Holy Face Novena 2023 Begins February 12

“Come apart for a little while and seek the Face of God.”

~St. Anselm

“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

“For God so loved the world” 

The Holy Face Novena will begin on Sunday, February12th, and will be posted here for each day.

The Feast of the Holy Face for 2023 will fall on February 21st –“Shrove Tuesday” — the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.

“Do you see how I suffer? Yet, very few understand me. Those who say they love me are very ungrateful! I have given my HEART as the sensible object of my great LOVE to men and I give my FACE as the sensible object of my sorrow for the sins of men. I wish that it be venerated by a special Feast on Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. I wish that the feast be preceded by a novena in which the faithful make reparation with Me, joining together and sharing in my sorrow.” –Words of Our Lord to Bl. Mother Maria Pierina de Micheli  (1890-1945)

Another holy nun, Sr. Marie St. Pierre (1816-1848) of Tours, France, was given revelations about devotion to the Face of Jesus. She received communications from Our Lord, who asked for a devotion to His Holy Face and a Work of Reparation: the offering His Holy Face to the Father in reparation for the sins of blasphemy, sacrilege, the crimes of atheistic communism, the profanation of the Holy Name, and the Holy Day of Sunday. The sins against the first three if the Ten Commandments are the greatest sins against God. The damage done by our sins to our relationship with God are reflected in the Face of of His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. For this reason, devotion and reparation to the Holy Face is fitting in order to make amends for what we have done to Him.

Our Lord said to her, “I have taken upon my Head all the sins of mankind, so that my members may be spared. Therefore, offer my Face to the Father, this is the means of appeasing Him.”

“My daughter, I give you my Face and my Heart, I give you my Blood, and I open my wounds to you; draw from them and pour it out. Buy without money, my Blood that is the price of souls. Oh! What grief for my Heart to see the remedies which have cost me so dearly, scorned. Ask from my Father as many souls as the number of drops of Blood that I shed during my Passion.”

 

“All who will undertake this work and who will truly devote themselves to it will not die the eternal death. I will defend their cause before my Father and I will give them the kingdom of Heaven.” 

“This work is the essence of charity!” — Our Lord to Sr. Marie St. Pierre

Click here if you would like to read a little of the History of images of the Holy Face.

King Abgare recieving a miraculous image of the Holy Face

“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…To contemplate Christ involves being able to recognize Him wherever He manifests Himself, in His many forms of presence, but above all, in the living Sacrament of His Body and Blood.”

Pope St. John Paul II

“The Reparation is a Work destined to save society.”  Pope Pius IX

Omnis Terra 2023

“Omnis terra adoret te, Deus, et psallat tibi!”

“The whole earth adores you, O God, and sing hymns to you” (Ps 65:4)

Procession of Pope Innocent II in 1208 carrying "the Veronica" Face of Christ (from "Liber Regulae Sancti Spiritus in Saxia" manuscript 1350)
“Omnis Terra” procession of Pope Innocent II in 1208 carrying “the Veronica” Face of Christ (from “Liber Regulae Sancti Spiritus in Saxia” manuscript 1350)

Livestream from Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/basilicavoltosanto. Basilica Volto Santo di Manoppello.

The Rector of the Basilica Shrine of the Holy Face, in Manoppello, Italy, P. Antonio Gentili, has announced that the “Omnis Terra” Mass celebration on Sunday, January 15th will be live-streamed from the Basilica beginning at 11:00am local time (Rome time) Archbishop Bruno Forte will be presiding. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI will be remembered in prayer during the Mass. A blessing will be imparted with the reliquary of the Holy Face during the celebration.

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Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

Omnis Terra, Latin for “All the Earth, ” is the name given to the Second Sunday in Ordinary time. The revelation of Jesus’s glory is the cause for all the earth rejoicing, giving praise to His Name! This year Omnis Terra falls on January 15th, and will be celebrated with a solemn Mass and procession at the Sanctuary Basilica of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Italy.

