A Test of 2,000 Years

(Photo: Randall Enk) Sculpture commemorating JPII visit to St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, 1976. Inscription reads: “The joy which accompanies the birth of the Messiah is seen to be the foundation and fulfillment of the joy at every child born into the world.” —The Gospel of Life — Pope John Paul II

“We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through…”

— Cardinal Karol Wojtyla

Pope St. John Paul II spoke these stunning and prophetic words while he was yet a Cardinal, during his visit to the United States in 1976. He went on to say:

“I do not think that wide circles of the Christian community realize it fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel versus the anti-Gospel. This confrontation lies within the plans of divine Providence; it is a trial which the whole Church, and the Polish Church in particular, must take up. It is a trial of not only our nation and the Church, but, in a sense, a test of 2,000 years of culture and Christian civilization with all its consequences for human dignity, individual rights, human rights and the rights of nations.”

— Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, 1976

His prophecy has proven to be true. Most of the Christian community did not see it coming in 1976. But Cardinal Wojtyla, who had lived under a Communist government in Poland, was able to recognize the signs that the historic confrontation was at our doorstep. The Polish Church has certainly taken up the fight for Christianity, as they have for a thousand years. But, elsewhere in the world two thousand years of culture and Christian civilization has been rapidly disappearing before our eyes. Who could deny it? The trial that he spoke of is already upon us, the clash between “the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel versus the anti-Gospel.”


It should be no small consolation that although we are in in the midst of this historic confrontation between light and darkness, we are assured that it “lies within the plans of divine Providence.” Therefore, even little souls need not fear, because, as David said to Goliath, “I come against you in the name of the LORD of hosts… the battle is the Lord’s, and He shall deliver you into our hands.” (1 Sam 17: 45-47)

“The issue is now quite clear. It is between light and darkness and everyone must choose his side.”

— G. K. Chesterton, as he lay dying, 1936.

In order to fight and persevere, we must first choose our side. The spiritual battle is being fought on so many fronts that the battle lines have been obscured. The foremost battle being fought is over life itself. It is the grave evil of abortion, with over sixty-six million babies sacrificed in the name of “choice” since abortion was made legal in the United States. Yet, sadly, even Catholics will quarrel over that bloody fact, pointing to lesser evils occurring, that they deem equally important, as though that could ever justify perpetuating such an atrocity. The devil is busy doing what the devil does – sowing confusion and division, especially among Christians, and particularly within the Catholic Church where the worst harm can be done. Perhaps this is due to a rejection of authority, a lack of faith, trust, and humility, or the lack of willingness to suffer as Christ did. The remedy to the confusion and division is devotion to the Face of Christ – the contemplation of the splendor of the truth shining on the Face of Christ to bring light to our darkened world, and to reconcile us with the Father.

Mourning over the dead body of Christ, Joan Mates, 1492 (Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)

“In contemplating Christ’s face, we confront the most paradoxical aspect of His mystery, as it emerges in His last hour, on the Cross. The mystery within the mystery, before which we cannot but prostate ourselves in adoration….In order to bring man back to the Father’s face, Jesus not only had to take on the face of man, but He also had to burden Himself with the ‘face’ of sin. ‘For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.'” (2 Cor 5:21)

— Pope St. John Paul II, Novo Millenio Ineunte

Like David, we may not have the power, armor, or strength to take down the enemies of God, whether they are within ourselves or the world. David put His trust in the Name of the Lord, as he picked up his sling and “five smooth stones from the wadi” (1 Sam 17:40). It only took one stone to bring Goliath down. We take up the “trial” as we take up our rosary beads, contemplating the Face of Christ with Mary as we pray the mysteries, giving honor and glory to His Holy Name. When we contemplate the Face of Christ by praying, and studying Scripture, we are being transformed by the Holy Spirit who restores God’s image in our souls, so we are prepared to evangelize by spreading the light on the Face of Christ to others. As we contemplate the Face of Jesus in the sick, suffering, and in those in need, we draw closer to His suffering Heart, and are able to extend compassion to our neighbor. As we contemplate and adore the Face (the Real Presence) of Jesus in the Eucharist, we cast away the false faces of idols, and are humbled before the Eucharistic Face of an all-powerful God who humbles Himself by remaining in the form of a small piece of bread out of love for us.

These are the simple means God has given us for the “test of 2,000 years of Christian culture and civilization with all its consequences for human dignity, individual rights, human rights, and the rights of nations” as prophesied by Pope St. John Paul II: God gives us His Name, His Face, and His own Mother. We can’t lose.

And speaking of those who fight the good fight… Read here the response of Archbishop Cordileone to the American Democratic Catholic legislators “Statement of Principals.” with excellent commentary by “One Mad Mom Blog.”

