“It is the Church’s task to reflect the light of Christ in every historical period, to make His Face shine also before the generations of the new millennium. Our witness, however, would be hopelessly inadequate if we ourselves had not first contemplated His Face.”
–Pope St. John Paul II
Why is devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus so important? St. Teresa of Jesus, the foundress of the Discalced Carmelites, and Doctor of the Church tells us that when we pray we must be very careful never to set aside the sacred humanity of Jesus Christ. “Many, many times have I perceived this through experience. The Lord told it to me. I have definitely seen that we must enter by this gate if we desire his sovereign Majesty to show his great secrets. A person should desire no other path, even if he be at the summit of contemplation; on this road he walks safely. This Lord of ours is the one through whom all blessings come to us. He will teach us these things. In beholding his life we find that he is the best example.”
“Blessed is the one who truly loves him and always keeps him near…As often as we think of Christ we should recall the love with which he bestowed on us so many favors, and the great things God showed in giving us a pledge like this of his love; for love begets love. Let us strive to keep this always before our eyes and to waken ourselves to love. For if at some time the Lord should grant us the favor of impressing this love on our hearts, all will become easy for us and we shall carry out our tasks quickly and without much effort.” ~St. Teresa of Avila
My beloved passing fair,
Love has drawn thy likeness, see,
In my inmost Heart, and there–
Lost or straying unaware–
Thou must seek thyself in me.
Well I know that thou shalt find
This thine image in my Heart,–
Pictured to the life, with art
So amazing, that thy mind
Sees thy very counterpart.
If by chance thou e’er shalt doubt
Where to turn in search of me,
Seek not all the world about;
Only this can find me out–
Thou must seek myself in thee.
In the mansions of thy mind
Is my dwelling-place; and more–
There I wander, unconfined,
Knocking loud if e’er I find
In thy thought a closed door.
Search for me without were vain,
Since, when thou hast need of me,
Only call me, and again
To thy side I haste amain;
Thou must seek myself in thee.
–St. Teresa of Jesus
“Whoever lives in the presence of so good a friend and excellent a leader as is Jesus Christ can endure all things. Christ helps us and strengthens us and never fails; he is a true friend. And I see clearly that God desires that if we are going to please him and receive his great favors this must come about through the most sacred humanity of Christ, in whom he takes his delight.”
The Majesty! How victorious! How joyful! Indeed, like one coming forth from a battle where He has gained a great kingdom! And all of that, plus Himself, He desires for you. Well, is it such a big thing that from time to time you turn your eyes to look upon one who gives you so much?” ~St. Teresa of Jesus, Feast October 15th
St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face promised that when she went to Heaven she would send down a shower of roses, and indeed she does. Therese points out for us the way of spiritual childhood: simplicity of prayer, and trust. But first we must become like little children…
October begins with the Feast of the “Little Flower,” St. Therese, and with the feast days that follow the graces flow into an ever increasing cataract of roses of grace, mercy, and peace, as with childlike simply we turn to Our Mother, Our Lady of the Rosary. In this month of the Holy Rosary, we are called anew to contemplate the Face of Jesus Christ in the Gospels, together with Mary, as we pray the simple prayers of the Rosary: The Creed, Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be.
When he placed the New Millennium under “the Radiant sign of the Face of Christ” Pope St. John Paul II wrote, “To contemplate the Face of Christ, and to contemplate it with Mary, is the ‘program’ which I have set before the Church at the dawn of the third millennium…It is the Church’s task to reflect the light of Christ in every historical period, to make His Face shine also before new generations of the new millennium. Our witness, however, would be hopelessly inadequate if we ourselves had not first contemplated His Face.” The Rosary is a traditional Christian prayer directed to the contemplation of Christ’s Face. “Without contemplation, the Rosary is a body without a soul,” says Pope St. John Paul II, “and runs the risk of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas, in violation of the admonition of Christ.”
Contemplation is a gift, a grace, from God. It is a communion in which God transforms a soul into His likeness. To put it more simply, as St. Teresa of Jesus says, contemplation is “a close sharing between friends…taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us.” Contemplation is not something beyond our reach however–we have an incomparable model in Mary; the eyes of her heart were always turned toward His Face. To dispose our souls to receive this great gift of God we need only reach for a Rosary and pray it with humility, listening attentively in the Spirit together with Mary, in silent love–that veil of mystery–to the Father’s voice. When we contemplate the scenes or mysteries of the Rosary in union with Mary, the Rosary becomes an unceasing praise of God; a way to learn from her about her son, Jesus, to discover His secrets and understand His message for us.
