“I never cease to implore blessings for you from Jesus, and to beg the Lord to transform you totally in Him. How beautiful His Face, how sweet His eyes and what a good thing it is to stay close to Him…”–St. Padre Pio O.F.M.Cap
St. Padre Pio, a Friar Minor Capuchin priest and mystic, was well-known for his many spiritual gifts such as the stigmata, bi-location, and for his ability to read the hearts of penitents who came to him in confession. During his life St. Padre Pio suffered as Our Lord did, not only through physical pain, but by humiliations, calumny, slander and mistrust that deeply wounded his heart, in this he shared in the suffering of the Face of Christ.
He wrote in his meditations on The Agony of Jesus of the Face of Jesus, the “Innocent Lamb,” “His Face covered with sadness and at the same time with love:”
“He [Jesus] seems to be at the extremity of suffering… He is prostrate with His Face to the ground before the majesty of His Father. The Sacred Face of Him Who enjoys through the hypostatic union the beatific vision of the Divine Glory accorded to both Angels and Saints in Heaven, lies disfigured on the ground. My God! My Jesus! Art Thou not the God of Heaven and earth, equal in all things to Thy Father, Who humiliates Thee to the point of losing even the semblance of man? …It is to repair and expiate for my haughtiness, that Thou bowest down thus before Thy Father.”
It is no wonder then, in the extremity of his own suffering, St. Padre Pio’s last case of bi-location was before the relic of the Holy Face of Jesus at the shrine of “Il Volto Santo” in Manoppello, Italy, 200 km north of San Giovanni Rotundo, where Padre Pio lay dying. His friend and fellow Friar Minor Capuchin, the Servant of God, Padre Domenico da Cese, was at that time the rector of the shrine. Padre Domenico gave testimony that at the dawn of the last day of St. Padre Pio’s earthly life, he unlocked the doors of the shrine of the Holy Face and was astounded to find Padre Pio in prayer, in the choir behind the altar before the Sacred Image of the Face of Jesus. St. Padre Pio spoke then to Padre Domenico saying, “I do not trust myself any more. I am coming to an end. Pray for me. Good bye until we meet in Paradise.” 24 hours later St. Padre Pio died in his cell in San Giovanni.
“If I know that someone is afflicted in body or in soul, what will I not do in the presence of the Lord to see him freed from these evils? I should willingly take upon myself all his sufferings, if I could only free him from them. I should surrender in his favor the fruits of these sufferings, if the Lord were to permit it.” — St. Padre Pio
Below are photos of the miraculous image “Il Volto Santo” that Padre Pio prayed before in his own agony. This “living image” is very difficult to capture in a photograph because it is a changing image, one face, an infinite number of expressions but always a Face of Mercy and Peace.
Jesus makes Himself our mirror – “He who never meditates is like a person who never looks in the mirror, therefore, not knowing that he is untidy, he goes out looking disorderly. The person who meditates and directs his thoughts to God, Who is the mirror of his soul, tries to know his faults, attempts to correct them, moderates his impulses, and puts his conscience in order.” — St. Padre Pio
September 17th marks the anniversary of the death of the Holy Capuchin priest of Manoppello–the Servant of God, Padre Domenico da Cese.
As a nine year old boy in 1915, Padre Domenico predicted the devastating Avenzzano earthquake in Italy. A 6.7 earthquake hit that region the next morning, killing more than 30,000 people, including two of his sisters and burying him and his father in the rubble of their church. A man he didn’t know pulled him from the rubble to safety, whose face he later recognized on his first visit as a friar to the Shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello. When Padre Domenico knelt before the “Il Volto Santo” or Face of Jesus, the miraculous veil, he exclaimed, “This is the man who saved me from the rubble!”
A short time after Padre Domenico arrived in Manoppello the people were saying, “We have received a Saint!”