Heart to Heart, and Face to Face

“You know that I myself do not see the Sacred Heart as everybody else. I think that the heart of my Spouse is mine alone, just as mine is His alone, and I speak to Him then in the solitude of this delightful heart to heart, while waiting to contemplate Him one day face to face.” — St. Therese of the Holy Face and the Child Jesus

“For God so loved the world”

To the Sacred Heart of Jesus 

by St. Therese of the Holy Face and the Child Jesus

St. Therese of Lisieux

At the Holy Sepulcher, Mary Magdalene,
Searching for her Jesus, stooped down in tears.
The angels wanted to console her sorrow,
But nothing could calm her grief.
Bright angels, it was not you
Whom this fervent soul came searching for.
She wanted to see the Lord of the Angels,
To take him in her arms, to carry him far away.

Close by the tomb, the last one to stay,
She had come well before dawn.
Her God also came, veiling his light.
Mary could not vanquish him in love!
Showing her at first his Blessed Face,
Soon just one word sprang from his Heart.
Whispering the sweet name of: Mary,
Jesus gave back her peace, her happiness.

O my God, one day, like Mary Magdalene,
I wanted to see you and come close to you.
I looked down over the immense plain
Where I sought the Master and King,
And I cried, seeing the pure wave,
The starry azure, the flower, and the bird:
“Bright nature, if I do not see God,
You are nothing to me but a vast tomb.

“I need a heart burning with tenderness,
Who will be my support forever,
Who loves everything in me, even my weakness…
And who never leaves me day or night. ”
I could find no creature
Who could always love me and never die.
I must have a God who takes on my nature
And becomes my brother and is able to suffer!

You heard me, only Friend whom I love.
To ravish my heart, you became man.
You shed your blood, what a supreme mystery!..
And you still live for me on the Altar.
If I cannot see the brilliance of your Face
Or hear your sweet voice,
O my God, I can live by your grace,
I can rest on your Sacred Heart!

O Heart of Jesus, treasure of tenderness,
You Yourself are my happiness, my only hope.
You who knew how to charm my tender youth,
Stay near me till the last night.
Lord, to you alone I’ve given my life,
And all my desires are well-known to you.
It’s in your ever-infinite goodness
That I want to lose myself, O Heart of Jesus!

Ah! I know well, all our righteousness
Is worthless in your sight.
To give value to my sacrifices,
I want to cast them into your Divine Heart.
You did not find your angels without blemish.
In the midst of lightning you gave your law!…
I hide myself in your Sacred Heart, Jesus.
I do not fear, my virtue is You!…

To be able to gaze on your glory,
I know we have to pass through fire.
So I, for my purgatory,
Choose your burning love, O heart of my God!
On leaving this life, my exiled soul
Would like to make an act of pure love,
And then, flying away to Heaven, its Homeland,
Enter straightaway into your Heart.

The Key to the Conversion of Russia

“I have come to ask the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated.”

–Our Lady of Fatima to the three children of Fatima: St. Jacinta Marto, St. Francisco Marto, and Sr. Lucia Santos
Lucia, Francisco, Jacinta – The children of Fatima

The children of Fatima had no idea that Russia was a country; they thought that “Russia” was a sinful woman who was in need of conversion. Although the consecration to the Immaculate Heart had been fulfilled, according to Sr. Lucia, the Communions of Reparation on First Saturdays perhaps have not, since poor Russia has not yet converted. The “errors” of communism have certainly grown and spread “throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. In fact, like a malignant cancer, the speed at which communist ideology has spread here in the United States is alarming. The battle is not over, and it must be fought – but how?

Pope St. John Paul II

Pope St. John Paul II was perhaps the greatest obstacle threatening the existence of communism in the past century. On the anniversary of the first apparition of Fatima, May 13th, 1981, an assassination attempt was made to kill him, and almost did, but the bullet that was meant for his heart was deflected by the hand of the Blessed Mother. That bullet now rests in the crown of her statue in Fatima. Great strides were made by “tearing down the wall” in his lifetime, but much remained to be done…

In 1997, Pope St. John Paul II asked for an International Congress for studying the words on 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 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 in 1936. One side of the medal bears a replica of the Holy Face image and an inscription based on Psalm 66:2: “Illumina, Domine, vultum tuum super nos”, that is: “May, O Lord, the light of Thy countenance shine upon us.”  On the other side of the medal, there is an image of a radiant Sacred Host, the monogram of the Holy Name (“IHS”), and the inscription “Mane nobiscum, Domine” or “Stay with us, O Lord.”

“Illumina Domine, Vultum Tuum Super Nos”

Being a good shepherd, Pope St. John Paul II did not leave this world without giving the Church the weapons needed to fight atheistic communism. For this purpose, he directs our eyes to the Face of Jesus as he placed the new Millennnium under “the radiant sign of the Face of Christ.”

“To contemplate the Face of Christ, and to contemplate it with Mary, is the ‘program’ which I have set before the Church at the dawn of the third millennium…It is the Church’s task to reflect the light of Christ in every historical period, to make His Face shine also before new generations of the new Millennium. Our witness, however, would be hopelessly inadequate if we ourselves had not first contemplated His Face.” 

–Pope St. John Paul II

Our Lady of Fatima

The Rosary must be prayed in such a way that we “contemplate the Face of Christ with Mary.”