To recite the Rosary, which can be called a compendium of the Gospel, Pope St. John Paul II says, “is to contemplate the Face of Christ in union with, and at the school of, His Most Holy Mother…Against the background of the words of the Ave Maria the principal events of the life of Jesus Christ pass before the eyes of the soul. They take shape in the complete series of the joyful, [luminous,] sorrowful and glorious mysteries, and they put us in living communion with Jesus through–we might say through the heart of his Mother…The Rosary belongs among the finest and most praiseworthy traditions of Christian contemplation…To look upon the Face of Christ, to recognize its mystery amid the daily events and sufferings of His human life, and then to grasp the divine splendor definitively revealed in the Risen Lord, seated in glory at the right hand of the Father; this is the task of every follower of Christ and therefore the task of each one of us. In contemplating Christ’s Face we become open to receiving the mystery of Trinitarian life, experiencing ever anew the love of the Father and delighting in the joy of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul’s words can then be applied to us ‘Beholding the glory of the Lord, we are being changed into His likeness, from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.'” (Rosarium Virginus Mariae)
The entire month of October is dedicated to the Holy Rosary and October 7th is celebrated as the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. The feast, originally named for Our Lady of Victory, commemorated the stunning victory, against all odds, obtained by Our Lady in the Battle of Lepanto through the prayer of the Rosary–which saved Christendom on October 7th, in 1571. By keeping our eyes fixed on the Face of Jesus as we pray the Rosary, together with Mary, through her maternal intercession, we too may obtain great victories through the heart of her Son Jesus, who obtained for all mankind the greatest victory over sin and death by His Resurrection.
Eternal Father, since Thou hast given me for my inheritance the adorable Face of Thy Divine Son, I offer that Face to Thee, and I beg Thee, in exchange for this coin of infinite value, to forget the ingratitude of souls dedicated to Thee, and to pardon all poor sinners.
O Jesus, Who in Thy bitter Passion didst become “the most abject of men, a man of sorrows, “ I venerate Thy Sacred Face whereon once there did shine the beauty and sweetness of the Godhead; but now it has become for me as if it were the face of a leper! Nevertheless, under those disfigured features, I recognize Thy infinite Love and I am consumed with the desire to love Thee and make Thee loved by all men. The tears which well up abundantly in Thy sacred eyes appear to me as so many precious pearls that I love to gather up, in order to purchase souls of poor sinners by means of their infinite value. 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.
Although, St. Therese is more commonly known for her way of “Spiritual Childhood” and devotion to The Child Jesus, her sister, Mother Agnes gave this testimony for St. Therese’ beatification:
“Devotion to the Holy Face was the Servant of God’s special attraction. As tender as was her devotion to the Child Jesus, it cannot be compared to her devotion to the Holy Face.”
St. Therese’ sister Celine (Sr. Genevieve of the Holy Face), also wrote: “Devotion to the Holy Face was, for Therese, the crown and complement of her love for the Sacred Humanity of Our Lord. The Blessed Face was the mirror wherein she beheld the Heart and Soul of her Well-Beloved. Just as the picture of a loved one serves to bring the whole person before us, so in the Holy Face of Christ Therese beheld the entire Humanity of Jesus. We can say unequivocally that this devotion was the burning inspiration of the Saint’s life… Her devotion to the Holy Face transcended, or more accurately, embraced, all the other attractions of her spiritual life.”
Canticle to the Holy Face
Jesus, Your ineffable image Is the star which guides my steps. Ah, You know, Your sweet Face Is for me Heaven on earth. My love discovers the charms Of Your Face adorned with tears. I smile through my own tears When I contemplate Your sorrows.
Oh! To console You I want To live unknown on earth! Your beauty, which You know how to veil, Discloses for me all its mystery. I would like to fly away to You!
Your Face is my only homeland.
It’s my Kingdom of love.
It’s my cheerful meadow.
Each day, my sweet sun.
It’s the Lily of the Valley
Whose mysterious perfume
Consoles my exiled soul,
Making it taste the peace of Heaven.
It’s my Rest, my Sweetness And my melodious Lyre Your Face, O my Sweet Savior, Is the Divine Bouquet of Myrrh I want to keep on my heart!
Your Face is my only wealth. I ask for nothing more. Hiding myself in it unceasingly, I will resemble You, Jesus Leave in me, the Divine Impress Of Your features filled with sweetness, And soon I’ll become holy. I shall draw hearts to You.
So that I may gather A beautiful golden harvest, Deign to set me aflame with Your Fire. With Your adorned mouth, Give me soon the Eternal Kiss! ~St. Therese
“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.”