In her book, Servant of God, Padre Domenico Da Cese, O.F.M. Capuchin, An Illustrated Biography Petra-Maria Steiner relates an example of Padre Domenico’s extraordinary gifts in the testimony of Giuseppe Orlando, whose fiancee, Anna Maria introduced him to the Padre. After spending nearly an hour in conversation, Padre Domenico suggested that Giuseppe have a mass said for his grandmother, Maria Grazia. “Giuseppe was astonished, ‘But who is she? I don’t have any grandmother by that name.’ Padre Domenico told him not to ask questions but to just say a mass for her.” So, Giuseppe had arranged for a mass for “Maria Grazia.” Still bothered and wanting to get to the bottom of the truth, he went home and researched, and to his surprise he discovered that his father’s mother, who died when his father was only five years old, was named Maria Grazia. His father had been so young when she died that he had forgotten her name.
Like his friend and fellow Capuchin, St. Padre Pio, the humble Padre Domenico was also a mystic and stigmatist who had extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit; such as the gift of “reading souls” and bi-location. Penitents who traveled from Manoppello to go to confession with Padre Pio were admonished by him for traveling such a distance when they already had a holy priest in Manoppello. He told them, ” Why did you come all the way here, so far? You’ve got a priest there, my spiritual son, he’s like me!” St. Padre Pio’s last documented case of bi-location, just before he died, was before the relic of the Holy Face of Jesus at the shrine of “Il Volto Santo” in Manoppello, where Padre Domenico was the rector. Padre Pio had told his fellow Capuchins that the Holy Face of Manoppello was the greatest relic of the Church.
In September of 1968, as Padre Pio lay dying in San Giovanni Rotundo (which is about 200 km south of Manoppello in Italy), his friend Padre Domenico da Cese had just unlocked the doors of the shrine of the Holy Face one morning, and was astounded to find Padre Pio in prayer, in the choir behind the altar before the sacred image of the Face of Jesus. St. Padre Pio spoke then to Padre Domenico saying, “I do not trust myself any more. I am coming to an end. Pray for me. Good-bye until we meet in Paradise.” Twenty-four hours later St. Padre Pio died in his cell in San Giovanni on September 23, 1968. Testimony was later given by witnesses that Padre Domenico da Cese was seen at Padre Pio’s funeral (another case of bi-location). A film was even taken (here) which shows Padre Domenico walking slowly in Padre Pio’s funeral procession, even though Padre Domenico had never left the shrine in Manoppello.
Padre Domenico shared with everyone his ardent love and devotion for the Holy Face of Manoppello, also known as “Il Volto Santo” — a miraculous veil which transmits supernatural beauty, and at the same time indescribable suffering. It is the Face of Mercy, Love and Peace. He would tell pilgrims, “This face is that of Jesus, and it is a great miracle, always love him.”Padre Domenico had done much research on the sheer byssus veil, the image of which is not made with any paint or pigment, and compared the iridescent quality of the colors to the wings of butterflies which also reflect iridescent color naturally. He also made studies of the Face on the Shroud of Turin, and its similarities to the Holy Face of Manoppello. He believed with all his heart that it was the face of the same man, and he was convinced that, like the Shroud of Turin, the Veil of Manoppello was one of the many burial cloths in Jesus’s tomb–the holy sudarium which covered the Face of Jesus in death–and also miraculously bears witness to His Resurrection.
On September 13 of 1978 while visiting Turin to venerate the Holy Face on the Shroud during a rare exposition, Padre Domenico, who was a giant of a man, was hit by the smallest car, a Fiat, as he was stepping out into a street. After suffering for several days in a hospital, and forgiving the man who had hit him, he died on September 17th, offering his life for the Holy Face on the Veil–the Face of the man who saved him as a child.
