“The Essence of Charity” – Holy Face Novena 2021 Begins Soon

“It is the Church’s task to reflect the light of Christ in every historical period, to make His Face shine also before the generations of the new millennium.  Our witness, however, would be hopelessly inadequate if we ourselves had not first contemplated His Face.”

–Pope St. John Paul II

“For God so loved the world” 

The Holy Face Novena will begin on Sunday, February 7th, and will be posted here for each day.

The Feast of the Holy Face for 2021 will be on  February 16th –“Shrove Tuesday” — the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.

“Do you see how I suffer? Yet, very few understand me. Those who say they love me are very ungrateful! I have given my HEART as the sensible object of my great LOVE to men and I give my FACE as the sensible object of my sorrow for the sins of men. I wish that it be venerated by a special Feast on Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. I wish that the feast be preceded by a novena in which the faithful make reparation with Me, joining together and sharing in my sorrow.” –Words of Our Lord to Bl. Mother Maria Pierina de Micheli  

c. 1510, Dirk Bouts, Carmel of Toledo, Spain. It is believed that this is the image of Christ the St. Teresa of Avila was praying before when her dramatic conversion occurred.

There are many saints and blesseds associated with the devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus, too many to mention — but, the Face of Christ was the foundation of their prayer life. St. Teresa of Avila, Discalced Carmelite foundress, wrote, “Never set aside the Sacred Humanity of Christ.” We cannot come to the Father except through Him.  

Sr. Marie St. Pierre was also a Carmelite nun, of Tours, France, in the 1800s. She received communications from Our Lord, who asked for a devotion to His Holy Face and a Work of Reparation: the offering His Holy Face to the Father in reparation for the sins of blasphemy, sacrilege, the crimes of atheistic communism, the profanation of the Holy Name, and the Holy Day of Sunday. The sins against the first three if the Ten Commandments are the greatest sins against God. The damage done by our sins to our relationship with God are reflected in the Face of of His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. For this reason, devotion and reparation to the Holy Face is fitting in order to make amends for what we have done to Him.

Our Lord said to her, “I have taken upon my Head all the sins of mankind, so that my members may be spared. Therefore, offer my Face to the Father, this is the means of appeasing Him.”

“My daughter, I give you my Face and my Heart, I give you my Blood, and I open my wounds to you; draw from them and pour it out. Buy without money, my Blood that is the price of souls. Oh! What grief for my Heart to see the remedies which have cost me so dearly, scorned. Ask from my Father as many souls as the number of drops of Blood that I shed during my Passion.”

St. Therese of Lisieux, who read the revelations of Our Lord to Sr. Marie St. Pierre taught the novices under her care to recite these two aspirations of Sr. Marie St. Pierre every day: At the elevation of the Host, “Most Holy Father, look upon the Face of your Jesus, and make as many elect as there are sinners.” and at the elevation of the chalice, “O Divine Blood of Jesus, water our earth, and cause the elect to spring up!”

“The Reparation is a Work destined to save society.”  Pope Pius IX

“All who will undertake this work and who will truly devote themselves to it will not die the eternal death. I will defend their cause before my Father and I will give them the kingdom of Heaven.” 

“This work is the essence of charity!” — Our Lord to Sr. Marie St. Pierre

Carmelite nun Sr. Marie St. Pierre, who received revelations about the devotion to the Face of Jesus

It is interesting to note that the drawing of the Face of Christ, known as the Holy Face of Tours, that is most often associated with Sr. Marie St. Pierre, OCD, actually came to the Carmelite Monastery of Tours only after her death. In 1851, the Prioress of the Tours Carmel, had received two facsimile copies, obtained from Rome, from the Benedictine nuns of Arras, who, in the tradition of St. Gertrude, also had a devotion to the Holy Face.

But there was another treasured painting of the Holy Face that already existed in the monastery when Sr. Marie St. Pierre entered Carmel:

“The Carmelites possess a very interesting historical picture worthy of veneration; a beautiful image of Our Lord, the original of which, it is said, is preserved at Gênes, and is regarded by pious tradition as the true portrait of our Lord Jesus Christ that He, Himself, sent to King Abgare. A small number of copies of the picture have been taken, and are to be seen in Spain.”