Lies, disinformation, propaganda, and fake news that multiply at every click of a computer, must be fought with the “Splendor of the truth shining on the Face of Christ:”

“As a result of that mysterious original sin, committed at the prompting of Satan, the one who is ‘a liar and the father of lies’ (Jn 8:44), man is constantly tempted to turn his gaze away from the living and true God in order to direct it toward idols (cf. 1 Thes 1:9), exchanging ‘the truth about God for a lie’ (Rom 1:25).  Man’s capacity to know the truth is also darkened, and his will to submit to it is weakened.  Thus, giving himself over to relativism and scepticism (cf. Jn 18:38), he goes off in search of an illusory freedom apart from truth itself...

But, no darkness of error or of sin can totally take away from man the light of God the Creator.  In the depths of his heart there always remains a yearning for absolute truth and a thirst to attain full knowledge of it… No one can escape from the fundamental questions:  What must I do? How do I distinguish good from evil?  The answer is only possible thanks to the splendor of the truth which shines forth deep within the human spirit, as the Psalmist bears witness: 

“There are many who say: ‘O that we might see some good!  Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord’” (Ps 4:6)

The light of God’s face shines in all its beauty on the countenance of Jesus Christ, “the image of the invisible God” (Cor 1:15), the “reflection of God’s glory” (Heb 1:3), “full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14).  Christ is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6). Consequently the decisive answer to every one of man’s questions, his religious and moral questions in particular, is given by Jesus Christ, or rather is Jesus Christ himself, as the Second Vatican Council recalls: “In fact, it is only in the mystery of the Word Incarnate that light is shed on the mystery of man.  For Adam, the first man, was a figure of the future man, namely, of Christ the Lord.  It is Christ, the last Adam, who fully discloses man to himself and unfolds his noble calling by revealing the mystery of the Father and the Father’s love.”

— Pope St. John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor

Carmelite nun Sr. Marie St. Pierre, who received revelations about the devotion to the Face of Jesus, and the danger of communism.

The Church was warned about the threat of communism on March 7, 1847, when Our Lord spoke to a cloistered Carmelite nun, Sr. Marie St. Pierre, “Rejoice, my daughter, the hour approaches of the truth of the most beautiful work which may be under the sun.” “That is,” said Our Lord, because “it is the essence of charity” — like the act of the compassionate woman, known as “Veronica,” who tradition tells us wiped the Face of Jesus on His way to Calvary.* The “most beautiful work” is devotion to the Face of Christ.

At that time in France the seeds of atheistic communism were being planted. Communism wasn’t well known then, and went by many other names, such as socialists, liberals, and communists. Jesus told Sr. Marie “that the sectarians called communists had only made an attempt to blindfold us. Oh! If you only knew their secrets and diabolical machinations! If you could comprehend their anti-Christian principles! They are only waiting a favorable moment to set France in flames, therefore, be earnest in your supplications for the Work of Reparation.” (Devotion to the Holy Face) Sr. Marie St. Pierre wrote, “France is asleep at the mouth of a volcano… They [Communists] usurped the control of the press. They numbered among their party the most distinguished men of the day.” Jesus “commanded to “cross swords with the communists, who as He told me, were the sworn enemies of the Church, and of her Christ.”

Jesus then presented her with the weapons she need to “wage war.” Her “weapons,” of course, were the Holy Name of God, the instruments of the Passion, prayers for the conversion of communists, and the enemies of the Church, all through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

“May God arise and may His enemies be scattered,

and may all those who hate Him flee before His Face. 

May the thrice Holy Name of God overthrow all their plans.

May the Holy Name of the Living God split them up by disagreements.

May the terrible Name of the God of eternity annihilate all their impiety.

Lord, You do not desire the death of a sinner, 

but that he may be converted and live.

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

Conversion is turning back to God. In your charity, please pray with all the means the Church has given us, not only for Russia, but for all those who have turned away “for they know not what they do.” So that they “will be converted, and there will be peace”– Our Lady of Fatima.


“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) 

Amen!

St. Michael “Who is like unto God?”

*Pope St. John Paul II wrote this beautiful meditation on the tradition of St. Veronica in 2000, the same year in which he dedicated the millennium to the Face of Christ:

Sixth Station, St. Theresa Church, Ashburn, Virginia

Veronica does not appear in the Gospels. Her name is not mentioned, even though the names of other women who accompanied Jesus do appear.
It is possible, therefore, that the name refers more to what the woman did. In fact, according to tradition, on the road to Calvary a woman pushed her way through the soldiers escorting Jesus and with a veil wiped the sweat and blood from the Lord’s face. That face remained imprinted on the veil, a faithful reflection, a “true icon”. This would be the reason for the name Veronica.
If this is so, the name which evokes the memory of what this woman did carries with it the deepest truth about her.

One day, Jesus drew the criticism of onlookers when he defended a sinful woman who had poured perfumed oil on his feet and dried them with her hair. To those who objected, he replied: “Why do you trouble this woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me . . . In pouring this ointment on my body she has done it to prepare me for burial” (Mt 26:10, 12). These words could likewise be applied to Veronica. Thus we see the profound eloquence of this event.