“O Adorable Face of Jesus! Our souls understand Your language of love; we want to dry Your gentle Face and to console You for the forgetfulness of the wicked. In their eyes You are still as one hidden; they look upon You as an object of contempt…
O Face more beautiful than the lilies and roses of springtime! You are not hidden from our eyes…The Tears that veil Your divine look seem to us like precious Diamonds which we want to collect to buy the souls of our brothers and sisters with their infinite value.
From Your Adorable Mouth we have heard Your loving complaint. Since we know that the thirst which consumes You is a thirst for Love, we would wish to have an infinite Love to quench Your thirst…Beloved Bridegroom of our souls, if we had the love of all hearts, all that love would be for You! Then, heedless of our exile on the banks of Babylon, we will sing for your Ears the sweetest melodies. Since You are the true, the only Homeland of our hearts, we will not sing our songs in an alien land.
O Beloved Face of Jesus! As we await the everlasting day when we will contemplate Your infinite Glory, our one desire is to charm Your Divine Eyes by hiding our faces too so that here on earth no one can recognize us…O Jesus! Your Veiled Gaze is our Heaven!” –St. Therese of the Holy Face and the Child Jesus
Father, through Saint Therese, help us to trust with a childlike disposition in your mercy and love. Saint Therese, remember your promise to do good on earth. Shower down roses on us and hear our prayers. Amen.
“Now a war broke out in Heaven. Michael and his Angels fought against the dragon and his angels.” (Rev. 12:7)
Mankind is in the midst of a battle, which has been fought since the beginning of Creation; between Christ’s Angels and the fallen angels or demons. When God created the angels, they were tested before they could see Him face to face. “God created man in His image; in the divine image he created him; male and female He created them.” (Gen. 1:27) It is believed that it was revealed to the angels that God would become a man and not an angel. Then, Lucifer, being a proud spirit, responded “Non Serviam!” — I will not serve! St. Michael answered with the battlecry “Who is like God?” 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
There is a strong association between St. Michael and the devotion to the Face of Christ. For many centuries St. Michael was depicted with the Sudarium Veil of the Face of Jesus. 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 [to the Holy Face of Jesus], 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 willl gain the victory in the conflict.”
St. Michael is named as the primary patron of devotion to the Holy Face. This is reflected in many ancient works of art in churches where St. Michael or the Holy Angels are portrayed holding the Veil of the Face of Christ. A fascinating article was written by Gelsimo Del Guercio (here) about seven sanctuaries, dedicated to St. Michael, which are linked by a straight line called the “Sword of St. Michael.” The imaginary line “represents the blow with which St. Michael sent the devil to hell.” I would like to add an eighth Sanctuary to the list: The church of the Sanctuary Basilica of the Holy Face of Manoppello. In God’s mysterious design this sanctuary, which contains a miraculous veil of the Face of Jesus, was named for St. Michael though no one who is alive today remembers why. The sanctuary, in Manoppello, Italy, falls at the center, on a map, of the legendary “Sword of St. Michael.” St. Michael and the Holy Angels come to our aid and they are bearing His Holy Face!
There is a hard battle being fought all around us in the Heavens and on earth. We would do well, therefore, to imitate St. Michael, Prince of the Heavenly Hosts, who humbly chose as his weapons to adore the Holy Face and invoke the Holy Name of God!
“I never cease to implore blessings for you from Jesus, and to beg the Lord to transform you totally in Him. How beautiful His Face, how sweet His eyes and what a good thing it is to stay close to Him…”–St. Padre Pio O.F.M.Cap
St. Padre Pio, a Friar Minor Capuchin priest and mystic, was well-known for his many spiritual gifts such as the stigmata, bi-location, and for his ability to read the hearts of penitents who came to him in confession. During his life St. Padre Pio suffered as Our Lord did, not only through physical pain, but by humiliations, calumny, slander and mistrust that deeply wounded his heart, in this he shared in the suffering of the Face of Christ.
He wrote in his meditations on The Agony of Jesus of the Face of Jesus, the “Innocent Lamb,” “His Face covered with sadness and at the same time with love:”
“He [Jesus] seems to be at the extremity of suffering… He is prostrate with His Face to the ground before the majesty of His Father. The Sacred Face of Him Who enjoys through the hypostatic union the beatific vision of the Divine Glory accorded to both Angels and Saints in Heaven, lies disfigured on the ground. My God! My Jesus! Art Thou not the God of Heaven and earth, equal in all things to Thy Father, Who humiliates Thee to the point of losing even the semblance of man? …It is to repair and expiate for my haughtiness, that Thou bowest down thus before Thy Father.”
