The Radiant Sign of the Face of Christ

“Christ is the One who looks into our eyes and He wants us to look into His eyes: ‘He who has seen me has seen the Father.’ We are called to see God, we are continually called to look at Christ.”

Pope St. John Paul II
(Hand holding a Host viewed through the Face on Holy Veil of Manoppello in Italy. Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)

“May the Lord grant that in the new millennium, the Church will grow ever more in holiness, that she may become in history a true epiphany of the merciful and glorious Face of Christ the Lord.”

2001, Pope St. John Paul II

The Radiant sign of the Face of Christ is Jesus’ Real Presence in the Eucharist

Many Catholics are unaware of the fact that this millennium was dedicated to the Face of Christ by Pope St. John Paul II. He lifted high before the Church the banner of the Holy Face of Jesus at the dawn of the millennium. The Face of Christ was to be the standard for the faithful to follow in this spiritual battle that exists in the world between light and darkness.

On the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, in 2001, Pope St. John Paul II wrote:

The invisible Face of Christ, the son of God, is manifest in His Body and Blood in the simplest and, at the same time, the most exalted way possible in this world.

The ecclesial community responds to people in every age who ask perplexed: “We wish to see Jesus” (Jn 12,21), by repeating what the Lord did for the disciples of Emmaus: He broke the bread. In the breaking of the bread, the eyes of those who seek Him with a sincere heart are opened. In the Eucharist, the intuition of the heart recognizes Jesus and His unmistakable love lived “to the end” (Jn 13,1). And in Him, in that gesture, it recognizes the Face of God!

— Pope St. John Paul II

In 1997, St. Pope John Paul II asked for an International Congress for studying the Holy Face Medal and Devotion to The Holy Face as a preparation for the Millennium, which he later placed under “The Radiant sign of The Face of Christ.” The front of the medal bears an image of the Holy Face from the Shroud of Turin and an inscription based on Psalm 66:2: “Illumina, Domine, vultum tuum super nos”,  “May, O Lord, the light of Thy countenance shine upon us.”  The other side of the medal, bears an image of a radiant Sacred Host, representing the Eucharistic Face of Christ, the monogram of the Holy Name (“IHS”), and the inscription “Mane nobiscum, Domine” or “Stay with us, O Lord,” which are the words of the disciples on the road to Emmaus when they recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread. The Holy Face medal is a tangible reminder of the “invisible face of Christ” made manifest in His Most Holy Body and Blood in the Blessed Sacrament.

“Illumina Domine, Vultum Tuum Super Nos” “Shine the Light of Your Face Upon Us, O Lord”

The medal of the Holy Face of Jesus was made by Bl.Mother Marie Pierina De Micheli, following the request of Jesus and The Blessed Mother.  Mother Pierina, with the help of her spiritual Director received the permission of the Curia of Milan, Italy.

In 1936, Our Lord told Bl. Mother Pierina, “I will that My Face, which reflects the intimate pains of My Spirit, the suffering and the love of My Heart, be more honoured. He who meditates upon Me, consoles Me. Every time that My Face is contemplated, I will pour My love into the hearts of men and through My Holy Face will be obtained the salvation of many souls.”

“Mane Nobiscum Domine” “Stay with us, O Lord”

The Blessed Mother also told  Sr. De Micheli, “This medal is a weapon of defense, a shield of courage, a guarantee of love and of mercy that Jesus wishes to give to the world in these times of sexuality and of hatred towards God and His Church. Diabolical snares are laid to tear the faith from the hearts of men, evil is spreading, the true apostles are few, a divine remedy is necessary and this remedy is the Holy Face of Jesus. 

Pope John Paul II: “The Eucharist is the great school in which we learn to see The Face of God.” “In The Eucharist, The Face of Christ is turned toward us.”

“Your Face, O Lord, I seek” (Ps. 27:8). The ancient longing of the Psalmist could receive no fulfilment greater and more surprising than the contemplation of the Face of Christ. God has truly blessed us in Him and has made “His Face to shine upon us” (Ps 67:1). At the same time, God and man that He is, He reveals to us also the true face of man, “fully revealing man to man himself” (Gaudium e spes, 22).

Gazing on the face of Christ, the Bride contemplates her treasure and her joy. ‘Dulcis Iesus memoria, dans vera cordis gaudia‘: how sweet is the memory of Jesus, the source of the heart’s true joy! Heartened by this experience, the Church today sets out once more on her journey, in order to proclaim Christ to the world at the dawn of the Third Millennium: he ‘is the same yesterday and today and forever’” (Heb 13:8).

— Pope St. John Paul II

““Illumina, Domine, vultum tuum super nos”,  “May, O Lord, the light of Thy countenance shine upon us — “Mane nobiscum, Domine” or “Stay with us, O Lord!” 

