The Resurrection – “The Cloth That Covered His Head”

Re-posting this from April 2020: “The Cloth That Covered His Head” About three of several burial cloths of Christ: the Shroud of Turin, the Cloth of Oviedo, and the precious byssus veil that was believed to cover the Face of Christ in the tomb – known as “Il Volto Santo” – The Holy Face of Manoppello. Possibly the very reason that St. John “Saw and believed.”

Holy Veil of Manoppello said to be the image of the Resurrected Christ
Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of the Resurrection, Eugene Burnand, 1898

So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.
For they did not yet understand the Scripture
that he had to rise from the dead.  (John 20: 1-9)

At the time of Jesus, the Jewish law required several “cloths” to be used for burial, and as many as six for someone who had died a violent death. Christian tradition has preserved six cloths as relics that are associated with the burial of Jesus – 1.) The Shroud of Turin, 2.) the Sudarium of Oviedo in Spain, 3.) The Sudarium Veil of Manoppello, 4.) The Sudarium of Kornelimunster in Germany, 5.) The SindonMunda of Aachen, Germany, 6.) The Cap of Cahors in France.

Three  of the cloths in particular stand out as extraordinary “witnesses” to the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus, and together they bear a powerful testimony to the truth of the Gospels. Each one bearing an imprint or image of the Face of Jesus. They are: The Sudarium of Oviedo, The Shroud of Turin, and the Sudarium Veil of Manoppello. The remarkable relationship between these three “cloths” leave little doubt that each came in contact with the face of the same man at the time of burial.

Sudarium of Oviedo

 The Sudarium of Oviedo directly touched Jesus’s head following His Crucifixion. Blood was considered sacred to the Jews, so this cloth was used to soak up the Precious Blood of Jesus, by wrapping it around Jesus’s Head, as He was taken down from the Cross. The largest bloodstains are from the nose, other stains are from the eyes and other parts of the face.  There is also an imprint on the sudarium of the hand of the person who held this cloth to Jesus’s Face to staunch the flow of blood. It takes one’s breath away to see that the bloodstains on the Sudarium of Oviedo, when overlaid with the Face on the Shroud of Turin and the Sudarium Veil of Manoppello, correspond perfectly. The blood type is AB, the same as on the Shroud of Turin.

Face on the Shroud of Turin by photographer Secondo Pia, 1898

“He went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there”

The Shroud of Turin; the sindone, or linen burial shroud, was believed to have been used to wrap the entire body of Christ. It is the most famous and studied of the three cloths. The faint but visible imprint on the Shroud of Turin gives witness to the violent torture of a man as described in the Passion and Death of Jesus in the Scripture. The world was amazed when Secondo Pia first photographed the Face on the Shroud in 1898; the negative of the photo incredibly became visible as a positive image. The Shroud of Turin caused an entire branch of science to be dedicated to its research called Sindonology. 

The Sudarium Veil of the Face of Christ, Photo: Patricia Enk

 The Sudarium Veil of Manoppello, Italy, is perhaps the least known of the three burial “cloths.” The Veil bears the image of the living Face of Jesus. This “miracle of light,” “not made by human hands,” was protected and hidden in an isolated church in the Abbruzzi Mountains for centuries. It is believed to be the “cloth” that covered the Face of Jesus in death, showing traces of the Passion: Bruises, swelling, wounds from the Crown of Thorns, and plucked beard.  But, it is also believed to have recorded in light the Face of Jesus at the moment of His Resurrection. No, this is not a contradiction. Yes, the image changes. It shows suffering, but it also shows life!

“The cloth that had covered his head”

Funeral of Pope St. John Paul II, Archbishop Dziwisz covers the pope’s face with a veil.

An explanation about the tradition of a face cloth for burial may be helpful in understanding its profound significance:  In the funeral rites for priests in some Eastern churches, the veil which was used to cover the chalice and paten were placed on the face of the deceased priest. (The cloth used to cover the chalice and paten had a particular liturgical symbolism linked to the Face of Christ as well.) It was done as a symbol of both the strength and protection of God, and also of the tomb of Christ–an expression of belief in the Resurrection. In Jewish burial custom, a deceased priest’s face would be anointed with oil and then covered with a white cloth, and would have been done for Jesus.

When Pope St. John Paul II was being laid in his coffin, Archbishops Marini and Stanley Dziwisz had the honor of placing a white silk veil over the face of the pope. Poignantly, the choir sang the words from Psalm 42, “My soul thirsts for God, the living God; when will I come and see the Face of the Lord?” Many wondered about the action of covering the pope’s face with a veil because this was the first time it had been done, but was at the request of Pope John Paul II, who had dedicated the millennium to the Face of Christ.

