD and Sarah Schettler, LPO.  Holy Eucharist will be celebrated at 9:30 am with Fr. Louis Arcement, CM as the main celebrant.  Immediately following Mass, the children are invited to join in procession, carrying roses to the altar  to be blessed and distributed.47a6df10b3127cce98549cbf575400000030100azngjvs2auwgg

Handmade quilt by Carolyn Pelzex (mother of Sr. Grace!) for silent auction
Handmade quilt by Carolyn Pelzek (mother of Sr. Grace!) for silent auction. 3ft x 3ft

Delicious refreshments will be served after the Mass, thanks to many gracious sponsors and volunteers.  Hand-made items by the sisters, as well as cookies, pies and bread from the Sister’s kitchen will be for sale as well as a variety of religious article, books and gifts. A  children’s area will be set up for face-painting, artwork and other fun activities. A special table will also be set up for Holy Face books, Chaplets, Images and Medals.

St. Therese Icon by Patricia Enk for this years silent auction
St. Therese Icon by Patricia Enk for this years silent auction

Although, St. Therese is more commonly known for her way of “Spiritual Childhood” and devotion to The Child Jesus, her sister, Mother Agnes gave this testimony for St. Therese’ beatification:

“Devotion to the Holy Face was the Servant of God’s special attraction.  As tender as was her devotion to the Child Jesus, it cannot be compared to her devotion to the Holy Face.” 

"Holy Face of Tours"
“Holy Face of Tours”

St. Therese’ sister Celine (Sr. Genevieve of the Holy Face), also wrote that “Devotion to the Holy Face was, for Therese, the crown and complement of her love for the Sacred Humanity of Our Lord.  The Blessed Face was the mirror wherein she beheld the Heart and Soul of her Well-Beloved.  Just as the picture of a loved one serves to bring the whole person before us, so in the Holy Face of Christ Therese beheld the entire Humanity of Jesus.  We can say unequivocally that this devotion was the burning inspiration of the Saint’s life… Her devotion to the Holy Face transcended, or more accurately, embraced, all the other attractions of her spiritual life.”

Prayer of St. Therese to The Holy Face

“O adorable Face of Jesus, sole beauty which ravishes my heart, vouchsafe to impress on my soul Your divine likeness so that it may not be possible for You to look at Your spouse without beholding Yourself!  O my Beloved, for love of You I am content not to see here on earth the sweetness of Your glance, nor to feel the ineffable kiss of Your sacred lips, but I beg of You to inflame me with Your love so that it may consume me quickly and that soon I may behold Your glorious countenance in Heaven.” 47a6df10b3127cce98549ce7570c00000030100azngjvs2auwgg

Please join us if you are in the neighborhood for this joyous occasion!!!

Pilgrimage – A Journey Toward the Face of God, Pt. 8

Pt. 8: Seeking the Face of the Father in Rome

St. Peter's Basilica in Rome
St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome

“Jesus Christ is the Face of the Father’s mercy.  These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith.” –Pope Francis, Face of Mercy

The final stop of our pilgrimage was Rome and to enter the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica on the Feast of the Assumption.  Most pilgrims to Italy begin their pilgrimage in Rome, but there was a reason that I chose St. Peter’s for the final destination of our pilgrimage and it had to do with the pope.  Sometimes our motivation for doing things isn’t always clear, not even to ourselves.  It was upon reflection, in hindsight, that I understood why the order of the pilgrimage and also why seeing the Holy Father last, was so important to me.

Veil of the Holy Face of Manoppello Photo: Patricia Enk
Veil of the Holy Face of Manoppello
Photo: Patricia Enk

Looking back on our pilgrimage for the Jubilee Year of Mercy, we began with the image of the Face of Jesus in the Veil of Manoppello.  The bible tells us that there is only one mediator between God and man–Jesus Christ. (1 Tim 2:5) The Face of Jesus Christ is like a Door of Mercy–the face of the Church, through which we reach the Father.  We enter this “door” through devotion to the Holy Face through prayers and contemplation of the wounded Face of Jesus; by discipleship, to see Jesus in the Face of our neighbors, in the poor, the sick and the suffering; and through the Eucharistic Face of Jesus, from which we draw the grace and strength needed for our journey.  Then our faces, too, become like a “door” to our hearts and souls, and can radiate the Face of Jesus, the Face of Mercy to others.  Therefore, the “door” of the Face of Jesus was the best place for us to begin, the start of the journey.

Adoration of the Eucharistic Face of Christ in Loreto
Adoration of the Eucharistic Face of Christ in Loreto

After the sanctuary of Manoppello there were other steps along our path to seek the Face of God. The next step was Loreto–entering the door of the Holy Home in Nazareth.  God himself chose Mary as the ark of His dwelling place, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in this home.  Through Mary and the Holy Family we learn the examples of humility, obedience, and love. Here we saw the Face of Jesus in the Eucharist and in the sick and suffering.

Face of Jesus in Assisi photo: Paul Badde
Face of Jesus in Assisi
photo: Paul Badde

Next was Assisi–a powerful reminder of the Communion of Saints.  We are not alone in our quest to see the Face of God but have brothers and sisters in Heaven who have gone before us and are ready to help us if we only ask their help and guidance in trials and tribulations.  Their example encourages us to be a consolation and help, or a “Veronica,” to Jesus in our brothers and sisters here on earth. Reminding us that “…whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did it for me.” (Mt. 25:40)

Assisi Photo: Patricia Enk
Photo: Patricia Enk
Catching a glimpse of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
Catching a glimpse of the Holy Father, Pope Francis “While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him…”(Lk.15:20)

And lastly, Rome.  Every year millions upon millions of people go to Rome just to get even a little glimpse of the pope. Most people consider those who actually have met the pope very fortunate. Why? After all, he is just a man like any other man, isn’t he? Well, yes and no.  Yes, Jorge Bergolio is a man, but as Pope Francis he is the Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth, and, whoever sees Jesus, sees the Father. (Jn. 14:9)  In a way, by seeking out the face of the pope, his words, and his blessing, we are seeking the Face of Our Father in Heaven.  All mankind has been created in the image and likeness of God and we have a natural longing, therefore, to see His Face; to enter into relationship with Him.  When the Word of God became man in Jesus Christ, at the Incarnation, what was previously impossible (to see God) became possible. In God’s infinite mercy He has not left us orphans; in and through Jesus He has given us His Church, His ministers, and His sacraments, so that is possible for us here on earth, albeit in an imperfect way, to see His Face.

Our pilgrimage mirrored the journey of the Christian soul on earth: through Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit, with the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints toward the Face of the Father. Our pilgrimage did not end in Rome, but begins anew each day.  We continue to seek His Face by taking up our cross and following Him in the hope that finally one day we will have the joy of truly seeing Him as He is in eternal glory.

Pilgrims carrying the Jubilee of Mercy Cross into the Holy Door of St. Peter's
Pilgrims carrying the Jubilee of Mercy Cross into the Holy Door of St. Peter’s

In Gratitude to God

“The grace of our Lord has been abundant, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I am foremost. But for that reason I was mercifully treated, so that in me, as the foremost, Christ Jesus might display all his patience as an example for those who would come to believe in Him for everlasting life. To the King of the ages, incorruptible, invisible, the only God, honor and glory forever and ever.” (1 Tim. 1:14-17)

Christus Imperat! photo: Patricia Enk
Christus Imperat!
photo: Patricia Enk