— from the Life of Sr. Marie St. Pierre 1884

I am continuing to research what the original Holy Face painting of the Tours monastery looked like, and where it may be today. (Perhaps French readers, or other Carmelites may know and could help?) Below is an historic 8th century painting of King Abgare receiving what became known as the Holy Face of Edessa, or the Mandylion. The “true image” depicted 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, especially on the left cheek. His wavy hair is long and parted with a small, short lock of curls at the center. His open eyes are peaceful and looking slightly to one side. His mouth is partially open. The image was reported to have been miraculous, not only in appearance, but also as an instrument of healing.

Click here if you would like to read a little of the History of images of the Holy Face.

King Abgare receives the image of the Face of Jesus

Devotion to the Holy Face is so much more that venerating images of the Face of Christ. It is seeking God’s Face in the Gospels, in His Eucharistic Face, in our neighbor, and through the eyes of Mary — contemplating with her, the Face of Jesus in the mysteries of the Rosary:

“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…To contemplate Christ involves being able to recognize Him wherever He manifests Himself, in His many forms of presence, but above all, in the living Sacrament of His Body and Blood.”

Pope St. John Paul II

The Choice To Honor God – Omnis Terra!

Basilica of Il Volto Santo in Manoppello, Italy. Photo:Paul Badde/EWTN

Beginning at 0.53 Omnis Terra in Manoppello, Italy on Vaticano

On Sunday,  January 17, at 11 am, the Holy Face Basilica in Manoppello, Italy held the Eucharistic Celebration and solemn blessing  on the occasion of the feast Omnis Terra. In honor of the procession that Pope Innocent III began in 1208, processing the Sacred Veil of the Holy Face in Rome, from Saint Peter’s Basilica to that of Santo Spirito of Sassia.

Omnis Terra, Latin for “All the Earth,” is the name given to the Second Sunday in Ordinary time.,  The Gospel is a revelation of His glory is the cause for all the earth rejoicing, giving praise.

Gospel Jn 1:35-42

John was standing with two of his disciples,
and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said,
“Behold, the Lamb of God.”
The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.
Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them,
“What are you looking for?”
They said to him, “Rabbi” — which translated means Teacher —,
“where are you staying?”
He said to them, “Come, and you will see.”
So they went and saw where Jesus was staying,
and they stayed with him that day.
It was about four in the afternoon.
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter,
was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.
He first found his own brother Simon and told him,
“We have found the Messiah” — which is translated Christ —.
Then he brought him to Jesus.
Jesus looked at him and said,
“You are Simon the son of John;
you will be called Cephas” — which is translated Peter.

Omnis Terra Procession of Pope Innocent II in 1208 carrying “the Veronica” Face of Christ (from “Liber Regulae Sancti Spiritus in Saxia” manuscript 1350)
Archbishop Ganswein, Photo: Daniel Ibanez/EWTN

Homily of Celebrant Archbishop Ganswein – copyright EWTN

Basilica of the Volto Santo

Manoppello, Sunday, January 17, 2021

Dear brothers in the priestly ministry,

dear representatives of the civil authorities,

dear sisters and brothers in the Lord.

“As [John] watched Jesus walk by, he said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God,’” we heard earlier in the Gospel. We can also say the same words here with John the Evangelist every day in view of the face of Christ in the Volto Santo.

Omnis terra is the name of today’s Sunday in the liturgical calendar, after the Latin words of Psalm 65 at the beginning of this Holy Mass: Omnis terra adoret te, Deus, et psallat tibi! That means in English, “Let all the earth worship you and praise you, o God; may it sing in praise of your name.” We have gathered here today, too, for this ancient praise of God by all the earth, in the Pontifical Basilica of the Volto Santo.

The occasion for this feast day is the memory of the same Sunday of the year 1208, when Pope Innocent III carried this true image of the Lord, which we see and venerate here above the main altar, as humbly as a mendicant monk from the old Basilica of St. Peter in Rome to the sick of the capital, as well as the sick pilgrims from all over Europe, to the nearby Hospital of the Holy Spirit. The most powerful and power-conscious pope of the Middle Ages brought the archetype of the merciful God barefoot to the sick and dying!

Before that, this precious veil icon had been kept hidden for a long time. With this step, the image came out into the open and became publicly known for the first time in the entire Catholic universal Church — on this Sunday in winter, which even then, in January 1208, began with the same words from the psalm as today: omnis terra.

