St. Michael’s and His Angels Battle with the Dragon

 

                                                       St. Michael’s Battle With the Dragon

 “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.  

“When the dragon saw that it had been thrown down to earth, it pursued the woman who had given birth to a male child.” (Rev. 12:13)

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.

Holy Face surrounded by adoring Angels. St. Joseph’s Shrine in Gretna, Louisiana. Photo: Mary Engler

 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.
“Who is like God!” Detail – St. Michael holding the Holy Face by Cody Swanson

 

The Face of Christ and the Priesthood

“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 gazes at the Eucharistic Face of Christ
St. Padre Pio gazes at the Eucharistic Face of Christ

 

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.”

Priest elevating Eucharist on paten viewed through the Veil of the Holy Face of Manoppello. Photo: Paul Badde
Priest elevating Eucharist on paten viewed through the Veil of the Holy Face of Manoppello. Photo: Paul Badde

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

 

Apostle of the Holy Face of Manoppello

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

–Servant of God, Padre Domenico da Cese

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

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

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

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

He was born on March 27, 1905, and was baptized Emidio Petracca, named for St. Emidio (c.279-309 AD), the saint who is invoked for protection in earthquakes. As a nine year old boy in 1915, young Emidio predicted the devastating Avenzzano earthquake in Italy. A 6.7 earthquake hit that region the next morning, killing more than 30,000 people, including two of his sisters and burying him and his father in the rubble of their church.  A man he didn’t know pulled him from the rubble to safety, whose face he later recognized on his first visit as a friar to the Shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello. When Padre Domenico knelt before the “Il Volto Santo” or Face of Jesus, the miraculous veil, he exclaimed, “This is the man who saved me from the rubble!”

A short time after Padre Domenico arrived in Manoppello the people were saying, “We have received a Saint!” 

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

Like his friend and fellow Capuchin, St. Padre Pio, the humble Padre Domenico was also a mystic and stigmatist who had extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit; such as the gift of “reading souls” and bi-location. Penitents who traveled from Manoppello to go to confession with Padre Pio were admonished by him for traveling such a distance when they already had a holy priest in Manoppello.  He told them, ” Why did you come all the way here, so far? You’ve got a priest there, my spiritual son, he’s like me!” St. Padre Pio’s last documented case of bi-location, just before he died, was before the relic of the Holy Face of Jesus at the shrine of “Il Volto Santo” in Manoppello, where Padre Domenico was the rector.  Padre Pio had told his fellow Capuchins that the Holy Face of Manoppello was the greatest relic of the Church.

In September of 1968, as Padre Pio lay dying in San Giovanni Rotundo (which is about 200 km south of Manoppello in Italy), his friend Padre Domenico da Cese had just unlocked the doors of the shrine of the Holy Face one morning, and was astounded to find Padre Pio in prayer, in the choir behind the altar before the sacred image of the Face of Jesus.  St. Padre Pio spoke then to Padre Domenico saying, “I do not trust myself any more.  I am coming to an end.  Pray for me.  Good-bye until we meet in Paradise.”  Twenty-four hours later St. Padre Pio died in his cell in San Giovanni on September 23, 1968.  Testimony was later given by witnesses that Padre Domenico da Cese was seen at Padre Pio’s funeral (another case of bi-location). A film was even taken (here) which shows Padre Domenico walking slowly in Padre Pio’s funeral procession, even though Padre Domenico had never left the shrine in Manoppello.

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

Padre Domenico shared with everyone his ardent love and devotion for the Holy Face of Manoppello, also known as “Il Volto Santo” — a miraculous veil which transmits supernatural beauty, and at the same time indescribable suffering. It is the Face of Mercy, Love and Peace. He would tell pilgrims, “This face is that of Jesus, and it is a great miracle, always love him.” Padre Domenico had done much research on the sheer byssus veil, the image of which is not made with any paint or pigment, and compared the iridescent quality of the colors to the wings of butterflies which also reflect iridescent color naturally.  He also made studies of the Face on the Shroud of Turin, and its similarities to the Holy Face of Manoppello.  He believed with all his heart that it was the face of the same man, and he was convinced that, like the Shroud of Turin, the Veil of Manoppello was one of the many burial cloths in Jesus’s tomb–the holy sudarium which covered the Face of Jesus in death–and also miraculously bears witness to His Resurrection.

