The Beauty of Mary

“Thou art all fair, my love, there is no spot in thee.” (Song of Solomon 4:7)

 

 

“From the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator,” “for the author of beauty created them.”  (Wisdom 13: 3, 5)

The spiritual beauty of God is reflected most perfectly in the woman He created to be His Mother.  No stain of sin would mar the beauty of His reflection in her soul. Never for one instant would she be under the power of the devil. “The Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits  of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin.” (Dogma of the Immaculate Conception)  Mary herself proclaims, “My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:47)

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.”  What in Heaven and on earth could be more beautiful than the Mother of God?  It is God who has willed that Mary be beautiful, not only fair in face, but in the fullness of grace. Yet, beauty has a purpose, and that is to draw us by the beauty of the graces God has given her towards the Beatific Vision–the Face of God.  Mary has no greater desire than that we turn towards the Face of her Son, as she does, with eyes of love.

Strangely, there are some who see the Blessed Mother not as a gift from God who leads us to her Son, but as an obstacle. They want to separate the Mother from the Son, even resorting to violence of smashing statues and slashing paintings of her, mistakenly thinking that somehow this could be pleasing to God, but it is only pleasing to the devil. It is blasphemy. When we separate ourselves from Mary, we separate ourselves from Christ. In The Everlasting Man G.K. Chesterton tells a story from his childhood, many years before he became a Catholic, which left a deep impression on his soul:

“When I was a boy a more Puritan generation objected to a statue upon my parish church representing the Virgin and Child. After much controversy, they compromised by taking away the Child. One would think that this was even more corrupted with Mariolatry, unless the mother was counted less dangerous when deprived of a sort of weapon. But the practical difficulty is also a parable. You cannot chip away the statue of a mother from all round that of a newborn child. You cannot suspend the new-born child in mid-air; indeed you cannot really have a statue of a newborn child at all. Similarly, you cannot suspend the idea of a newborn child in the void or think of him without thinking of his mother. You cannot visit the child without visiting the mother, you cannot in common human life approach the child except through the mother. If we are to think of Christ in this aspect at all, the other idea follows I as it is followed in history. We must either leave Christ out of Christmas, or Christmas out of Christ, or we must admit, if only as we admit it in an old picture, that those holy heads are too near together for the haloes not to mingle and cross.”

 

Jesus alone is “the Way” that leads to the Father, but Mary is the most beautiful image and likeness of Christ, which will lead us to Him. Dostoevsky once said that “Beauty will save the world!” Mary has a spiritual beauty to share with the world that attracts and expresses what is beyond words, in the depths of her heart, the love of a mother for her Savior and Son.

A Little Litany by G.K.Chesterton

Madonna and Child from the Robert Lehman Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art
“Our Lady, in whose face – more than any other creature – we can recognize the features of the Incarnate Word.” –Pope Benedict XVI Madonna and Child from the Robert Lehman Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art

When God turned back eternity and was young,
Ancient of Days, grown little for your mirth
(As under the low arch the land is bright)
Peered through you, gate of heaven – and saw the earth.

Or shutting out his shining skies awhile
Built you about him for a house of gold
To see in pictured walls his storied world
Return upon him as a tale is told.

Or found his mirror there; the only glass
That would not break with that unbearable light
Till in a corner of the high dark house
God looked on God, as ghosts meet in the night.

Star of his morning; that unfallen star
In the strange starry overturn of space
When earth and sky changed places for an hour
And heaven looked upwards in a human face.

Or young on your strong knees and lifted up
Wisdom cried out, whose voice is in the street,
And more than twilight of twiformed cherubim
Made of his throne indeed a mercy-seat.

Or risen from play at your pale raiment’s hem
God, grown adventurous from all time’s repose,
Of your tall body climbed the ivory tower
And kissed upon your mouth the mystic rose.

 

Happy Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe! For post “Look Closely – Our Lady of Guadalupe – Not Made by Human Hands” click here.

Miraculous Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe
“I am your merciful Mother.”

 

 

 

 

 

Great Favors through the Sacred Humanity of Christ

Holy Face of Jesus of Manoppello (photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)

“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.”–St. Teresa of Jesus (Feast Day October 15)

(by Patricia Enk)

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.”

