A Light in Darkness – Pope St. John Paul II

“I dare to summon the whole Church bravely to cross this new threshold, to put into the deep, …so that now as in the past the great engagement of the Gospel and culture may show to the world ‘the glory of God on the Face of Christ’ (2 Cor 4:6). May the Lord bless all those who work for this aim.”  

~Pope St. John Paul II
St. Pope John Paul II “In the Eucharist,
the Face of Christ is turned towards us.”

The Splendor of the Truth is Found on The Face of Christ

Obedience is not always easy.  As a result of that mysterious original sin, committed at the prompting of Satan, the one who is “a liar and the father of lies” (Jn 8:44), man is constantly tempted to turn his gaze away from the living and true God in order to direct it toward idols (cf. 1 Thes 1:9), exchanging “the truth about God for a lie” (Rom 1:25).  Man’s capacity to know the truth is also darkened, and his will to submit to it is weakened.  Thus, giving himself over to relativism and scepticism (cf. Jn 18:38), he goes off in search of an illusory freedom apart from truth itself.

But, no darkness of error or of sin can totally take away from man the light of God the Creator.  In the depths of his heart there always remains a yearning for absolute truth and a thirst to attain full knowledge of it.  This is eloquently proved by man’s tireless search for knowledge in all fields.  It is proved even more by his search for the meaning of life.  The development of science and technology, this splendid testimony of the ultimate religious questions.  Rather, it spurs us on to face the most painful and decisive of struggles, those of the heart and of the moral conscience…

No one can escape from the fundamental questions:  What must I do? How do I distinguish good from evil?  The answer is only possible thanks to the splendor of the truth which shines forth deep within the human spirit, as the Psalmist bears witness: “There are many who say: ‘O that we might see some good!  Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord’” (Ps 4:6)

The light of God’s face shines in all its beauty on the countenance of Jesus Christ, “the image of the invisible God” (Cor 1:15), the “reflection of God’s glory” (Heb 1:3), “full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14).  Christ is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6).  Consequently the decisive answer to every one of man’s questions, his religious and moral questions in particular, is given by Jesus Christ, or rather is Jesus Christ himself, as the Second Vatican Council recalls: “In fact, it is only in the mystery of the Word Incarnate that light is shed on the mystery of man.  For Adam, the first man, was a figure of the future man, namely, of Christ the Lord.  It is Christ, the last Adam, who fully discloses man to himself and unfolds his noble calling by revealing the mystery of the Father and the Father’s love”. –Pope St. John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor (1993)

What does it mean to be a Veronica? — more from Pope St. John Paul II / Veronica Veil, 1480, National Gallery, Washington

Prayer to the Holy Face by Pope John Paul II

Lord Jesus, Crucified and Risen; the image of the glory of the Father,
Holy Face, which looks at us and searches for us, kind and merciful, You who call us to conversion and invite us for the fullness of love, we adore and bless you. In your luminous Face, we learn to love and to be loved, to find freedom and reconciliation, to promote peace, which radiates from you and leads to you.

In your glorified Face we learn to overcome every form of egoism, to hope against every hope, to choose works of life against the actions of death. Give us grace to place you at the centre of our life, to remain faithful amidst dangers and the changes of the world, to our Christian vocation; to announce to all people the power of the Cross and the Word which saves; to be watchful and active, to attend the needs of the little ones; to understand the need of true liberation, which had its beginning in you and will have its end in you.

Lord, grant to your Church to stand like your Virgin Mother, at the glorious Cross, and at the crosses of all people to bring about consolation, hope and comfort.

May the Holy Spirit which you have granted, bring to maturation your work of salvation, through your Holy Face, which shines forever and ever. Amen.

“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the Face of Christ.”

(2 Cor. 4:6)

To Whom Are You Speaking?

Vocal prayer… must be accompanied by reflection. A prayer in which a person is not aware of Whom he is speaking to, what he is asking, who it is who is asking and of Whom, I don’t call prayer — however much the lips may move.

St. Teresa of Avila

St. Teresa of Avila was well aware of our human frailty. She experienced it herself in many years of empty prayer before her conversion experience which was before an image of the suffering Face of Jesus.

c. 1510, Dirk Bouts, Carmel of Toledo. It is believed that this is the image of Christ that St. Teresa was praying before when her dramatic conversion occurred.