It is no wonder then, in the extremity of his own suffering, St. Padre Pio’s last case of bi-location was before the relic of the Holy Face of Jesus at the shrine of “Il Volto Santo” in Manoppello, Italy, 200 km north of San Giovanni Rotundo, where Padre Pio lay dying. His friend and fellow Friar Minor Capuchin, the Servant of God, Padre Domenico da Cese, was at that time the rector of the shrine. Padre Domenico gave testimony that at the dawn of the last day of St. Padre Pio’s earthly life, he unlocked the doors of the shrine of the Holy Face and was astounded to find Padre Pio in prayer, in the choir behind the altar before the Sacred Image of the Face of Jesus. St. Padre Pio spoke then to Padre Domenico saying, “I do not trust myself any more. I am coming to an end. Pray for me. Good bye until we meet in Paradise.” 24 hours later St. Padre Pio died in his cell in San Giovanni.
“If I know that someone is afflicted in body or in soul, what will I not do in the presence of the Lord to see him freed from these evils? I should willingly take upon myself all his sufferings, if I could only free him from them. I should surrender in his favor the fruits of these sufferings, if the Lord were to permit it.” — St. Padre Pio
Below are photos of the miraculous image “Il Volto Santo” that Padre Pio prayed before in his own agony. This “living image” is very difficult to capture in a photograph because it is a changing image, one face, an infinite number of expressions but always a Face of Mercy and Peace.
Jesus makes Himself our mirror – “He who never meditates is like a person who never looks in the mirror, therefore, not knowing that he is untidy, he goes out looking disorderly. The person who meditates and directs his thoughts to God, Who is the mirror of his soul, tries to know his faults, attempts to correct them, moderates his impulses, and puts his conscience in order.” — St. Padre Pio
September 17th marks the anniversary of the death of the Holy Capuchin priest of Manoppello–the Servant of God, Padre Domenico da Cese.
As a nine year old boy in 1915, Padre Domenico predicted the devastating Avenzzano earthquake in Italy. A 6.7 earthquake hit that region the next morning, killing more than 30,000 people, including two of his sisters and burying him and his father in the rubble of their church. A man he didn’t know pulled him from the rubble to safety, whose face he later recognized on his first visit as a friar to the Shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello. When Padre Domenico knelt before the “Il Volto Santo” or Face of Jesus, the miraculous veil, he exclaimed, “This is the man who saved me from the rubble!”
A short time after Padre Domenico arrived in Manoppello the people were saying, “We have received a Saint!”
In her book, Servant of God, Padre Domenico Da Cese, O.F.M. Capuchin, An Illustrated Biography Petra-Maria Steiner relates an example of Padre Domenico’s extraordinary gifts in the testimony of Giuseppe Orlando, whose fiancee, Anna Maria introduced him to the Padre. After spending nearly an hour in conversation, Padre Domenico suggested that Giuseppe have a mass said for his grandmother, Maria Grazia. “Giuseppe was astonished, ‘But who is she? I don’t have any grandmother by that name.’ Padre Domenico told him not to ask questions but to just say a mass for her.” So, Giuseppe had arranged for a mass for “Maria Grazia.” Still bothered and wanting to get to the bottom of the truth, he went home and researched, and to his surprise he discovered that his father’s mother, who died when his father was only five years old, was named Maria Grazia. His father had been so young when she died that he had forgotten her name.
Like his friend and fellow Capuchin, St. Padre Pio, the humble Padre Domenico was also a mystic and stigmatist who had extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit; such as the gift of “reading souls” and bi-location. Penitents who traveled from Manoppello to go to confession with Padre Pio were admonished by him for traveling such a distance when they already had a holy priest in Manoppello. He told them, ” Why did you come all the way here, so far? You’ve got a priest there, my spiritual son, he’s like me!” St. Padre Pio’s last documented case of bi-location, just before he died, was before the relic of the Holy Face of Jesus at the shrine of “Il Volto Santo” in Manoppello, where Padre Domenico was the rector. Padre Pio had told his fellow Capuchins that the Holy Face of Manoppello was the greatest relic of the Church.
In September of 1968, as Padre Pio lay dying in San Giovanni Rotundo (which is about 200 km south of Manoppello in Italy), his friend Padre Domenico da Cese had just unlocked the doors of the shrine of the Holy Face one morning, and was astounded to find Padre Pio in prayer, in the choir behind the altar before the sacred image of the Face of Jesus. St. Padre Pio spoke then to Padre Domenico saying, “I do not trust myself any more. I am coming to an end. Pray for me. Good-bye until we meet in Paradise.” Twenty-four hours later St. Padre Pio died in his cell in San Giovanni on September 23, 1968. Testimony was later given by witnesses that Padre Domenico da Cese was seen at Padre Pio’s funeral (another case of bi-location). A film was even taken (here) which shows Padre Domenico walking slowly in Padre Pio’s funeral procession, even though Padre Domenico had never left the shrine in Manoppello.