Painting of Christ by Dirk Bouts that captivated St. Teresa

“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.” 

Christ giving His Blessing -Hans Memling

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

Statue of Jesus Scourged
St. Teresa’s moment of conversion occurred while praying before this image.

 

St. Faustina Kowalska – The Joy of Heaven is the Face of God

Venice, Illustration for the Divine Comedy of Dante, 13th Century”

“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 “Apostle of Mercy”
Feast Day: October 5th

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: 

Head of Christ, Petrus Christus ca. 1440 The Metropolitan Museum

“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: 

Host viewed through the Face of Jesus on the Veil of Manoppello in Italy. (Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)

“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.

“The Face of Christ is the supreme revelation of Christ’s Mercy.”–Pope Benedict XVI (photo:Paul Badde/EWTN)

“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)

Holy Face Veil of Manoppello
(photo: Paul Badde)

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 Face of God, so all may share in the joy of Heaven one day–to see Him face to Face.

“Write this: before I come as the Just Judge, I am coming first as the King of Mercy.” –Our Lord to St. Faustina

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)

“Jesus Christ is the Face of the Father’s Mercy!”–Pope Francis

 

Who is like God?

“Who is like God?” St. Michael holds high the Face of Jesus (Sculpture by Cody Swanson, Photo: Patricia Enk)

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid? When evildoers come at me to devour my flesh, these my enemies and foes themselves stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart does not fear; though war be waged against me, even then do I trust.” (Psalm 27:1-3)

It seems as though all hell is breaking loose, that every corner of the globe is filled with violence, disaster, and every kind of spiritual sickness.  Our relationship with God seems permanently broken, as so many souls reject, revile, or worse, are indifferent to their own Creator. Humanity is surrounded by a maelstrom of evil from which there seems to be no escape–at least that is what the devil wants us to believe and to despair of hope.  But we are not alone.  God has given us powerful defenders.

St. Michael, Old St. Patrick’s New Orleans (photo; Patricia Enk)

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.  It is believed that it was revealed to them that God would become man and not an angel.  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.

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 willl gain the victory in the conflict.” 

Engraving by Albercht Durer
Church of St. Michael/Sanctuary Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello (photo: Paul Badde)

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 recently 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!

“Who is like God?”

Holy Face of Manoppello, photo: Patricia Enk

“Come,” says my heart, “seek God’s face,” your face LORD, do I seek! Do not hide your face from me.” (Psalm 27:8-9)

St. Veronica column in St. Peter’s Basilica

“Lord, show me your way; lead me on a level path because of my enemies.  Do not abandon me to the will of my foes; malicious and lying witnesses have risen against me.  But I believe I shall enjoy the LORD’S goodness in the land of the living.  Wait for the LORD, take courage, be stouthearted, wait for the LORD!” (Psalm 27:11-14) 

Venice, Illustration for the Divine Comedy of Dante, 13th Century”
St. Michael and the Holy Sudarium of the Face of Christ (1516 Durer – Metropolitan Museum)

Servant of God Domenico da Cese, St. Padre Pio, and the Holy Face

Servant of God Padre Domenico da Cese (1915-1978) before the Veil of Manoppello
Holy Face of Manoppello Photo: Patricia Enk
Holy Face of Manoppello
Photo: Patricia Enk

September 17th marks 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.

Holy Face of Manoppello
photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

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.

The Holy Face of Manoppello, photo by Paul Badde/EWTN

 

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.

St. Padre Pio
Image of Manoppello
Photo by Paul Badde/EWTN
The Veil of the Holy Face of Manoppello
Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

Padre Domenico shared with everyone his ardent love and devotion for the Holy Face of Manoppello, also known as “Il Volto Santo” — a miraculous veil which transmits supernatural beauty, and at the same time indescribable suffering. It is the Face of Mercy, Love and Peace. He would tell pilgrims, “This face is that of Jesus, and it is a great miracle, always love him.” Padre Domenico had done much research on the sheer byssus veil, the image of which is not made with any paint or pigment, and compared the iridescent quality of the colors to the wings of butterflies which also reflect iridescent color naturally.  He also made studies of the Face on the Shroud of Turin, and its similarities to the Holy Face of Manoppello.  He believed with all his heart that it was the face of the same man, and he was convinced that, like the Shroud of Turin, the Veil of Manoppello was one of the many burial cloths in Jesus’s tomb–the holy sudarium which covered the Face of Jesus in death–and also miraculously bears witness to His Resurrection.

