Turn your face toward the mountains – St. John of the Cross

photo: Paul Badde
photo: Paul Badde

“Hide yourself, my love; turn your face toward the mountains, and do not speak; but look at those companions going with her through strange islands.”–Stanza 19, Spiritual Canticle, St. John of the Cross

The great mystical Doctor of the Church, St. John of the Cross, wrote a beautiful commentary on Stanza 19 of his Spiritual Canticle, on prayer–the desire of the soul to communicate with God, the need of silence on the part of the soul, and the darkness or obscurity of faith in the soul who is seeking God’s Face.

  St. John says that the bride-soul asks four things of the Bridegroom (Christ): First, that He “communicate very inwardly” in the hidden place of the soul. Second, that He inform and “shine on her faculties” with His glory. Third, “that this communication be so sublime and profound that she may neither desire nor know how to give a description of it…” Fourth, that He be enamored of the graces and virtues He has placed in her.” 

“Hide yourself, my love;”

St. John says this means to ask God “to communicate Yourself in secret, manifest Your hidden wonders, alien to every mortal eye.”

“turn your face toward the mountains”

“The ‘Face’ of God is the divinity and the ‘mountains’ are the soul’s faculties  (memory, intellect, and will).” The verse is saying: “Let your divinity shine on my intellect by giving divine knowledge, and on my will by imparting to it divine love, and on my memory with the divine possession of glory.” The soul, St. John writes, “can only be satisfied with God’s Face.”

“and do not speak”

The communication God grants to the soul are too high and deep to be apprehended by the senses. “Let the depth of the hiding place, which is spiritual union, be of such a kind that the senses will be unable to feel or speak of it…,” says St. John of the Cross.

“but look at those companions”

When God looks, He loves and grants favors.  And the companions whom the soul tells God to look at are the many virtues, gifts, perfections, and other spiritual riches He has placed in her as the pledges, tokens, and jewels of betrothal.” This verse, says St. John is like saying, “But, Beloved, first turn to the interior of my soul, and be enamored of the company–the riches–You have placed there, so that loving the soul and through them You may dwell and hide in her.  For, indeed, even though they are Yours, since You gave them to her, they also belong to her.

“going with her through strange islands.”

Here the soul is saying, “Since I go to you through a spiritual knowledge strange and foreign to the senses, let Your communication be so interior and sublime as to be foreign to all of them.”

To “seek God’s Face” is to seek Him in prayer; to “look at Him” is to take the time to contemplate Him. When we do this, St. John of the Cross tells us, God is doing great things in our soul…He shines His Face upon us!

Drawing by St. John of the Cross of his vision of the Crucifixion of Jesus from above.
Drawing of vision of the Crucifixion by St. John of the Cross, Feast: December 14

The Lord is the Spirit, and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into His likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Cor 3:17-18)

Advent: Waiting with Mary to see God’s Face

“I will wait for the Lord who hath hid His Face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for Him.” (Isaiah 8)

Virgin in Prayer Artist: Sassoferrato 1640-50
Virgin in Prayer
Artist: Sassoferrato
1640-50

Is there anyone who enjoys waiting? Our human nature rebels against all forms of it: there is the mundane waiting we must endure in lines, in traffic, at ball games, practices, and in doctor’s offices; the anxious waiting for phone calls, for results, or for the end of sufferings; the joyful waiting for birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and other celebrations.  Then there is the heavy combination of all three types of waiting–which is of a mother waiting for the birth of her child.

Our weak human nature does not like to wait. We want to “get there” right away, to “know” right away, for something to be “done” right away.  Waiting requires patience and most of humanity has very little. But wait we must, and since everything in life is permitted by God solely for our good, waiting must be very good for us since we spend so much of our lives doing it.

If waiting is indeed good for us, then it is certain that the evil one will do everything possible to trip us up as he did with the children of Israel while they were waiting, waiting, waiting for Moses to come down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments.  When God was telling Moses, “I am the Lord, thy God: thou shall not have strange Gods before me,” the devil was tempting them to pride; the Israelite’s did not want to endure waiting to see the Face of God so they fashioned an idol, the “work of their own hands.” Here lies the temptation for us all in what should be a grace-filled period of time: distraction in turning the eyes of our soul away from the Face of God and toward the false faces or idols of the world–bright, sparkly, enticing and all around us. How can we resist falling into the traps of idolatry?