Adoro Te Devote by St. Thomas Aquinas
"Jesu, whom I look at shrouded here below,
I beseech thee send me what I thirst for so,
Some day to gaze on thee face to face in light
And be blest for ever with thy glory’s sight. Amen." 
--Last Stanza of "Adoro Te Devote"
The Virgin of the Host, by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

The Beauty of the Trinity in the Face of Jesus

“Jesus, has shown us the Face of God, One in substance and Triune in Persons; God is all and only Love, in a subsisting relationship that creates, redeems, and sanctifies all: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” ~Pope Francis, Holy Trinity Sunday, 2017

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

A Discalced Carmelite nun who lived in the mid-1800’s, Sr. Marie St. Pierre, had many interior visions regarding the Holy Face of Jesus — including a sublime conception of the The Holy Trinity and the Holy Face — which she tried to express in these words she received from Our Lord:

Discalced Carmelite Nun Sr. Marie St. Pierre, holding “Golden Arrow” with three circles representing the Trinity.

“Remember, O my soul, the instruction which thy celestial Spouse has given thee today on His adorable Face!  Remember that this Divine Head represents the Father who is from all eternity, that the mouth of this Holy Face is a figure of the Divine Word, engendered by the Father, and that the eyes of this mysterious Face represent the reciprocal love of the Father and the Son; for these eyes have but one and the same light, the same knowledge, producing the same love, which is the Holy Spirit.  In his beautiful silken hair  contemplate the infinitude of the adorable perfections of the Most Holy Trinity in this majestic head, the most precious portion of the Sacred Humanity of thy Saviour; contemplate the image of the unity of God.  This, then, is the adorable and mysterious Face of the Saviour, which blasphemers have the temerity to cover with opprobrium: thus they renew the sufferings of His Passion, by attacking the Divinity of which it is the image.”

“For God so loved the world”

Our Lord told Sr. Marie St. Pierre that she could comfort and console Him by her praises, such as in The Golden Arrow Prayer: “May the most holy, most sacred, most incomprehensible and ineffable Name of God be forever praised, blessed, loved, adored and glorified by all the creatures of God, and by the Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. Amen.

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

“According to the diligence you will manifest in repairing my image disfigured by blasphemers, so will I have the same care in repairing your soul which has been disfigured by sin.  I will imprint thereon my image, and I will render it as beautiful as when it came forth from the baptismal font… Oh! could you but behold the beauty of My Face!–But your eyes are yet too weak.”  –Our Lord to Sr. Marie St. Pierre 

St. Elizabeth of The Trinity

Another Discalced Carmelite Nun, St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, also directs our gaze to the Face of the Son in order to contemplate the beauty of the Holy Trinity and and reflect God’s image:

“It is Your continual desire to associate Yourself with Your creatures…How can I better satisfy Your desire than by keeping myself simply and lovingly turned towards You, so that You can reflect Your own image in me, as the sun is reflected through pure crystal? …We will be glorified in the measure in which we will have been conformed to the image of His divine Son.  So, let us contemplate this adored Image, let us remain unceasingly under its radiance so that it may imprint itself on us.” –Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity, O.C.D.

O My God, Trinity Whom I Adore

O My God, Trinity whom I adore,  help me to forget myself entirely that I may be established in You as still and as peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity.  May nothing trouble my peace or make me leave You, O my unchanging One, but may each minute carry me further into the depths of Your Mystery. Give peace to my soul, make it Your heaven, Your beloved dwelling and Your resting place.  May I never leave you there alone but be wholly present, my faith wholly vigilant, wholly adoring, and wholly surrendered to Your creative action.  O my beloved Christ, crucified by love, I wish to be a bride for Your Heart; I wish to cover You with glory; I wish to love You…even unto death!  But I feel my weakness, and I ask You to clothe me with Yourself, to identify my soul with all the movements of Your Soul, to overwhelm me, to posses me, to substitute Yourself for me that my life may be but a radiance of Your life.  Come to me as Adorer, as Restorer, as Savior, O Word Eternal, Word of my God.  I want to spend my life listening to You, to become wholly teachable that I may learn all from You.  Then, through all nights, all voids, all helplessness, I want to gaze on You always and remain in Your great light.  O my beloved Star, so fascinate me that that I may not withdraw from your radiance.  O consuming Fire, Spirit of Love, come upon me, and create in my soul a kind of Incarnation of the Word; that I may be another humanity for Him, in which He can renew His whole Mystery.  And You, O Father, bend lovingly over your poor little creature; cover her with your shadow, seeing in her only the Beloved in whom You are well pleased.  O my Three, my All, my Beatitude, infinite Solitude, Immensity in which I love myself, I surrender myself to You as Your prey.  Bury Yourself in me that I may bury myself in You until I depart to contemplate in Your light the abyss of Your greatness.  November 21, 1904 — St. Elizabeth of the Trinity

The Trinity, Andrei Rublev

Let Your Face Shine Upon Us, O Lord!

UPDATE: Thanks to his unfailing devotion to the Holy Face, the intrepid (and no doubt exhausted) Paul Badde has captured more outstanding photos from the celebrations commemorating the historic arrival of the miraculous Holy Face Veil in Manoppello, Italy. Paul noted that the Sanctuary Basilica of the Holy Face was as packed with devotees as it had been before the arrival of the Corona viruses. Although Paul was disappointed at what he called “a meager harvest” of photos, due to his camera not being in automatic mode, I think you will agree that his photos below have beautifully captured this Holy event, and precious gift from God — the “Il Volto Santo!” May God reward him for his dedication and please keep Paul Badde in your prayers!