On September 13 of 1978 while visiting Turin to venerate the Holy Face on the Shroud during a rare exposition, Padre Domenico, who was a giant of a man, was hit by the smallest car, a Fiat, as he was stepping out into a street. After suffering for several days in a hospital, and forgiving the man who had hit him, he died on September 17th, offering his life for the Holy Face on the Veil–the Face of the man who saved him as a child.

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

 

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

Prayer for the intercession of Servant of God Padre Domenico da Cese

Oh God, you gave Padre Domenico the capacity of recognizing in the poor and the suffering the very Holy Face of your beloved Son, whose devotion he promoted with such zeal, through his intercession obtain for me the humility of heart, and simplicity of the little ones to whom you have revealed the secrets of the Kingdom, and in my hour of trial give me the strength to overcome the seductions of evil in order to put Satan to flight, and to merit, at the end of my earthly pilgrimage, to be able to contemplate the Holy Face of Jesus in the glory of paradise.
Though unworthy as I am of your Divine favors, I ask that you might grant, through the intercession of your faithful servant Padre Domenico, the grace I humbly ask of you…   
 Amen. 

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To learn more about his incredible life and passionate love for the Holy Face you can watch this wonderful video of his life: The Long Road Fr. Domenico, from Cese to Turin (click here)

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

Click here for the Padre Domenico da Cese FaceBook page 

Prayer to the Holy Face for the liberation from the coronavirus

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

Wisdom and the Cross

Crucifixion – Diego Velàzquez, 1632

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

Where charity and love are… God is there!

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

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

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

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

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The ‘Wisdom’ Cross by St. Louis De Montfort

DENY
ONESELF
CARRY
ONE’S CROSS
TO FOLLOW
JESUS CHRIST

IF YOU ARE ASHAMED OF THE CROSS
OF JESUS CHRIST, HE WILL BE
ASHAMED OF YOU BEFORE HIS FATHER

LOVE
THE CROSS
DESIRE:
CROSSES
CONTEMPT
PAIN
ABUSE
INSULTS
DISGRACE
PERSECUTION
HUMILIATIONS
CALUMNIES
ILLNESS
INJURIES

MAY JESUS PREVAIL.
MAY HIS CROSS PREVAIL.

DIVINE LOVE
HUMILITY
SUBMISSION
OBEDIENCE:
COMPLETE
PROMPT
JOYFUL
BLIND
PERSEVERING

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The Greatest Longing

The greatest longing of the human soul is to see God face to face.

Detail from Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Paul Rubens, 1609

The Blessed Virgin Mary was the most perfect reflection of the Face of God. Her pure soul was continually turned toward the Face of God, seeking His most Holy Will in all things. At the Incarnation the Holy Face of her son Jesus, true God and true man, was formed in her holy womb; by the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary was the first to see Jesus’s human face at His birth, and was closest to Him throughout His life and death. But, although she was immaculately conceived, she could only see the Face of God on earth, as any other human being can, that is, through the veil of faith.

Mary was created by God to be the mother of His Son, therefore she was “full of grace,” and filled with every gift of the Holy Spirit in their perfection. Her soul was “an enclosed garden” which belonged only to God, and in which the Holy Spirit formed the most perfect masterpiece of love. The gaze of her mind and heart was always on the Face of her son Jesus.  At the foot of the cross Mary suffered a passion of her own together with her son. As the blood and water flowed from Jesus’s side giving birth to the Church, through her pain and suffering Mary became the Mother of Christ’s mystical Body, with Christ as it’s Head.

Mary adored Jesus beneath the Eucharistic Veil of the appearance of bread.
The Virgin of the Host, by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

The joy of seeing Jesus’s Face after the Resurrection was followed by the most painful deprivation of the sight of her son after His Ascension into heaven. Then Mary, with ever increasing love and longing, sought the Face of Christ in the same way that we must seek Him in this life: in His Word, in our neighbor, and in the Eucharist. As she sought Him in these ways, the image of God shining in her soul increased in beauty and splendor as God bestowed grace upon grace on Mary. Though she was the Daughter of the Father, the Mother of the Son, and the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, Mary constantly died to herself and lived for others in perfect charity until finally dying of the burning love and desire to see the Face of God in Heaven. Mary had no attachment to creatures or things of this earth, and having no stain of sin or corruption, she was taken body and soul to Heaven, where she was crowned Queen of Heaven and Earth.