Our Lady of Guadalupe
Our Lady of Guadalupe

The ultimate good is to see the Face of God and therefore Mary must have waited like no one has ever waited before!  Mary, for the love of God, waited in patience, humility, faith, charity, in hope, and in supreme fortitude. She did this by fixing the eyes of her soul on Jesus, her Redeemer and God–Whose Face she could not yet see within her womb.  Mary’s uncomplaining acceptance of God’s Will–to seek His Face and only His Face–bore the most sublime fruit in Mary’s soul of divine PEACE, which the world can never take away.  So, this Advent and in all times of waiting, wait with Mary, and her reward will also be ours…to see the Face of her Son!

"Mary and Eve" by Sr. Grace Remington, OCSD (link here)
“Mary and Eve” by Sr. Grace Remington, OCSD ( for print- link here)

 

 

 

 

“Truly Seeking God” – Benedictines and the Face of Christ

“It is Your Face, O Lord, that I seek.” (Ps 26:8)

St. Benedict
St. Benedict, Feast Day July 11

In the Rule of his Order St. Benedict gives the key to discerning a true vocation in those seeking admittance to the Benedictine Order: “Let us examine whether the novice is truly seeking God.” (Ch. 58, Rule)  Since the Order’s inception, up to this day, the sons and daughters of St. Benedict have taken for their motto “Ora et Labora.” This “Prayer and Work” for many Benedictines is truly seeking the Face of God in the “prayer” of contemplation and the “work” of reparation to the Face of God covered with the blood, wounds, dust and spittle of  blasphemy–to stand, together with the Blessed Mother, before the endless crosses on which the Son of God continues to be crucified.  If there is a common thread among the holy men and women of the Order, it is woven through the veil of the Face of Christ.

But, they will tell you in their own words…

St. Gertrude by Migul Cabrera 1763
St. Gertrude by Miguel Cabrera 1763

St. Gertrude (1256-1302), while making reparation to the Adorable Face of Jesus, wounded and disfigured, said to Him, “Tell me, O Lord, the remedy that can soothe the suffering of Thy Divine Face!” Jesus replied: “If anyone meditates upon my sufferings with tenderness and compassion, his heart will be to Me as a soothing balm for these wounds.” Jesus gave St. Gertrude this promise: “All those who meditate frequently on my Divine Face, attracted by the desires of love, shall receive within them, through My Humanity, a bright ray of My Divinity, which shall enlighten their inmost souls so that they shall reflect the light of My Countenance in a special manner throughout eternity.”

St. Mechtilde (1240-1299) once exclaimed to her sisters, “Let us all, full of holy desire, hasten to venerate the sweetest Countenance of Our Lord, which will in Heaven be our all–all that a glorified soul can desire!” 

Bl. Columba Marmion
Bl. Columba Marmion

Blessed Columba Marmion O.S.B.(1858-1923) writes that our relationship with God hinge upon two things; our walking in the truth of our nature as creatures, who remain always in humble adoration before our Creator and our dignity as children of God.  “Our adoption as children supposes that we act always as loving children towards Our Heavenly Father, constantly seeking His good pleasure: Seek His Face evermore!  This Facies Dei, Face of God, is the smile of His loving approbation.  If you always keep the truth of this twofold relation, you will be more and more fixed in truth and in peace.”  “Look your Heavenly Father in the Face, and show him your soul in truth,” Bl. Marmion counsels, “…do not forget that He is God the Infinite!  The love of the creature, in order to be true, must be the love of adoration; the spirit of fear of the Lord.  If you keep the eye of your soul fixed on God alone, you will receive many graces.”  “It is good sometimes, when alone with God, to stretch out our hands and look at Him in faith showing Him the depths of our soul that His eye may penetrate into those abysses that are hidden in the recesses of the heart.  Then our prayer is pure and very powerful, for the child gazes into the Father’s Face, seeking His Face, that is to say His good pleasure:  “Seek ye the Lord, seek His Face EVERMORE!”