Procession through the streets of Manoppello with the Holy Veil. Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN
The Rector of the Basilica, Capuchin Fr. Antonio Gentili, contemplates the Holy Face on the sheer veil. Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN
“Il Volto Santo” – The Holy Face. Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN
All creation bows before His Holy Face! The Solemn Mass was concelebrated by Fr. Mateo Sero, Capuchin Provincial, Fr. Antonio Gentili, Rector of the Basilica, and Fr. Girolomo, pastor of the Church of San Nicola do Bari… and bowing reverently before the altar “Kameles.” Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN
All God’s creatures give Him Praise!
Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN
Rose petals tossed before His Holy Face as the procession passes. Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN
Procession with the “Il Volto Santo” Photo: Paul Badde
Fix your eyes on Him, who is always gazing at you! Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN
Video of the Solemn Exposition of the Holy Face of Manoppello, Italy, May 14, 2022, recorded by Ramona Robben

Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN of the Basilica Shrine of Il Volto Santo, Monoppello, Italy
Let Your Face Shine Upon Us, O Lord!
Beautiful phenomena appearing in the sky above the Sanctuary Basilica during the Benediction ceremony with the Holy Face of Manoppello, Italy. Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

The Holy Face of Jesus is honored by a May Feast celebrating the mysterious arrival of the “Veronica” to Manoppello in the early 1500’s. The Capuchin Friars minor have guarded the precious “Veronica” relic veil of the Face of Jesus since 1638, when “a devout and well-respected man” named Don Antonio Fabritiis donated the holy veil bearing the Face of Christ to the Capuchin monastery in the small, isolated mountain village of Manoppello. A document entitled Relazione Historica re-telling the local legend of the Veil was written by Capuchin Donato da Bomba and notarized in 1646 and then, certified by sixteen local witnesses. The story told of the arrival of the Veil in Manoppello, “in around 1506,”(the date was vague) in the hands of a mysterious stranger who was thought to have been a holy angel, who later, suddenly disappeared.  (Aside from the “angel,” the main characters in the story have been historically verified.)The recorded story told was this: “There lived in Manoppello the very famous Giacomo Antonio Leonelli, doctor in medicine…one day when he was out in the public square just outside of the door of the Mother church of the town of Manoppello, St. Nicholas Bari, in honest conversation with other peers, and while they were speaking a pilgrim arrived unknown by anyone, with a very venerable religious appearance, who having greeted this beautiful circle of citizens, he said, with many terms of manners, and of humility to Dr. Giacomo Antonio Leonelli that he had to speak with him about a secret thing which would be very pleasing, useful and profitable for him.  And thus, taking him aside just inside the doorway of the church of St. Nicholas Bari, gave him a parcel, and without unfolding it told him that he ought to hold this devotion very dear, because God would do him many favors, so that in things both temporal and spiritual he would always prosper.”  So the doctor took the parcel and turning towards the holy water fount carefully opened it, and “seeing the Most Sacred Face of Our Lord Christ…he burst into most tender tears…and thanking God for such a gift…turned to the unknown pilgrim to thank him…but he did not see him anymore.”  When the good doctor, “shaken” and “filled with wonder,” went outside to his friends and asked where the man went, his friends replied that they never saw him exit the church. They searched high and low but never found the mysterious pilgrim, “hence all judged that the man in the form of a pilgrim to be a heavenly Angel, or else a Saint from Paradise.” 

— Relazione Historica
Transparent Holy Face Veil Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

The Holy Veil remained the property of the Leonelli family for nearly a century, until a family member in need of money sold the Veil to Don Antonio Fabritiis, who in turn gave it to the Capuchins in 1638.  The Holy Veil, called the “Il Volto Santo,” was kept in a dimly lit side chapel until the church was renovated in 1960, when it was decided that the Veil should be moved to a more prominent place behind the altar of the church of St. Michael, the Shrine of “Il Volto Santo,” which was elevated to the status of a Sanctuary Basilica by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006.

Pope Benedict XVI, a pilgrim to the Holy Face of Manoppello in 2006, Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

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

Give Glory to God All the Earth! Omnis Terra

“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)

UPDDATE: Homily of Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto — Sunday, January 16, 2022

The Holy Face and the Wedding at Cana

Homily in the Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello

Sunday, January 16, 2022

+ Bruno Forte

Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto

It was the year 1208, the second Sunday after the Epiphany, named Omnis Terra by the words of the Introit “Omnis terra adoret te, Deus, et psallat tibi!” (“The whole earth adores you, O God, and sing hymns to you” (Ps 65:4), when Pope Innocent III instituted the procession to carry the veil of the Holy Face (the so-called Veronica) from St. Peter’s Basilica to the nearby church of Santo Spirito in Sassia. Here the Bishop of Rome wanted to bless with the precious relic the sick of the ancient Pilgrims’ Hospital, which he himself had rebuilt and upgraded. With that gesture Pope Innocent intended to highlight the healing power of the Face of the Saviour contemplated with faith and the fruitfulness of the prayer of adoration and intercession before that Face, which we recognize to be present in the veil of byssus venerated in Manoppello.

