“Now a war broke out in Heaven. Michael and his Angels fought against the dragon and his angels.” (Rev. 12:7)
Mankind is in the midst of a battle, which has been fought since the beginning of Creation; between Christ’s Angels and the fallen angels or demons. When God created the angels, they were tested before they could see Him face to face. “God created man in His image; in the divine image he created him; male and female He created them.” (Gen. 1:27) It is believed that it was revealed to the angels that God would become a man and not an angel. Then, Lucifer, being a proud spirit, responded “Non Serviam!” — I will not serve! St. Michael answered with the battlecry “Who is like God?” St. Michael and the Holy Angels have been given the authority from God by the power of His Holy Name to protect and defend God’s people against both human and diabolical enemies
There is a strong association between St. Michael and the devotion to the Face of Christ. For many centuries St. Michael was depicted with the Sudarium Veil of the Face of Jesus. Devotion to the Face of Jesus is meant to repair mankind’s broken relationship with God, manifested in the world by the evil of blasphemy, sacrilege, and indifference. This work of reparation honoring His Holy Face and His Name–which is the concrete sign of God’s existence and our relationship with Him–has been given the protection and help of the Holy Angels. Sr. Marie St. Pierre was a French Discalced Carmelite nun to whom Our Lord gave revelations of the Devotion to His Holy Face. She wrote on November 18, 1843:
“One day during prayer, our Lord warned me in advance about the fury of Satan against the holy devotion [to the Holy Face of Jesus], but He also consoled me, saying: ‘I give you My Name to be your light in the darkness and your strength in battle. Satan will do all in his power to crush this Work at its roots. But I assure you that the Holy Name of God will triumph, and it will be the Holy Angels who willl gain the victory in the conflict.”
St. Michael is named as the primary patron of devotion to the Holy Face. This is reflected in many ancient works of art in churches where St. Michael or the Holy Angels are portrayed holding the Veil of the Face of Christ. A fascinating article was written by Gelsimo Del Guercio (here) about seven sanctuaries, dedicated to St. Michael, which are linked by a straight line called the “Sword of St. Michael.” The imaginary line “represents the blow with which St. Michael sent the devil to hell.” I would like to add an eighth Sanctuary to the list: The church of the Sanctuary Basilica of the Holy Face of Manoppello. In God’s mysterious design this sanctuary, which contains a miraculous veil of the Face of Jesus, was named for St. Michael though no one who is alive today remembers why. The sanctuary, in Manoppello, Italy, falls at the center, on a map, of the legendary “Sword of St. Michael.” St. Michael and the Holy Angels come to our aid and they are bearing His Holy Face!
There is a hard battle being fought all around us in the Heavens and on earth. We would do well, therefore, to imitate St. Michael, Prince of the Heavenly Hosts, who humbly chose as his weapons to adore the Holy Face and invoke the Holy Name of God!
“I never cease to implore blessings for you from Jesus, and to beg the Lord to transform you totally in Him. How beautiful His Face, how sweet His eyes and what a good thing it is to stay close to Him…”–St. Padre Pio O.F.M.Cap
St. Padre Pio, a Friar Minor Capuchin priest and mystic, was well-known for his many spiritual gifts such as the stigmata, bi-location, and for his ability to read the hearts of penitents who came to him in confession. During his life St. Padre Pio suffered as Our Lord did, not only through physical pain, but by humiliations, calumny, slander and mistrust that deeply wounded his heart, in this he shared in the suffering of the Face of Christ.
He wrote in his meditations on The Agony of Jesus of the Face of Jesus, the “Innocent Lamb,” “His Face covered with sadness and at the same time with love:”
“He [Jesus] seems to be at the extremity of suffering… He is prostrate with His Face to the ground before the majesty of His Father. The Sacred Face of Him Who enjoys through the hypostatic union the beatific vision of the Divine Glory accorded to both Angels and Saints in Heaven, lies disfigured on the ground. My God! My Jesus! Art Thou not the God of Heaven and earth, equal in all things to Thy Father, Who humiliates Thee to the point of losing even the semblance of man? …It is to repair and expiate for my haughtiness, that Thou bowest down thus before Thy Father.”
It is no wonder then, in the extremity of his own suffering, St. Padre Pio’s last case of bi-location was before the relic of the Holy Face of Jesus at the shrine of “Il Volto Santo” in Manoppello, Italy, 200 km north of San Giovanni Rotundo, where Padre Pio lay dying. His friend and fellow Friar Minor Capuchin, the Servant of God, Padre Domenico da Cese, was at that time the rector of the shrine. Padre Domenico gave testimony that at the dawn of the last day of St. Padre Pio’s earthly life, he unlocked the doors of the shrine of the Holy Face and was astounded to find Padre Pio in prayer, in the choir behind the altar before the Sacred Image of the Face of Jesus. St. Padre Pio spoke then to Padre Domenico saying, “I do not trust myself any more. I am coming to an end. Pray for me. Good bye until we meet in Paradise.” 24 hours later St. Padre Pio died in his cell in San Giovanni.
“If I know that someone is afflicted in body or in soul, what will I not do in the presence of the Lord to see him freed from these evils? I should willingly take upon myself all his sufferings, if I could only free him from them. I should surrender in his favor the fruits of these sufferings, if the Lord were to permit it.” — St. Padre Pio
Below are photos of the miraculous image “Il Volto Santo” that Padre Pio prayed before in his own agony. This “living image” is very difficult to capture in a photograph because it is a changing image, one face, an infinite number of expressions but always a Face of Mercy and Peace.