We are not angels. We cannot see the Face of God in this life, so we need help to remember to whom we are speaking when we pray. St. Teresa wrote, “When we pray we must be careful never to set aside the sacred humanity of Jesus Christ.” Therefore, following her example, it is good to have an image of the Face of Christ before us when we pray as she did, to see with our eyes what Jesus suffered for our sake.

Whoever lives in the presence of so good a friend and excellent leader as is Jesus Christ can endure all things. Christ helps us and strengthens us and never fails; he is a true friend. And I see clearly that God desires that if we are going to please him and receive his great favors this must come about through the most sacred humanity of Christ, in whom he takes his delight.

The Majesty! How victorious! How joyful! Indeed, like one coming forth from a battle where He has gained a great kingdom! And all of that, plus Himself, He desires for you. Well, is it such a big thing that from time to time you turn your eyes to look upon one who gives you so much?

~ St. Teresa of Avila, feast day October 15th
St. Teresa of Jesus icon written by Patricia Enk

This is also a reminder of why images of the Face of Jesus are so precious, and to be treated with so much reverence and love. In particular, the image “not made by human hands” — the Holy Face of Manoppello — is a great gift from God to all of humanity, so we may fix our eyes upon Him and be filled with His blessings.

Padre Carmine Cucinelli gives a blessing with the Holy Face of Manoppello Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN).

In the photo above, hiding behind the Holy Face Veil, is a priest who has been the custodian of the Face of Christ for sixteen years, the rector of the Shrine, Padre Carmine Cucinelli. It is no little thing to be its custodian, like St. Joseph, as portrayed holding the relic of the Face of Jesus in the beautiful icon at the foot of the altar. The icon, a parting gift to Padre Cucinelli, was written by Sr. Blandina Schloemer, whose life’s work and devotion has been the Holy Face. Padre Cucinelli will be taking up a new post at the Capuchin Monastery of Giulianova — on the road which leads to the Holy House of Loreto, north of Manoppello, along the Adriatic. The Capuchins there take care of a sanctuary, where the Madonna dello Splendore appeared over 450 years ago. May God bless and reward him for his kindness to the pilgrims, who travelled to see the Holy Veil of Manoppello, and for making the “Il Volto Santo” known and loved throughout the world.

Custiodian of the Holy Face – Rector of the Basilica Sanctuary of the Holy Face of Manopello – Padre Carmine Cucinelli (Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)
“Il Volto Santo” Holy Face of Manoppello (Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)

Don’t Look Away From His Face

“Sadness is looking at oneself, happiness is looking at God. Conversion is nothing but a movement of the eyes.” ~ Blessed Carlo Acutis

“Whoever gazes on Me already consoles Me.” — Our Lord to Mother Pierina

Sin is ugly. It reared is ugly head last week in our diocese when two priests were removed from ministry. Both were priests I had known, that had given the sacraments to our family, and “high-fives” to my children and grandchildren. By outward appearance, they seemed pious. It was all a lie. The reasons for their removal have caused deep pain and sorrow to those already feeling beaten down by the betrayals and failures of members of the Church. They have spit on and disfigured the Face of Christ.

There are endless questions among the faithful: Why? How did this happen? Why didn’t we see the signs that something had gone grievously wrong? The answer to the questions are true for all who fall into sin. The answer is that at some point they turned away from the Face of God — either gradually, by venial sins, or by a deadly, deliberate decision — they chose to look away.

It has been said that if we are not moving toward God, by constantly striving to grow in faith and love of Him, we will fall away and more than likely, drag others down as well. There is no standing still in the spiritual life. Any one of us can fall miserably because we forget we are in the presence of God.

“We need only to realize that God is close to us and to turn to Him at every moment.”

~Brother Lawrence

Judas caused the deepest wound to the Sacred Heart, which is reflected on the Face of Jesus, by the sin of betrayal. He chose perdition rather than look in the Savior’s Face and ask forgiveness. Peter, however, after having denied our Lord three times, turned back to look at the Face of Christ, and in one glance received the grace of repentance. God is merciful. There is always hope. We need to continually be aware of being in the presence of God, which is turning to look at His Face. He is always looking at you with love. Please don’t look away. Don’t ever look away.