Since ancient times processions have been a reminder that our Christian life is a constant movement toward God and our eternal home.  A procession is a type of pilgrimage and expression of piety that flows from the liturgy.  Solemn processions can be quite beautiful–accompanied by hymns, prayers, and lit candles– flower girls dropping roses petals, lines of freshly scrubbed altar servers, Archbishops and Priests accompanying the Eucharist or precious relics, acolytes surrounded by clouds of incense, and the faithful, like lambs following the Good Shepherd, holding their rosaries trying to keep their place as they walk slowly behind. But make no mistake, a procession is not a pretty parade. There is power in procession that terrifies the infernal foe and makes all of hell tremble.

“Vera Icon” Holy Face of Manoppello (Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)
The “Living Face” becomes visible on the Holy Veil of Manoppello. Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

The eyes following the onlooker — Holy Veil of Manoppello (Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)
Il Volto Santo – The Face of Love and Mercy (Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

Fr. Frederick W. Faber in his treatise on the Blessed Sacrament wrote:

“We process toward our heavenly home in the company of God.  Procession is the function of faith, which burns in our hearts and beams in our faces, and makes our voices tremulous with emotion as our ‘Lauda Sion’ bids defiance to an unbelieving world.”

detail of Face of Jesus on the Holy Veil from the precious manuscript "Liber Regulae Sancti Spiritus in Saxia"
Detail of Face of Jesus on the Holy Veil from the precious manuscript “Liber Regulae Sancti Spiritus in Saxia”

The world is not only unbelieving but publicly blasphemes God to His Face, and it is for this reason that He must be honored publicly.  Whether it is within the confines of a church or through the city streets, the procession is a public function of faith, hope, and love. It is an antidote to the poison disseminated by our culture which falsely asserts that religion is “private” and not something to be brought up in polite society or in the public square.  By solemn procession the Church loudly proclaims to all the world that Jesus is Lord!

Archbishop Ganswain holding the replica of the Holy Veil of Manoppello at Spirito Santo in Rome. 2016
Archbishop Ganswain holding the replica of the Holy Veil of Manoppello at Spirito Santo in Rome. 2016

History was made on “Omnis Terra”(All the earth) Sunday in January of 2016, when bishops, priests, and pilgrims re-enacted the historic “Omnis Terra” Procession of Pope Innocent III (pictured above), carrying a reproduction of the precious image that many scholars identify with “the Veronica” or “true image” of the Face of Jesus. The pilgrim procession began at St. Peter’s in Rome and processed to  Spirito Santo church and hospital, drawing attention especially to the Face of Christ in the sick and the poor.

On the occasion of the first “Omnis Terra” procession in 1208, Pope Innocent III wrote this beautiful prayer of devotion to the Veil of Holy Face of Jesus:

“O God, who has marked us with the light of Thy Face as your memorial, and at the request of Veronica, left us Thy Image imprinted on the sudarium; grant we pray, that by your passion and death, to adore, venerate and honor you, in mystery and as through a mirror on earth, so that we might be able to certainly see you, face to face, when you come as our judge.”

On “Omnis Terra” Sunday, January 15, 2017, history was made once again at the Basilica Sanctuary of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Italy, when a third solemn annual procession was introduced–in addition to the two solemn processions already observed in May (commemorating the arrival of the Holy Veil to Manoppello), and the solemn procession in August (on the Feast of the Transfiguration). 

The addition of a third procession of the Holy Face at the Shrine of Manoppello is not only Trinitarian, it is a deeply significant and public witness of honor paid by the faithful to His Holy Face and thus also to the Holy Name of Jesus!  May all of hell tremble at the sight of His Holy Face!

A Hymn composed by Pope Innocent III from the year 1216:

“Sancte Salve Facies”

Procession of Pope Innocent II in 1208 carrying "the Veronica" *Face of Christ (from "Liber Regulae Sancti Spiritus in Saxia" manuscript 1350)
Procession of Pope Innocent II in 1208 carrying “the Veronica” *Face of Christ (from “Liber Regulae Sancti Spiritus in Saxia” manuscript 1350)

Hail Holy Face of Our Redeemer on which shines the appearance of divine splendor impressed upon a little cloth of snowy radiance and given to Veronica as a standard of love.

Hail beauty of the ages, mirror of the saints, which the spirits of the heavens desire to see.  Cleanse us from every stain of sin and guide us to the fellowship of the blessed.