“Vera Icon” Holy Face of Manoppello (Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)

This year the cycle of liturgical texts causes us to listen to the story of the wedding at Cana, taken from the Gospel according to John (2:1-11), on the Sunday of Omnis Terra, thus providing us with a luminous source to better contemplate and welcome the message that comes to us and to the whole Church from the Holy Face preserved in this place. The account, moreover, offers us the key to the entire Gospel, as the indication of the final verse makes us understand: This, at Cana in Galilee, was the beginning of the signs performed by Jesus; and he manifested his glory to them, and his disciples believed in him (v. 11). What Jesus does at Cana is the principle and model of what he will accomplish for our salvation: whoever enters the mystery of Cana enters the mystery of Christ!

Against the background of the symbolism of marriage, a beautiful metaphor of the covenant between the Lord and his people (Cfr. Hos 2:16-25; Jer 2:1-2; 3,1.6-12; Ez 16; Is 50:1; 54,4-8; 62:4-5), the sign of Cana reveals the Face of Jesus as that of the divine Bridegroom of the People of God, with whom the Lord will conclude the new and definitive covenant in the Paschal Mystery of the Son. The wedding at Cana anticipates the Passover of Jesus as an event of nuptial covenant, fulfilling and going beyond the Sinai covenant, and manifests the relationship with the Most High realized in Christ and with Him as an intense and life-giving relationship of love.

The story, then, read in the place that preserves the precious veil of the Holy Face, allows us to connect the vision of this beloved Face to the role that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, has in the Church: it is she who notices the need that has come to be determined in the wedding feast. They no longer have wine (v. 3): in these words the tender and concrete attention of the Mother, who presents to her Son the need of her friends, is manifested. Similarly, Mary accompanies us to the encounter with the Face of the Savior, helping us to make joyful and profound our reception of the gaze of her Son, He who heals, forgives and fills our hearts with joy.

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

In the wine, moreover, mentioned five times in the account (vv. 3.9.10), another important sign of messianic times can be recognized. This is how the Prophets had spoken of it: From the mountains the new wine will drip and flow down the hills (Am 9:13); the wine will characterize the eschatological banquet, where it will be offered free of charge (cf. Is 25:6 and 55:1). The new wine will gladden the wedding day of the Lord and his people (Cfr. Hos 2:21-24). In this light, the wedding banquet at Cana appears as the hour of God’s saving intervention, who comes to fill the expectation of his people in a superabundant way and transforms the water of purification of the Jews (cf. v. 6) into the new wine of the Kingdom.

The letter of the Law is transformed into the wine of the Spirit! In the Face of the Lord Jesus, then, both the expectation of Israel and the question, full of desire, that dwells in the restless heart of each of us, especially in the face of the pain of the world and, in particular, in the face of the drama we are experiencing with the pandemic, is recognized. This interpretation also allows us to understand Jesus’ answer: “Woman, what do you want from me? My hour has not yet come” (v. 4). The expression emphasizes the surprising newness that Christ brings and that will be fully manifested in his “hour,” that of the paschal event of His passion, death and resurrection. It is in the hour of Christ that the messianic time will manifest itself as the fulfillment of the promises and of the promise of the new and definitive fulfillment: and the serene Face of the Risen One, even though separated from the signs of the Passion, is here to remind us of this.

The words that the Mother addresses to the servants are also of great importance: “Wherefore what he tells you, do it” (v. 5). They evoke the context of the Sinai covenant: just as the people of the old covenant respond to divine revelation giving consent in faith – “What the Lord has said, we will do” (Ex 19:8; 24:3, 7) – so Mary manifests her unconditional trust in her Son, who has just evoked the mystery of his “hour”. The result is highlighted on the one hand by the identification between Mary and Israel, by virtue of which the hope of the chosen people resounds in her, on the other by the faith of the Mother, who shows herself open to the impossible possibility of the sign that the Son will want to fulfill, and which will be the faith of the Church.

The eyes following the onlooker — Holy Veil of Manoppello (Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)

This makes clear the invitation that she addresses to the “servants” (indicated here with the term “diakónoi”, with which in 12:26 John designates the true disciples of Jesus): it shows the role of model and mother in the faith that she will have in the community of the covenant. In Mary, the old covenant passes into the new, Israel into the Church, the Law into the Gospel, because of her total and unconditional faith in her Son, to whom she directs herself and others. In the Church born of the Passover of the new and perfect covenant, the Virgin Mother is the one who presents to the Son the needs of the time of waiting and leads to faith in him, a necessary condition for the new wine to fill the jars of the ancient purification.

The way to enter into the messianic wedding – sealed by the blood of the Lamb, offered on the mountain of sacrifice – is therefore faith in the Crucified And Risen One, whose hour is anticipated at Cana, that faith to which the Mother invites us: “Wherefore whatever he tells you, do it” (v. 5). That which at Cana is prefigured and announced, will come about in fullness in the sorrowful Mother at the foot of the Cross: with the beloved disciple, united to her, the dying Jesus threads a dialogue, which is a model of what every believer can renew with Him, letting oneself be gazed upon by the Holy Face of the Redeemer and contemplating Him with humble love.

