Within the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi is a precious relic: a small, crumpled piece of yellowed parchment with the writing of St. Francis, now displayed in a silver reliquary. It was written on Mount La Verna after St. Francis had received the stigmata. The first biographer of St. Francis, Bl. Thomas of Celano wrote that for a long time St. Francis’s friend, Brother Leo, had greatly desired to have some memorial from the words of Our Lord written by St. Francis:
“One day Blessed Francis called him, saying, ‘Bring me paper and ink, for I wish to write the words of God and His praises which I have been meditating in my heart.’ What he asked for being straightway brought, he writes with his own hand the praises of God and the words which he [his companion] wished, and lastly a blessing of the brother, saying: ‘Take this sheet for thyself and until the day of thy death guard it carefully.’ All temptation was at once driven away; the letter is kept and worked wonders for the time to come.” Brother Leo kept it faithfully; folding it in four, he carried it in his pocket and guarded it jealously for a good forty-six years. The text in the middle, written in black, and marked with a large “Tau” cross is in Francis’s own handwriting, he writes the praises of God* and grants to Brother Leo the blessing from the Book of Numbers 6: 22-27 which later became known as “the Blessing of St. Francis.”
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in his homily for the World Day of Peace, 2013, spoke of this blessing from the Book of Numbers:
“The blessing repeats the three times Holy Name of God, a Name not to be spoken, and each time linked to two words indicating an action in favor of man. Peace is the summit of these six actions of God in our favor, His most sublime gift, in which He turns toward us the splendor of His Face.”
This is the same, great blessing that St. Francis desired to impart to his friend, Brother Leo:
“May the Lord bless and keep you; may He make His Face shine upon you and be merciful to you; may He turn His Countenance toward you and give you His Peace!” (Num. 6:22-27)
*(St. Francis’s “Praises of God” are now now quite faded, but, this much can be still read: “Thou art holy, Lord God, who alone workest wonders. Thou art strong. Thou art great. Thou art most high. Thou art the Almighty King, Thou, holy Father, King of heaven and earth. Thou art the Lord God Triune and One; all good. Thou art good, all good, highest good, Lord God living and true. Thou art charity, love. Thou art wisdom. Thou art humility. Thou art patience. Thou art security. Thou art quietude. Thou art joy and gladness. Thou…” That is all that has been preserved.)
A Veronica to St. Francis — Lady Jacoba
In the Relic Chapel of the Basilica of St. Francis, in addition to St. Francis’s patched and tattered tunic and other precious relics, there is a display case which contains a beautifully embroidered silken veil and a small plaque with the name: “Jacoba Settesoli.” The plaque reads: “Like Jesus on his way to Calvary, Francis also had a Veronica.” (Veronica is the woman, tradition tells us, who wiped the Face of Jesus. She is the model of those who make reparation to the Face of Christ.)
Lady Jacoba was a noblewoman and widow, with two children from Rome, who became a follower of St. Francis. After having heard him preach she sought his guidance on how to be charitable. When Francis traveled to Rome, he would stay with Lady Jacoba as her guest and she cared for him when he was sick. She gave some of her property in Trastevere to the brothers, which they used to care for lepers. She gave up her life of comfort in order to help the poor. Woman were not normally permitted to be in company of the brothers, however, St. Francis made an exception in her case, jokingly referring to her as “Brother Jacoba.”
As Francis lay dying he sent an urgent letter by messenger to Lady Jacoba: “Brother Jacoba, the servant of the Most High, health in the Lord and communion in the Holy Ghost. Dearest, I want you to know that the blessed Lord has done the grace of revealing that the end of my life is nigh. So, if you want to find me still alive, hurry to Santa Maria degli Angeli as soon as you receive this letter.” He went on to request that she bring a gray cloth to wrap his body in, candles for burial, and almond cookies that she had made for him in Rome when he was sick. Before the messenger arrived in Rome, Lady Jacoba had already anticipated St. Francis’s needs by the light of the Holy Spirit and was on her way to Francis’s deathbed.