Hail our glory amidst this hard life, so fragile and unstable, quickly passing away.  Point us, O happy figure, to the heavenly homeland to see the Face that is Christ indeed.

Hail, O sudarium, noble encased jewel, both our solace and the memorial of Him who assumed a little mortal body–our true joy and ultimate good!

*The precious miniature manuscript “Liber Regulae Sancti Spiritus in Saxia,” was published around 1350 and is preserved in the State Archives in Rome.  The illustration at the bottom of the first page of the Liber is one of the oldest illustrations of “the Veronica,” which depicts Pope Innocent III with “the Veronica” in his right hand and the Rule granted to the brothers of the hospital in his left.  Prior to the Jubilee of 2000, the French medievalist Jacques Le Goff wrote, “Over the centuries Rome was enriched with notable relics. One in particular acquired an exceptional prestige:  the sudarium of Christ known and revered by the name of “the Veronica.”  The circumstances by which the image first came to Rome is a mystery but was mentioned for the first time under Pope John VII (705-707)

More information will be posted when it becomes available as to live-streaming of the Mass, Procession and blessing of “All the World” with the Holy Face from the Basilica Shrine in Manoppello.

The Beauty and Meaning of Pope Emeritus Face Cloth

A cloth is placed over the face of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI by Archbishop Georg Ganswein, and Monsignor Diego Giovanni Ravelli.

“Almighty God, Lord of life and death, we believe that the life of the Holy Father Benedict XVI is now hidden in you… May his face contemplate your beauty.”

Prayer for the rite

Many may have noticed and wondered at the significance of placing a “veil” or cloth over the face of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. The significance of the action have a deep beauty and meaning, especially for a priest.

At the funeral of Pope St. John Paul II, Archbishop Dziwisz covered the pope’s face with a veil.

An explanation about the tradition of a face cloth for burial may be helpful in understanding its profound significance:  In the funeral rites for priests in some Eastern churches, the veil which was used to cover the chalice and paten were placed on the face of the deceased priest. (The cloth used to cover the chalice and paten had a particular liturgical symbolism linked to the Face of Christ as well.) It was done as a symbol of both the strength and protection of God, and also of the tomb of Christ–an expression of belief in the Resurrection. In Jewish burial custom, a deceased priest’s face would be anointed with oil and then covered with a white cloth, and would have been done for Jesus.

When Pope St. John Paul II was being laid in his coffin, Archbishops Marini and Stanley Dziwisz had the honor of placing a white silk veil over the face of the pope. Poignantly, the choir sang the words from Psalm 42, “My soul thirsts for God, the living God; when will I come and see the Face of the Lord?” Many wondered about the action of covering the pope’s face with a veil because this was the first time it had been done, but was at the request of Pope John Paul II, who had dedicated the millennium to the Face of Christ. In Novo Millenio Ineunte, St. Pope John Paul II emphasized the importance of contemplation of the Face of Christ by stating:

“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…To contemplate Christ involves being able to recognize Him wherever He manifests Himself, in His many forms of presence, but above all, in the living Sacrament of His Body and Blood.” And, “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.” (More may read in “The Cloth That Covered His Head.”)

Pope Benedict XVI contemplates the Veil of the Holy Face in Manoppello, September 2006, Photo:Paul Badde/EWTN

Deep in his heart, man has an inexpressible longing to see the face of God. As Pope Benedict XVI wrote beautifully in his homilies and in his book, On the Way to Jesus Christ, “The desire to know God truly, that is, to see the Face of God is inherent in every human being, even atheists.” This yearning for God has been expressed from antiquity in the Old Testament:

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

The Face of God was a recurring motif in Benedict’s homilies. On January 1, 2013, Benedict spoke on the blessing of the priests of the people of Israel. The blessing repeats the three times Holy Name of God, a Name not to be spoken, and each time linked to two words indicating an action in favor of man: “May The Lord bless and keep you, may He make His Face shine upon you and be gracious to you: May the Lord turn His Face toward you and give you His PEACE.” 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 Face of Christ is the supreme revelation of Christ’s Mercy.”–Pope Benedict XVI (photo:Paul Badde/EWTN, Alotting, Germany, Set. 13, 2006)

These words of Benedict echo the words of St. Pope John Paul II, that “in The Eucharist, the Face of Christ is turned toward us.”