Byssus “Pinna Nobilis” fit for a King! Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

The cloth that would cover the Face of Christ would have to be made of a material fit for a King, a High Priest, and a God. Byssus, mentioned in the Bible forty times, also known as “sea-silk,” is more rare and precious than gold and it has an exceedingly fine texture which can be woven. Made from the long tough silky filaments of Pinna Nobilis mollusks that anchor them to the seabed, it is strong enough to resist the extreme hydrodynamic forces of the sea. Byssus has a shimmering, iridescent quality which reflects light. It is extremely delicate, yet strong at the same time. It resists water, weak acids, bases, ethers, and alcohols. Byssus cannot be painted, as it does not retain pigments, it can only be dyed; and then, only purple.  It can also last for more than 2000 years.

Kurt Cardinal Koch contemplates the Veil “not made by human hands” of Manoppello. Sheer and delicate, yet the Face is visible. Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

The Sudarium Veil of Manoppello is also made of rare, precious, byssus silk.  The skill needed to weave a byssus veil as fine as the Veil of the Holy Face of Manoppello is exceedingly great.  Chiara Vigo, known as “the last woman who weaves byssus,” has said that neither she nor anyone alive today could duplicate the gossamer-thin veil, which is sheer enough to read a newspaper through.  The weave is so delicate, she says, that only the nimble fingers of a very skillful child could weave something so fine.

Miraculous Holy Face Veil Photo: Paul Badde (see “Manoppello Image” tab)

It is only through light that this shimmering image of the Face of Jesus may be seen, and at times appears as a “living image” as though it were reflected in a mirror, at other times the image completely disappears.  Although no camera can adequately capture the image, thanks to the many amazing photos of journalist Paul Badde, the changes that occur when viewing the veil may be better appreciated.  (Click here for more photos, and information about Paul Badde’s books and videos about the Holy Face.)

Servant of God Padre Domenico da Cese (1915-1978) before the Veil of Manoppello

While the Face on the Shroud of Turin clearly shows the Face of Jesus in death with eyes closed, the Sudariam of Manoppello has eyes open–bearing witness to the Resurrection. That was the ardent belief of the former Rector of the Basilica Shrine of the Holy Face, Servant of God Padre Domenico da Cese.  

There are many physiological reasons too for believing that the Face Cloth captures the first breath of the Resurrection. Sr. Blandina Paschalis Schlomer, who shares that belief, has provided meticulous research about the Veil in her book JESUS CHRIST, The Lamb and the Beautiful Shepherd, The Encounter with the Veil of Manoppello.  Sr. Blandina together with Fr. Fr. Heinrich Pfeiffer, S.J., Professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, have each demonstrated that the Holy Face on the Veil of Manoppello is the proto-image of the earliest icons, and other works of art depicting the Face of Jesus.

As the first rays of light entered the tomb, John and Peter, upon entering, “saw and believed.”               Sudarium Veil of Manoppello, Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

“…and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.”  

Pope Benedict XVI, who came as a pilgrim to Manoppello on September 1, 2006, Fr. Heinrich Pfeiffer, S.J., Paul Badde, and Sr. Blandina Schlomer

What did St. John see in the tomb that would cause him to believe? A cloth of blood, such as the Oviedo? The Shroud of Turin? It is a miraculous image, but shows the Face of a dead man. A third witness was needed in order for the disciple to believe. It could only have been evidence of something as astounding as the Resurrection; proof that Jesus was alive!

It is human nature to want to see things for ourselves. Many pilgrims, humble and great, have felt called to make the journey to visit the miraculous relic. If it is God’s handiwork, and I believe that is true, then one can only wonder at its existence, and gaze in silent contemplation, giving thanks for this tremendous gift of God… so we too may “see and believe.”

“We cannot stop at the image of the Crucified One; He is the Risen One!” –Pope St. John Paul II

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

“”While we too seek other signs, other wonders, we do not realize that He is the real sign, God made flesh; He is the greatest miracle of the universe:  all the love of God hidden in a human heart, in a human face.”  ~ Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI gazes at the Veil of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Photo:Paul Badde/EWTN

“Show us, O Lord, we pray you, Your Face ever new; that mirror, mystery-laden, of God’s infinite mercy. Grant that we may contemplate it with the eyes of our mind and our hearts: the Son’s Face, radiance of the Father’s glory and the imprint of His Nature (cf. Hb 1:3), the human Face of God that has burst into history to reveal the horizons of eternity. The silent Face of Jesus, suffering and risen, when loved and accepted, changes our hearts and lives. “Your Face, Lord, do I seek, do not hide Your Face from me.” (Ps. 27:8ff) How many times through the centuries and millennia has resounded the ardent invocation of the Psalmist among the faithful! Lord, with faith, we too repeat the same invocation: “Man of suffering, as one from whom other hide their faces.” (Is. 53:3) Do not hide your Face from us!”  (Portion of a prayer in honor of the Holy Face of Manoppello by Pope Benedict XVI)

Happy Easter!