Il Volto Santo – The Face of Love and Mercy (Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)

In short, before the Face of Jesus, every baptized person can recognize himself as a beloved disciple next to his Mother, a disciple who, believing in love, is the object of the infinite love of the Father and the Son, faithful even to the cross (v. 26), witness to the fruitful mystery of blood and water, flowing from the pierced side of Jesus Crucified (v. 35), called to be a privileged herald of his resurrection (Cfr. Jn 20:8). Looking at Mary at Cana and under the Cross, we too learn to ask the Lord, whose Face looks at us with love, to help us love Him as she loved Him. We do so with words taken from the beautiful “Laude” (Praises) by Jacopone da Todi (1230/36-1306), Donna de Paradiso (Woman of Paradise) (Laude LXX), a moving re-reading of John’s story, which helps us to place ourselves with Mary and like her under the merciful and life-giving gaze of Him:

“Woman of Paradise, / your son is taken / Jesus Christ the blessed … / Madonna, he is betrayed, / Judas has sold him; / thirty pieces he has gained, / in an awful exchange” / … / “O son, son, son, / son, loving lily! / Son, who will give counsel / to my anguished heart? / … / “Mamma with afflicted heart, / I place into your hands / those of John, my chosen; / behold your son. / John my beloved / take her to yourself in charity, / have pity on her, / whose heart is so distressed”. / … / “O Son with face so fair, / O son, why has the world, / scorned you so? / … / “Son, thy soul has flown /son of the lost, / son of the disappeared, / … / What a death of son and mother / of a death endured,/ embraced / mother and son!”.

As Mary before the Face of the Son dying out of love for us, may each of us before the Holy Face preserved in this place obtain to die with Jesus to the old man, to rise with Him to be a new creature, anticipating in the fragility of time something of the infinite beauty of heaven, which in the Holy Face venerated here is revealed and promised with the discretion and humility of love victorious over evil and death. Amen.

Omnis Terra, Latin for “All the Earth, ” is the name given to the Second Sunday in Ordinary time, when the Gospel of the Wedding at Cana is read.  In the midst of the wedding feast, Mary whispers to her son Jesus, “They have no wine.” At Mary’s words, Jesus then performed his first miracle: “the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee, and so revealed His glory, and His disciples began to believe in Him.” (John 2: 1-11)  The revelation of Jesus’s glory is the cause for all the earth rejoicing, giving praise to His Name at the wedding feast of the Lamb! This year Omnis Terra falls on January 16th, and will be celebrated with a solemn Mass and procession at the Sanctuary Basilica of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Italy.

From the 2021 Omnis Terra Procession, Vaticano interview with Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Prefect of the Papal houshold, and personal secretary to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Interview begins at 1:16.

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, Knights of Columbus in plumed hats and capes, bearing their swords (The K of C costume and sword were the envy of every little boy, but have been recently updated to a less colorful uniform), priests accompanying the Eucharist or precious relics, acolytes surrounded by clouds of incense, and the faithful 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.

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.

What do you contemplate?

Offered for your contemplation — the Face of Jesus
(Photo: Paul Badde)

We contemplate many things in the course of our day, and can make choices about what we give our attention to. Opening up a computer, or turning on a television or radio is an invitation for something, good or bad, to fill our eyes, ears, and souls.

Recently I learned about the creation of something called the “Metaverse,” a technology that people can use to experience with others a virtual reality. It is proposed as something beyond games and entertainment, but as an alternative to the universe we actually live in. The thought of such a thing fills me with an instinctive revulsion. The universe, created to be good, beautiful and true by God is worth contemplating as a hint of the good, truth, and beauty of the Face of the Creator. But the metaverse, rejecting that reality, offers instead a mask of non-reality, behind which is not a face, but an empty void. It is a rejection of God and His Creation.

What we are looking at matters. What we listen to matters. It’s not an understatement to say that the world is increasingly losing its grip on reality because it is no longer seeking the Face of God. It is running headlong off a cliff in pursuit of things to take the place of God; soul-destroying idols. Evil proposes, in a very seductive way naturally, that humanity contemplate the soul-less idols because they will separate us from God. God, on the other hand, proposes that we gaze upon the Face of His Son, Jesus Christ, who will unite us to Himself.

St. Therese

“We become what we contemplate. One who contemplates disfigured things becomes inwardly disfigured. One who contemplates transfigured things becomes inwardly transfigured. One who contemplates the all-beautiful Face of the Incarnate Word will be supernaturally beautified.”

St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face

Making Room

“The time came for Mary to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Lk 2:61f.).

At your door is a poor man with a small, young woman who is about to give birth. They won’t take up much space, all they ask for is shelter. Does your mind begin to calculate? “They are strangers, the house is a mess, it’s full of visiting relatives, I’ll have to get more food, I’m tired, it’s late…” The excuses are innumerable, but have pity! Surely, there is a small space somewhere for them to enter in.

The God of the Universe became incarnate in the womb of the Virgin Mary — a very small space — He needed only her “yes”. Say yes to Him, like Mary, allow the Word Incarnate to enter into your heart. Make room for Jesus. Take the cross you have been carrying and give it to Him. He will transform it into a manger, that will be a space for Him to lay His head. Wait then, in silence, together with Mary, and soon you will have the joy of gazing tenderly on the holy face of the Infant Jesus in the manger of your soul.