Mary, constantly seeking the Face of God throughout her life until she was assumed into Heaven by God was to be an example for us to follow. Her example may be best summed up in the words of the Servant of God, Père Jacques of Jesus, OCD:

“Let your life be transformed by this constantly burning desire to be willing to die in order to see Christ face to face.” 

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Holy Face Veil of Manoppello
(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)

Contemplating the Mystery of Light with Pope Benedict XVI

The Transfiguration by Carl Bloch (1872) Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him up a high mountain to pray and was transfigured before them, becoming so dazzlingly bright that his clothes were “whiter than the work of any bleacher could make them.” (Mk 9:2-100

 

Like many of our beloved elderly, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has been quietly sharing in the suffering of Christ. Since visiting his brother, Georg, in Germany before Georg died, Pope Benedict XVI had contracted very painful erysipelas rash on his face. The sad news brought to mind the pope’s words during his pontificate about the Transfiguration, that “mystery of light,” when the reality of Jesus, who is “light from light,” became perceptible to the senses to Peter, James, and John on the mountain, when His Face became radiant with Divine Glory. The Transfiguration not only prepared and strengthened the apostles for the Passion of Jesus, but was also a foretaste of the Resurrection.  As Pope Benedict wrote in the first volume of his work Jesus of Nazareth: 

[The Transfiguration] “reveals the profound interpenetration of His being with God, which then becomes pure light. In His oneness with the Father, Jesus is Himself ‘light from light.'”

 

“The Face of Christ is the supreme revelation of Christ’s Mercy.”–Pope Benedict XVI (photo:Paul Badde/EWTN)

At the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI invited us to contemplate this mystery of light from the Gospel:

“Today, the liturgy invites us to focus our gaze on this mystery of light. On the transfigured face of Jesus a ray of light which he held within shines forth. This same light was to shine on Christ’s face on the day of the Resurrection. In this sense, the Transfiguration appears as a foretaste of the Paschal Mystery.

The Transfiguration invites us to open the eyes of our hearts to the mystery of God’s light, present throughout salvation history. At the beginning of creation, the Almighty had already said: ‘Fiat lux – let there be light!’ (Gn 1: 2), and the light was separated from the darkness. Like the other created things, light is a sign that reveals something of God: it is, as it were, a reflection of his glory which accompanies its manifestations. When God appears, ‘his brightness was like the light, rays flashed from his hand.’ (Heb 3: 3ff.).

Light, it is said in the Psalms, is the mantle with which God covers himself (cf. Ps 104[103]: 2). In the Book of Wisdom, the symbolism of light is used to describe the very essence of God: wisdom, an outpouring of his glory, is ‘a reflection of eternal light’ superior to any created light (cf. Wis 7: 27, 29ff.).

In the New Testament, it is Christ who constitutes the full manifestation of God’s light. His Resurrection defeated the power of the darkness of evil forever. With the Risen Christ, truth and love triumph over deceit and sin. In him, God’s light henceforth illumines definitively human life and the course of history: ‘I am the light of the world,’ he says in the Gospel, ‘he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’ (Jn 8: 12).

In our time too, we urgently need to emerge from the darkness of evil, to experience the joy of the children of light!'”

Pope Benedict XVI, Paul Badde, and Sr. Blandina Schlomer Sept. 2006, at the Shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello.

In September of 2006, Pope Benedict XVI travelled as a pilgrim to the Shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Italy, where he contemplated another “miracle of light” — the Holy Face on the Veil of Manoppello. A year following this visit, he elevated the shrine to a basilica, and wrote the following prayer:

Pope Benedict XVI contemplates the Veil of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Photo:Paul Badde/EWTN
Light shines through the Holy Veil of Manoppello during evening procession. Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

Prayer of Pope Benedict XVI to The Holy Face

Lord Jesus, as the first Apostles, whom you asked: “What do you seek?” accepted your invitation to “Come and See,” recognizing you as the Son of God, the Promised Messiah for the world’s redemption, we too, your disciples in this difficult time, want to follow you and be your friends, drawn by the brilliance of Your Face, much desired, yet hidden.