St. Francis’s biographer, Bl. Thomas Celano, wrote that Lady Jacoba brought not only the gray cloth, the candles, and the almond cookies, but also a pillow for his head, and a“sindomen pro facie” (a veil to cover his face in death, which was displayed in the Relic Chapel). So, St. Francis, an alter Christus who bore the stigmata, also had his “Veronica” in Lady Jacoba, who brought him consolation in his passion.
After two long years, the Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Covington, Louisiana will celebrate again on Sunday, October 2nd, for the first time since Covid hit, the annual “Mass of the Roses” in honor of St. Therese. This beautiful event begins with a musical prelude, followed by the celebration of the Eucharist, and the blessing and distribution of roses by children. After the Mass, homemade goods, and treats are sold which help pay for the nuns needs for the year. https://www.covingtoncarmel.org/mass-of-the-roses
St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face is more commonly known for her way of “Spiritual Childhood” and devotion to The Child Jesus, however, her sister, Mother Agnes gave this testimony for St. Therese’ beatification:
“Devotion to the Holy Face was the Servant of God’s special attraction. As tender as was her devotion to the Child Jesus, it cannot be compared to her devotion to the Holy Face.”
St. Therese’ sister Celine (Sr. Genevieve of the Holy Face), also wrote: “Devotion to the Holy Face was, for Therese, the crown and complement of her love for the Sacred Humanity of Our Lord. The Blessed Face was the mirror wherein she beheld the Heart and Soul of her Well-Beloved. Just as the picture of a loved one serves to bring the whole person before us, so in the Holy Face of Christ Therese beheld the entire Humanity of Jesus. We can say unequivocally that this devotion was the burning inspiration of the Saint’s life… Her devotion to the Holy Face transcended, or more accurately, embraced, all the other attractions of her spiritual life.”
Canticle to the Holy Face
Jesus, Your ineffable image Is the star which guides my steps. Ah, You know, Your sweet Face Is for me Heaven on earth. My love discovers the charms Of Your Face adorned with tears. I smile through my own tears When I contemplate Your sorrows.
Oh! To console You I want To live unknown on earth! Your beauty, which You know how to veil, Discloses for me all its mystery. I would like to fly away to You!
Your Face is my only homeland. It’s my Kingdom of love. It’s my cheerful meadow. Each day, my sweet sun. It’s the Lily of the Valley Whose mysterious perfume Consoles my exiled soul, Making it taste the peace of Heaven.
It’s my Rest, my Sweetness And my melodious Lyre Your Face, O my Sweet Savior, Is the Divine Bouquet of Myrrh I want to keep on my heart!
Your Face is my only wealth. I ask for nothing more. Hiding myself in it unceasingly, I will resemble You, Jesus Leave in me, the Divine Impress Of Your features filled with sweetness, And soon I’ll become holy. I shall draw hearts to You.
So that I may gather A beautiful golden harvest, Deign to set me aflame with Your Fire. With Your adorned mouth, Give me soon the Eternal Kiss!
~ St. Therese
“Look at His adorable Face, His glazed and sunken eyes, His wounds. Look Jesus in the Face. There you will see how He loves us.”
“Your Veiled Gaze is Our Heaven…”
By St. Therese:
“O Adorable Face of Jesus! Our souls understand Your language of love; we want to dry Your gentle Face and to console You for the forgetfulness of the wicked. In their eyes You are still as one hidden; they look upon You as an object of contempt…
O Face more beautiful than the lilies and roses of springtime! You are not hidden from our eyes…The Tears that veil Your divine look seem to us like precious Diamonds which we want to collect to buy the souls of our brothers and sisters with their infinite value.
From Your Adorable Mouth we have heard Your loving complaint. Since we know that the thirst which consumes You is a thirst for Love, we would wish to have an infinite Love to quench Your thirst…Beloved Bridegroom of our souls, if we had the love of all hearts, all that love would be for You! Then, heedless of our exile on the banks of Babylon, we will sing for your Ears the sweetest melodies. Since You are the true, the only Homeland of our hearts, we will not sing our songs in an alien land.