Denial of St. Peter by Carl Bloch

In contemplating Christ’s face, we confront the most paradoxical aspect of his mystery, as it emerges in his last hour, on the Cross. The mystery within the mystery, before which we cannot but prostrate ourselves in adoration.

The intensity of the episode of the agony in the Garden of Olives passes before our eyes. Oppressed by foreknowledge of the trials that await Him, and alone before the Father, Jesus cries out to him in his habitual and affectionate expression of trust: “Abba, Father.” He asks him to take away, if possible, the cup of suffering (cf. Mk 14:36). But the Father seems not to want to heed the Son’s cry. In order to bring man back to the Father’s face, Jesus not only had to take of the face of man, but he had to burden Himself with the “face” of sin. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 For 5:21).

~Pope St. John Paul II

To Contemplate the Face of Christ in the Rosary

Is there anyone who doubts that a spiritual battle between light and darkness is raging in the Church and in the world? The last words of G.K. Chesterton as he lay dying come to mind: “The issue is now quite clear. It is between light and darkness and everyone must choose his side.” The weapon of choice for the saints of the Church is, of course, the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Contemplating the Face of Christ with Mary

When he placed the New Millennium under “the Radiant sign of the Face of Christ” Pope St. John Paul II wrote:

“To contemplate the Face of Christ, and to contemplate it with Mary, is the ‘program’ which I have set before the Church at the dawn of the third millennium…It is the Church’s task to reflect the light of Christ in every historical period, to make His Face shine also before new generations of the new millennium. Our witness, however, would be hopelessly inadequate if we ourselves had not first contemplated His Face.” 

The Rosary is a traditional Christian prayer directed to the contemplation of Christ’s Face. “Without contemplation, the Rosary is a body without a soul,” says Pope St. John Paul II, “and runs the risk of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas, in violation of the admonition of Christ.”

Contemplation is a gift, a grace, from God. It is a communion in which God transforms a soul into His likeness. To put it more simply, as St. Teresa of Jesus says, contemplation is “a close sharing between friends…taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us.”  Contemplation is not something beyond our reach however–we have an incomparable model in Mary; the eyes of her heart were always turned toward His Face. To dispose our souls to receive this great gift of God we need only reach for a Rosary and pray it with humility, listening attentively in the Spirit together with Mary, in silent love–that veil of mystery–to the Father’s voice. When we contemplate the scenes or mysteries of the Rosary in union with Mary, the Rosary becomes an unceasing praise of God; a way to learn from her about her son, Jesus, to discover His secrets and understand His message for us.

To recite the Rosary, which can be called a compendium of the Gospel, Pope St. John Paul II says, “is to contemplate the Face of Christ in union with, and at the school of, His Most Holy Mother…Against the background of the words of the Ave Maria the principal events of the life of Jesus Christ pass before the eyes of the soul. They take shape in the complete seriesIMG_0915-1 of the joyful, [luminous,] sorrowful and glorious mysteries, and they put us in living communion with Jesus through–we might say through the heart of his Mother…The Rosary belongs among the finest and most praiseworthy traditions of Christian contemplation…To look upon the Face of Christ, to recognize its mystery amid the daily events and sufferings of His human life, and then to grasp the divine splendor definitively revealed in the Risen Lord, seated in glory at the right hand of the Father; this is the task of every follower of Christ and therefore the task of each one of us. In contemplating Christ’s Face we become open to receiving the mystery of Trinitarian life, experiencing ever anew the love of the Father and delighting in the joy of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul’s words can then be applied to us ‘Beholding the glory of the Lord, we are being changed into His likeness, from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.’” (Rosarium Virginus Mariae) 

"The contemplation of Christ's Face cannot stop at the image of the Crucified One. He is the Risen One!"~St. Pope John Paul II
“The contemplation of Christ’s Face cannot stop at the image of the Crucified One. He is the Risen One!”~ Pope St. John Paul II (Holy Face of Manoppello (Photo: Patricia Enk)

The entire month of October is dedicated to the Holy Rosary and October 7th is celebrated as the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. The feast, originally named for Our Lady of Victory, commemorated the stunning victory, against all odds, obtained by Our Lady in the Battle of Lepanto through the prayer of the Rosary–which saved Christendom on October 7th, in 1571. By keeping our eyes fixed on the Face of Jesus as we pray the Rosary, together with Mary, through her maternal intercession, we too may obtain great victories through the heart of her Son Jesus, who obtained for all mankind the greatest victory over sin and death by His Resurrection.