Hand viewed through the miraculous Veil of 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

Face becomes visible with light on the Holy Veil of Manoppello.
Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

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! We want to draw from your eyes that look on us with tenderness and compassion the force of love and peace which shows us the way of life, and the courage to follow you without fear or compromise, so as to be witnesses of your Gospel with concrete signs of acceptance, love and forgiveness. O Holy Face of Christ, Light that enlightens the darkness of doubt and sadness, life that has defeated forever the force of evil and death, O inscrutable gaze that never ceases to watch over mankind. Face concealed in the Eucharistic signs and in the faces of those that live with us! Make us God’s pilgrims in this world, longing for the infinite and ready for the final encounter, when we shall see you, Lord, “face to face” (Cor. 13:12) and be able to contemplate you forever in heavenly Glory. Mary, Mother of the Holy Face, help us to have “hands innocent and a heart pure,” hands illumined by the truth of love and hearts enraptured by divine beauty, that transformed by the encounter with Christ, we may gift ourselves to the poor and the suffering, whose face reflect the hidden presence of your Son Jesus. Amen.

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

In March of 2012, Pope Benedict XVI wrote: “As Jesus was transfigured before them, His Face ‘dazzling with light,’ the voice of the Father could be heard, ‘This is my beloved Son, listen to Him.’ (Mk 9:7)  Thus, the light and the voice: the divine radiance on Jesus’ Face, and the voice of the Heavenly Father that witnesses to Him and commands that He be listened to.

The mystery of the Transfiguration must not be separated from the context of the path Jesus is following. He is now decisively oriented to fulfilling his mission, knowing all too well that to arrive at the Resurrection He must pass through the Passion and death on the Cross. He had spoken openly of this to His disciples; but they did not understand, on the contrary they rejected this prospect because they were not reasoning in accordance with God, but in accordance with men.

Holy Face Veil of Manoppello, photo: Patricia Enk

It is for this reason that Jesus takes three of them with Him up the mountain and reveals His divine glory, the splendor of Truth and of Love. Jesus wants this light to illuminate their hearts when they pass through the thick darkness of His Passion and death, when the folly of the Cross becomes unbearable to them. God is light, and Jesus wishes to give his closest friends the experience of this light which dwells within Him.

After this event, therefore, He will be an inner light within them that can protect them from any assault of darkness. Even on the darkest of nights, Jesus is the lamp that never goes out.” (Pope Benedict XVI, March 2012)

Let us pray for our Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and all who share in Christ’s suffering, that their hearts will be illumined  and transfigured by this mystery of light shining on the Face of Christ.

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“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

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News: Holy Face of Manoppello blogspot has posted a schedule for the days leading to the Feast of the Transfiguration celebrated at the Basilica Shrine of the Holy Face for the fortunate pilgrims who may visit. By special privilege of the Pope Francis in these days the faithful can gain the Plenary Indulgence.

Beautiful video below of the Feast of the Transfiguration at the Basilica of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Italy.

 

+++Blessing with The Holy Face Veil of Manoppello on the Feast of the Transfiguration+++

 

Holy Face Veil of Manoppello
(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)
NEWS UPDATE: Cardinal Brenes imparted a moving blessing with the charred Holy Face of Jesus which had been separated from the Crucifix during the attack and fire at the Church in Managua, Nicaragua, on the Feast of the Transfiguration.

 

God Calls Us Back With Love

St. Peter Chrysologus, Doctor of the Church

“Love desires to see God.”  So says St. Peter Chrysologus:  “When God saw the world falling to ruin because of fear, He immediately acted to call it back to Himself with love…” By an invitation of grace, love and compassion God called Noah, Abraham, Jacob and Moses–and a “flame of love” was enkindled in their hearts, “it’s intoxication overflowed into men’s senses. Wounded by love, they longed to look upon God with their bodily eyes, yet how could our narrow human vision apprehend God, whom the whole world cannot contain?” St. Chrysologus writes, “It is intolerable for love not to see the object of it’s longing!” No matter what good the saints did to merit a reward, they could not see the Lord.  A love that desires to see God may not have reasonableness on it’s side, but it is evidence of filial love.  It gave Moses the temerity to say: If I have found favor in your eyes, show me Your Face. It inspired the psalmist to make the same prayer: Show me Your Face.  Even the pagans made their images for this purpose: they wanted to see what they mistakenly revered.”  (from sermon of St. Peter Chrysologus)

A wonderful ongoing reflection to read in “Faith and Culture” from the writings of Pope St. John Paul II  and Pope Benedict XVI on the nobility of the human face and the Face of Christ – here:

“A Face to Contemplate” 

and here: The Revelation of God’s Face

 

The Sign of the Mask

    Holy Veil of Manoppello
    Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

 “Why do you hide your face?” (Psalm 44)

 

Signs — they are used to indicate something important, unusual, guide us or warn us of danger. So, too, it is with signs from God. There is one sign in the world today that encompasses all those definitions, and it is as plain as the nose on our face.

