Why is devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus so important for contemplative prayer? Because it is that by contemplating Jesus’s Face that His whole humanity is brought before us. St. Teresa of Jesus, the foundress of the Discalced Carmelites, and Doctor of the Church suffered many years as a religious from an inability to pray, so she gives some solid advice to those who struggle as they seek the Face of God in prayer: “when we pray we must be very careful never to set aside the sacred humanity of Jesus Christ. “
We cannot come to the Father except through Him. Intimacy with Jesus draws us into the life of the Trinity. “If we can, we should occupy ourselves in looking at Him Who is looking at us; keep Him company; talk with Him; pray to Him; humble ourselves before Him; have our delight in Him.” St. Teresa complained that she didn’t have much of an imagination, so she found it helpful to have an image of Christ to look at as she prayed, especially an image of Jesus in His Passion. “Speak with Him as with a Father, a Brother, a Lord and a Spouse–and, sometimes in one way and sometimes in another. He will teach you what you must do to please Him… Remember how important it is for you to have understood this truth–that the Lord is within us and that we should be there with Him.”
“Whoever lives in the presence of so good a friend and excellent a leader as is Jesus Christ can endure all things. Christ helps us and strengthens us and never fails; he is a true friend. And I see clearly that God desires that if we are going to please him and receive his great favors this must come about through the most sacred humanity of Christ, in whom he takes his delight.
Many, many times have I perceived this through experience. The Lord told it to me. I have definitely seen that we must enter by this gate if we desire his sovereign Majesty to show his great secrets. A person should desire no other path, even if he be at the summit of contemplation; on this road he walks safely. This Lord of ours is the one through whom all blessings come to us. He will teach us these things. In beholding his life we find that he is the best example.
What more do we desire from such a good friend at our side, who will not abandon us in our labors and tribulations, as friends in the world do? Blessed is the one who truly loves Him and always keeps im near. Let us consider the glorious St. Paul: it doesn’t seem that any other name fell from his lips than that of Jesus, as coming from one who kept the Lord close to his heart. Once I had come to understand this truth, I carefully considered the lives of some of the saints, the great contemplatives, and found that they hadn’t taken any other path: Francis, Anthony of Padua, Bernard, Catherine of Sienna. A person must alk along this path in freedom, placing himself in God’s hands. If His Majesty should desire to raise us to the position of one who is an intimate and shares His secrets, we ought to accept gladly.
Blessed is the one who truly loves him and always keeps him near…As often as we think of Christ we should recall the love with which he bestowed on us so many favors, and the great things God showed in giving us a pledge like this of his love; for love begets love. Let us strive to keep this always before our eyes and to waken ourselves to love. For if at some time the Lord should grant us the favor of impressing this love on our hearts, all will become easy for us and we shall carry out our tasks quickly and without much effort.” ~St. Teresa of Avila
My beloved passing fair,
Love has drawn thy likeness, see,
In my inmost Heart, and there--
Lost or straying unaware--
Thou must seek thyself in me.
Well I know that thou shalt find
This thine image in my Heart
Pictured to the life, with art
So amazing, that thy mind
Sees thy very counterpart.
If by chance thou e'er shalt doubt
Where to turn in search of me,
Seek not all the world about;
Only this can find me out--
Thou must seek myself in thee.
In the mansion of thy mind
Is my dwelling place; and more''
There I wander, unconfined,
Knocking loud if e'er I find
In thy thought a closed door.
Search for me without ere vain,
Since, when thou hast need of me,
Only call me, and again
To thy side I haste amain;
Thou must seek myself in thee.
~ St. Teresa of Jesus
The Majesty! How victorious! How joyful! Indeed, like one coming forth from a battle where He has gained a great kingdom! And all of that, plus Himself, He desires for you. Well, is it such a big thing that from time to time you turn your eyes to look upon one who gives you so much?” ~St. Teresa of Jesus
When 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 series 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 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.
“I dare to summon the whole Church bravely to cross this new threshold, to put into the deep…so that now as in the past the great engagement of the Gospel and culture may show to the world ‘the glory of God on the Face of Christ’ (2 Cor 4:6). May the Lord bless all those who work for this aim.”
“During meditation, the Lord gave me knowledge of the joy of Heaven and of the Saints on our arrival there; they love God as the sole object of their love, but they also have a tender and heartfelt love for us. It is from the Face of God that this joy flows out upon all, because we see Him face to Face. His Face is so sweet that the soul falls anew into ecstasy” (1592, “Divine Mercy in My Soul”).
