During Lent of 2016, Paul Badde lay in an induced coma for many weeks following a stroke and heart surgery. Although he was completely still in the state of a coma, he was also somehow aware of the holocausts of prayer lifted up to heaven on his behalf. God was not done with Paul; his mission had barely begun…
God lays the groundwork for our missions in life in such mysterious ways. Paul’s expertise as an art historian, and journalist led he and his wife to spend many years in the Holy Land, praying, researching, and soaking up those places where Jesus lived, walked, preached, suffered, died and rose from the dead. His path led to Rome, and took a life-changing turn in the little mountain village of Manoppello, Italy, where he came face-to face with the mysterious veil bearing the Holy Face off Jesus known as “Il Volto Santo.”
Years later, after much research, and many books about this remarkable veil, pilgrims from around the world have been drawn to see for themselves the mystery of light that is the living image of the Face of Jesus, “Il Volto Santo,” that exists on a whisper-thin veil that is sheer enough to read a newspaper through.
When one seeks the Face of Jesus, the greatest help in the journey is to be accompanied by His Mother, Mary, who sought the Face of her Son every moment of her life. Paul had taken to heart the words of his hero, Pope St. John Paul II, when he placed the New Millennium under “the Radiant sign of the Face of Christ:”
“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.”
Pope St. John Paul II
And here is Paul’s labor of love, and gift to be shared — an aid to the contemplation of the Face of Jesus with Mary in praying the Rosary: “Stones and Pearls” a video series that is now available free on EWTN. Each mystery is presented biblically, beautifully, and individually, at each place of the mysteries in the life of Jesus, from the Incarnation to the Coronation. Filmed in the Holy Land and related Holy sites from around the world, the viewer is invited to join Paul on Pilgrimage to these Holy places in Jesus’s life. Paul’s insightful commentary has been translated from German to English, and the mysteries are enhanced visually by stunning works of art as well. This series has taken my own contemplation of the mysteries of Rosary to a greater understanding and depth, for which I am very grateful.
All the gifts of God are for the benefit of the whole Church and the world, so have a look at “Stones and Pearls” and enjoy!… As we contemplate, and pray the Rosary, for peace, and every intention of our hearts, we can be confident that God will “seek out the lost,” and fulfill every promise contained in each Mystery, and with each “Hail Mary.”
“It is said that King Abgarus of Edessa had sent a painter to make a portrait of Christ. But he was not able to do it because of the light that shone out of the Lord’s Face. So, taking a veil and placing it before his holy and life-giving face, Jesus impressed his image on it and sent it to King Abgarus, thus satisfying his desire.” –St. John Damascene (source)
St. John Damascene wrote this regarding The Mandylion of Edessa, which means “towel” or “handkerchief” in Arabic. Many versions of this legend may be found in historical sources dating back to 590 AD. According to one tradition the cloth bearing a living image of the Face of Jesus is associated with the Apostle St. Jude Thaddeus:
The poor King Abgar suffered from leprosy and gout and hearing of the miracles of Jesus, sent a letter to Jesus with his secretary Ananias, (who also happened to be the wonderful painter mentioned above). It was St. Jude Thaddeus who brought the Holy Veil to the King. After hearing St. Jude Thaddeus preach, and receiving the holy image the King was healed. King Abgarus, who brought Christianity to his kingdom, is venerated as a saint in the Eastern Church.
“Arab sources also mention the cloth on which Jesus imprinted the image of His Face.” (source) Although there was disagreement over the centuries as to the question of how the image of the living face of Jesus was formed on the cloth, everyone agreed that it was indeed miraculous.
Many reproductions were made of the image, some appearing miraculously on tile that had covered the sacred cloth. The Mandylion was brought eventually to Constantinople, “the queen of all cities,” on August 16, 944, which is still celebrated as a feast day in the Eastern calendar. It was recorded as being kept in a golden vessel, and only taken out once a year from the Sacred Chapel, where other precious relics of the Passion were also kept until the sack of Constantinople in 1204.