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“I dare to summon the whole Church bravely to cross this new threshold, to put into the deep…so that now as in the past the great engagement of the Gospel and culture may show to the world ‘the glory of God on the Face of Christ’ (2 Cor 4:6). May the Lord bless all those who work for this aim.”  ~Pope St. John Paul II

 

May the Lord Bless and keep you! – The blessing of St. Francis

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Blessing of St. Francis to Brother Leo

Within the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi is a precious relic: a small, crumpled piece of yellowed parchment with the writing of St. Francis, now displayed in a silver reliquary. It was written on Mount La Verna after St. Francis had received the stigmata. The first biographer of St. Francis, Bl. Thomas of Celano wrote that for a long time St. Francis’s friend, Brother Leo, had greatly desired to have some memorial from the words of Our Lord written by St. Francis:

St. Francis of Assisi
St. Francis of Assisi

“One day Blessed Francis called him, saying, ‘Bring me paper and ink, for I wish to write the words of God and His praises which I have been meditating in my heart.’ What he asked for being straightway brought, he writes with his own hand the praises of God and the words which he [his companion] wished, and lastly a blessing of the brother, saying: ‘Take this sheet for thyself and until the day of thy death guard it carefully.’ All temptation was at once driven away; the letter is kept and worked wonders for the time to come.” Brother Leo kept it faithfully; folding it in four, he carried it in his pocket and guarded it jealously for a good forty-six years.  The text in the middle, written in black, and marked with a large “Tau” cross is in Francis’s own handwriting, he writes the praises of God* and grants to Brother Leo the blessing from the Book of Numbers 6: 22-27 which later became known as “the Blessing of St. Francis.”

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in his homily for the World Day of Peace, 2013, spoke of this blessing from the Book of Numbers which was for the priests and the people of Israel. “The blessing repeats the three times Holy Name of God, a Name not to be spoken, and each time linked to two words indicating an action in favor of man. Peace is the summit of these six actions of God in our favor, His most sublime gift, in which He turns toward us the splendor of His Face.”

The Shroud of Turin
The Shroud of Turin

This is the great blessing that St. Francis desired to impart to his friend, Brother Leo:

“May the Lord bless and keep you; may He make His Face shine upon you and be merciful to you; may He turn His Countenance toward you and give you His Peace!”  (Num. 6:22-27)

Amen!

 

*(St. Francis’s “Praises of God” are now now quite faded, but, this much can be still read: “Thou art holy, Lord God, who alone workest wonders. Thou art strong. Thou art great. Thou art most high. Thou art the Almighty King, Thou, holy Father, King of heaven and earth. Thou art the Lord God Triune and One; all good. Thou art good, all good, highest good, Lord God living and true. Thou art charity, love. Thou art wisdom. Thou art humility. Thou art patience. Thou art security. Thou art quietude. Thou art joy and gladness. Thou…”)

 

St. Francis Icon

“His Veiled Gaze is Our Heaven!” ~ St. Therese

St. Therese of Lisieux as a child

 St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face is more commonly known for her way of “Spiritual Childhood” and devotion to The Child Jesus, however, her sister, Mother Agnes gave this testimony for St. Therese’ beatification:

“Devotion to the Holy Face was the Servant of God’s special attraction.  As tender as was her devotion to the Child Jesus, it cannot be compared to her devotion to the Holy Face.”  