St. Faustina Kowalska, “The Apostle of Mercy,” was known as a mystic and visionary. Our Lord granted her a deep understanding of the love and mercy of God which she was to share with the world through her diary, “Divine Mercy in My Soul.” The Face of Christ had a prominent place in her spiritual journey:
“I have ever before my eyes His sorrowful Face, abused and disfigured. His Divine Heart pierced by our sins and especially by the ingratitude of chosen souls.” (Divine Mercy in my Soul, #487)
St.Faustina’s message of mercy was also intensely Eucharistic, recognizing the True Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. She offered Him continually to the Father to implore His Mercy for the salvation of the world:
“Eternal Father, I offer You the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins, and those of the whole world. For the sake of His sorrowful Passion have mercy on us and on the whole world.”
The greatest sign of God’s continuing mercy for the people of the world is His hidden Presence in the Eucharist. By turning to His Eucharistic Face in prayer, St. Faustina says, “a change takes place” in our souls, because Jesus is also gazing at us.
“O Living Host, O hidden Jesus. You see the condition of my soul. Of myself, I am unable to utter Your Holy Name. I cannot bring forth from my heart the fire of love, but kneeling at Your feet, I cast upon the Tabernacle the gaze of my soul, a gaze of faithfulness. As for You, You are ever the same, while within my soul a change takes place. I trust that the time will come when You will unveil Your Countenance, and Your child will again see Your sweet Face. I am astonished, Jesus, that You can hide Your self from me for so long and that You can restrain the enormous love You have for me. In the dwelling of my heart, I am listening and waiting for Your coming, O only Treasure of my heart! (Divine Mercy in My Soul, #1146)
By contemplating His Holy Face, and making Him the “Treasure” of our hearts, we are transformed by the Holy Spirit, who restores God’s image and likeness in our souls. As St. Paul has written:
“but whenever a person turns to the Lord the veil is removed…All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:16, 18)
St. Faustina’s message of God’s Mercy is needed more with each passing day. Let us continue to pray for God’s Mercy, and pray as well for all the people of the world to turn back to the Merciful Face of God, so all may share in the joy of Heaven one day–to see Him face to Face.
St. Faustina’s Prayer for Divine Mercy
O Greatly Merciful God, Infinite Goodness, today all mankind calls out from the abyss of its misery to Your mercy — to Your compassion, O God, and it is with its mighty voice of misery that it cries out: Gracious God, do not reject the prayer of this earth’s exiles! O Lord, Goodness beyond our understanding, Who are acquainted with our misery through and through and know that by our own power we cannot ascend to You, we implore You, anticipate us with Your grace and keep on increasing Your mercy in us, that we may faithfully do Your holy will all through our life and at death’s hour. Let the omnipotence of Your mercy shield us from the darts of our salvation’s enemies, that we may with confidence, as Your children, await Your final coming — that day known to You alone. And we expect to obtain everything promised us by Jesus in spite of all our wretchedness. For Jesus is our Hope: Through His merciful Heart as through an open gate we pass through to heaven.” (Divine Mercy in My Soul, #1570)
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:
“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.”
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.”
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 is more commonly known for her way of “Spiritual Childhood” and devotion to The Child Jesus, however, 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.”
St. Therese’ sister Celine (Sr. Genevieve of the Holy Face), also wrote: “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.”
Canticle to 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.
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!
~ St. Therese of the Holy Face and the Child Jesus
“Look at His adorable Face, His glazed and sunken eyes, His wounds. Look Jesus in the Face. There you will see how He loves us.”
On November 4, 2006, the relics of St. Therese travelled to the Basilica Shrine of the “Il Volto Santo,” the Holy Face of Manoppello, Italy. Below is a beautiful, poem/meditation on the Holy Face by St. Therese together with images of that miraculous image on the Veil of Manoppello:
“O Adorable Face of Jesus! Our souls understand Your language of love; we want to dry Your gentle Face and to console You for the forgetfulness of the wicked. In their eyes You are still as one hidden; they look upon You as an object of contempt…
O Face more beautiful than the lilies and roses of springtime! You are not hidden from our eyes…The Tears that veil Your divine look seem to us like precious Diamonds which we want to collect to buy the souls of our brothers and sisters with their infinite value.