O Beloved Face of Jesus! As we await the everlasting day when we will contemplate Your infinite Glory, our one desire is to charm Your Divine Eyes by hiding our faces too so that here on earth no one can recognize us…O Jesus! Your Veiled Gaze is our Heaven!” –St. Therese of the Holy Face and the Child Jesus
Please pray for these dear Nuns who pray for us all. If you would like to contribute, donations may be mailed to:
The Discalced Carmelite Nuns, 73530 River Rd, Covington, LA 70435
May God reward you for your generosity!
“O Jesus, whose adorable Face ravishes my heart, I implore Thee to fix deep within me Thy divine image and to set me on fire with Thy Love, that I may be found worthy to come to the contemplation of Thy glorious Face in Heaven.”
“Then war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. Although the dragon and his angels fought back, they were overpowered and lost their place in heaven. The huge dragon, the ancient serpent known as the devil or Satan, the seducer of the whole world, was driven out; he was hurled down to earth and his minions with him” (Rev. 12)
The center of this battle raging between Angels and demons — heaven and earth — is the Incarnate Word of God made flesh, Jesus Christ. It is Jesus who is rejected, reviled and persecuted. The devil wants to obliterate the Face of God, not only in churches that have vandalized and desecrated, but in the souls of human beings. The battle lines have been drawn between the culture of life and the culture of death. The devil’s particular object of hatred is the woman and the unborn. Some can no longer recognize that a child in the womb is a human being. Many persons reject their God-given identity as male and female. Racial hatred is causing deeper and deeper division, and human trafficking increases as humanity is blinded to the Face of God in their neighbor made in His image and likeness.
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have salvation and power come, the reign of our God and the authority of his Anointed One. For the accuser of our brothers is cast out, who night and day accused then before our God. They defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; love for life did not deter them from death. So rejoice, you heavens, and you the dwell therein! But woe to you, earth and sea, for the devil has come down upon you! His fury knows no limits, for he knows his time is short” (Rev 12). This battle has been fought since the beginning of Creation; between Christ’s Angels and the fallen angels or demons, with humanity at the center of the struggle. St. Michael and the Holy Angels have been given the authority from God by the power of His Holy Name to protect and defend God’s people against both human and diabolical enemies.
Devotion to the Face of Jesus is meant to repair mankind’s broken relationship with God, manifested in the world by the evil of blasphemy, sacrilege, and indifference. This work of reparation honoring His Holy Face and His Name–which is the concrete sign of God’s existence and our relationship with Him–has been given the protection and help of the Holy Angels. Sr. Marie St. Pierre was a French Discalced Carmelite nun to whom Our Lord gave revelations of the devotion to His Holy Face. She wrote on November 18, 1843:
“One day during prayer, our Lord warned me in advance about the fury of Satan against the holy devotion, but He also consoled me, saying: ‘I give you My Name to be your light in the darkness and your strength in battle. Satan will do all in his power to crush this Work at its roots. But I assure you that the Holy Name of God will triumph, and it will be the Holy Angels who will gain the victory in the conflict.”
The victory will be won with devotion to the Holy Face
Prayer to Our Lady of the Angels, who in her humility, crushed the head of Satan:
Sublime Queen of Heaven, exalted Lady of the Angels, you have the power and commission given by God to crush the head of Satan. Therefore, we humbly beseech you to send to our aid your heavenly legions, so that, under your command and by your power, they may pursue the hellish spirits, fight them everywhere, ward off their impudent attacks, and fling them back into the abyss. Who is like God? You holy angels and archangels, defend and protect us. Good, kind mother, you remain always our love and our hope! Mother of God, send us the holy angels to defend us and keep the evil one far from us. Amen.