The Redeemer of the world presents Veronica with an authentic image of his face. The veil upon which the face of Christ remains imprinted becomes a message for us.
In a certain sense it says: This is how every act of goodness, every gesture of true love toward’s one’s neighbor, strengthens the likeness of the Redeemer of the world in the one who acts that way. Acts of love do not pass away. Every act of goodness, of understanding, of service leaves on people’s hearts an indelible imprint and makes us ever more like the One who “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant” (Phil 2:7). This is what shapes our identity and gives us our true name.

This is the deep meaning and call to every Christian revealed in the presence of the unknown woman we call “St. Veronica”– each act of charity, every act of compassion will leave the imprint of the Face of Jesus in our souls, transforming us into His own Image.

— Pope St. John Paul II Pray for us!

The Greatest Longing

The greatest longing of the human soul is to see God face to face.

Detail from Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Paul Rubens, 1609

The Blessed Virgin Mary was the most perfect reflection of the Face of God. Her pure soul was continually turned toward the Face of God, seeking His most Holy Will in all things. At the Incarnation the Holy Face of her son Jesus, true God and true man, was formed in her holy womb; by the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary was the first to see Jesus’s human face at His birth, and was closest to Him throughout His life and death. But, although she was immaculately conceived, she could only see the Face of God on earth, as any other human being can, that is, through the veil of faith.

Mary was created by God to be the mother of His Son, therefore she was “full of grace,” and filled with every gift of the Holy Spirit in their perfection. Her soul was “an enclosed garden” which belonged only to God, and in which the Holy Spirit formed the most perfect masterpiece of love. The gaze of her mind and heart was always on the Face of her son Jesus.  At the foot of the cross Mary suffered a passion of her own together with her son. As the blood and water flowed from Jesus’s side giving birth to the Church, through her pain and suffering Mary became the Mother of Christ’s mystical Body, with Christ as it’s Head.

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

The joy of seeing Jesus’s Face after the Resurrection was followed by the most painful deprivation of the sight of her son after His Ascension into heaven. Then Mary, with ever increasing love and longing, sought the Face of Christ in the same way that we must seek Him in this life: in His Word, in our neighbor, and in the Eucharist. As she sought Him in these ways, the image of God shining in her soul increased in beauty and splendor as God bestowed grace upon grace on Mary. Though she was the Daughter of the Father, the Mother of the Son, and the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, Mary constantly died to herself and lived for others in perfect charity until finally dying of the burning love and desire to see the Face of God in Heaven. Mary had no attachment to creatures or things of this earth, and having no stain of sin or corruption, she was taken body and soul to Heaven, where she was crowned Queen of Heaven and Earth.

Mary, constantly seeking the Face of God throughout her life until she was assumed into Heaven by God was to be an example for us to follow. Her example may be best summed up in the words of the Servant of God, Père Jacques of Jesus, OCD:

“Let your life be transformed by this constantly burning desire to be willing to die in order to see Christ face to face.” 

+++

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

Prayer to the Holy Face for the liberation from the coronavirus

Lord Jesus, Savior of the world, hope that will never disappoint us, have mercy on us and deliver us from all evil! Please overcome the scourge of this virus which is spreading, heal the sick, preserve the healthy, support those who work for the health of all. Show us your face of mercy and save us in your great love. We ask you through the intercession of Mary, Your Mother and ours, who faithfully accompanies us. You who live and reign forever and ever. Amen.
+ Bruno Forte
Archbishop of Chieti – Vasto (Italy)

Prayer, Penance and Procession

EWTN Holy Hour invoking Divine Mercy
Holy Face of Manoppello on the left — Prayer of Archbishop Bruno Forte recited.

Important Update:

HOLY HOUR FOR FAITH, HEALING, AND PROTECTION FROM COVID-19

On Friday, Mar. 13 during the 3 p.m. “Hour of Mercy” Fr. John Paul Mary, MFVA,  led a Holy Hour  on EWTN television — which was live streamed on facebook.com/ewtnonline, ewtn.com –  invoking Divine Mercy, the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and St. Joseph in these troubled times.  Fr. John-Paul also recited a prayer written by the Archbishop of Chieti, Italy, Archbishop Bruno Forte for the liberation from the coronavirus pandemic which has gripped. the world. 

Prayer to the Holy Face for the liberation from the coronavirus
Lord Jesus, Savior of the world, hope that will never disappoint us, have mercy on us and deliver us from all evil! Please overcome the scourge of this virus which is spreading, heal the sick, preserve the healthy, support those who work for the health of all. Show us your face of mercy and save us in your great love. We ask you through the intercession of Mary, Your Mother and ours, who faithfully accompanies us. You who live and reign forever and ever. Amen.
+ Bruno Forte
Archbishop of Chieti – Vasto (Italy)

 

“This Mercy of God which has a concrete face, the Face of Jesus, the risen Christ.” –Pope Francis

+++

This may be the longest Lent on record. I have just read the shocking news that in response to the spread of coronavirus public Masses have been banned in Rome until April 3rd. What a desert the Church is entering into now — without the public sacrifice of the Mass!