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

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

“Our whole life should be directed toward encountering Him,” writes Benedict, “toward loving Him; and in it, a central place must be given to love of one’s neighbor, that love that in the light of The Crucified One, enables us to recognize the Face of Jesus in the poor, the weak, the suffering.” The pope goes on to explain the fruits of this contemplation: “From contemplation of the Face of God are born, joy, security, PEACE”

“Seeking the face of God”, says Pope Benedict XVI, “is an attitude that embraces all of life; in order for a man to see God’s face at last, he must himself be illuminated entirely by God.” “Let your face shine, that we may be saved.” (Ps 80:3,7,19)

Pope Emeritus Benedict kept a photo of the Holy Face of Manoppello near him and gazed on it in his last hours. His last recorded words were, “Signore Ti Amo” = “Lord, I love you.

”While we too seek other signs, other wonders, we do not realize that He is the real sign, God made flesh; He is the greatest miracle of the universe:  all the love of God hidden in a human heart, in a human face.” 

~ Pope Benedict XVI
Diego Giovanni Ravelli (L), Papal Master of Ceremonies, and Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Prefect of the Papal Household, place a cloth over the face of the body of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, during the rite of closing the coffin, in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican on January 4, 2023, which provides for the covering of the deceased’s face with a cloth. (Thank you, Paul Badde/EWTN for this stunning photo.)

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

“Your Face O Lord I seek–seeking the Face of Jesus must be the longing of all Christians, indeed, we are ‘the generation’ which seeks His Face in our day, the Face of the ‘God of Jacob.’  If we persevere in our quest for the Face of the Lord, at the end of our earthly pilgrimage, He, Jesus, will be our eternal joy, our reward and glory forever.”

–Pope Benedict XVI, September 1, 2006
Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI gazes at “Il Volto Santo” of Manoppello, Sept. 1, 2006. Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN, author of The Face of God: The Rediscovery of the True Face of Jesus, Ignatius Press

Until his last day, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, gazed on a photo of “Il Volto Santo” – the Holy Face of Manoppello. His last words were “Signore ti among” = “Lord, I love you.”

Prayer of Pope Benedict XVI to The Holy Face:

Lord Jesus, as the first Apostles, whom you asked: “What do you seek?” accepted your invitation to “Come and See,” recognizing you as the Son of God, the Promised Messiah for the world’s redemption, we too, your disciples in this difficult time, want to follow you and be your friends, drawn by the brilliance of Your Face, much desired, yet hidden. Show us, O Lord, we pray you, Your Face ever new; that mirror, mystery-laden, of God’s infinite mercy. Grant that we may contemplate it with the eyes of our mind and our hearts: the Son’s Face, radiance of the Father’s glory and the imprint of His Nature (cf. Hb 1:3), the human Face of God that has burst into history to reveal the horizons of eternity. The silent Face of Jesus, suffering and risen, when loved and accepted, changes our hearts and lives. “Your Face, Lord, do I seek, do not hide Your Face from me.” (Ps. 27:8ff) How many times through the centuries and millennia has resounded the ardent invocation of the Psalmist among the faithful! Lord, with faith, we too repeat the same invocation: “Man of suffering, as one from whom other hide their faces.” (Is. 53:3) Do not hide your Face from us! We want to draw from your eyes that look on us with tenderness and compassion the force of love and peace which shows us the way of life, and the courage to follow you without fear or compromise, so as to be witnesses of your Gospel with concrete signs of acceptance, love and forgiveness. O Holy Face of Christ, Light that enlightens the darkness of doubt and sadness, life that has defeated forever the force of evil and death, O inscrutable gaze that never ceases to watch over mankind. Face concealed in the Eucharistic signs and in the faces of those that live with us! Make us God’s pilgrims in this world, longing for the infinite and ready for the final encounter, when we shall see you, Lord, “face to face” (Cor. 13:12) and be able to contemplate you forever in heavenly Glory. Mary, Mother of the Holy Face, help us to have “hands innocent and a heart pure,” hands illumined by the truth of love and hearts enraptured by divine beauty, that transformed by the encounter with Christ, we may gift ourselves to the poor and the suffering, whose face reflect the hidden presence of your Son Jesus. Amen. Pope Benedict XVI Sept. 1, 2007, written in memory of his pilgrimage to the Sanctuary Basilica of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Italy, the year before, on Sept. 1, 2006.