“The contemplation of Christ has an incomparable model in Mary. In a unique way the face of the Son belongs to Mary. It was in her womb that Christ was formed, receiving from her a human resemblance which points to an even greater spiritual closeness. No one has ever devoted himself to the contemplation of the face of Christ as faithfully as Mary. The eyes of her heart already turned to him at the Annunciation, when she conceived him by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the months that followed she began to sense his presence and to picture his features. When at last she gave birth to him in Bethlehem, her eyes were able to gaze tenderly on the face of her Son, as she ‘wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger’ (Lk2:7).” (Pope St. John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae)

Merry Christmas!

Let Your Face Shine On Your Servant

Fr. Heinrich Pfeiffer, S.J., looks on smiling, between Pope Benedict XVI, Paul Badde, and Sr. Blandina Paschalis Schloemer, on the occasion of the Pope’s pilgrimage to see the Holy Veil of Manoppello, Italy, in 2006.

Born on February 22, 1939, in Tübingen, Germany, Heinrich Pfeiffer had a passion for art history, philosophy, and theology. Answering God’s call, he entered the Society of Jesus in 1963, and was ordained a priest in 1969. As a teacher of art history and Christian iconography at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, he quickly established a highly respected reputation for his expertise in art history, and as a “sindonologist” (Shroud of Turin studies). However, he risked the ridicule and scorn of others when he announced the discovery of the “True Icon” otherwise known as the “Veronica Veil,” in the small mountain Village of Manoppello, Italy. His joy in finding the veil became a heavy cross, as time and time again, he would defend the authenticity of veil to “experts,” who shut their eyes to the evidence, often denouncing the ancient holy relic without ever bothering to go see it for themselves.

Fr. Heinrich, however, could not deny what his years of study, and his own eyes knew to be true: the gossamer-thin, transparent veil that, in light, revealed the Face of Jesus in a miraculous way, was believed to be the veil placed on the Face of Jesus in the tomb, and received His first breath at the Resurrection.

This incredible, steadfast priest entered into eternal life, on the night of November 26, 2021, in Berlin. Germany. May he gaze on God’s Face now for all eternity. Requiescat in pace, Fr. Heinrich Pfeiffer.

The Holy Veil of Manoppello, Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN
Living on Love - Stanzas 9-11- by St. Therese of the Holy Face and the Child Jesus
Living on Love, when Jesus is sleeping
Is rest to stormy seas. 
Oh! Lord, don't fear that I'll wake you.
I'm waiting in peace for Heaven's shore...
Faith will soon tear the veil.
My hope is to see you one day.
Charity swells and pushes my sail. 
I live on Love!...

Living on Love, O my Divine Master, 
is begging to spread your Fire
in the holy, sacred soul of your Priest.
May he be purer than the seraphim in Heaven!...
Ah! glorify your immortal Church!
Jesus, do not be deaf to my sighs. 
I, her child, sacrifice myself for her. 
I live on Love. 

Living on Love, is wiping your Face,
It's obtaining the pardon of sinners. 
O God of Love! may they return to your grace. 
And may they forever bless your Name
To efface it. I always want to sing:
"I adore and love your Sacred Name. 
I Live on Love!"

Luminous With His Light

Young Elizabeth Catez

“The Word will imprint in your soul, as in a crystal, the image of His own beauty, so that you may be pure with His purity, luminous with His light.”  

Ten years before entering the Carmelite Convent in Dijon, France, eleven year-old Elizabeth Catez met the prioress on the afternoon of her First Holy Communion. What the prioress told her on that occasion left a deep impression in her soul; upon learning Elizabeth’s name, the prioress told her that her name meant “House of God.” She later wrote on the back of a holy card for Elizabeth: “Your blessed name hides a mystery, accomplished on this great day. Child, your heart is the House of God on earth, of the God of love.”

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Cor 3:16)

Waiting to enter Carmel–St. Elizabeth of the Trinity

Upon entering Carmel at the age of twenty-one, Elizabeth sought God’s Face within the temple of her own soul, in prayer and silence, with a growing desire to be united with Jesus, to share in His life and sufferings–to be transformed into His image–so that God the Father would find in her the image of His Son, in whom He was well-pleased. Elizabeth wrote, “God bends lovingly over this soul, His adopted daughter, who is so conformed to the image of His Son, the ‘first born among all creatures,’ and recognizes her as one of those whom He has ‘predestined, called, justified.’ And His Fatherly heart thrills as He thinks of consummating His work, that is of ‘glorifying her by bringing her into His kingdom, there to sing for ages unending’ the praise of His glory.”  She prayed that the Holy Spirit “create in my soul a kind of incarnation of the Word: that I may be another humanity for Him in which He can renew His whole Mystery.”

“I want to gaze on You always and remain in Your great light.”~St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, OCD

“We must become aware that God dwells within us and do everything with Him; then we are never commonplace, even when performing the most ordinary tasks.” 

This was the fruit of contemplation that St. Elizabeth of the Trinity wanted to share with everyone; the secret of transforming love hidden within our own hearts. By gazing steadfastly upon God, in faith and simplicity, the Word of God, Jesus Christ–as in the legend of St. Veronica’s Veil–will leave the imprint of His image on the veil of the soul. By her continual loving gaze at Him, St. Elizabeth of the Trinity was transformed into His image. When she died at the young age of twenty-six, she had already fulfilled her mission in the Church as a ceaseless “Praise of Glory,” reflecting the luminous, pure light of the Holy Trinity.