In the past, during times of crisis in the world, the Catholic Church has traditionally responded with a greater call to prayer and penance, as well as public demonstrations of faith and trust in God’s infinite majesty and power, by participating in the act of procession.

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

There is power in procession that terrifies the infernal foe and makes all of hell tremble. As 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”

An unbelieving world has reason to fear death. Edward Pentin, of the National Catholic Register has a fine article on the Church’s response to the crisis. In it he quotes Bishop Pascal Roland of Belley-Ars in France:

“The collective panic we are witnessing today — is it not indicative of our distorted relationship to the reality of death? Does it not show the anxiety-inducing effects of the loss of God?”

The Church’s response must be more, not less, devotion, in addition to the caring for the sick and suffering. Where are the calls for prayer, penance and processions? To it’s credit the Diocese of Rome has called for a day of fasting on March 11th, hopefully many will answer that call.  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. This does not necessarily mean a large crowd, a procession may be small but still public. 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!  Our help will not come through human means, but divine.  Humanity must turn back to the Face of Christ!

“Lord, God of Hosts, bring us back! Let Your Face shine on us and we shall be saved!”
Veil of the Holy Face of Manoppello
Photo: Patricia Enk

 

Prayer to Our Lady Health of the Sick for the people of Rome
by Pope Francis

O Mary,
you always shine on our path
as a sign of salvation and of hope.
We entrust ourselves to you, Health of the Sick,
who at the cross took part in Jesus’ pain, keeping your faith firm.
You, Salvation of the Roman People,
know what we need,
and we are sure you will provide
so that, as in Cana of Galilee,
we may return to joy and to feasting
after this time of trial.
Help us, Mother of Divine Love,
to conform to the will of the Father
and to do as we are told by Jesus,
who has taken upon himself our sufferings
and carried our sorrows
to lead us, through the cross,
to the joy of the resurrection. Amen.

Under your protection, we seek refuge, Holy Mother of God. Do not disdain the entreaties of we who are in trial, but deliver us from every danger, O glorious and blessed Virgin.

 

Mid-Advent: Longing to See His Face

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

The Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

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

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

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

Maranatha – Come Lord Jesus!

A Holy Priest – Holiness Begets Holiness

Fr. Willie Doyle S.J. Military Chaplain for the 8th Royal Irish Fusiliers WWI

In the midst of the latest gut-wrenching scandal in the Church it is good to remember that there have been holy priests, who loved  Christ and His Church, and were willing to lay down their lives for their flock. Such rare men did not spring out of nowhere, they were formed by holy families, schools, and good seminaries. They continued to be forged, as gold in a furnace, into the image of Christ through their perseverance in prayer, penance, and suffering.

EWTN recently aired an inspiring documentary “Bravery Under Fire” about the life of Fr. Willie Doyle, S.J., a self-sacrificial, holy priest who inspired many Saints who came after him.  Men who aspire to the priesthood would do well to learn something about his life because “Holiness Begets Holiness” …

If it is true that the goal of a Christian is not only to behold God’s Face one day in Heaven, but also to bring with us as many souls as possible in our lifetime, then Fr. Willie Doyle, S.J., was a true Christian.  Holiness begets holiness in others. Both St. Teresa of Calcutta and St. Josemaria Esciriva were each inspired by Fr. Doyle, a little-known Irish Jesuit priest, who in a powerful yet humble way guided each saint on the path to holiness. Fr. Willie was an Irish Military Chaplain, who was killed in action during one of the worst battles of World War I on August 16th, 1917, on the muddy, bloody battlefield of Ypres, after having run “all day hither and thither over the battlefield like an angel of mercy,” one hundred years ago. But his story is just beginning to come to come to light and inspire many, many other souls who are also seeking God’s Face.

Fr. Willie was beloved by all the men he served, ministering to exhausted soldiers of all faiths or none, with little or no sleep himself and at great personal sacrifice.  There was little food, and no relief, sometimes stretching many weeks.  He suffered along with the other soldiers from the cold, waist-deep mud that filled stagnant trenches, suffered gas-attacks and all the horrors of war.  Fr. Willie risked his own life at every moment, administering absolution, anointing with oil faces which were so smashed by shells that they were barely recognizable as men, and then burying the dead.  Once, though sick himself, he laid face down in the mud of a trench, in order that a sick doctor could get a little sleep by lying on Fr. Doyle’s back.  On the last day of his life he was seen running back and forth across the battlefields giving absolution to dying men, until finally being hit by a shell himself.

St. Teresa of Calcutta

But, surprisingly it wasn’t Fr. Doyle’s battlefield heroism that inspired Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who learned of this holy priest when she was a young nun, as recounted in the book about her life, Come Be My Light.  Nor were his great mortifications and ultimate self-sacrifice noted in the writings of St. Josemaria Escriva.  They were both inspired by something most people would consider inconsequential: the smallest sacrifice of giving up butter on his bread and sugar in his tea; sacrifices Fr. Doyle considered intolerable.