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.

The penetrating and gentle gaze of the Holy Face of Manoppello, Italy Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN
The Holy Face of Manoppello- photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

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.

Servant of God, Padre Domenico da Cese, Pray for us!
Servant of God, Padre Domenico da Cese…
Pray for us!

A Humble, Silent Witness to the Face of God – Robert Cardinal Sarah

Robert Cardinal Sarah gazing at the Face of Jesus, transfigured, in the Eucharist at the Basilica Sanctuary of the Holy Face of Manoppello(Photo 2013: Paul Badde/EWTN

His gaze is piercing, his lips closed, as he turns interiorly toward the Face of God; he listens intently for God’s voice in humble silence, and paradoxically evangelizes the world.  Robert Cardinal Sarah, appointed in 2014 as the prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship by Pope Francis, has written a masterpiece on prayer with Nicholas Diat, The Power of Silence; Against the Dictatorship of Noise.  In the afterword for the book Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI writes that Cardinal Sarah is “a master of silence and of interior prayer.”  

In The Power of Silence Cardinal Sarah writes:

Robert Cardinal Sarah (photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)

“Silence is not an absence. On the contrary, it is the manifestation of a presence, the most intense of all presences.”

“Through silence we return to our heavenly origin, where there is nothing but calm, peace, repose, silent contemplation, and adoration of the radiant Face of God.”

Pope St. John Paul II also spoke of the “radiant Face of Christ” as a preparation for the New Evangelization in Novo Millenio Ineunte, “And it is the Church’s task to reflect the light of Christ in every historical period, to make his Face shine before the generations of the new millenium. Our witness, however, would be hopelessly inadequate if we ourselves had not first contemplated His Face.”  One can have the false impression that evangelization consists only in saying many words. So, how is it possible that silence can also evangelize? Another eminent cardinal, Louis Cardinal Tagle of the Philippines, gives an answer to this question in his address in 2012 for the Synod on the New Evangelization:

 “The Church must discover the power of silence.  Confronted with sorrows, doubts, and uncertainties of people she cannot pretend to give easy solutions.  In Jesus, silence becomes the way of attentive listening, compassion and prayer.  It is the way to truth.  The seemingly indifferent and aimless societies of our time are earnestly looking for God.  The Church’s humility, respectfulness, and silence might reveal more clearly the Face of God in Jesus.  The world takes delight in a simple witness to Jesus, meek and humble of heart.”

To become “meek and humble of heart,” like Jesus, we must first turn to His Face in silent contemplation as Cardinal Sarah explains.

“Contemplative silence is silence with God. This silence is clinging to God, appearing before God, and placing oneself in His presence, offering oneself to Him, mortifying oneself in Him, adoring, loving, and hearing Him, listening to Him and resting in Him.  This is the silence of eternity, the union of the soul with God.” 

“The asceticism of silence reaches its most perfect degree in the life of those who have tasted this encounter with God through contemplation of His Face.  This is a form of nakedness and poverty.  But one gains access to true glory only at this price.  The asceticism of silence allows a person to enter into the mystery of God by becoming little, like a child.” 

“In silence, he cannot be a false god but can merely stand in a luminous face-to-face encounter with God” (The Power of Silence)

Robert Cardinal Sarah’s hand seen through the Manoppello Veil (Photo 2013: Paul Badde/EWTN)

Recently, Robert Cardinal Sarah made a visit to the Sanctuary Basilica of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Italy.  It was his second pilgrimage to the shrine since since 2013 to see the miraculous veil bearing the Face of Jesus. After his visit, “visibly moved,” he wrote this dedication in the guest book of the Capuchins at the Shrine:

“Here in Manopello we meet the countenance of God face-to-face, and when we look at Him, His gaze cleanses and heals us, God be blessed, Robert Cardinal Sarah 17/7/2017”