Jesus Christ has truly risen indeed! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

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

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)

To learn more about the history of the Holy Face of Manoppello, click here to read “Four Stories, One Face.”

Or watch this wonderful video below, “The Human Face of God.”

And a recent Vaticano episode:

Digging Deeper to Reflect Christ’s Image

On March 29, 2016, I was driving from Louisiana to Hanceville, Alabama to pay my respects to a woman whom I had never met in my life, yet to whom I owed a great debt of gratitude. Everything that was most important to me was the result of this woman’s determination, suffering, and perseverance for the love of Jesus.

Mother Angelica born into Eternal life, Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016.

Born on April 20, 1923, Rita Antoinette Rizzo had a tough road ahead of her. Little Rita’s father had abandoned her family, forcing her mother and four brothers to move in with her grandparents, who owned a saloon. The neighborhood wasn’t exactly ideal for a child growing up; mob figures and prostitutes were part of the landscape in Canton, Ohio, at that time. She suffered greatly not only from poverty but poor health. Rita’s parents hadn’t been particularly religious either. But the Italian community had faith, and by God’s grace, Jesus gradually drew Rita closer.

Rita was what you would call “a tough cookie,” a hardheaded, hot tempered, wise-cracking kid. And to make a long story short; no-one expected that wise-cracking kid to become a contemplative nun and the foundress of a Poor Clare Monastery in the mostly Protestant south, or that she would start a world-wide Catholic television network, or that she would build a “Temple,” the Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament at the request of the Child Jesus.

“The Saints determined, at some point in their lives, to follow Jesus. A vacuum deep in their souls began to be filled, for they found the Pearl of great price. They all changed their lives, some their state in life, but they did not get rid of their weaknesses. They fought harder, conquered more often, and grew like Jesus, in grace and wisdom before God and men.”

–Mother Angelica

How did something so unimaginable come about? There is no doubt Mother Angelica would point to the Eucharist as her answer. It was from the Blessed Sacrament that she drew her inspiration, her strength and courage to accomplish all that she had done. It was never easy, but she knew how to dig deep when things got tough.

“Sometimes, when the cross just seems too heavy and you can’t seem to carry it any longer, go to church to the Blessed Sacrament, if you can, or just in your living room, tell the Lord: I thirst for Your Love, for Your Understanding. Give me strength. Give me courage.”

–Mother Angelica

“In our life as Contemplatives, we may never see the fruit of all the prayers and penance we do.  It isn’t easy at first, but after a while as you dig deeper into your interior and Jesus comes along with light–it dawns on you, as it must, that the only thing that the Eternal Father wants from you and from me is to become transformed in Love.  Then, the Divine Image of His Son will be so clear in us that when He looks at us, He will see no one but Jesus.” 

— Mother Angelica

To be transformed in Love is also to share in Christ’s thirst for souls, an unquenchable desire to bring souls to Jesus. And that Mother Angelica did – millions of souls – from all over the globe, she drew souls to Jesus through contemplation of His Eucharistic Face, and as a result, her soul grew “brighter and brighter,” reflecting His Image.

“We all have some aspect of Our Lord’s life that we’re attracted to. And if we’re attracted to it, Is that all, to reflect like a mirror? No. We grow brighter and brighter. For what reason? To be turned into the image we reflect.”

— Mother Angelica

A few weeks ago, I returned to visit Mother’s Angelica’s tomb. The words of St. Paul are inscribed upon it:

“And we, with our unveiled faces reflecting like mirrors the brightness of the Lord, all grow brighter and brighter as we are turned into the image that we reflect; this is the work of the Lord Who is Spirit.”

2 Corinthians 3:18

Thank you, Mother Angelica, for restoring my faith. May you gaze on God’s Face for all eternity.

Hidden Face of Jesus Revealed

An amazing discovery was made inside the Chapel of St. Roch Cemetery No. 1, in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 2017. Hidden away where the tabernacle had been was an old, deteriorated painting of the suffering Face of Jesus. St. Roch’s Chapel had been badly damaged by water and termites following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Although the chapel had been built in the 1870’s, the age of the painting could not be determined. The challenging restoration, completed in 2021, revealed that the painting had been restored at least once before, and re-stretched on a frame, losing what appears to have been a painted cloth veil surrounding the face, as well as the date or signature of an artist – if indeed there was a signature on the original. (See the full Clarion Herald article by Beth Donze, and photos of damaged painting and restoration: Link to article )

Devotion to the Holy Face has long held a special place in the hearts of the faithful of Louisiana. The Confraternity of the Holy Face of Jesus, which originated in France, was established in New Orleans in 1883 — the first in the Americas — inspiring souls to contemplate the Face of the suffering Christ in reparation for blasphemy, and as an antidote to the atheistic revolution rearing its ugly head in the world, which became known as communism. Tens of thousands of people joined the confraternity and traveled to pray in the little Carmelite Monastery Chapel dedicated to the Holy Face on Barracks Street in New Orleans.