Mother Marie des Douluers, Foundress of the Benedictines of Jesus Crucified
Mother Marie des Douluers, Foundress of the Benedictines of Jesus Crucified

Mother Marie des Douleurs (1902-1983) Foundress of the Congregation of the Benedictines of Jesus Crucified emphasizes the relationship between the Sacred Heart of Jesus and His Holy Face:  “We must discover on this Face the revelation of the secrets of His Heart.” She also points to the Holy Spirit, whose work it is to restore the image of God in our souls: “Devotion to the Holy Face is the particular aspect by which the Holy Spirit makes us learn all we need to know to become the saints that Jesus desires.  This devotion is of such central importance and so vital for us that we cannot live without it!”

Bl. Ildephonsus Cardinal Shuster, O.S.B.
Bl. Ildephonsus Cardinal Shuster, O.S.B.

Blessed Ildephonsus Cardinal Shuster, O.S.B.  (1880-1954) wrote, “The Face of Jesus in Heaven is the cause of joy to the angels, but on earth it is a token of pity for sinners.  We say to the Father Respice in faciem Christi tui, (Ps 83:10) (Look upon the Face of Thy Christ) but let us fix our own gaze on that Face of Jesus, lest we lose sight of it.  As the Eternal Father, when He beholds the Face of Jesus, is touched with compassion for the wretched children of Adam, so let us show a holy reverence for that Sacred Face and for those pure eyes that look on us so tenderly; let us take care that all our actions are worthy of the ineffable sanctity of that Divine regard.”

Last but not least, is the Servant of God, Ildebrando Gregori O.S.B. (1894-1985) founder of the women’s religious congregation the Benedictine Sisters of Reparation of the Holy Face. The devotion to the Holy Face was rooted and imprinted on his Congregation: “The title that sets you apart is Reparation of the Sacred Face of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the story of Jesus’ Passion that manifests itself, in a particular way, in the love which St. Benedict had for that Face. The Face of Jesus which was seen dripping blood, crowned with thorns, spat upon; His eyes were bruised, the broken eyebrows, broken lips. His Face, more beautiful than Paradise, appeared like the face of a leper. So Adorers of the Holy Face, Reparation of his wounds in the contemplation of prayer (Ora), in the service of the needy (Labora)… (adoration of the Face of Christ) is essential to make reparation, to create harmony with Christ Jesus who makes us love what the beloved loves, to want what He wants and rejecting what brings Him pain, injury, suffering.”

This apostle of devotion to the Face of Christ applied the Rule of St. Benedict to a work of   human and spiritual formation for the poorest and most abandoned children, victims of World War II, in whom he saw the suffering face of Jesus.  He later extended that work to include the elderly.  At the time he was Abbot General he met Blessed Mother Maria Pierina de Micheli, of the Daughters of the Immaculate Conception, to whom Our Lord gave the mission of the propagation of the Holy Face Medal.  He became her Spiritual father and director until the time of her death in 1945. Padre Gregori shared with Bl. Mother de Micheli the love, devotion and deep desire to make reparation to the Face of Jesus and to propagate the Holy Face Medal throughout the world.

Servant of God Idlebrando Gregori, OSB
Servant of God Idlebrando Gregori, OSB

 

“I wish that the Lord bless you as He blessed the holy pious women, that He will fill you with His holy Love.  His Blessed Face is your ideal, and will piously torment you with the desire to give Him love and praise, this is the perfect reparation. “–Servant of God Ildebrando Gregori OSB

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Trinity and the Face of Christ

The importance of Devotion to the Holy Face has been underscored by our last three Popes: St. Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict and Pope Francis.  But, it was to a hidden, cloistered Carmelite nun in the mid-1800’s that Our Lord first entrusted what He called “The Most Beautiful Work Under the Sun!” It was the impetus for the resurgence of a forgotten devotion that has ultimately resulted in the dedication of the millennium to The Holy Face by St. Pope John Paul II and the emphasis on Jesus Christ, the Face of the Father’s Mercy by Pope Francis for the Jubilee Year of Mercy.  Through the Merciful Face of Christ we may be reconciled with the Father, so that the Holy Spirit may restore God’s image in our souls.

