Apostle of the Holy Face of Manoppello

“This face is that of Jesus, and it is a great miracle, always love him.”

–Servant of God, Padre Domenico da Cese

Venerable Padre Domenico da Cese 1915-1978
Servant of God, Padre Domenico da Cese 1915-1978

The annual celebration of the life of the Servant of God, Padre Domenico da Cese will be held at the Basilica Shrine of “Il Volto Santo” on September 20th, in  Manoppello, Italy.

(Details of the celebration may be found on Holy Face of Manopello blogspot.) 

The byssus Veil of Manoppello, which is thought to be one of the burial cloths of Jesus, photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

He was born on March 27, 1905, and was baptized Emidio Petracca, named for St. Emidio (c.279-309 AD), the saint who is invoked for protection in earthquakes. As a nine year old boy in 1915, young Emidio 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!” 

St. Pio called the Holy Face Veil of Manoppello “The greatest relic of the Church.”

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.

The Veil of the Holy Face of Manoppello
Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

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.

The penetrating and gentle gaze of the Holy Face of Manoppello, Italy Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN
The Holy Face of Manoppello- photo: Paul Badde/EWTN


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

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…   


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 Fr. Domenico, from Cese to Turin (click here)

Sr. Petra-Maria Steiner has also written his biography, now in English,  Servant of God, Padre Domenico Da Cese, O.F.M. Capuchin, An Illustrated Biography   

Click here for the Padre Domenico da Cese FaceBook page 

Prayer to the Holy Face for the liberation from the coronavirus

Lord Jesus, Savior of the world, hope that will never disappoint us, have mercy on us and deliver us from all evil! Please overcome the scourge of this virus which is spreading, heal the sick, preserve the healthy, support those who work for the health of all. Show us your face of mercy and save us in your great love. We ask you through the intercession of Mary, Your Mother and ours, who faithfully accompanies us. You who live and reign forever and ever. Amen.
+ Bruno Forte
Archbishop of Chieti – Vasto (Italy)

Wisdom and the Cross

Crucifixion – Diego Velàzquez, 1632

A dear friend and fellow Carmelite was recently hospitalized. She had an accident which caused multiple fractures and a great of deal pain. The next day, she sent a text which astonished me considering the suffering she was enduring. It was not a litany of complaints, but a testimony to her faith. The text read:

Where charity and love are… God is there!

This is wisdom. A life that is lived in love, seeking the Face of Christ, will find that love on the Cross.  St. Louis de Montfort once wrote, “Wisdom is the Cross and the Cross is Wisdom.” In order to love and seek divine Incarnate Wisdom, who is Jesus, we need to know Him, and to know Him we must follow Him to the Cross. It is at the Cross that the Holy Spirit’s supreme gift of wisdom produces in us the most faithful resemblance to Jesus Christ.

Christ gave Himself to us by suffering on a Cross. When we suffer, and offer that suffering for the love of Jesus, we are giving something of ourselves that turns to joy. St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face wrote about the profound mystery of the cross in her own spiritual life: “I found happiness and joy in the world, but only in pain.”  The reason Therese said this was that she knew that the pain she suffered for souls, in the charity of total self-giving, purified her love and made it triumphant, resulting in a joy and a peace which nothing in the world could take away.

So many in the world are suffering now. Everywhere you turn, you meet the Cross! If only they would seek the Face of Christ in their pain, as my friend did, they would experience for themselves that Christian suffering is divinized suffering. Since incarnate Wisdom, Jesus Christ, had to enter heaven by the Cross, we must enter by the same way. In the pain that is offered through Christ, the Holy Spirit produces, by the gift of wisdom, a deep and profound peace in our soul, stilling the turbulent waters, and reflecting the most perfect image of the Face of the Son to the Father. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “But we all, with face unveiled, reflecting as in a mirror the glory of the Lord are being transformed into His very image from glory to glory, as through the spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor 3:18).  Who can comprehend it? But this is the Wisdom of God: His Cross is His glory.

“Eternal Wisdom is a breath of the power of God, a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty. Hence nothing defiled gains entrance into Him. He is the reflection of eternal light, the spotless mirror of God’s majesty, the image of His goodness”  (Wisdom 7:25).


The ‘Wisdom’ Cross by St. Louis De Montfort