But that Pope Innocent III at that time carried the holy face, together with his canons, not to the scholars and nobles of the city, but to the sick and the poor of Rome, we must especially remember today, January 17, 2021, when the expression omnis terra — “all the earth” — has taken on a startling reality as perhaps never before! For all the world is suddenly threatened by an invisible virus, all continents, all skin colors, nations and religions — truly all the people of this earth, young and old! All the world suddenly fears disease and death together, from Tierra del Fuego to Vladivostok. When was the expression omnis terra ever more timely and burning!

Therefore, it was for me a sacred duty as well as a great joy to come today, despite all the coronavirus obstacles, from Rome to Manoppello, where at present no pilgrims can come because of the pandemic. I had to come to bring the Volto Santo, at least through the medium of the moving images of television, to as many sick and lonely people as possible!

That is why I now also remember with gratitude the day five years ago today when Fr. Carmine Cucinelli invited me and the memorable Archbishop Edmund Farhat from Lebanon to celebrate the divine mysteries with a copy of the Volto Santo in the Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia in Rome on January 17, 2016. For Father Carmine, as rector of the Basilica in Manopello at that time, had come up with the idea of introducing a third annual feast for the veneration of the Volto Santo during the “Jubilee of Mercy” that Pope Francis had proclaimed for the year 2016. And the Sunday omnis terra, in memory of the pioneering initiative of Innocent III in the distant year 1208, was simply the most suitable for this.

But I also remember, as if it were yesterday, how I was able to accompany Pope Benedict XVI on his “private pilgrimage” here on September 1, 2006, when he had decided, despite much resistance, to visit and venerate the Volto Santo in Manoppello as the first Pope in over 400 years, shortly before visiting his Bavarian homeland. And now it seems to me almost like divine providence that at that time he had chosen the same passage from the Gospel of John that we have just heard, in order to put into the following wordshis thoughts on this historic encounterbefore the Cappuchin friars and faithful gathered here with the holy veil:

Veil of the Holy Face of Manoppello, Photo: Daniel Ibanez/EWTN

During my pause for prayer just now, I was thinking of the first two Apostles who, urged by John the Baptist, followed Jesus to the banks of the Jordan River […]. The Evangelist recounts that Jesus turned around and asked them: “What do you seek?” And they answered him, “Rabbi […] where are you staying?” And he said to them, “Come and see.” That very same day, the two who were following him had an unforgettable experience which prompted them to say: “We have found the Messiah.” The One whom a few hours earlier they had thought of as a simple “rabbi” had acquired a very precise identity: the identity of Christ who had been awaited for centuries. But, in fact, what a long journey still lay ahead of those disciples! They could not even imagine how profound the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth could be or how unfathomable, inscrutable, his “Face” would prove, so that even after living with Jesus for three years, Philip, who was one of them, was to hear him say at the Last Supper: “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip?” And then the words that sum up the novelty of Jesus’ revelation: “He who has seen me has seen the Father.”

Thus far Benedict XVI on September 1, 2006.

If we take his word, and this word of the Lord, quite seriously, we see the Father also here, where the Son reveals his essence to us forever, and where we see: He lives – as Savior and Redeemer.

Pope Benedict had not come barefoot like Pope Innocent, but by helicopter from Castel Gandolfo to Manoppello at the invitation of Archbishop Bruno Forte, and I still remember very vividly every moment of that meeting, as well as May 15, 2009, when Benedict XVI visited the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, from which the veil of the Volto Santo — as well as the Shroud of Turin — originates as incomparable news of the resurrection of Christ from the dead. It cannot be otherwise. After the spectacular visit of Pope Paul VI on January 4, 1964, the empty tomb of Christ in Jerusalem has also been visited by Pope John Paul II in March 2000 and Pope Francis in May 2014. Benedict XVI’s pilgrimage to Manoppello on September 1, 2006, on the other hand, can only be compared to the procession through which Pope Innocent III made known the “True Icon,” popularly known as “Veronica,” in Western Christendom more than 800 years ago. Pope Benedict, however, on September 1, 2006, brought the personal and “human face of God” back to the Church and to all the world. He came all alone and not in the entourage of his advisors or the canons of Saint Peter. And he came shyly and reservedly, as is his way, and only for contemplation and prayer. A celebration of the Eucharist or a public blessing with the Volto Santo was not thought of at that time. But then thousands of pilgrims followed him here, who in his footsteps carried the sentence from the Gospel of John around the whole world: “Come and see!”

