“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.”
The Apostles “with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary, the Mother of Jesus.” (Acts 1:14)
As an infant is inseparable from its mother, so the infant Church was inseparable from Mary, the loving Mother of the Church. An infant must be loved and nurtured in order to learn, grow, and mature, taking its first steps while holding tightly to the hands of its mother.
Mary, conceived without sin, was already filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and therefore she is a perfect reflection of the Face of God. So, the Apostles looked to Mary, “Full of Grace,” as their model perfectly formed in the image of God, as they prayed for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
This is the work of the Holy Spirit of Love– to sanctify our souls, shining upon us the radiance of His light, transforming us into the image of God, as we gaze on God’s Face in prayer.
“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. 3:18)
In Mary, the Holy Spirit manifests the Son of the Father…filled with the Holy Spirit she makes the Word of God, Jesus Christ, visible in order to make Him known to us. Like all good mothers, our Mother Mary will obtain all the good gifts that her children will need from her Spouse, the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. The Holy Spirit then perfects the soul with the first fruits of eternal glory: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity — so we may more closely resemble Jesus Christ.
Let us remain “with one accord in prayer” with Mary, as the Apostles did, for it is “through Mary the Holy Spirit begins to bring men, the objects of God’s merciful love, into communion with Christ.” (CCC 725)
To Mary, Spouse of the Holy Spirit
Daughter of the Most High, Mother of God, faithful Spouse of the Holy Spirit — yet also Mary of Nazareth, Joseph’s wife, my mother– hear my prayer for grace, O Full of Grace. Pray your Spouse the Holy Spirit to come upon me — to shelter from all ill, to strengthen me to do what is right, to teach me all truth. Pray him come to me, and abide with me, and be within me a fountain springing up unto eternal life. May he sustain me in sorrow, sanctify me in life, and receive me at the hour of my death. Holy Mary, Mother of God, Mother of the Church, pray for us.
There is a day of great celebration and joy, in Manoppello, Italy each May, commemorating the arrival, centuries ago, of the Holy Veil bearing a miraculous image of the Face of Jesus. “Il Volto Santo,” the Veil of the Holy Face, is carried in a solemn procession from the Basilica Shrine to San Nicholas Church in the city center.
The precious relic of the Holy Face of Jesus first appeared in Manoppello “around 1506,” in the hands of a mysterious stranger who was thought to have been a Holy Angel. This is the history:
The Story of the Arrival of the Veil of the Holy Face in Manoppello
In 1638, “a devout and well-respected man” named Don Antonio Fabritiis donated a precious Veil bearing the Face of Christ to the Capuchin monastery in the small, isolated mountain village of Manoppello, Italy. A document entitled Relazione Historica re-telling the local legend of the Veil was written by Capuchin Donato da Bomba and notarized in 1646 and then, certified by sixteen local witnesses. The story told of the arrival of the Veil in Mannoppello, “in around 1506,”(the date was vague) in the hands of a mysterious stranger who was thought to have been a holy angel. (Aside from the “angel,” the main characters in the story have been historically verified.)
The recorded story told was this: “There lived in Manoppello the very famous Giacomo Antonio Leonelli, doctor in medicine…one day when he was out in the public square just outside of the door of the Mother church of the town of Manoppello, St. Nicholas Bari, in honest conversation with other peers, and while they were speaking a pilgrim arrived unknown by anyone, with a very venerable religious appearance, who having greeted this beautiful circle of citizens, he said, with many terms of manners, and of humility to Dr. Giacomo Antonio Leonelli that he had to speak with him about a secret thing which would be very pleasing, useful and profitable for him. And thus, taking him aside just inside the doorway of the church of St. Nicholas Bari, gave him a parcel, and without unfolding it told him that he ought to hold this devotion very dear, because God would do him many favors, so that in things both temporal and spiritual he would always prosper.” So the doctor took the parcel and turning towards the holy water fount carefully opened it, and “seeing the Most Sacred Face of Our Lord Christ…he burst into most tender tears…and thanking God for such a gift…turned to the unknown pilgrim to thank him…but he did not see him anymore.” When the good doctor, “shaken” and “filled with wonder,” went outside to his friends and asked where the man went, his friends replied that they never saw him exit the church. They searched high and low but never found the mysterious pilgrim, “hence all judged that the man in the form of a pilgrim to be a heavenly Angel, or else a Saint from Paradise.”
The Holy Veil remained the property of the Leonelli family for nearly a century, until a family member in need of money sold the Veil to Don Antonio Fabritiis, who in turn gave it to the Capuchins in 1638. The Holy Veil, called the “Il Volto Santo,” was kept in a dimly lit side chapel until the church was renovated in 1960, when it was decided that the Veil should be moved to a more prominent place behind the altar.
What did the Face on the gossamer-thin Veil look like? Here are portions of a description that Capuchin Donato da Bomba gave of the Holy Face: “He has a rather long, well-proportioned face, with a venerable and majestic look. His hair, or locks are long with thin twisted curls–in particular at the top of the forehead about fifty hairs wind into a little corkscrew, distinct from each other and well arranged. His left cheek is swollen and bigger than the other because of a strong blow across the cheek. The lips are very swollen. His teeth show. It seems the Holy Face is made of living flesh, but flesh that is afflicted, emaciated, sad, sorrowful, pale and covered in bruises around the eyes and on the forehead. The eyes of Christ are similar to those of a dove…He is serene and tranquil.”
“Those who gaze on it are never satisfied with contemplating it, and wish to always have it before their eyes. And when they eventually leave it, with heavy sighs full of love, they are forced to leave Him their hearts, bathed in tears.” –Capuchin Donato da Bomba 1646
On September 1, 2006, another pilgrim (some also may say an “angelic pilgrim”) came to Manoppello to see for himself the Holy Face of Jesus on the Veil–Pope Benedict XVI, who has elevated the status of the Shrine to a Sanctuary Basilica. “Your Face O Lord I seek–seeking the Face of Jesus must be the longing of all Christians, indeed, we are ‘the generation’ which seeks His Face in our day, the Face of the ‘God of Jacob.’ If we persevere in our quest for the Face of the Lord, at the end of our earthly pilgrimage, He, Jesus, will be our eternal joy, our reward and glory forever.”–Pope Benedict XVI, September 1, 2006
The Face of Manoppello, which may be viewed from both sides, is described as “dark,” “light,” “bluish”, “golden” or it may even “vanish completely”…all are different, but, it is one Face!