Prayer for the intercession of Servant of God Padre Domenico da Cese
Oh God, you gave Padre Domenico the capacity of recognizing in the poor and the suffering the very Holy Face of your beloved Son, whose devotion he promoted with such zeal, through his intercession obtain for me the humility of heart, and simplicity of the little ones to whom you have revealed the secrets of the Kingdom, and in my hour of trial give me the strength to overcome the seductions of evil in order to put Satan to flight, and to merit, at the end of my earthly pilgrimage, to be able to contemplate the Holy Face of Jesus in the glory of paradise.
Though unworthy as I am of your Divine favors, I ask that you might grant, through the intercession of your faithful servant Padre Domenico, the grace I humbly ask of you…
“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”
“Seeking the Face of God in everything, everyone, all the time, and His hand in every happening; this is what it means to be contemplative in the heart of the world. Seeing and adoring the presence of Jesus, especially in the lowly appearance of bread, and in the distressing disguise of the poor.” ~St. Teresa of Calcutta
Paul Badde has written another fine article, “Veronica’s Heart or The True Canvas of God” which first appeared in the Italian Monthly Tempi. In the article Paul explores the roots of Pope St. John Paul II’s deep devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus, which led to his dedicating the millennium to the Face of Christ, as well as the connection to the rediscovery of the Veil of Manoppello, Italy — believed to be “the Veronica” or the true image of the Face of Christ.
The fact that Pope St. John Paul II and both his successors Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis strongly emphasized devotion to the Face of Christ is something that should cause every Christian to ask themselves “why?” What is its importance for the Church, and for each individual to seek the “true Face of Christ?” Raymond Frost, who writes the Holy Face of Manoppello Blog has translated Paul’s article into English. It is certainly worth a read… click here to read…
Beautiful fireworks exploded in the evening skies above Manoppello, Italy to celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration and to honor in a procession the great gift of God: “Il Volto Santo” — a precious relic bearing the miraculous image of the Holy Face of Jesus, on a sheer veil. The incredible history of the veil providentially brought it to Manoppello several centuries ago. Though at first shrouded in mystery, it was hidden from the world, and thus protected from many dangers. It may now be seen by all. Pilgrims flock from around the world for the opportunity to gaze on the Face of Jesus; to kneel, pray and adore Him; repeating the words of St. Peter on Mount Tabor: “Lord, it is good to be here.”
Fireworks may be seen shimmering through the holy veil at it is carried in procession through the crowded streets, which were captured in this wonderful video of the event by Angelo Ruetz from Switzerland:
This holy veil is so transparent that the decorative lights over the path of procession may be seen through it. At times it appears to the viewer that what is being carried so reverently is merely a white rectangle. Yet, as the veil is exposed to various changes in light, its secret is gradually revealed. Truly a great blessing to see!
“May God be gracious to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us…” (Psalm 67:1)
(To learn more about the veil click the Manoppello Tab above.)
Our world is filled with amazing technology. Man can fly through the air, and communicate with anyone, anywhere, instantly throughout the globe. A person need never to suffer a moment’s boredom because we have instant gratification for our eyes and ears at our fingertips through our cell phones, computers, and television. Humanity has also never had so little peace, or silence necessary to hear the whisper of God’s voice, or so little desire to turn off the unrelenting images on screens in order to seek His Face.
G.K. Chesterton once wrote: “The world will never starve for want of wonders, only for want of wonder.” “When we are asked why eggs turn into birds, or fruits fall in autumn, we must answer that it is magic.” (Chesterton – “Ethics in Elfland”) In other words, they are miracles, willed by God, which we have mistaken for the ordinary. What could be more ordinary, more common than a man?… and what could be a greater wonder than the Incarnation: when God became man?
“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
God knows our human weakness; we need to see, hear, taste and touch. Jesus took Peter, James, and John up Mount Tabor to witness His Transfiguration in glory; so they would believe that He, Jesus Christ, was also God. He gives us His Word, His Body and Blood in the Eucharist, He gives us tangible proofs of His Life, Death, and Resurrection in ongoing wonders: The Shroud of Turin, the Sudarium of Oviedo, and the Veil of Manoppello. Scoffers abound; they always have. The cynics are ever ready to dismiss these wonders, without even taking the trouble to see them. They refuse to believe that God would leave His image on a shroud, or cloth, or veil.