Carmelite nun Sr. Miriam (1923-2017) standing beside the the original replica image of the Holy Face of Tours from the old Carmelite Chapel in New Orleans.
Correction: circa 1329, the fresco is from the dome of St. Bartholomew in Frankfort, Germany, at the main river. (Thank you to Paul Badde!)

What is so fascinating about the painting of the Face of Christ from St. Roch’s Chapel are the eyes – which the viewer is immediately drawn to. The painting portrays Jesus with His eyes open, as it was commonly seen in works of art centuries before, when the actual relic of the true image, or ” Veronica,” could still be seen at the Vatican by pilgrims to Rome, and copied by artists. (History) After the Sack of Rome in 1527, it was reported that the Veronica had been stolen. Although the theft has never been admitted to by the Vatican – the loss of such a precious relic would have been scandalous – pilgrims were suddenly no longer able to view the veil.

(Link here to wonderful podcast by The Catholic Traveler on the controversial “veil” that is in Vatican.)

Later images of the face on the veil were more often portrayed in various ways: such as with a Crown of Thorns, as in the painting from St. Roch’s Chapel, or with the eyes closed, as in the image of the Holy Face of Tours. The restored image of the Face of Jesus in New Orleans seems to be a renewed invitation to look into the suffering eyes of Jesus with repentance, compassion and love.

It has been argued by some that it is more fitting to contemplate the Face of Christ with His eyes closed, as His Divinity is hidden. But didn’t those who knew Jesus look into His eyes and recognize their Savior? The Word became flesh. It was for this reason that God became incarnate, suffered, died and rose again, so that we may know and love Him.

The Ecstasy of St. Francis before the Holy Face 17th Century. The Face on the veil resembles the Veil of Manoppello which is believed to be the “true image” – the sudarium veil of Jesus. (photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)

“True reverence for the Lord’s passion means fixing the eyes of our heart on Jesus crucified and recognizing in Him our own humanity.

The earth–our earthly nature–should tremble at the suffering of its Redeemer. The rocks–the hearts of unbelievers–should burst asunder. The dead, imprisoned in the tombs of their mortality, should come forth, the massive stones ripped apart. Foreshadowings of the future resurrection should appear in the holy city, the Church of God: what is to happen to our bodies should now take place in our hearts.”

–Pope St. Leo the Great
Looking into the eyes of the Holy Face Veil of Manoppello “the Living Face” Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

“While we too seek other signs, other wonders, we do not realize that He is the real sign, God made flesh; He is the greatest miracle of the universe:  all the love of God hidden in a human heart, in a human Face.” ~ Pope Benedict XVI  

St. Joseph – “He Will Increase”

St. Joseph, the image of the Father

Relationship with someone begins with a particular face and name. Through our faces we can communicate to another what is hidden deep within our souls. Names have meaning, giving a clue to shed light on the mystery of the person.  Our names, connected with our face become the basis of our relationship with others.  When we give our own name, and turn our face to others, we are giving something of ourselves. How our name is used by others, with respect and love, or with disrespect and hatred, will be reflected in our face.  

“The name is the icon of the person. It demands respect as a sign of the dignity of the one who bears it. The name one receives is a name for eternity. God calls each one by name. Everyone’s name is sacred.”

– Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2158-59

Therefore, St. Joseph’s name is an icon of his person, and the meaning of his name is a key to the treasures that are unveiled to those who are blessed to enter into a relationship with this great saint. The mysterious meaning of the name of Joseph is “He will increase.”

But, to little Jesus, St. Joseph’s name was “Abba” – Father, Daddy. His was the first man’s face that the Christ Child saw, with all the virtues reflected there – humility, patience, obedience, faith, hope, charity… St. Joseph’s face was the mirror of the image of God the Father, and his name was the echo of the Holy Name of God.

When we go to St. Joseph, as our model, in prayer and contemplation, “he will increase” grace, virtues, and God’s mercy in us. And Jesus will look on us, with eyes of love, as He looked upon the face of His father on earth, the glorious St. Joseph. What a tremendous blessing is this “Year of St. Joseph” for the Church and the world!

St. Joseph, pray for us!