St. Josemaria Escriva

St. Josemaria wrote to a friend of an example that set him on the road to sainthood; known as “The Butter Battle.” “We were reading–you and I–the heroically ordinary life of that man of God. [Fr. Willie Doyle, S.J.] And we saw him fight whole months and years at breakfast time: today he won, tomorrow he was beaten…He [Fr. Doyle] noted: ‘Didn’t take butter…; did take butter!’ I have read quickly the life of Fr. Doyle: how well I understand the butter tragedy.” [For St. Josemaria, his own battle was the small sacrifice of not reading the newspapers.]

Fr. Doyle, who was born the same year as St. Therese of the Holy Face and the Child Jesus, was himself inspired by her “Little Way.” And he was determined to follow it, by “doing little things for God with great love”:

“Kneeling at the grave of the Little Flower, I gave myself into her hands to guide and to make me a saint.  I promised her to make it a rule of my whole life, every day without exception, to seek in all things my greater mortification, to give all and refuse nothing.  I have made this resolution with great confidence, because I realize how utterly it is beyond my strength; but I feel the Little Flower will get me the grace to keep it perfectly.”

St. Therese

He did not ask God for the courage to perform great acts of heroism, but instead begged earnestly for the grace to give up butter, sugar in his tea, salt and other little things. “How many deceive themselves,” Fr. Doyle wrote, “in thinking sanctity consists in the ‘holy follies’ of the saints! How many look upon holiness as something beyond their reach or capability, and think that it is to be found only in the performance of extraordinary actions.  Satisfied that they have not the strength for great austerities, the time for much prayer, or the courage for painful humiliations, they silence their conscience with the thought that great sanctity is not for them, that they have not been called to be saints.  With their eyes fixed on the heroic deeds of the few, they miss the daily little sacrifices God asks them to make; and while waiting for something great to prove their love, they lose the countless little opportunities of sanctification each day bears within its bosom.”

“Self-love,” wrote Fr. Doyle, “is our own greatest enemy.” Little things are of great importance to God.  It was through being “faithful to God in little things,” those small sacrifices, that he was prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice, which is “to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  Fr. Doyle knew better than anyone the value of making those small sacrifices of love that become mighty weapons in the hand of the Living God — and He will win the war!

With her great reverence for the thirst of Jesus on the Cross, and the desire to seek His Face everywhere, it is possible that Mother Teresa may have found inspiration when she read the following passage in Fr. Doyle’s diary:

“The greatest thirst of Jesus on the Cross was His thirst for souls.  He saw then the graces and inspirations He would give me to save souls for Him… In what way shall I correspond and console my Savior?  I went on to ________ and once more had an opportunity of a quiet prayer before the life-sized crucifix in the church which I love so much.  I could not remain at His feet but I climbed  up until both my arms were around his neck.  The figure seemed almost to live, and I think I loved Him then, for it was borne upon me how abandoned and suffering and broken-hearted He was.  It seemed to console Him when I kissed His eyes and pallid cheeks and swollen lips, and as I clung to Him I knew He has won the victory, and I gave Him all He asked.” –Fr. William Doyle, S.J. 

 

“To Raise the Fallen” compiled and edited by Patrick Kenny

Last year was the one-hundredth anniversary of Fr. Willie’s death.  There is a new book available, on the inspiring life of Fr. Doyle, his writing and war letters compiled by Patrick Kenny, To Raise the Fallen, which may be found by clicking (here). If you are interested in reading more about the life of Fr. Doyle be sure to visit this wonderful blog dedicated to to Fr. Doyle: Remembering Fr. Willie Doyle, S.J.  

Remember “Holiness begets Holiness”…and please pray for Priests!

The Bride Must Resemble Her Betrothed

Paten viewed through the Veil of the Holy Face of Manoppello. Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

O Jesus, hidden God, 

My heart perceives You

Though veils hide You;

You know that I love you.

–St. Faustina of the Blessed Sacrament, Apostle of Divine Mercy

 

 

(Detail) painting by Hans Holbein the elder. (Photo: Paul Badde)

On October 11, 1933, Saint Marie Faustina Kowalska was struggling “with great difficulty” to remain at prayer during a Holy Hour; she felt nothing, her mind seemed dimmed, she couldn’t understand the simplest form of prayer, and unlike most of us, this made her determined to stay another hour. During the second hour her sufferings increased, together with great dryness and discouragement. Rather than call it quits, she heroically resolved to remain for a third hour, by sheer will. Kneeling with her arms outstretched, she took off her ring and asked Jesus to look at it as the sign of their eternal union and her perpetual vows. After a while, her heart was inundated with a wave of love. Jesus suddenly stood before her stripped of His clothing as in His Passion. “His body completely covered with wounds, His eyes flooded with tears and blood, His Face disfigured and covered with spittle.” The Lord then said to St. Faustina, “The Bride must resemble her Betrothed.” She says she understood these words to their very depth.  Her likeness to Jesus must be through suffering and humility.  Jesus said to her, “See what love of human souls has done to Me. My daughter, in your heart I find everything that so great a number of souls refuses Me, Your heart is My repose. I often wait with great graces until towards the end of prayer.”  Her faithfulness to prayer was rewarded with a powerful reminder that she must resemble Jesus, her spouse.