From Your Adorable Mouth we have heard Your loving complaint. Since we know that the thirst which consumes You is a thirst for Love, we would wish to have an infinite Love to quench Your thirst…Beloved Bridegroom of our souls, if we had the love of all hearts, all that love would be for You! Then, heedless of our exile on the banks of Babylon, we will sing for your Ears the sweetest melodies. Since You are the true, the only Homeland of our hearts, we will not sing our songs in an alien land.
O Beloved Face of Jesus! As we await the everlasting day when we will contemplate Your infinite Glory, our one desire is to charm Your Divine Eyes by hiding our faces too so that here on earth no one can recognize us…O Jesus! Your Veiled Gaze is our Heaven!” –St. Therese of the Holy Face and the Child Jesus
Hurricane Ida hits Discalced Carmelite Nuns in Louisiana
The Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Covington, Louisiana will not have the annual “Mass of the Roses” in honor of St. Therese this year. Last year, the special Mass was cancelled due to Covid; this year our nuns suffered damage to their monastery and property, from wind and fallen trees during Hurricane Ida. (Photos of the damage may be seen here.) Since it was their only fundraiser, it is hoped that generous souls might be moved to send a donation. Please pray for these dear Nuns who pray for us all! If you would like to contribute, donations may be mailed to:
The Discalced Carmelite Nuns, 73530 River Rd, Covington, LA, USA 70435
May God reward you for your generosity!
“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.”
“Then war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. Although the dragon and his angels fought back, they were overpowered and lost their place in heaven. The huge dragon, the ancient serpent known as the devil or Satan, the seducer of the whole world, was driven out; he was hurled down to earth and his minions with him” (Rev. 12)
The center of this battle raging between Angels and demons — heaven and earth — is the Incarnate Word of God made flesh, Jesus Christ. It is Jesus who is rejected, reviled and persecuted. The devil wants to obliterate the Face of God, not only in churches that have vandalized and desecrated, but in the souls of human beings. The battle lines have been drawn between the culture of life and the culture of death. The devil’s particular object of hatred is the woman and the unborn. Some can no longer recognize that a child in the womb is a human being. Many persons reject their God-given identity as male and female. Racial hatred is causing deeper and deeper division, and human trafficking increases as humanity is blinded to the Face of God in their neighbor made in His image and likeness.
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have salvation and power come, the reign of our God and the authority of his Anointed One. For the accuser of our brothers is cast out, who night and day accused then before our God. They defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; love for life did not deter them from death. So rejoice, you heavens, and you the dwell therein! But woe to you, earth and sea, for the devil has come down upon you! His fury knows no limits, for he knows his time is short” (Rev 12). This battle has been fought since the beginning of Creation; between Christ’s Angels and the fallen angels or demons, with humanity at the center of the struggle. 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.
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, 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 will gain the victory in the conflict.”
The victory will be won with devotion to the Holy Face
Prayer to Our Lady of the Angels, who in her humility, crushed the head of Satan: Sublime Queen of Heaven, exalted Lady of the Angels, you have the power and commission given by God to crush the head of Satan. Therefore, we humbly beseech you to send to our aid your heavenly legions, so that, under your command and by your power, they may pursue the hellish spirits, fight them everywhere, ward off their impudent attacks, and fling them back into the abyss. Who is like God? You holy angels and archangels, defend and protect us. Good, kind mother, you remain always our love and our hope! Mother of God, send us the holy angels to defend us and keep the evil one far from us. Amen.
September 20th marked the anniversary of the death of the Holy Capuchin priest of Manoppello–the Servant of God, Padre Domenico da Cese. 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 (later 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. He and his father were buried in the rubble of their church as they attended Mass that morning.
A man with a bloody face, who young Emidio Petracca didn’t recognize as a relative or friend, pulled him from the rubble to safety. Fifty years later, as a Capuchin priest, while visiting the Shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello for the first time, he recognized the face of the man on the miraculous veil as the same man who saved him from the rubble. As Padre Domenico knelt before the holy relic “Il Volto Santo,” he exclaimed, “This is the man who saved me from the rubble!” He asked to be transferred to the shrine and remained at the Shrine as Rector until the time of his death.
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.
In September 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.
“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, 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.”