Holy Face of Manoppello, Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI with Paul Badde on the occasion of the Pope’s pilgrimage to see The Holy Veil in 2006.

Requiescet in Pace, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, May you gaze on God’s Face for all eternity!

The Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary — Longing to See His Face — Triduum

During Advent the Church celebrates the longing to see God’s Face, together with the Blessed Virgin Mary, with a Triduum (three days of prayer beginning on December 15) and a Feast (on December 18th)–It is called The Feast of the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Longing to See His Face.  (a bit of the history may be found here.) The prayer may also be continued  until Christmas.

The Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

On the days leading up to Christmas we are invited to contemplate, together with Mary, the Divine Child within her womb, who is Our Savior.  We too, through sanctifying grace, bear the supernatural image of God within us. Like Mary, we desire to become a peaceful sanctuary for the living God. We are called to be attentive, in prayer, to the faint stirrings of His presence in our hearts, which will fill us with a deep longing to see His Face as we pray:

Prayer for the Triduum and Feast of the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Longing to See His Face

“Mary, your life with Jesus was one of the purest, most fervent, most perfect emotions of longing and most eager expectation of the Birth of the Divine Child! How great must have been that longing!  You were longing to see the Face of God and to be happy in the vision.  You were soon really to see the Face of God, the created image of divine perfection, the sight of which rejoices heaven and earth, from which all being derive life and joy; the Face whose features enraptured God from all eternity, the Face for which all ages expectantly yearned.  You were to see this Face unveiled, in all the beauty and grace as the face of your own child. 

Most just indeed it is, O Holy Mother of God, that we should unite in that ardent desire which you had to see Him, who had been concealed for nine months in your chaste womb; to know the features of this Son of the heavenly Father, who is also your own; to come to that blissful hour of His birth, which will give glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace to men of good will.  Yes, dear Mother, the time is fast approaching, though not fast enough to satisfy your desires and ours.  Make us re-double our attention to the great mystery; complete our preparation by your powerful prayers for us, so that when the solemn hour has come, our Jesus may find no obstacle to His entrance into our hearts.  Amen.” (Prayer by Rev. Lawrence Lovasik, S.V.D.)

Maranatha – Come Lord Jesus!

“Your Face, Lord, I Desire

Detail from Annunciation by Bartolome Murillo, 1655
Detail from Annunciation, Bartolome Murillo, 1655

St. Anselm wrote about the desire of every human soul created in the image and likeness of God; the desire to see God’s Face. It is a beautiful reflection for Advent! From the “Prosologian” — the words of St. Anselm, Bishop:

“Insignificant man, escape from your everyday business for a short while, hide for a moment from your restless thoughts. Break off from your cares and troubles and be less concerned about your tasks and labors. Make a little time for God and rest a while in him.

Enter into your mind’s inner chamber. Shut out everything but God and whatever helps you to seek him; and when you have shut the door, look for him. Speak now to God and say with your whole heart: I seek your face; your face, Lord, I desire.

Lord, my God, teach my heart where and how to seek you, where and how to find you. Lord, if you are not here where shall I look for you in your absence? Yet if you are everywhere, why do I not see you when you are present? But surely you dwell in ‘light inaccessible.’ And where is ‘light inaccessible? How shall I approach light inaccessible? Or who will lead me and bring me into it that I may see you there? And then, by what forms shall I seek you? I have never seen you, Lord my God; I do not know your face.

Photo: Patricia Enk
(Photo: Patricia Enk)

Lord most high, what shall this exile do, so far from you? What shall your servant do, tormented by love of you and cast so far from your face? He yearns to see you, and your face is too far from him. He desires to approach you, and your dwelling is unapproachable. He longs to find you, and does not know your dwelling place. He strives to look for you, and does not know your face.

Lord, you are my God and you are my Lord, and I have never seen you. You have made me, and remade me, and you have given me all the good things I possess and still I do not know you. I was made in order to see you, and I have not yet done that for which I was made.