The exquisite illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages reflect the great love and devotion shown to the Holy Face, as well as provide evidence of what the Holy Face of Jesus looked like, as it was seen on a miraculous veil, known as “the Veronica.” “The Veronica,” or Veil of the Holy Face of Jesus, was the greatest relic in Rome at that time. To gaze upon the veil was the great desire of pilgrims, who came from far and wide, to see for themselves the sheer veil bearing the Face of Jesus. Beginning with public exhibitions and processions of the Holy Veil by Pope Innocent III in the mid thirteenth century, the miraculous veil could be viewed by all. Then, the artists got to work on paintings, illustrations, poetry, prayers, and hymns in honor of the Holy Face. ( “The Veronica Route” website wonderfully catalogues many of these “Veronica” artworks that may be found throughout the world.)
Pope John XXII, who was elected Pope in 1316, composed a beautiful hymn in honor of the Holy Face, and he also granted a special indulgence to those who recited it — and for those who could could not read, the Pope granted the same indulgence to the faithful for reciting five Our Fathers, Hail Marys, and Glory Be’s. (For an understanding of indulgences, this EWTN article,Primer on Indulgences by James Akin is very helpful.)
Hymn in Honor of the Holy Face by Pope John XXII (translated from the original Latin)
Hail! Holy Face of our Redeemer, hail!
Which shines in all its majesty divine
Upon the spotless veil, a priceless gift
To Saint Veronica; of love the sign.
Hail! Glory of all time, mirror-glass of the Saints,
Wherein the blessed love for eye to gaze;
Destroy within us every stain of sin,
And with the elect our souls towards Thee raise.
Hail, Face of God! With His own gifts adorned,
Whose splendor through the ages shall not cease;
Oh! make Thy light descend into our hearts,
And from their earthly toils our souls release.
Hail! Mighty bulwark of the Christian faith,
Of heresy and lies the Victor Thou;
King in the Sacred Bread, renew the strength
Of all the faithful who before Thee bow.
Hail! all our joy in this hard life below,
So frail and fugitive, so quickly over;
Sweet Picture, lead us onwards to the skies,
That we may there the Face of Christ adore.
Hail! noblest of all gems, celestial pearl,
In Thee innumerable graces shine;
No hand depicted Thee, no chisel carved,
Thou wert of God alone the work divine.
The tints with which Thy features He has traced
Will never alter and will never fade;
Changeless amidst the ravages of time,
The everlasting King Thy Face may see.
Forever incorrupt and free from stain,
The living Christ we honour still in Thee;
Thou turnest into joy our sighs and tears,
Oh! grant that we, in heaven, thy Face may see.
Be thou, we pray, our buckler and defense,
Our consolation and refreshment sweet,
That nothing hostile may our spirits harm,
Till, after death, we rest at Jesus’ feet. Amen.
Shed, O Lord, joy over the faces of Thy faithful, and turn them away from the depths of hell, that, protected by the contemplation of Thy divine Face, we may have strength to tread underfoot the desires of the flesh, and that we may behold Thee face to face, without fear, Lord Jesus Christ, when Thou will come to judge us. Amen.
“Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain where they were alone. There, before their eyes, he was transfigured. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Then the disciples saw Moses and Elijah appear, and they were talking to Jesus.”
— Matthew 17:2
The faith of Peter, James, and John was confirmed by the sight of the wonderful vision of God’s glory shining from the Face of Jesus on Mount Tabor foreshadowing the kingdom of Heaven. So too, Our Lord continues to bless and strengthen in faith those who turn to gaze at the Face of Christ in celebration of the Transfiguration. Many faithful from around the world are drawn by God on this day to the Basilica Shrine of the Holy Face, “Il Volto Santo,” in Manoppello Italy. The holy, miraculous veil transforms from a sheer, white bysuss veil to a visible image of the Face of Jesus — a sign of the deep mystery of God’s desire for us to be transformed into the likeness of His Son, to rise with Him, and to share in His glory.
“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
— 2 Corinthians 3:18
Many thanks to Paul Badde who has graciously shared the following photos which so wonderfully capture the visual changes which occur on the Veil according to light and the position of the viewer.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.
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.
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.”
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.
“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!”
"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"
“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
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:
“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.”
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.
“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
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
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!
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
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.
“The whole earth adores you, O God, and sing hymns to you” (Ps 65:4)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 isbetrayed, / 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.
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.”
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!
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”
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.
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.
“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.”