At the Last Supper Jesus offers His deeply moving prayer to the Father for his disciples, the priests, which begins, “Father the hour has come…” (John 17) Jesus prays that the Father glorify Him and that He may be glorified in them (his priests) and that He keep them in His name that “they may become one as we are.” Jesus prays too, “for those who will believe in me through their word.” “A priest is not a priest for himself,” St. John Vianney said, “he does not give himself absolution; he does not administer the Sacraments for himself. He is not for himself, he is for you.”
These men, like the first apostles, are fully human and share in the weakened condition of all of mankind since the fall of Adam. Yet they are called by God for the sanctification of God’s people. St. Paul writes: “Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness and so, for this reason, must make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people. No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God, just as Aaron was. In the same way, it was not Christ who glorified himself in becoming high priest, but rather the one who said to him: “You are my son; this day I have begotten you;” just as he says in another place: “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” In the days when he was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, declared by God high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. (Heb. 5:1-10)
The faithful are entrusted to the priest’s care, who as a Good Shepherd, walks with them on the path which leads to Christ. Through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the priest brings the people to a true knowledge of the Father and the Son and “To the contemplation of the living and pulsating reality of the Trinity ‘faciem ad faciem’ (face to face).” (St. Pope John Paul II) “The Holy Spirit,” says St. Irenaeus, “the stairway of our ascent to God, draws the priest to the Father, stirring in his heart a burning desire to see God’s Face…the Paraclete illumines the priest about his own Person, that the priest may come to see the Spirit in his own heart and history.”
Whenever a priest administers the sacraments, says St. Pope John Paul II, “the priest lends Christ his own face and voice:” “Do this in memory of Me.” (Luke 22:19) “Priests are called to show forth the Face of the Good Shepherd and therefore to have the Heart of Christ Himself.” (St. Pope John Paul II) Therefore, let us pray for all priests and bishops, that the Holy Spirit will strengthen them in all their gifts. St. Teresa of Avila once said, “When you see a priest you should say, ‘There is he who made me a child of God, and opened Heaven to me by Holy Baptism; he who purified me after I had sinned; who gives nourishment to my soul.’” St. Therese told her sister, Celine, “Let us live for souls, let us be apostles, let us save above all the souls of priests… let us pray and suffer for them and on the last day Jesus will be grateful!” [St. Therese of Lisieux, Letter 94] The Priest is the Face of Christ to us!
Prayers for Priests”Eternal Father, we offer Thee, with the hands of Mary, the Holy Face of Jesus, Thy Son, and the entire generous holocaust of all that we are, in reparation for so many sins that are committed, and, especially, for offenses against the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. We make this offering, in a particular way, so that Priests, by the holiness of their lives, may show the world the adorable features of the Divine Countenance shining with the light of truth and love, for the triumph of the Church, and for the spread of the Kingdom.” Bl. Mother Maria Pierina De Micheli
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.
+ O Jesus, hidden God, my heart perceives You, though veils hide You, You know that I love You. ~Prayer of St. Faustina Kowalska
The strongest hurricane to hit Louisiana since the 1800’s descended on us on August 29th. Hurricane Ida brought 150 mph winds gusts, tornadoes, and where I live, 5 feet of water. We are so grateful to God that we were spared the loss of life, and have a big family who can help with the arduous task of cleaning up the trees, mud and mess that Ida left behind. As in all times of trial, our family turns to the Blessed Mother for help, inspiration, and endless source of grace — she is most importantly, the model of our faith. With that in mind, I am reposting here “Mary’s Veil of Faith,” with grateful thanks to our dear Blessed Mother for keeping us safe beneath her mantle, and for those who have prayed for us:
The word “veil” can have many meanings. A veil can cover the face, the head, or an object; it can cover, conceal, or separate. In ancient Jewish tradition a veil in the Holy of Holies in the Temple separated sinful man from the presence of God dwelling in the midst of His People. The holiness of God was not to be taken lightly. The blinding light of the purity and glory of the Face of God could not be looked upon by sinful eyes.
But when God chose Mary to be the Mother of His Son He created her to be all-pure and sinless from the moment of her conception through the merits of her Son, Jesus. In Matthew 5:8 we read, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.” What was to prevent Mary, the Immaculate Conception, who was free from all sin, from seeing the Face of God in all His glory even while she was still here on earth? The answer is, in a word, a veil.