Discalced Carmelite Nun Sr. Marie St. Pierre holding "The Golden Arrow" The three circles representing the Holy Trinity
Discalced Carmelite Nun Sr. Marie St. Pierre holding “The Golden Arrow” The three circles representing the Holy Trinity

Sr. Marie St. Pierre, is best known for Devotion to the Holy Face and “The Golden Arrow” (prayer below) a prayer of reparation for blasphemy–sins against the Face of God. She had many interior visions regarding the Holy Face and the work of reparation, 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:

"Holy Face of Tours"
“Holy Face of Tours”

“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, then He added:

“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.” 

The beautiful Holy Face of Manoppello photo: Paul Badde
The beautiful Holy Face of Manoppello
photo: Paul Badde

Below are two beautiful prayers of Sr. Marie St. Pierre “The Golden Arrow” praising the Holy Name, which is reparation for blasphemy and also a prayer to ask Our Lord to “reproduce the image of God in our souls.”

THE GOLDEN ARROW

MAY the most holy, most sacred, most adorable, most incomprehensible and ineffable Name of God, be forever praised, blessed, adored, loved and glorified, in heaven, on earth, and in the hells, by all the creatures of God, and by the Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Amen.

Prayer to ask Our Lord to Reproduce the Image of God in Our Souls

I salute You! I adore You and I love you, Oh adorable face of my beloved Jesus, as the noble stamp of The Divinity! Completely surrendering my soul to You, I most humbly beg You to stamp this seal upon us all, so the image of God may once more be reproduced in our souls. Amen.

“By My Holy Face you will work marvels!” –Our Lord to Sr. Marie St. Pierre

Holy Face on The Shroud of Turin
Holy Face on The Shroud of Turin

 

 

 

“I have set my Face like flint…”

Mocking of Christ by Bloch
Mocking of Christ by Carl Bloch

“The Lord God opens my ear that I may hear; And I have not rebelled, have not turned back.  I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard: My face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.  The Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.” (Isaiah 50:4b-7)

Signs and Wonders

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

Why does God work signs and wonders?  There can only be one answer: His Merciful Love.  Our Creator knows our human weakness.  Our faith may be weak, or we may have no faith at all.  We experience things and come to knowledge through our senses, so God grants us signs that we can see, hear, smell and touch signs of His goodness.  The Old Testament is filled with signs and wonders that God granted to all mankind to reveal His Presence and show His power and might.  But what could be more miraculous than the New Testament miracle that a virgin should be with child and bear a son? That God should become a tiny infant in the womb or that bread and wine should become the Body and Blood of Christ? Through these unimaginable signs God shows Himself to be not only all-powerful, but also all-good, all-humble, all-merciful, all-LOVE!

Signs and wonders do not end with the New Testament, but are on going.  They continue today.  For instance, in 1531, Our Lady appeared as a virgin with child to a humble Juan Diego and left an image of herself on his tilma as a sign for all peoples of her maternal love and of the merciful love of God.  The wondrous image was “painted” not by brush and paint, but by the hands of Our Lady herself as she gently arranged miraculous Castillian roses in Juan Diego’s tilma as a proof for his Bishop that a church should be built at the site of her appearance.  The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe speaks volumes to people of all times. As she told Juan Diego, “I am your merciful Mother, the Mother of all who live in this land and all of mankind.  I hear the weeping and sorrows of those who love me, cry to me, and have confidence in me, and I will give them consolation and relief.”

Sheer Veil of the Holy Face of Manoppello Photo: Paul Badde
Sheer Veil of the Holy Face of Manoppello
Photo: Paul Badde

To enumerate the many scientific studies done on the miraculous images of the tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe, or the Shroud of Turin, or the Holy Veil of Manoppello may demonstrate to those who need proof that they are indeed miracles.  But faith is still required for belief and some, in spite of the facts or reliable testimony, may still have doubts or sadly choose not to believe.

Perhaps we have trouble believing miracles because at heart we have trouble believing that God loves us and that He would stoop down from Heaven to show that love in some tangible way. Proof or not, the gifts of the Love and Mercy of God are still there so that we may “see and believe.”  God has given us these wondrous signs and they should not be taken for granted!  He is communicating something to each individual through these signs.  Let us pray for ourselves and for unbelievers, “Lord, help us in our unbelief.”