Lord, how long will it be? How long, Lord, will you forget us? How long will you turn your face away from us? When will you look upon us and hear us? When will you enlighten our eyes and show us your face? When will you give yourself back to us?

Look upon us, Lord, hear us and enlighten us, show us your very self. Restore yourself to us that it may go well with us whose life is so evil without you. Take pity on our efforts and our striving toward you, for we have no strength apart from you.

Teach me to seek you, and when I seek you show yourself to me, for I cannot seek you unless you teach me, nor can I find you unless you show yourself to me. Let me seek you in desiring you and desire you in seeking you, find you in loving you and love you in finding you.”

(Photo: Patricia Enk)

Take us by the hand, O Blessed Virgin Mary

O Mary, conceived with0ut sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Madonna, Pompeo Battono, 1742
Shutterstock photo

“It is first of all necessary to let the Blessed Virgin Mary take one by the hand to contemplate the face of Jesus. Mary gives us eyes and a heart that can contemplate her Son in the Eucharist.”

~ Pope Benedict XVI

Mary was “Blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing,” (cf. Eph 1:3) chosen by God from all eternity to be the Mother of the Redeemer. So, ask her to take you by the hand because it is she who leads us to Jesus. Then we may contemplate, together with her, His Holy Face–in His Word, in the Eucharist, and in our neighbor. As the Immaculate Conception, Mary bears in herself the most perfect reflection of the Face of God.  Pope St. John Paul II wrote, “The Blessed Virgin saw shining upon her, as no other creature, the face of the Father, rich in grace and mercy.”

This Advent, let us fix our gaze on Jesus and Mary rather than on the profane things of the world. We keep Mary before our eyes in order to contemplate in her everything that is good and true and beautiful — She is “God’s Mirror.” “She is the proclamation of a merciful God who does not surrender to the sin of his children,” Pope St. John Paul II tells us “in Mary shines forth God’s sublime and surprising tenderness for the entire human race.  In her, humanity regains its former beauty and the divine plan is revealed to be stronger than evil…” In Mary “the Creator has kept the original beauty of creation uncontaminated” so that in the Immaculate Conception, “the Father’s original, wondrous plan of love was reestablished in an even more wondrous way.”

Virgin and Child,1510

And in Her Morning

The Virgin Mary cannot enter

my soul for an indwelling. God alone

has sealed this land as secretly His own;

but being mother and implored, she comes

to stand along my eastern sky and be

a drift of sunrise over God and me.

God is a light and genitor of light.

Yet for our weakness and our punishment

He hides Himself in midnights that prevent

all save the least awarenesses of Him.

We strain with dimmed eyes inward and

perceive

no stir of what we clamored to believe.

Yet I say: God (if one may jest with God),

Your hiding has not reckoned with Our Lady

who holds my east horizon and whose glow

lights up my inner landscape, high and low.

All my soul’s acres shine and shine with her!

You are discovered, God; awake, rise

out of the dark of Your Divine surprise!

Your own reflection has revealed Your place,

for she is utter light by Your own grace.

And in her light I find You hid within me,

And in her morning I can see Your Face.

~Sr. Miriam of the Holy Spirit, OCD (Jessica Powers)

Photo: Patricia Enk

Contemplating the Face of Christ with Mary

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

IMG_0915-1

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.” 

by Raffaella Sanzio

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.

Adoration of the Christ Child and Annunciation to the Shepherds by Bernardino Luini

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 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

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

May the Lord bless and keep you – The “Blessing of St. Francis”

Earliest image of St. Francis 1228 Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

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.”

St. Francis of Assisi

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 contemplates the Face of Jesus on the Veil turned toward him. Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN
The Blessing of St. Francis in reliquary

*(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.)

Bl. “Frate” Jacopa de Settesoli

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.

The bells of the church of Santo Stefano the Martyr which rang by themselves when St. Francis died. Photo: Patricia Enk

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.

St. Francis, Pray for us!

Assisi Photo: Patricia Enk
Assisi
Photo: Patricia Enk

Let the Little Children Come to Me

“Let the little children come to me.” Photo: Patricia Enk

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 Lisieux

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 shortly after her death

“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:
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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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!

Two “St. Therese” and one Sr. Teresita
Children distributing blessed roses
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.”