When the Word of God became flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the Incarnation, Mary became His Tabernacle. Jesus’ human flesh was His veil: “by the new and living way he opened for us through the veil, that is His flesh” (Heb. 10:20). The Angel Gabriel told Mary that she would be the mother of the Son of God. But Mary, though “full of grace” and all-pure, would only gaze upon the human face of her child and upon the Face of her God through the veil of faith.
Elizabeth bore witness to Mary’s faith when “filled with the Holy Spirit” she greeted Mary with a loud cry: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?…“Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Lk. 1:45). As Pope St. John Paul II wrote in Redemptoris Mater, “Mary entrusted herself to God completely, with the full submission of intellect and will…this response of faith included both perfect cooperation with ‘the grace of God that precedes and assists’ and perfect openness to the action of the Holy Spirit, who constantly brings faith to completion by His gifts.”
In a truly heroic manner, in poverty and suffering, on her whole pilgrimage or journey towards God, Mary believed, in faith, though everything happening around her seemed to contradict God’s words to her: That “the Lord will give to him the throne of his father David.” And that “He will reign over the house of Jacob forever and of His kingdom there will be no end.” Mary believed these invisible truths about her Son, even as Jesus, suffered and died, hanging on the Cross. What was visible on an earthly level did not reflect the heavenly reality. Mary did not necessarily see her Son radiant in glory or angels ministering to Him in His Passion. At the foot of the Cross she saw His bruised and bloodied suffering Face.
Pope St. John Paul II tells us in Redemptoris Mater that “faith is contact with the mystery of God. Every day Mary is in constant contact with the ineffable mystery of God made-man, a mystery that surpasses everything revealed in the Old Covenant… Mary is in contact with the truth about her Son only in faith and through faith!” Though all-pure, she could not see, except through faith. “Blessed is she who believed” is a key, he says, which unlocks for us the innermost reality of Mary. Mary’s all-pure eyes looked on the glory of her Son through a veil of faith, “a dark night,” to use the words of St. John of the Cross, that feeling of darkness or emptiness when a soul draws near to the brightness and glory of God. Pope St. John Paul II writes in Redemptoris Mater that Mary’s faith is: “a kind of a veil though which one has to draw near to the Invisible One and to live in intimacy with the mystery.”
The stone rolled in front of tomb is also a sort of veil — seemingly impervious, unmovable, like the hardened hearts of souls closed off from God — yet hiding Our Crucified Lord within. When Mary stood in bitter desolation before the massive stone of the tomb, she knew that Jesus was dead. Still, her heart was full of hope. She heroically believed that her Son would rise again in glory. Mary’s faith was so strong that her heart believed what her eyes could not perceive. We too must believe, although Jesus may be silent and hidden completely from our eyes. If we had a little of Mary’s faith, through her intercession, even the heaviest stone could be rolled away by Our Lord, as though it were the lightest veil. Then, the hardest of hearts could be changed, and her glorious Son would be revealed.
In this earthly pilgrimage of faith a veil lies over our hearts, as St. Paul writes: “To this day, in fact…a veil lies over their hearts, but whenever a person turns to the Lord the veil is removed… All of us, with unveiled face gazing on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor. 4:15-16, 18) As members of the Church, we can “look at” Jesus through Mary’s eyes of faith, in the Eucharist, in our neighbor; believing in His Word and following her example in our pilgrimage towards the Father until that time when the “veil” of faith will be finally lifted.
“Blessed is she who believed!”
“Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1)
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.
“Dominus Illuminatio Mea” – “the Lord is my light” are the first words of Psalm 27…
“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?“
Is the darkened state of the world wearing you down? You are not alone – the whole of humanity seems to be in the same miserable boat – fearing enemies around every corner. Jesus reminds us that “Fear is useless, what is needed is trust.” (Luke 8:50)
Pope St. John Paul II, “the light of Poland,” certainly lived through some very dark times, yet he never lost his faith, his hope, or his joy. He found profound inspiration, and comfort, in Psalm 27. From the time of King David, the psalms have been a source of comfort to souls living through the darkness of trials down through the centuries. The very meaning of the word “comfort” is “with strength.” It is the strength that comes from trusting in God, knowing that in spite of the odds, God will bring about our rescue.
“When evildoers come at me to devour my flesh,
These my enemies and foes themselves stumble and fall.
Though an army encamp against me, my heart does not fear;
Though war be waged against me, even then do I trust.”