This mystery of likeness to God is tied to contemplative prayer, “a communion, in which the Holy Trinity conforms man, the image and likeness of God, to His likeness.” (CCC 2713) In contemplative prayer we seek Him whom our soul loves, with our attention fixed on Jesus, surrendering to the love of the Father. The interior life of prayer can be difficult, dry and empty; it requires pure abandonment to God when nothing is felt, resisting our natural inclination to self-love by desiring to enjoy consolation.  St. Faustina writes, “Amid the greatest torments, I fix the gaze of my soul upon Jesus Crucified.” St. Faustina’s strength was in contemplation of the Face of Jesus reflecting all the pain and suffering of His Sacred Heart: “I have ever before my eyes His sorrowful Face, abused and disfigured, His divine Heart pierced for our sins and especially by the ingratitude of chosen souls.” 

St. Faustina “Apostle of Mercy”

St. Faustina, the Apostle of Divine Mercy, had the mission of spreading His Mercy so that souls will come to know His unfathomable love, “to remove the veil of heaven so that earth will not doubt Your goodness.” She wrote, “Make of me, Jesus, a pure and agreeable offering before the Face of Your Father. Jesus, transform me, miserable and sinful as I am, into Your own self (for You can do all things), and give me to Your Eternal Father.”  St. Faustina’s desire to see the Face of God increased although darkness filled her soul as though she were in exile. In spite of that suffering, she abandoned herself to the Will of God, remaining faithful in prayer. “When will the veil be lifted for me as well? Although I see and feel to a certain extent how very thin is the veil separating me from the Lord, I long to see Him face to face; but let everything be done according to Your will.”  

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

St. Faustina sought solace by remaining patiently in prayer before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. “I cast upon the Tabernacle the gaze of my soul, a gaze of faithfulness. As for You, You are ever the same, while within my soul a change takes place.  I trust the time will come when You unveil Your Countenance, and Your child will again see Your sweet Face…I am listening and waiting for Your coming, O only Treasure of my heart!” 

God who made us in His image and likeness dwells in us.  His divine indwelling enables us to become who we truly are when we turn to Him with humility and perseverance in prayer.  “With God, to gaze at is to love,” says St. John of the Cross, and we are transformed by what we gaze upon.  The trouble for our human nature is that in difficulties we often forget to turn to His Face, as St. Teresa of Jesus has said, “O Lord, how true that all harm comes to us from not keeping our eyes fixed on You.”  The divine goal of the grace of contemplative prayer, which flows from His mercy, is to resemble Jesus.  St. Faustina wrote, “The Heavenly Father will recognize and glorify  our soul to the extent that He sees in us a resemblance to His Son.”

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

“Be blessed, merciful God, Eternal Love, / You are above the heavens, the sapphires, the firmaments, / The hosts of pure spirits sings You praises, / With its eternal hymn: Thrice Holy.

And, gazing upon You, face to face, O God, / I see that You could have called other creatures before them, / Therefore they humble themselves before You in great humility, / For well they see that this grace comes solely from Your mercy.” –St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in My Soul 

“This Mercy of God which has a concrete face, the Face of Jesus, the risen Christ.” –Pope Francis

 

 

 

We Saw His Glory

Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622

“And the Word became flesh
and made His dwelling among us,
and we saw His glory,
the glory as of the Father’s only Son,
full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

God is pure light, and Jesus is the light of God, “the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness,” which “the darkness has not overcome” (John 1). Jesus reveals God’s glory, the radiance of His truth and love in a human Face.

The hidden face of an unborn baby in the womb.

Why does humanity not see His glory or recognize His Face? We need light to see.  If we are not turned toward the Face of Jesus, who is the Light, we will see only shadows and darkness in this life. If we do not recognize God’s Face, in His Word and in our neighbor, perhaps we need more light. If God’s glory is hidden from us, like the face of a baby in the womb, it does not mean He is not there. He exists. He is present. He loves us, and is waiting for us to return His love–to shine the light of His Face upon us.

After the angels proclaimed that the glory of God had appeared on earth in the Christ Child, the shepherds hastened to see Him. They were enlightened by grace to recognize “the glory of God’s only Son” shining on the Face of the poor, humble babe that lay before them.

Let us pray this Christmas that all those who live in darkness may hasten to Him–so that, by the grace of God, they may seek and find the Face of Jesus. And in turning to Him, they may see a great light: His grace and truth!

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

Merry Christmas!

 

Holiness Begets Holiness

Fr. Willie Doyle S.J. Military Chaplain for the 8th Royal Irish Fusiliers WWI

If it is true that the goal of a Christian is not only to behold God’s Face one day in Heaven, but also to bring with us as many souls as possible in our lifetime, then Fr. Willie Doyle, S.J., was a true Christian.  Holiness begets holiness in others. Both St. Teresa of Calcutta and St. Josemaria Esciriva were each inspired by Fr. Doyle, a little-known Irish Jesuit priest, who in a powerful yet humble way guided each saint on the path to holiness. Fr. Willie was an Irish Military Chaplain, who was killed in action during one of the worst battles of World War I on August 16th, 1917, on the muddy, bloody battlefield of Ypres, after having run “all day hither and thither over the battlefield like an angel of mercy,” one hundred years ago. But his story is just beginning to come to come to light and inspire many, many other souls who are also seeking God’s Face.