What happens when mankind becomes blind to God’s wonders? Mankind then seeks substitutes for the real, but seemingly ordinary thing. The result is a deadly one, as Chesterton writes in The Everlasting Man:
“The effect of this staleness is the same everywhere; it is seen in all drug taking and dram drinking and every form of the tendency to increase the dose. Men seek stranger sins and more startling obscenities as stimulants to their jaded senses. They seek mad oriental religions for the same reason. They try to stab their nerves to life, if it were with the knives of the priests of Baal. They are walking in their sleep and try to wake themselves up with nightmares.”
It is an apt description of the nightmare of evil that has descended upon this world; a world which has turned away from the Face of God.
But God exists, and in His infinite mercy, He continues to hold out His wonders to those with “eyes to see,” to behold, and give Him thanks. On the Feast of the Transfiguration, when Jesus’s Face was “transfigured in glory,” pilgrims from all over the world, join the people of Manoppello as they go forth in procession to celebrate the wonderful relic of the Face of Jesus — the Veil of Manoppello — a sign of wonder and God’s love for His children.
“O Lord, You are my God, I will extol and praise Your Name; for You have worked wonders, plans formed long ago with perfect faithfulness.” (Isaiah 25:1)
Is there anyone who associates St. Mary Magdalene with purity? St. Mary Magdalene, from whom Jesus drove out seven devils, is more often recalled as the sinful woman, who in penitence, not ceasing to kiss Jesus’s feet, also bathed them “with her tears and wiped them with her hair,” then anointing them with expensive nard. Her many sins were forgiven and so she shows great love. When Our Lord visited the home of Mary and Martha, Mary was seated at the Master’s feet. Martha worked, while Mary “chose the better part” which “would not be taken from her,” thus becoming the model of contemplation for the faithful, seeking the Face of God in prayer.
From the foot of the Cross, with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, to the tomb, Mary Magdalene never ceased to seek the Face of Jesus. Before dawn, on Easter morning Mary Magdalene sought for her Beloved Jesus; heart broken and burning with love, she persevered in faith and hope. She was at the tomb, while the apostles were nowhere to be found. Although her eyes were blinded with tears, they were also purified to see the Face of her Lord, though she did not at first recognize him until he spoke her name. Pope St. Gregory the Great wrote in a homily, “Jesus says to her: Mary. Jesus is not recognized when he calls her ‘woman’; so he calls her by name, as though he were saying: Recognize me as I recognize you; for I do not know you as I know others; I know you as yourself. And so Mary, once addressed by name, recognizes who is speaking. She immediately calls him rabboni, that is to say, teacher, because the one whom she sought outwardly was the one who inwardly taught her to keep on searching.”
“Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.”
Upon returning from the Lord’s tomb, Mary Magdalene told the disciples: “I have seen the Lord.” Her perseverance in seeking the Face of Jesus was rewarded; she was made worthy to be the first to proclaim that Jesus Christ had risen.
The Bride says, “On my bed at night I sought him whom my heart loves–I sought him but I did not find him.
I will rise then and go about the city; in the streets and crossings I will seek Him whom my heart loves.
I sought him but I did not find him. The watchmen came upon me, as they made their rounds of the city: Have you seen him whom my heart loves? I had hardly left them when I found him whom my heart loves.” (Song of Songs 3:1-4B)
Mary Magdalene “recovered purity…in anticipation of the Eucharist, the night she bathed the feet of Our Lord with her tears. That day she came in contact with purity, and she so lived out its implications that within a short time we find her at the foot of the Cross. ”
There he came to a cave, where he took shelter. Then the Lord said: “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord willl be passing by.” A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord–but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake–but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire–but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, “Elijah, why are you here?” He replied, “I have been most jealous for the Lord, the God of Hosts.” (1 Kings 19)
Fixing our eyes on God
Pope St. Gregory explains why Elijah is described as standing at the mouth of the cave (“where we direct our mental gaze, there we may be said to stand.”) and veiling his face when he heard the voice of the Lord speaking to him: “…as soon as the voice of heavenly understanding enters the mind through the grace of contemplation, the whole man is no longer within the cave, for his soul is no longer taken up with matters of the flesh: intent on leaving the bounds of mortality, he stands at the cave’s mouth.”