The Invocation of the Holy Face of Jesus continues to be associated with miraculous healing:
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.” ~ GKC
The weapon of choice for the saints of the Church is, of course, the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
“There is no problem that cannot be solved by the Rosary.” ~Sr. Lucia of Fatima
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 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.
“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.”
“During meditation, the Lord gave me knowledge of the joy of Heaven and of the Saints on our arrival there; they love God as the sole object of their love, but they also have a tender and heartfelt love for us. It is from the Face of God that this joy flows out upon all, because we see Him face to Face. His Face is so sweet that the soul falls anew into ecstasy” (1592, “Divine Mercy in My Soul”).
St. Faustina Kowalska, “The Apostle of Mercy,” was known as a mystic and visionary. Our Lord granted her a deep understanding of the love and mercy of God which she was to share with the world through her diary, “Divine Mercy in My Soul.” The Face of Christ had a prominent place in her spiritual journey:
“I have ever before my eyes His sorrowful Face, abused and disfigured. His Divine Heart pierced by our sins and especially by the ingratitude of chosen souls.” (Divine Mercy in my Soul, #487)
St.Faustina’s message of mercy was also intensely Eucharistic, recognizing the True Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. She offered Him continually to the Father to implore His Mercy for the salvation of the world:
“Eternal Father, I offer You the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins, and those of the whole world. For the sake of His sorrowful Passion have mercy on us and on the whole world.”
The greatest sign of God’s continuing mercy for the people of the world is His hidden Presence in the Eucharist. By turning to His Eucharistic Face in prayer, St. Faustina says, “a change takes place” in our souls, because Jesus is also gazing at us.
“O Living Host, O hidden Jesus. You see the condition of my soul. Of myself, I am unable to utter Your Holy Name. I cannot bring forth from my heart the fire of love, but kneeling at Your feet, I cast upon the Tabernacle the gaze of my soul, a gaze of faithfulness. As for You, You are ever the same, while within my soul a change takes place. I trust that the time will come when You will unveil Your Countenance, and Your child will again see Your sweet Face. I am astonished, Jesus, that You can hide Your self from me for so long and that You can restrain the enormous love You have for me. In the dwelling of my heart, I am listening and waiting for Your coming, O only Treasure of my heart! (Divine Mercy in My Soul, #1146)
By contemplating His Holy Face, and making Him the “Treasure” of our hearts, we are transformed by the Holy Spirit, who restores God’s image and likeness in our souls. As St. Paul has written:
“but whenever a person turns to the Lord the veil is removed…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. 3:16, 18)
St. Faustina’s message of God’s Mercy is needed more with each passing day. Let us continue to pray for God’s Mercy, and pray as well for all the people of the world to turn back to the Merciful Face of God, so all may share in the joy of Heaven one day–to see Him face to Face.
St. Faustina’s Prayer for Divine Mercy
O Greatly Merciful God, Infinite Goodness, today all mankind calls out from the abyss of its misery to Your mercy — to Your compassion, O God, and it is with its mighty voice of misery that it cries out: Gracious God, do not reject the prayer of this earth’s exiles! O Lord, Goodness beyond our understanding, Who are acquainted with our misery through and through and know that by our own power we cannot ascend to You, we implore You, anticipate us with Your grace and keep on increasing Your mercy in us, that we may faithfully do Your holy will all through our life and at death’s hour. Let the omnipotence of Your mercy shield us from the darts of our salvation’s enemies, that we may with confidence, as Your children, await Your final coming — that day known to You alone. And we expect to obtain everything promised us by Jesus in spite of all our wretchedness. For Jesus is our Hope: Through His merciful Heart as through an open gate we pass through to heaven.” (Divine Mercy in My Soul, #1570)
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:
“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:
“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.”