By now nearly everyone has experienced wearing a mask. A medical mask seriously hinders normal communication; if we can’t “read” one another’s facial expressions we lose a crucial means of communication. A mask covering a person’s entire face would naturally cause anxiety and fear. Criminals hide their faces, like the rioters, looting and destroying, wreaking violence in the night — indicating a complete severing of the relationship between human beings.  A mask may also be a “sign,” or symbol, of mankind’s broken relationship with God.

Being able to communicate with a person face to face helps us grow in relationship and love. “Already the face of man is like a light for the beholder. From it we get to know a stranger, or recognize a known person. Whoever shows the face is identified by it. If then the face of man is like a light, how much more will the Face of God not be for the beholder?” –St. Ambrose

“Because for your sake I have borne reproach; shame has covered my face.”  (Psalm 44:15)

Hans Holbein der Altere. Munich, Germany

Covering or uncovering the face has deep Biblical significance:  In 1 Kings 19 Elijah covered his face in reverence and humility when he recognized by “a tiny, whispering sound” that he was in the divine presence of God. “So it was Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle.” Union with God is “to see God face to face” one day, as the saints do in heaven. The faces of the enemies of God are also covered — “covered with shame.” “Cover their faces with shame, LORD, so that they will seek Your name.” (Psalm 83:16)  Christ’s Face was “covered with shame” in His Passion, when He bore mankind’s sins, in order to restore the broken relationship between God and man  — so that God’s enemies would “seek His name” — that is, to turn back to God’s Face in repentance.  God looks upon the Face of His Son Jesus, covered with shame, blood, sweat, dust and spittle. Yet, in His darkness, Jesus shines the light of His Face upon those who will look on Him, reconciling them with God the Father.

“And God who said: ‘Let the light shine from the darkness,’ has shone in our hearts, to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the Face of Jesus Christ.’ (2 Cor. 4:6) We know, then the place where Christ is shining within in us. Indeed, He is the eternal splendor of souls, sent by the Father on earth to illuminate as with the light of His Face, so that we could observe the eternal heavenly things, we who previously were immersed in the darkness of the earth.” –St. Ambrose

It makes no difference if one is healthy or sick, innocent or guilty, all must now wear masks. All must endure the stifling, suffocating, infernal nuisance of a mask that is now part of everyone’s lives. Setting aside the political and medical controversies that have swirled around the subject of masks since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak, there is something of greater importance here that has been ignored —  it is a sign — for humanity to turn back to the Face of God.

“Why do you turn away Your Face? May we say it another way. Even if, Lord, you turn Your Face away from us, yet we are sealed with the glory of your Face. Your glory is in our hearts and shines in the deep places of our spirit. Indeed, no one can live if you should turn away Your Face.” –St. Ambrose

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

Prayer to the Holy Face for the liberation from the coronavirus

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

 

God’s Greatest Gift – His Peace

Photo: Patricia Enk

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” (John 14:27)

In His discourse at the Last Supper Jesus gives to his disciples, and to us, the gift of His peace. He leaves it “with” us. Most people would think of peace as a state of being undisturbed, tranquil or quiet. But Jesus tells us at the same time not to “let our hearts be troubled or fearful.” We must must somehow preserve this peace while living, as did the first disciples, in a disturbing, troubling, and frightening anti-Christian world. It is a paradox. What is this “gift” of His peace — a peace that can remain with us while the world around has gone mad? 

The world offers its own sort of “peace” but it is at the price of rejecting Jesus Christ and His Cross. It is the false peace of tolerance and acquiescence — getting along, or going along with the prevailing culture — in the hope that by submission to its unceasing demands we will somehow be left alone to live our lives, losing none of our comforts or security. Anyone accepting this false type of peace however will ultimately lose everything, including eternal salvation. There is no real peace apart from Jesus Christ.

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

Pope Benedict XVI wrote that the revelation of the Face of God took on a new and beautiful manifestation when God became man in the person of Jesus Christ. As fully God and fully man, Jesus Christ gave us a human face that revealed the Face of God. “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!” Something new happens at the Incarnation, because now God’s Face can be seen: The Son of God was made man and He is given a Name, Jesus.