Holy Face of Manoppello, photo: Patricia Enk

“When face to face with a God who has become man, how can we not remain silent?” —The Power of Silence by Robert Card. Sarah with Nicholas Diat

Holy Face of Manoppello photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

A Hidden Soul

Sr. Miriam of the Mystical Body, OCD (on Sept.15, 2013)

Mary Julia Seelaus was born August 5, 1923, the second of eight children, in Philadelphia, PA. She attended Holy Child grade school, and Little Flower High School of Fine Arts.  When she graduated, Mary Julia–a talented artist–was hired to do women’s fashion art displays, but a flame that was the love of God burned in her heart, and she soon formed a group of Young Christian Workers, similar to the movement in France at the time.  One day, as she was riding home on the subway from her Christian Worker meeting, she heard a definite call to Carmel in her heart.

So, Mary Julia became a Discalced Carmelite nun, and her name became Sr. Miriam of the Mystical Body, OCD.  She said that “The discovery of the doctrine of the Mystical Body was a great grace for me.  Our loving God and Father has created each of us to be another humanity for Jesus.”  One of her favorite Scripture passages was “I am the vine, and you are the branches.  Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”

Sr. Miriam’s New Testament and photo of the Shroud of Turin

Anyone who had the great privilege of knowing this tiny, cloistered nun, knew of her great love and devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus, which she shared with everyone.  Sr. Miriam was that part of the Mystical Body who adored and loved the Face of Jesus, to make up for those souls who are indifferent to God, or even hate God. In her little New Testament, now yellowed and falling apart, St. Paul’s words to the Ephesians are doubly underlined, “God’s plan…is to bring all creation together, everything in heaven and on earth, with Christ as head.” (Eph. 1:10)  A small picture of the Shroud of Turin (glued to a piece of cardboard, with a hanger  carefully cut from duct tape) which belonged to Sr. Miriam, is worn through the surface of the photo, from the top of Jesus’s forehead to His chin, by a thousand kisses bestowed on His Holy Face as evidence of her faithful love and the desire to make reparation for those who did not love Him.

Her eyes sparkled when she spoke of Jesus, and one had the distinct impression that He was always at her side, because Sr. Miriam had the habit of addressing her Beloved out loud. If you asked her for prayers for someone, she would immediately implore Him, in her sweet voice, “O Jesus!  Help them!”

Painting of Jesus by Sr. Miriam

Before Sr. Miriam died, at the Discalced Carmelite Monastery in Covington, Louisiana, she suffered, as some holy souls do, a great darkness.  She felt that she was unworthy to even receive Holy Communion; she grew smaller and smaller, like a candle about to go out.  The darkness passed and on June 27, 2017, her entrance into eternal life was a peaceful one. The funeral procession to her place of rest at St. Joseph’s Abbey was halted momentarily when a peacock, a symbol of the Resurrection, suddenly flew out of the woods to the middle of the road, next to the hearse which carried her precious body.  The Face of Christ shone so brightly in Sr. Miriam’s soul, which remained always close to the Vine, that it cannot help but continue to bear good fruit.  Sr. Miriam, pray for us!

 

 

Jesus’s Self-Portrait

The Beatitudes by Carl Bloch

Did you know that there exists, in this world, a self-portrait of Jesus?  Yes, it is true. Pope St. John Paul II has written about this self-portrait in Veritatis Splendor, and so did Pope Benedict XVI in Jesus of Nazareth.  Jesus painted this masterpiece of Himself on a mountain, where He prayed “face-to-face with the Father.” On the mountain of the Beatitudes, Jesus painted in deep, rich hues, a self-portrait of crucified love for us to contemplate and imitate:     

The Beatitudes

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.  Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Mt. 5:1-12)

The Beatitudes, Pope St. John Paul II says in Veritatis Splendor, “are a sort of self- portrait of Christ, and for this very reason are invitations to discipleship and to communion of life with Christ.”  In Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI describes the Sermon on the Mount as a “hidden Christology.” He writes, “Anyone who reads Matthew’s text attentively will realize that the Beatitudes present a sort of veiled interior biography of Jesus, a kind of portrait of His figure.  He who had no place to lay his head (Mt. 8:20) is truly poor; he who can say, “Come to me…for I am meek and lowly of heart” (Mt. 11:28-29) is truly meek; he is the one who is pure of heart and so unceasingly beholds God.  He is the peacemaker, he is the one who suffers for God’s sake.”  