This is the same, 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)
*(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…” That is all that has been preserved.)
A Veronica to St. Francis — Lady Jacoba
In the Relic Chapel of the Basilica of St. Francis, in addition to St. Francis’s patched and tattered tunic and other precious relics, there is a display case which contains a beautifully embroidered silken veil and a small plaque with the name: “Jacoba Settesoli.” The plaque reads: “Like Jesus on his way to Calvary, Francis also had a Veronica.” (Veronica is the woman, tradition tells us, who wiped the Face of Jesus. She is the model of those who make reparation to the Face of Christ.)
Lady Jacoba was a noblewoman and widow, with two children from Rome, who became a follower of St. Francis. After having heard him preach she sought his guidance on how to be charitable. When Francis traveled to Rome, he would stay with Lady Jacoba as her guest and she cared for him when he was sick. She gave some of her property in Trastevere to the brothers, which they used to care for lepers. She gave up her life of comfort in order to help the poor. Woman were not normally permitted to be in company of the brothers, however, St. Francis made an exception in her case, jokingly referring to her as “Brother Jacoba.”
As Francis lay dying he sent an urgent letter by messenger to Lady Jacoba: “Brother Jacoba, the servant of the Most High, health in the Lord and communion in the Holy Ghost. Dearest, I want you to know that the blessed Lord has done the grace of revealing that the end of my life is nigh. So, if you want to find me still alive, hurry to Santa Maria degli Angeli as soon as you receive this letter.” He went on to request that she bring a gray cloth to wrap his body in, candles for burial, and almond cookies that she had made for him in Rome when he was sick. Before the messenger arrived in Rome, Lady Jacoba had already anticipated St. Francis’s needs by the light of the Holy Spirit and was on her way to Francis’s deathbed.
St. Francis’s biographer, Bl. Thomas Celano, wrote that Lady Jacoba brought not only the gray cloth, the candles, and the almond cookies, but also a pillow for his head, and a“sindomen pro facie” (a veil to cover his face in death, which was displayed in the Relic Chapel). So, St. Francis, an alter Christus who bore the stigmata, also had his “Veronica” in Lady Jacoba, who brought him consolation in his passion.
After two long years, the Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Covington, Louisiana will celebrate again on Sunday, October 2nd, for the first time since Covid hit, the annual “Mass of the Roses” in honor of St. Therese. This beautiful event begins with a musical prelude, followed by the celebration of the Eucharist, and the blessing and distribution of roses by children. After the Mass, homemade goods, and treats are sold which help pay for the nuns needs for the year. https://www.covingtoncarmel.org/mass-of-the-roses
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.”
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.”
“Your Veiled Gaze is Our Heaven…”
By St. Therese:
“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
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
May God reward you for your generosity!
“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.”
“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.
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.
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.
September 20th marked the anniversary of the death of the Holy Capuchin priest of Manoppello–the Servant of God, Padre Domenico da Cese. 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 (later 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. He and his father were buried in the rubble of their church as they attended Mass that morning.
A man with a bloody face, who young Emidio Petracca didn’t recognize as a relative or friend, pulled him from the rubble to safety. Fifty years later, as a Capuchin priest, while visiting the Shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello for the first time, he recognized the face of the man on the miraculous veil as the same man who saved him from the rubble. As Padre Domenico knelt before the holy relic “Il Volto Santo,” he exclaimed, “This is the man who saved me from the rubble!” He asked to be transferred to the shrine and remained at the Shrine as Rector until the time of his death.
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.
In September 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.
“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, 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.”
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.”
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
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 of Fr. Domenico, from Cese to Turin” by clicking here.