God, our loving Father, offers us a gift of true peace that is so much greater than anything the world has to offer, if only we turn back to His Face. God has a Face and a Name,  “the concrete sign of His existence” which He has shown us through His Incarnate Son, Jesus Christ. “To express ourselves in accordance with the paradox of the Incarnation we can certainly say that God gave Himself a human face, the Face of Jesus, and consequently, from now on, if we truly want to know the Face of God, all we have to do is to contemplate the Face of Jesus! In His Face we truly see who God is and what He looks like!” – Pope Benedict XVI 

It was on the World Day of Peace 2013 that Pope Benedict spoke about the blessing of the priests of 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:

“May the Lord bless and keep you, may He make His Face shine upon you and be gracious to you: May the Lord turn His Face toward you and give you His PEACE.” (Num. 6: 22-27)

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.” -Pope Benedict XVI

Moreover, Pope Benedict wrote, “To rejoice in the splendor of His Face means penetrating the mystery of His Name made known to us in Jesus, understanding something of His interior life and of His will, so that we can live according to His plan for humanity. Jesus lets us know the hidden Face of the Father through His human Face; by the gift of the Holy Spirit poured into our hearts.” This, the pope says, is the foundation of our peace, which nothing can take from us.

Limpias Crucifix

Benedict XVI has characterized devotion to the Holy Face as having three separate components: 1. Discipleship – an encounter with Jesus, to see Jesus in the Face of those in need. 2. The Passion of Jesus, and suffering expressed by images of the wounded Face of Jesus. 3. The Eucharist, “the great school in which we learn to see the Face of God,”  which is woven between the other two. The eschatological element then builds on awakening to Christ by contemplating His Face hidden in the Eucharist. “In the Eucharist, the Face of Christ is turned toward us.” – Pope St. John Paul II

“Our whole life should be directed toward encountering Him,” writes Benedict, “toward loving Him; and in it, a central place must be given to love of one’s neighbor, that love that in the light of the Crucified One, enables us to recognize the Face of Jesus in the poor, the weak, the suffering.” In short, to enter into a relationship with Jesus and to follow Him. The pope goes on to explain the fruits of this contemplation: “From contemplation of the Face of God are born, joy, security, PEACE.” Peace, not as the world gives, but the peace which can only come from Jesus Christ. “And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:7)

Listen to my voice, Lord, when I call
. . . Your Face, Lord, do I seek!
Hide not Your Face from me!
-Psalm 27

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“Abide in peace, banish care, take no account of all that happens. And you will serve God according to His good pleasure.” — St. John of the Cross 

“…and if my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek My Face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from Heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land.” (2 Chr. 7:4)

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)
 
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The Bearer of Victory

Christ the Redeemer and the Virgin Mary with the “Arma Christi” c.1520’s

It becomes more and more evident, to people of faith anyway, that a spiritual battle is raging in the world. Great or small, each Christian has a role in the decisive battle to be fought, through the Cross, and under the banner of the Face of Christ.

Veronica Veil, 1480, National Gallery, Washington

History records the existence of a miraculous veil with the Face of Jesus — not made by human hands. Down through the centuries it was called by many names, however, most commonly it was known as the Veronica (Vera-icon, Latin for “True Image”).  But there was also another name by which the veil was known: Berenice, from the Ancient Greek Berenike (or pheronike).  It was the same name as Veronica (Latin transliteration of Berenice), but with an another meaning — The Bearer of Victory.

The Veil of the Holy Face of Jesus, since 574, had been carried into battles as an imperial standard, used only when the Emperor Justin II was at the head of the army.

Crusader in helmet with the instruments of the Passion

“The veil was taken out for military campaigns. Teofilaktos Simokattes wrote that during the Battle of Solachon in 586, the veil acted as divine inspiration for the Byzantine forces. Simokattes also wrote that the labarum was ‘created by God Himself and hadn’t been woven or painted by man.’ In 622, the standard played a pivotal role in the war against the Persians, inspiring Heraclius’ armies in battle against the armies of Khosrau II. The seventh century Greek poet George Pisida wrote an account of the campaign, in which he call the veil’s depiction a ‘master-Portrait created by God.’  The relic continued to act as the imperial standard until the end of the seventh century. ” (Witness to Mystery: Investigations into Christ’s Relics, Grzegorz Gorny, Janusz Rosikon)