We may “visit Him in His temple.” But, our bodies are also a temple; a temple of the Holy Spirit. We may seek God’s Face within the temple of our souls, “with shouts of joy, songs and praise,” in faith, hope, and trust. Jesus, I trust in You!
“One thing I ask of the LORD; this I seek:
To dwell in the LORD’s house all the days of my life,
To gaze on the LORD’s beauty, to visit his temple.
For God will hide me in his shelter in time of trouble,
Will conceal me in the cover of His tent;
and set me high upon a rock.
Even now my head is held high above my enemies on every side!
I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and chant praise to the LORD.“
As Bl. Carlo Acutis once said, “Sadness is looking at oneself, happiness is looking at God. Conversion is nothing but a movement of the eyes.” To seek God’s Face is to be in His life-giving presence. He will hear His children when they call. He does not abandon them to their enemies. His gaze is always upon us; we need only to turn the gaze of our hearts toward Him. He will not reject us, because He is love and mercy itself! He will guide us, defend us, save us…if only we “believe, take courage,” are “stouthearted,” and “wait”…for Him!
“Hear my voice, LORD, when I call;
have mercy on me and answer me.
‘Come,’ says my heart, ‘Seek God’s face’;
your face, LORD, do I seek!
Do not hide your face from me;
do not repel your servant in anger.
You are my help; do not cast me off;
do not forsake me, God my savior!
Even if my father and mother forsake me,
the LORD will take me in.”
“LORD, show me your way;
lead me on a level path because of my enemies;
Do not abandon me to the will of my foes;
malicious and lying witnesses have risen against me.
But I believe I shall enjoy the LORD’s goodness
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD, take courage;
be stouthearted, wait for the LORD!“
“Your life must be woven around the Eucharist. Direct your eyes to Him, who is the Light; bring your hearts very close to His Divine Heart; Ask Him for the grace to know Him, for the charity to love Him, for the Courage to serve Him. Seek Him longingly.”
— St. Teresa of Calcutta
“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.”
“Now this is the message that we have heard from Him and proclaim to you; God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.”
In 2012 I first made a pilgrimage to the Basilica Shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Italy, to see for myself the ancient, mysterious relic that is the veil of the Holy Face. I took no pictures at that time as it was my sole intention to pray, and not be distracted by snapping photos. At the time, it was a sacrifice. But God blessed the small sacrifice with an unforgettable experience of prayer. Fortunately for me, and by God’s Providence, Paul Badde, who is an art historian, journalist, and champion of the Holy Face, had taken thousands upon thousands of amazing photos which he has generously permitted me to share over the years. I come back to them again and again to ponder this mysterious miracle of light which causes the Face of Jesus Christ to appear on the gossamer-thin transparent veil. Why has Our Lord chosen to show Himself by means of light?
As St. John wrote: “God is light,” and so it is fitting that God, who has revealed to us His human face in Jesus Christ, has left us this precious gift of a true icon of His Holy Face written in light – the Holy Veil of Manoppello. God knows our human weaknesses; the need to see and touch. He gives us lights to illumine our minds and hearts: the light of reason, of grace, and in heaven He will illumine our souls completely by the light of glory – the Beatific Vision – when we will see Him face to face. All these lights are the same Divine Light emanating from the Face of God. God has made us in His image and likeness, we have a capacity to know and love Him. We are made to resemble Him by knowing and loving Him, to participate in the Divine Light that shines into our souls when we turn to His Face, and to reflect that light to others.
“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
To “behold His Face as in a mirror…” This is how I saw the Holy Veil of Manoppello as I knelt before it prayer. In that miraculous mirror the Face of Jesus turned toward me. When you love someone you want to see them more and more, but like Peter, James, and John on the mountain of the Transfiguration, we must descend the mountain and obey Jesus’s command to “Follow me” to the Cross. Though we are following, we can remain “turned to His Face,” where God perfects us by His Divine Gaze. We do this by prayer, reading the Scriptures, by living the Beatitudes, which is Jesus’s “self-portrait.” We remain under His gaze as we contemplate His Face in the Eucharist, in His images, especially as they relate to His Passion, or as we encounter Jesus in the poor, sick, and needy — in Jesus’s words, “Love God, and love our neighbor.” And here is the heart of this devotion to the Holy Face; it is charity. God has created us with a deep longing to see Him, and charity, is the means He has given us. This is what the light shimmering on the Holy Veil of the Face of Jesus says to me — Love is the light by which you will see God’s Face.