Church history will record this forever. And for this, the civil authorities of the city of Manoppello already gave him the keys of your City at the Vatican on November 3, 2010, in the presence of Archbishop Bruno Forte. For this I thank you again with all my heart, as well as all the friars of the Capuchin Order and all the citizens of Manoppello, and today I thank you again especially and personally for the precious privilege of celebrating the Holy Eucharist here with you for all the sick and suffering of all the earth, under the merciful gaze of Christ: “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world!”


Archbishop Georg Gänswein

Prefect of the Papal Household

January 17, 2021

Archbishop Ganswein, Feast of Omnis Terra 2021, Photo: Daniel Ibanez/EWTN


“For God so loved the world”

The essence of the devotion to the Holy Face is to give honor and glory to God’s Holy Name, and make reparation to God for blasphemy, atheism, idolatry, and the profanation of the Holy Name and the Holy Day of Sunday. Jesus said, “I am in my Father, and my Father is in Me” (John 14:11). The merit of a person lies in his character, but the glory of his reputation rests on his good name. The Holy Name of God expresses the Divinity, and contains all the perfections of the Creator. Those who blaspheme and reject God’s love insult God directly. Because Jesus became man at the Incarnation, it is He who has suffered in His Holy Face all the outrages committed by blasphemers in the name of His Father. God has chosen the most universally understood realities to reach our souls, the most simple and human symbols — the heart and the face. The only perfect offering that can be made to God to atone for these terrible insults and rejection of God is the Holy Face of His Son Jesus, which reflects all the love of His Eucharistic Heart.

We have seen great crowds fill the streets this year for various protests and political demonstrations to honor this cause or that with the religious-like fervor of pagan cults. But few have filled the streets in procession for the honor and glory of Our God and Creator.

 A choice is set before us: The false faces of idol worship or seeking the Face of the one true God. For those who choose idols, we have the warning of the prophets:

“One day they will invoke the Lord, but He will not answer them, and on that day He will hide His Face from them because of the evil of their conduct.”

(Micah 3:4)

But those who choose to contemplate the Face of Christ will be transformed into His Image:

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

(2 Cor 3:18)

Pope Benedict XVI
“Come and see!”Pope Benedict XVI gazes on the Holy Face of Manoppello photo: Paul Badde

God has a face and a name. The expression “name of God” means God as He Who is present among men. “His name,” Pope Benedict XVI says, “is the concrete sign of His Existence.” When we praise His Name, we are rejoicing in the splendor of His Face.  Benedict wrote:

 “To rejoice in the splendor of His Face means penetrating the mystery of His Name made known to us in Jesus, understanding something of His Interior life and of His will, so that we can live according to His plan for humanity. Jesus lets us know the hidden Face of the Father through His human Face; by the gift of the Holy Spirit poured into our hearts.”

Those who choose God have a reason for all the earth to rejoice!

The “Omnis Terra” (All the Earth) procession in honor of the Holy Face  had its beginning in 1208 when Pope Innocent III processed with the Veil of the Holy Face  from St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome to Spirito Santo church and hospital, giving alms to the poor and the sick along the way.  Our Lord’s Holy Face and Holy Name are also honored by a feast and procession at the Basilica Sanctuary of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Italy,  on this day, the Second Sunday after Epiphany, inviting “All the Earth” to join them in celebrating Our Lord, who has “revealed His glory” so that we too may believe. 

If you would like to participate remotely on this beautiful occasion, the celebration on Sunday, January 17 at 11 am in the Basilica Minor of the Holy Face of Manoppello will be live streamed live on the Sanctuary, and may also be viewed at a later time: Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/basilicavoltosanto

detail of Face of Jesus on the Holy Veil from the precious manuscript “Liber Regulae Sancti Spiritus in Saxia”

Let all the earth worship and praise You, O God; may it sing in praise of Your Name, O Most High. Shout joyfully to the Lord all the earth; sing a psalm in honor of His Name, praise Him with magnificence!  

–Omnis Terra Introit

Holy Veil of Manoppello, photo: Patricia Enk

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 ForteArchbishop of Chieti – Vasto (Italy)