Humility and Detachment – the keys to contemplation
“But if a man stands at the mouth of the cave and hears the word of God with his heart’s ear, he must veil his face. For when heavenly grace leads us to the understanding of higher things, the rarer the heights to which we are raised, the more we should abase ourselves in our own estimation by humility: we must not try to know ‘more than is fitting; we must know as it befits us to know.’ Otherwise, through over-familiarity with the invisible, we wish going astray; and we might perhaps look for material light in what is immaterial. For to cover the face while listening with the ear means hearing with our mind the voice of Him who is within us, yet averting the eyes of the heart from every bodily appearance. If we do this, there will be no risk of our spirit interpreting as something corporeal that which is everywhere in its entirety and everywhere uncircumscribed…while our feet stand within the walls of His holy Church, let us keep our eyes turned toward the door; let us mentally turn our backs on the corruption of this temporal life; let us keep our hearts facing toward the freedom of our heavenly fatherland.”
Almighty, ever-living God, your prophet Elijah, our Father, lived always in your presence and was jealous for the honor due to your name. May we, your servants, always seek your Face and bear witness to your love. We ask this through our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
What is the soul’s deepest longing? The answer to that question is another question: what do you seek? Do you seek truth, love, or joy? Peace? Endless fulfillment? Beauty? The desire for all these things are good, but our weak human nature usually seeks them in all the wrong places, when there is only one place where all may be found, that is, in God. The real search begins when we begin to seek God’s Face.
In his Confessions, St. Augustine told of his search in his youth for love, joy, beauty, et cetera… but “looking in all the wrong places” he turned to sexual immorality, living with a woman for thirteen years — which only left his restless heart deeply unsatisfied. He then sought to quench his desires intellectually, which led to strange religions and philosophies. But when he heard St. Ambrose speak in Milan, and thanks also to the persevering prayers of his mother, St. Monica, God’s grace moved his heart to recognize what was true and beautiful. But he still found it difficult to give up his sinful life.
One day in a garden, still struggling with his passions, St. Augustine heard the voice of a child repeating, “take and read, take and read.” He looked around but no one was there, but there was a Bible laying open beside him. Picking it up, he read the words from Romans 13:13-14 “…not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”
St. Augustine was at a turning point. “What” he sought became “Whom” — Jesus Christ. By seeking the Face of God in His Word, he began his transformation in Christ, eventually becoming a Bishop and Doctor of the Church. His life of prayer, praise, and contemplation of the Blessed Trinity led to the fulfillment of the longing of his heart, which is the longing of every heart — to see the Face of God and find there all truth, beauty, goodness, love, joy, peace, and endless fulfillment in HIM.
Prayer of St. Augustine
“My Lord and my God, my only hope, hear my prayer so that I may not give in to discouragement and cease to seek you. May I desire always to see your face. Give me strength for the search. You who caused me to find you and gave the hope of a more perfect knowledge of you. I place before you my steadfastness, that you may preserve it, and my weakness, that you may heal it. I place before you my knowledge, and my ignorance. If you open the door to me, welcome the one who enters. If you have closed the gate, open it to the one who calls. Make me always remember you, understand you, and love you. Increase those gifts in me until I am completely changed.
When we come up into your presence, these many things we talk about now without understanding them will cease, and you alone will remain everything in everyone, and then we will sing as one an eternal hymn of praise and we too will become one with you.”