St. Therese’ sister Celine (Sr. Genevieve of the Holy Face), also wrote: “Devotion to the Holy Face was, for Therese, the crown and complement of her love for the Sacred Humanity of Our Lord.  The Blessed Face was the mirror wherein she beheld the Heart and Soul of her Well-Beloved.  Just as the picture of a loved one serves to bring the whole person before us, so in the Holy Face of Christ Therese beheld the entire Humanity of Jesus.  We can say unequivocally that this devotion was the burning inspiration of the Saint’s life… Her devotion to the Holy Face transcended, or more accurately, embraced, all the other attractions of her spiritual life.”

St. Therese

Canticle to the Holy Face

Jesus, Your ineffable image
Is the star which guides my steps.
Ah, You know, Your sweet Face
Is for me Heaven on earth.
My love discovers the charms
Of Your Face adorned with tears.
I smile through my own tears
When I contemplate Your sorrows.

 

Oh! To console You I want
To live unknown on earth!
Your beauty, which You know how to veil,
Discloses for me all its mystery.
I would like to fly away to You!

Your Face is my only homeland.
It’s my Kingdom of love.
It’s my cheerful meadow.
Each day, my sweet sun.
It’s the Lily of the Valley
Whose mysterious perfume
Consoles my exiled soul,
Making it taste the peace of Heaven.

It’s my Rest, my Sweetness
And my melodious Lyre
Your Face, O my Sweet Savior,
Is the Divine Bouquet of Myrrh
I want to keep on my heart!

Your Face is my only wealth.
I ask for nothing more.
Hiding myself in it unceasingly,
I will resemble You, Jesus
Leave in me, the Divine Impress
Of Your features filled with sweetness,
And soon I’ll become holy.
I shall draw hearts to You.

So that I may gather
A beautiful golden harvest,
Deign to set me aflame with Your Fire.
With Your adorned mouth,
Give me soon the Eternal Kiss! ~St. Therese

St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, Icon by Patricia Enk, OCDS

“Look at His adorable Face, His glazed and sunken eyes, His wounds. Look Jesus in the Face. There you will see how He loves us.”

“Your Veiled Gaze is Our Heaven…”

Holy Face Veil of Manoppello, Italy (Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)

“O Adorable Face of Jesus! Our souls understand Your language of love; we want to dry Your gentle Face and to console You for the forgetfulness of the wicked. In their eyes You are still as one hidden; they look upon You as an object of contempt…

Face more beautiful than the lilies and roses of springtime! You are not hidden from our eyes…The Tears that veil Your divine look seem to us like precious Diamonds which we want to collect to buy the souls of our brothers and sisters with their infinite value.

Veil of Manopello, Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

From Your Adorable Mouth we have heard Your loving complaint. Since we know that the thirst which consumes You is a thirst for Love, we would wish to have an infinite Love to quench Your thirst…Beloved Bridegroom of our souls, if we had the love of all hearts, all that love would be for You! Then, heedless of our exile on the banks of Babylon, we will sing for your Ears the sweetest melodies. Since You are the true, the only Homeland of our hearts, we will not sing our songs in an alien land.

Eyes of Manoppello, photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

“The Living Face” of The Veil of Manoppello
Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

O Beloved Face of Jesus! As we await the everlasting day when we will contemplate Your infinite Glory, our one desire is to charm Your Divine Eyes by hiding our faces too so that here on earth no one can recognize us…O Jesus! Your Veiled Gaze is our Heaven!” –St. Therese of the Holy Face and the Child Jesus

St. Therese reliquary covered with rose petals. Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello. Nov. 4, 2006 (Photo: Paul Badde)

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Sadly, this year, due to the virus the Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Covington, Louisiana will not have the annual “Mass of the Roses”  in honor of St. Therese. Since it was their only fundraiser, it is hoped that generous souls might be moved to send a donation. Please pray for  these dear Nuns who pray for us all. If you would like to contribute, donations may be mailed to:

The Discalced Carmelite Nuns, 73530 River Rd, Covington, LA 70435

Some of the Discalced Carmelite Nuns, and friends at a past Mass of the Roses in honor of St. Therese

May God reward you for your generosity!


photo: Patricia Enk

 “O Jesus, whose adorable Face ravishes my heart, I implore Thee to fix deep within me Thy divine image and to set me on fire with Thy Love, that I may be found worthy to come to the contemplation of Thy glorious Face in Heaven.”

St. Therese shortly after her death

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. 

+++

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)