“It is Your continual desire to associate Yourself with Your creatures…How can I better satisfy Your desire than by keeping myself simply and lovingly turned towards You, so that You can reflect Your own image in me, as the sun is reflected through pure crystal? …We will be glorified in the measure in which we will have been conformed to the image of His divine Son.  So, let us contemplate this adored Image, let us remain unceasingly under its radiance so that it may imprint itself on us.”

— St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, OCD, Feast Day November 8.
St. Veronica with the Veil of the Holy Face, 1485, Maestro, Viennese


The Guardian Angel of Moscow

Her life was the stuff that great novels are made of: born on November 1, 1864, Elizabeth, or “Ella” as she was known to her loved ones, was described as “the most beautiful woman in Europe.” She was a Princess of Germany, her parents were the Princess Alice of England and Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse and by the Rhine; her maternal grandmother was Queen Victoria. She was brought up by Queen Victoria after being orphaned at the age of fourteen. “Ella” had many suitors, but rejected them all, choosing in the end, to marry for love, her childhood friend Sergei, who also happened to be the Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich of Russia, the fifth son of Emperor Alexander II of Russia and Princess Marie of Hesse and by the Rhine. “Everyone fell in love with her from the moment she came to Russia from her beloved Darmstadt” wrote one of Sergei’s cousins. This princess story was not the fluff of fairy tales, however. Elizabeth’s true beauty was hidden with Christ in the depth of her soul.

Elizabeth Feodorovna Romanova, Grand Duchess, Saint, Martyr

Elizabeth and Sergei were married at the Chapel of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg in 1884. Before her marriage, Elizabeth was a Protestant, but after a trip to the Holy Land, she converted to the Orthodox Church in 1891. She took the name “Feodorovna,” in honor of the Feodorovskaya Icon of the Mother of God, patroness of the Romanov house.

The couple never had children of their own; they frequently organized parties for children, and eventually became foster parents of Sergei’s niece and nephew. Elizabeth had encouraged her youngest sister Alix to also convert to Orthodoxy after Alix had refused the first proposal of Sergei’s nephew, Tsar Nicholas II, on the basis of the difference of religion.

Feodorovskaya Icon which hung in Alesandra’s bedroom

The Duchess Elizabeth and her husband were deeply religious, and so she was greatly distressed when the Grand Duke made the decision to send soldiers to surround the homes of 20,000 Jews, who, with no notice, were suddenly expelled from Moscow. At the time she was heard to make a dark prophesy: “God will punish us severely.”

On February 17, 1905, Elizabeth felt the concussion of a bomb blast. Her beloved husband had been assassinated by a bomb thrown by the Socialist Revolutionary, Ivan Kalyayev.

Elizabeth and her husband Sergei

Grand Duchess Elisabeth heard the explosion and felt the shock; she rushed outside and saw the dismembered body of her husband strewn around the square. She knelt in the snow and helped collect the remains and, almost incredibly found the strength to arrange for the transportation to a hospital of the grand duke’s coachman, who had been severely wounded. Visiting the dying man later, she told him that the grand duke was well and safe, and had in fact sent her, enabling the man to die peacefully.

The lofty spirit with which she took the tragedy astounded everyone: she had the moral strength even to visit in prison her husband’s assassin, Kaliaev, hoping to soften his heart, with her Christian forgiveness. ‘Who are you?’ he asked upon meeting her. ‘I am his widow,’ she replied, ‘why did you kill him?’ ‘I did not want to kill you,’ he said. ‘I saw him several times before when I had the bomb with me, but you were with him and I could not bring myself to touch him.’ ‘You did not understand that by killing him you were killing me,’ she said. Then she began to talk of the horror of his crime before God. The Gospel was in her hands and she begged the criminal to read it and left it in his cell. Leaving the prison, the Grand Duchess said: ‘My attempt was unsuccessful, but, who knows, perhaps at the last minute he will understand his sin and repent.

 — Ludmila Koehler, Saint Elisabeth the New Martyr
Grand Duchess Elizabeth as a nun

This was a turning point in Elizabeth’s life. Our Lord transformed her grief into a desire to serve God. From that point on, the only crown she would wear would be one of thorns — in imitation of her suffering Lord. She sold her possessions and jewels — even her wedding ring — and with the proceeds she opened the convent of Saints Martha and Mary, and other women joined her. Soon after, on the grounds, she opened a hospital, a chapel, pharmacy, and orphanage. Elizabeth and her nuns visited the worst slums in Moscow, working tirelessly to help the orphaned and the poor. Her convent handed out 300 meals to the poor each day, who called her “the Guardian Angel of Moscow.”

The last meeting she had with her sister Alix, now the Tsarina Alexandra, was in St. Petersburg, 1916. Elizabeth expressed to the Tsarina her deep concern about the influence the wicked Rasputin had over her sister. Alexandra didn’t heed her sister’s advice. In 1917, the Bolsheviks seized power. Elizabeth chose to remain in Russia to serve the poor.