Jesus makes Himself our mirror – “He who never meditates is like a person who never looks in the mirror, therefore, not knowing that he is untidy, he goes out looking disorderly. The person who meditates and directs his thoughts to God, Who is the mirror of his soul, tries to know his faults, attempts to correct them, moderates his impulses, and puts his conscience in order.” — St. Padre Pio
September 17th marks the anniversary of the death of the Holy Capuchin priest of Manoppello–the Servant of God, Padre Domenico da Cese.
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!”
A short time after Padre Domenico arrived in Manoppello the people were saying, “We have received a Saint!”
In her book, Servant of God, Padre Domenico Da Cese, O.F.M. Capuchin, An Illustrated Biography Petra-Maria Steiner relates an example of Padre Domenico’s extraordinary gifts in the testimony of Giuseppe Orlando, whose fiancee, Anna Maria introduced him to the Padre. After spending nearly an hour in conversation, Padre Domenico suggested that Giuseppe have a mass said for his grandmother, Maria Grazia. “Giuseppe was astonished, ‘But who is she? I don’t have any grandmother by that name.’ Padre Domenico told him not to ask questions but to just say a mass for her.” So, Giuseppe had arranged for a mass for “Maria Grazia.” Still bothered and wanting to get to the bottom of the truth, he went home and researched, and to his surprise he discovered that his father’s mother, who died when his father was only five years old, was named Maria Grazia. His father had been so young when she died that he had forgotten her name.
Like his friend and fellow Capuchin, St. Padre Pio, the humble Padre Domenico was also a mystic and stigmatist who had extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit; such as the gift of “reading souls” and bi-location. Penitents who traveled from Manoppello to go to confession with Padre Pio were admonished by him for traveling such a distance when they already had a holy priest in Manoppello. He told them, ” Why did you come all the way here, so far? You’ve got a priest there, my spiritual son, he’s like me!” St. Padre Pio’s last documented case of bi-location, just before he died, was before the relic of the Holy Face of Jesus at the shrine of “Il Volto Santo” in Manoppello, where Padre Domenico was the rector. Padre Pio had told his fellow Capuchins that the Holy Face of Manoppello was the greatest relic of the Church.
In September of 1968, as Padre Pio lay dying in San Giovanni Rotundo (which is about 200 km south of Manoppello in Italy), his friend Padre Domenico da Cese had just unlocked the doors of the shrine of the Holy Face one morning, and was astounded to find Padre Pio in prayer, in the choir behind the altar before the sacred image of the Face of Jesus. St. Padre Pio spoke then to Padre Domenico saying, “I do not trust myself any more. I am coming to an end. Pray for me. Good-bye until we meet in Paradise.” Twenty-four hours later St. Padre Pio died in his cell in San Giovanni on September 23, 1968. Testimony was later given by witnesses that Padre Domenico da Cese was seen at Padre Pio’s funeral (another case of bi-location). A film was even taken (here) which shows Padre Domenico walking slowly in Padre Pio’s funeral procession, even though Padre Domenico had never left the shrine in Manoppello.
Padre Domenico shared with everyone his ardent love and devotion for the Holy Face of Manoppello, also known as “Il Volto Santo” — a miraculous veil which transmits supernatural beauty, and at the same time indescribable suffering. It is the Face of Mercy, Love and Peace. He would tell pilgrims, “This face is that of Jesus, and it is a great miracle, always love him.”Padre Domenico had done much research on the sheer byssus veil, the image of which is not made with any paint or pigment, and compared the iridescent quality of the colors to the wings of butterflies which also reflect iridescent color naturally. He also made studies of the Face on the Shroud of Turin, and its similarities to the Holy Face of Manoppello. He believed with all his heart that it was the face of the same man, and he was convinced that, like the Shroud of Turin, the Veil of Manoppello was one of the many burial cloths in Jesus’s tomb–the holy sudarium which covered the Face of Jesus in death–and also miraculously bears witness to His Resurrection.
On September 13 of 1978 while visiting Turin to venerate the Holy Face on the Shroud during a rare exposition, Padre Domenico, who was a giant of a man, was hit by the smallest car, a Fiat, as he was stepping out into a street. After suffering for several days in a hospital, and forgiving the man who had hit him, he died on September 17th, offering his life for the Holy Face on the Veil–the Face of the man who saved him as a child.
Prayer for the intercession of Servant of God Padre Domenico da Cese
Oh God, you gave Padre Domenico the capacity of recognizing in the poor and the suffering the very Holy Face of your beloved Son, whose devotion he promoted with such zeal, through his intercession obtain for me the humility of heart, and simplicity of the little ones to whom you have revealed the secrets of the Kingdom, and in my hour of trial give me the strength to overcome the seductions of evil in order to put Satan to flight, and to merit, at the end of my earthly pilgrimage, to be able to contemplate the Holy Face of Jesus in the glory of paradise.
Though unworthy as I am of your Divine favors, I ask that you might grant, through the intercession of your faithful servant Padre Domenico, the grace I humbly ask of you…
“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”
“Seeking the Face of God in everything, everyone, all the time, and His hand in every happening; this is what it means to be contemplative in the heart of the world. Seeing and adoring the presence of Jesus, especially in the lowly appearance of bread, and in the distressing disguise of the poor.” ~St. Teresa of Calcutta