The exquisite illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages reflect the great love and devotion shown to the Holy Face, as well as provide evidence of what the Holy Face of Jesus looked like, as it was seen on a miraculous veil, known as “the Veronica.” “The Veronica,” or Veil of the Holy Face of Jesus, was the greatest relic in Rome at that time. To gaze upon the veil was the great desire of pilgrims, who came from far and wide, to see for themselves the sheer veil bearing the Face of Jesus. Beginning with public exhibitions and processions of the Holy Veil by Pope Innocent III in the mid thirteenth century, the miraculous veil could be viewed by all. Then, the artists got to work on paintings, illustrations, poetry, prayers, and hymns in honor of the Holy Face. ( “The Veronica Route” website wonderfully catalogues many of these “Veronica” artworks that may be found throughout the world.)
Pope John XXII, who was elected Pope in 1316, composed a beautiful hymn in honor of the Holy Face, and he also granted a special indulgence to those who recited it — and for those who could could not read, the Pope granted the same indulgence to the faithful for reciting five Our Fathers, Hail Marys, and Glory Be’s. (For an understanding of indulgences, this EWTN article,Primer on Indulgences by James Akin is very helpful.)
Hymn in Honor of the Holy Face by Pope John XXII (translated from the original Latin)
Hail! Holy Face of our Redeemer, hail!
Which shines in all its majesty divine
Upon the spotless veil, a priceless gift
To Saint Veronica; of love the sign.
Hail! Glory of all time, mirror-glass of the Saints,
Wherein the blessed love for eye to gaze;
Destroy within us every stain of sin,
And with the elect our souls towards Thee raise.
Hail, Face of God! With His own gifts adorned,
Whose splendor through the ages shall not cease;
Oh! make Thy light descend into our hearts,
And from their earthly toils our souls release.
Hail! Mighty bulwark of the Christian faith,
Of heresy and lies the Victor Thou;
King in the Sacred Bread, renew the strength
Of all the faithful who before Thee bow.
Hail! all our joy in this hard life below,
So frail and fugitive, so quickly over;
Sweet Picture, lead us onwards to the skies,
That we may there the Face of Christ adore.
Hail! noblest of all gems, celestial pearl,
In Thee innumerable graces shine;
No hand depicted Thee, no chisel carved,
Thou wert of God alone the work divine.
The tints with which Thy features He has traced
Will never alter and will never fade;
Changeless amidst the ravages of time,
The everlasting King Thy Face may see.
Forever incorrupt and free from stain,
The living Christ we honour still in Thee;
Thou turnest into joy our sighs and tears,
Oh! grant that we, in heaven, thy Face may see.
Be thou, we pray, our buckler and defense,
Our consolation and refreshment sweet,
That nothing hostile may our spirits harm,
Till, after death, we rest at Jesus’ feet. Amen.
Shed, O Lord, joy over the faces of Thy faithful, and turn them away from the depths of hell, that, protected by the contemplation of Thy divine Face, we may have strength to tread underfoot the desires of the flesh, and that we may behold Thee face to face, without fear, Lord Jesus Christ, when Thou will come to judge us. Amen.
“Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain where they were alone. There, before their eyes, he was transfigured. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Then the disciples saw Moses and Elijah appear, and they were talking to Jesus.”
— Matthew 17:2
The faith of Peter, James, and John was confirmed by the sight of the wonderful vision of God’s glory shining from the Face of Jesus on Mount Tabor foreshadowing the kingdom of Heaven. So too, Our Lord continues to bless and strengthen in faith those who turn to gaze at the Face of Christ in celebration of the Transfiguration. Many faithful from around the world are drawn by God on this day to the Basilica Shrine of the Holy Face, “Il Volto Santo,” in Manoppello Italy. The holy, miraculous veil transforms from a sheer, white bysuss veil to a visible image of the Face of Jesus — a sign of the deep mystery of God’s desire for us to be transformed into the likeness of His Son, to rise with Him, and to share in His glory.
“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
— 2 Corinthians 3:18
Many thanks to Paul Badde who has graciously shared the following photos which so wonderfully capture the visual changes which occur on the Veil according to light and the position of the viewer.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.