Three days after Easter, in 1918, Vladimir Lenin ordered the Soviet Secret Police to arrest Elizabeth, together with another nun of her order and other members of the Royal family. Lenin was quoted as saying “virtue with the crown on it is a greater enemy to the revolution than a hundred tyrant tsars.” They were taken to an abandoned mine, beaten and thrown into a pit 66 feet (20 meters) deep, landing on an outcropping. Though injured in the fall, the sound of prayers and hymns rose from the pit for a long time, only resulting in rage from their captors, who threw down two grenades to silence them. One member died, but the singing continued, resulting in the Bolshevik leader ordering brushwood be thrown into the pit and set on fire.

“It is easier for a scrawny shrub,

to withstand a mighty fire

than for the nature of sin to [withstand]

the power of love.”

— St. Elizaveta

Three months later, the White Army discovered the bodies of Elizabeth and the others in the pit. Most had died of either injuries or starvation. As a last act of compassion, Sr. Elizabeth had used her own religious veil, or wimple, to bandage the head wound of the dying Prince Ioann — which calls to mind the compassion shown to Jesus by the holy woman known as “Veronica,” who, as legends of the middle ages told, wiped the bleeding Face of Jesus on the way to Calvary. Elizabeth’s body was first transferred in secret to Beijing, China, where she was buried in a Russian Orthodox cemetery. Later, her remains were taken to Jerusalem to the Church of St. Mary Magdalene at Gethsemane in Jerusalem, a church that she and her husband helped to build. She is venerated in the Russian Orthodox Church as a Saint and Martyr.

Icon of the Holy Face, embroidered in gold by Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna — Косино

“… there are times, there are ages, when nothing is more desirable, nothing more beautiful than the crown of thorns.”

— Russian Poet, Nekrasov

“He is our head, crowned, not with glory, but with the thorns of our sins. As members of that head, crowned with thorns, we should be ashamed to live in luxury; His purple robes are a mockery rather than an honor. When Christ comes again, His death shall no longer be proclaimed, and we shall know that we also have died, and that our life is hidden with Him.”

— St. Bernard, Abbott
Many thanks to Paul Badde, who first told me about the extraordinary and holy Princess Elizabeth from his native land! This is a photo taken by Paul of “most beautiful church in Jerusalem, where she is buried, here seen from the temple-mount.”

My Light and My Salvation – Seek His Face

Pope St. John Paul II reading Psalm 27.

Dominus Illuminatio Mea” – “the Lord is my light” are the first words of Psalm 27…

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?

The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Is the darkened state of the world wearing you down? You are not alone – the whole of humanity seems to be in the same miserable boat – fearing enemies around every corner. Jesus reminds us that “Fear is useless, what is needed is trust.” (Luke 8:50)

Pope St. John Paul II, “the light of Poland,” certainly lived through some very dark times, yet he never lost his faith, his hope, or his joy. He found profound inspiration, and comfort, in Psalm 27. From the time of King David, the psalms have been a source of comfort to souls living through the darkness of trials down through the centuries. The very meaning of the word “comfort” is “with strength.” It is the strength that comes from trusting in God, knowing that in spite of the odds, God will bring about our rescue.

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.”

Divine Mercy

We may “visit Him in His temple.” But, our bodies are also a temple; a temple of the Holy Spirit. We may seek God’s Face within the temple of our souls, “with shouts of joy, songs and praise,” in faith, hope, and trust. Jesus, I trust in You!

One thing I ask of the LORD; this I seek:

To dwell in the LORD’s house all the days of my life,

To gaze on the LORD’s beauty, to visit his temple.

For God will hide me in his shelter in time of trouble,

Will conceal me in the cover of His tent;

and set me high upon a rock.

Even now my head is held high above my enemies on every side!

I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy;

I will sing and chant praise to the LORD.

“Illumina Domine Vultum Tuam Super Nos — Mane Nobiscum, Domine!” “Lord, let the light of Your Face shine upon us — Remain with us, Lord!”

As Bl. Carlo Acutis once said, “Sadness is looking at oneself, happiness is looking at God. Conversion is nothing but a movement of the eyes.” To seek God’s Face is to be in His life-giving presence. He will hear His children when they call. He does not abandon them to their enemies. His gaze is always upon us; we need only to turn the gaze of our hearts toward Him. He will not reject us, because He is love and mercy itself! He will guide us, defend us, save us…if only we “believe, take courage,” are “stouthearted,” and “wait”…for Him!

The Holy Face of Jesus, a miracle “written in light” on the Veil of Manoppello. (Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)

Hear my voice, LORD, when I call;

have mercy on me and answer me.

‘Come,’ says my heart, ‘Seek God’s face’;

your face, LORD, do I seek!

Do not hide your face from me;

do not repel your servant in anger.

You are my help; do not cast me off;

do not forsake me, God my savior!

Even if my father and mother forsake me,

the LORD will take me in.”

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

“Your life must be woven around the Eucharist. Direct your eyes to Him, who is the Light; bring your hearts very close to His Divine Heart; Ask Him for the grace to know Him, for the charity to love Him, for the Courage to serve Him. Seek Him longingly.”

— St. Teresa of Calcutta

“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