Padre Domenico shared with everyone his ardent love and devotion for the Holy Face of Manoppello, also known as “Il Volto Santo” — a miraculous veil which transmits supernatural beauty, and at the same time indescribable suffering. It is the Face of Mercy, Love and Peace. He would tell pilgrims, “This face is that of Jesus, and it is a great miracle, always love him.”Padre Domenico had done much research on the sheer byssus veil, the image of which is not made with any paint or pigment, and compared the iridescent quality of the colors to the wings of butterflies which also reflect iridescent color naturally. He also made studies of the Face on the Shroud of Turin, and its similarities to the Holy Face of Manoppello. He believed with all his heart that it was the face of the same man, and he was convinced that, like the Shroud of Turin, the Veil of Manoppello was one of the many burial cloths in Jesus’s tomb–the holy sudarium which covered the Face of Jesus in death–and also miraculously bears witness to His Resurrection.
On September 13 of 1978 while visiting Turin to venerate the Holy Face on the Shroud during a rare exposition, Padre Domenico, who was a giant of a man, was hit by the smallest car, a Fiat, as he was stepping out into a street. After suffering for several days in a hospital, and forgiving the man who had hit him, he died on September 17th, offering his life for the Holy Face on the Veil–the Face of the man who saved him as a child.
Prayer for the intercession of Servant of God Padre Domenico da Cese
Oh God, you gave Padre Domenico the capacity of recognizing in the poor and the suffering the very Holy Face of your beloved Son, whose devotion he promoted with such zeal, through his intercession obtain for me the humility of heart, and simplicity of the little ones to whom you have revealed the secrets of the Kingdom, and in my hour of trial give me the strength to overcome the seductions of evil in order to put Satan to flight, and to merit, at the end of my earthly pilgrimage, to be able to contemplate the Holy Face of Jesus in the glory of paradise.
Though unworthy as I am of your Divine favors, I ask that you might grant, through the intercession of your faithful servant Padre Domenico, the grace I humbly ask of you…
“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”
“Seeking the Face of God in everything, everyone, all the time, and His hand in every happening; this is what it means to be contemplative in the heart of the world. Seeing and adoring the presence of Jesus, especially in the lowly appearance of bread, and in the distressing disguise of the poor.” ~St. Teresa of Calcutta
Paul Badde has written another fine article, “Veronica’s Heart or The True Canvas of God” which first appeared in the Italian Monthly Tempi. In the article Paul explores the roots of Pope St. John Paul II’s deep devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus, which led to his dedicating the millennium to the Face of Christ, as well as the connection to the rediscovery of the Veil of Manoppello, Italy — believed to be “the Veronica” or the true image of the Face of Christ.
The fact that Pope St. John Paul II and both his successors Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis strongly emphasized devotion to the Face of Christ is something that should cause every Christian to ask themselves “why?” What is its importance for the Church, and for each individual to seek the “true Face of Christ?” Raymond Frost, who writes the Holy Face of Manoppello Blog has translated Paul’s article into English. It is certainly worth a read… click here to read…
Beautiful fireworks exploded in the evening skies above Manoppello, Italy to celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration and to honor in a procession the great gift of God: “Il Volto Santo” — a precious relic bearing the miraculous image of the Holy Face of Jesus, on a sheer veil. The incredible history of the veil providentially brought it to Manoppello several centuries ago. Though at first shrouded in mystery, it was hidden from the world, and thus protected from many dangers. It may now be seen by all. Pilgrims flock from around the world for the opportunity to gaze on the Face of Jesus; to kneel, pray and adore Him; repeating the words of St. Peter on Mount Tabor: “Lord, it is good to be here.”
Fireworks may be seen shimmering through the holy veil at it is carried in procession through the crowded streets, which were captured in this wonderful video of the event by Angelo Ruetz from Switzerland:
This holy veil is so transparent that the decorative lights over the path of procession may be seen through it. At times it appears to the viewer that what is being carried so reverently is merely a white rectangle. Yet, as the veil is exposed to various changes in light, its secret is gradually revealed. Truly a great blessing to see!
“May God be gracious to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us…” (Psalm 67:1)
(To learn more about the veil click the Manoppello Tab above.)