Fr. Willie was beloved by all the men he served, ministering to exhausted soldiers of all faiths or none, with little or no sleep himself and at great personal sacrifice.  There was little food, and no relief, sometimes stretching many weeks.  He suffered along with the other soldiers from the cold, waist-deep mud that filled stagnant trenches, suffered gas-attacks and all the horrors of war.  Fr. Willie risked his own life at every moment, administering absolution, anointing with oil faces which were so smashed by shells that they were barely recognizable as men, and then burying the dead.  Once, though sick himself, he laid face down in the mud of a trench, in order that a sick doctor could get a little sleep by lying on Fr. Doyle’s back.  On the last day of his life he was seen running back and forth across the battlefields giving absolution to dying men, until finally being hit by a shell himself.

St. Teresa of Calcutta

But, surprisingly it wasn’t Fr. Doyle’s battlefield heroism that inspired Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who learned of this holy priest when she was a young nun, as recounted in the book about her life, Come Be My Light.  Nor were his great mortifications and ultimate self-sacrifice noted in the writings of St. Josemaria Escriva.  They were both inspired by something most people would consider inconsequential: the smallest sacrifice of giving up butter on his bread and sugar in his tea; sacrifices Fr. Doyle considered intolerable.

St. Josemaria Escriva

St. Josemaria wrote to a friend of an example that set him on the road to sainthood; known as “The Butter Battle.” “We were reading–you and I–the heroically ordinary life of that man of God. [Fr. Willie Doyle, S.J.] And we saw him fight whole months and years at breakfast time: today he won, tomorrow he was beaten…He [Fr. Doyle] noted: ‘Didn’t take butter…; did take butter!’ I have read quickly the life of Fr. Doyle: how well I understand the butter tragedy.” [For St. Josemaria, his own battle was the small sacrifice of not reading the newspapers.]

Fr. Doyle, who was born the same year as St. Therese of the Holy Face and the Child Jesus, was himself inspired by her “Little Way.” And he was determined to follow it, by “doing little things for God with great love”:

“Kneeling at the grave of the Little Flower, I gave myself into her hands to guide and to make me a saint.  I promised her to make it a rule of my whole life, every day without exception, to seek in all things my greater mortification, to give all and refuse nothing.  I have made this resolution with great confidence, because I realize how utterly it is beyond my strength; but I feel the Little Flower will get me the grace to keep it perfectly.”

St. Therese

He did not ask God for the courage to perform great acts of heroism, but instead begged earnestly for the grace to give up butter, sugar in his tea, salt and other little things. “How many deceive themselves,” Fr. Doyle wrote, “in thinking sanctity consists in the ‘holy follies’ of the saints! How many look upon holiness as something beyond their reach or capability, and think that it is to be found only in the performance of extraordinary actions.  Satisfied that they have not the strength for great austerities, the time for much prayer, or the courage for painful humiliations, they silence their conscience with the thought that great sanctity is not for them, that they have not been called to be saints.  With their eyes fixed on the heroic deeds of the few, they miss the daily little sacrifices God asks them to make; and while waiting for something great to prove their love, they lose the countless little opportunities of sanctification each day bears within its bosom.”

“Self-love,” wrote Fr. Doyle, “is our own greatest enemy.” Little things are of great importance to God.  It was through being “faithful to God in little things,” those small sacrifices, that he was prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice, which is “to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  Fr. Doyle knew better than anyone the value of making those small sacrifices of love that become mighty weapons in the hand of the Living God — and He will win the war!

With her great reverence for the thirst of Jesus on the Cross, and the desire to seek His Face everywhere, it is possible that Mother Teresa may have found inspiration when she read the following passage in Fr. Doyle’s diary:

“The greatest thirst of Jesus on the Cross was His thirst for souls.  He saw then the graces and inspirations He would give me to save souls for Him… In what way shall I correspond and console my Savior?  I went on to ________ and once more had an opportunity of a quiet prayer before the life-sized crucifix in the church which I love so much.  I could not remain at His feet but I climbed  up until both my arms were around his neck.  The figure seemed almost to live, and I think I loved Him then, for it was borne upon me how abandoned and suffering and broken-hearted He was.  It seemed to console Him when I kissed His eyes and pallid cheeks and swollen lips, and as I clung to Him I knew He has won the victory, and I gave Him all He asked.” –Fr. William Doyle, S.J. 

 

“To Raise the Fallen” compiled and edited by Patrick Kenny

Just in time to celebrate the one-hundredth anniversary of Fr. Willie’s death, there is a new book available, on the inspiring life of Fr. Doyle, his writing and war letters compiled by Patrick Kenny, To Raise the Fallen, which may be found by clicking (here). If you are interested in reading more about the life of Fr. Doyle be sure to visit this wonderful blog dedicated to to Fr. Doyle: Remembering Fr. Willie Doyle, S.J.  

… remember “Holiness begets Holiness!”