Servant of God, Marcel Van

Servant of God Marcel Van, known as the “Little brother of St. Therese and Apostle to little children,” was a Redemptorist brother who was martyred in Communist Vietnam.  He was given a vision in which Marcel saw the banner of victory atop a cross:

 “I saw a cross appear beside little Jesus.  At the top of this cross a piece of cloth was suspended on which was printed the Face of Jesus.  Little Jesus looked at me with a joyous expression, then, showing me the cross he said to me; ‘Little brother, here is your portion of the inheritance, here is the inheritance of the children. Do you see it clearly?’ Then little Jesus, indicating himself added: ‘Little brother, here is the elevator which will allow you to take possession of this inheritance, and it will also be the same for the children. Do you understand? That is the way your sister St. Therese had led you up till now, after having followed it herself.  Little brother, tell that to the children.'”  Br. Marcel said the vision remained ingrained on his mind in every detail. The “elevator” refers to an insight of St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, by the “little way” of spiritual childhood — “doing little things with great love” — the elevator lifting her to the Father was Jesus’s arms of love. The Servant of God won many spiritual battles throughout his life by practicing the “little way” of St. Therese, gaining victory after victory until he was martyred in 1959.
“Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

Your sweet Face is for me Heaven on earth. ” ~St. Therese

“How much good the Holy Face has done me during my life! The just will recognize Him not only on the Cross — a symbol of salvation, which will precede His coming, but more exactly, by His Face, which will shine on the last day.” –St. Therese 

 

 

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

What is the significance for today of the Veil of the “Master Portrait created by God” being carried as a standard in battle?  Why has God gifted humanity with a  miraculous veil bearing an image of His Face? Why did Pope St. John Paul II dedicate the millennium to the Face of Christ? I would propose one answer to these questions: God is directing our gaze to the Veil of the Holy Face of Jesus because He has given this great gift to us as the means to obtain victory in the battle  against Satan — by the contemplation of the Face of Christ.  And the most efficacious way to contemplate the Face of Jesus is through the eyes of the Blessed Virgin Mary when we pray the Rosary!

“It is first of all necessary to let the Blessed Virigin Mary take us by the hand to contemplate the Face of Jesus. Mary gives us eyes and a heart that can contemplate her Son.” –Pope Benedict XVI

Pope St. John Paul II has written about a “self-portrait” of the Face Jesus in Veritatis Splendor, and so did Pope Benedict XVI in Jesus of Nazareth.  Jesus painted this masterpiece of Himself on a mountain, where He prayed “face-to-face with the Father.”  The Face of Jesus may also be revealed, though in a veiled way, in the Word of God:

The Beatitudes

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.  Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Mt. 5:1-12)

The Beatitudes by Carl Bloch

The Beatitudes, Pope St. John Paul II says in Veritatis Splendor, “are a sort of self- portrait of Christ, and for this very reason are invitations to discipleship and to communion of life with Christ.” In Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI describes the Sermon on the Mount as a “hidden Christology.” He writes, “Anyone who reads Matthew’s text attentively will realize that the Beatitudes present a sort of veiled interior biography of Jesus, a kind of portrait of His figure.  He who had no place to lay his head (Mt. 8:20) is truly poor; he who can say, “Come to me…for I am meek and lowly of heart” (Mt. 11:28-29) is truly meek; he is the one who is pure of heart and so unceasingly beholds God.  He is the peacemaker, he is the one who suffers for God’s sake.

The brushstrokes of the Master are the Christian virtues by which He reveals His Face: Justice, Mercy, Humility, Meekness, Purity of Heart.  Jesus painted this self-portrait as an invitation for those who seek His Face to follow Him as His disciples, calling us to communion with Him and accompanying Him to the Cross.

St. Jerome wrote: “The Face of Jesus will continue to save each time we have recourse to it, invoking His aid, Lord, God of Hosts, bring us back, let Your Face shine on us and we shall be saved!  (Psalm 80:7)

In order for the battle to be won, each Christian must also become a “Bearer of Victory” by reflecting the Face of Christ to others in our broken world — holding high the banner of the Holy Face, and the Cross of Christ!

“Today, fixing our gaze with you on the Face of the risen Christ, let us make our own your prayer of trusting abandonment and say with firm hope: Christ Jesus, I trust in you!”
Pope St. John Paul II on the occasion of the canonization Mass of St. Faustina Kowalska, April 30, 2000