The brushstrokes of the Master are the Christian virtues by which He reveals His Face: Justice, Mercy, Humility, Meekness, Purity of Heart.  Jesus painted this self-portrait as an invitation for those who seek His Face to follow Him as His disciples, calling us to communion with Him, accompanying Him to the Cross. 

“If you say, ‘show me your God,’ I should like to answer you, ‘show me the man who is in you’… For God is perceived by men who are capable of seeing Him, who have the eyes of their spirit open…Man’s soul must be as pure as a shining mirror.”  –Theophilus of Antioch 

“Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God” (Mt. 5)
Holy Face “Il Volto Santo” of Manoppello, photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

Thy Glory in Beholding

O Lord, wealth of the poor, how admirably You can sustain souls, revealing Your great riches to them gradually and not permitting them to see them all at once. When I see Your great Majesty hidden in so small a thing as the Host, I cannot but marvel at Your great wisdom.”                      –St. Teresa of Jesus

Host viewed through the Veil of Manoppello in Italy. Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

Adoro Te Devote

Jesu, quem vellum nuns auspício,/Oro, fiat illud, quod tam sitio,/Ut te revelata cernens facie,/Visu sim beatus tuae Gloria.  Amen.

Jesus! Whom for the present veiled I see,

What I so thirst for, oh, vouchsafe to me:

That I may see Thy Countenance unfolding, 

And may be blest…

Thy Glory in beholding.  Amen 

Cardinal Tagle elevates the Eucharist at a Solemn Mass in honor of the Holy Face of Manoppello, Italy (Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)

There is a wonderful book by Dr. Brant Pitre called “Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist – Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper”  which sheds light on the great Mystery of the Eucharist, and the connection to the Old Testament “Bread of the Presence” otherwise known in the Old Testament as the “Bread of the Face of God”–the earthly sign of God’s Face veiled–because no one could see the unveiled Face of God and live. Three times a year, Dr. Pitre writes, the priests in the Temple would “remove the Golden Table of the Bread of the Presence from within the Holy Place so that the Jewish pilgrims could see it.” (Exodus 34:23; 23:17) Then the priest would elevate the holy bread before the people saying, “Behold God’s love for you!”  The Bread of the Face, was a sign of God’s love because it was a sign of His everlasting covenant.  “…this holy bread was a living visible sign of God’s love for his people, the way earthly people could catch a glimpse of the ultimate desire of their hearts: to see the Face of God and live, and to know that He loved them.”  “And just as the old Bread of the Presence was also the Bread of the Face of God, so now the Eucharist would be the Bread of the Face of God.” It is through His Face that we enter into the relationship of love with God.

Robert Cardinal Sarah gazing at the Eucharistic Face of Jesus at the Basilica Sanctuary of the Holy Face (Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN
“The Face of Christ is the supreme revelation of Christ’s Mercy.”–Pope Benedict XVI photo:Paul Badde/EWTN

“Behold, you do see Him, you touch Him, you eat Him…to receive Him into your heart…He upon whom the angels look with fear, and dare not gaze upon steadfastly because of His dazzling splendor, becomes our Food; we are united to Him, and are made one body and one flesh with Christ.” –St. John Chrysostom 

What greater sign of His Love than the bread and wine become His Body and Blood?

 

 

Burn within us Holy Fire

Holy Spirit Window in Loreto, Italy

Burn within us, Holy Fire, so that chaste in body and pure of heart, we may desire to see the Face of God.

We are temples of the Holy Spirit (photo: Patricia Enk)

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  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.” (2Cor 3:17-18) 

Rose petals like “tongues of fire of the Holy Spirit” tossed before the Holy Face of Manoppello. photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

Be sure to see the video from the previous post of Cardinal Tagle.  The light and fire of the Holy Spirit shines on his face as Cardinal Tagle speaks of his experience of seeing the Holy Face of Manoppello in person for the first time. (or click here)