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

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(Below is a re-post from 12/2014 for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe)

Look Closely – Our Lady of Guadalupe “Not made by Human Hands”

IMG_0678
Miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe

The miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Shroud of Turin, and “Il Volto Santo,” the veil of Manoppello all have something in common.  They are all Acheiropoieta, a Greek word meaning: “made without hand.”  They are said to have come into existence miraculously, not created by a human painter.

image-16
The Holy Face on the Shroud of Turin

The extensive research that has been done on these three images, and the results are astounding.  Although I have not been to Mexico to view the miraculous tilma of Our Lady, I have seen both the Holy Shroud of Turin and the Veil of Manoppello in person.  Studying them has been my own personal passion.

Being an artist, (and near-sighted) I tend to look at things more closely.  I study each little detail, shape, line, form, color, and  value. I may spend hundreds of hours studying while I work.  I can’t help but know every little nuance by the time I am done painting.  Sr. Blandina Paschalis Schloemer, a Trappist nun from Germany, is also an artist, a painter of icons.  Icon painting is very exact when it is done in the traditional manner.  Sr. Schloemer began to notice striking similarities between ancient icons and images of the Face of Christ, and the images on the Shroud of Turin and the Veil of Manoppello.  With the permission of her order the research has become her life’s work as well as part of her vocation.

IMG_0172
Pope Benedict meets Sr. Blandina at the Sanctuary Basilica for the Holy Face of Manoppello

Her research indicates that both images on the Shroud of Turin and the Manoppello Image are of the same man.  I agree with her, wholeheartedly, although it is not at first glance apparent.   There are also many similarities between these two images  of Jesus’ Face and the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  First, all are on a cloth.  The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is on cactus fiber, which should have disintegrated hundreds of years ago according to scientists. The Shroud of Turin is on linen and the Manoppello Image is on woven sea-silk, called byssus.

DSC08115
Our Lady of Guadalupe, pilgrim image beside the Veronica Altar, at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Photo: Paul Badde, author of The Face of God: The Rediscovery of the True Face of Jesus, Ignatius Press.

Byssus  is more rare and more precious than gold.  Mentioned in the Bible, byssus, has a shimmering, iridescent quality which reflects light. Byssus is extremely delicate, yet strong at the same time. It  resists water, weak acids, bases, ethers or alcohols. It can’t be painted, as it does not retain pigments, it can only be dyed; and then, only purple.  Did I mention that it can last for more than 2000 years?

DSC06317
The veil of Manoppello, woven with byssus, is so sheer that you can read through it. Photo: Paul Badde

Another similarity between the Guadalupe image and the Manoppello image is the changeability of the images.  Pilgrims  have related how the image of Our Lady on the tilma appears to change in color, brightness and depth.  Scientists can’t explain how the Guadalupe image appears on the tilma, it is not painted… it is “just there.”  The Shroud of Turin has been described similarly. The veil of Manoppello, or “Il Volto Santo” as it is also known,  is even more incredible, if that can be possible, because in addition to the image being on a veil so sheer that it can be read through, it also changes in detail, color,  and shape.  It even disappears… entirely. It is called a “living image” and so it is.  No two people will see it in the same way.  No single person will see it in the same way twice.

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“Il Volto Santo of Manoppello”

Julian of Norwich, the English mystic of the 14th century,  mentions changeability as a characteristic of the Veil of Veronica in Rome, “the diverse changing of color and countenance, sometime more comfortably life-like, sometime more rueful and death-like.” The Veil of Veronica, it is now believed, was most likely stolen a hundred years later, during the sack of Rome.  But, Julian of Norwichs’ description of the Veil of Veronica certainly fits “Il Volto Santo” of Manoppello.

But, there is more.  There is something about the faces… if you study the faces in particular, especially  the eyes, as one opthamalogist did. On the eyes of Our Lady of Guadalupe, you will notice that something.  Similar research has been done on the eyes of “Il Volto Santo.”  There are delicate, natural, details in all three images that cannot be accomplished without the aid of paint or brush, on a rough, cactus cloth, or on a linen burial shroud or on gossamer-thin sea-silk.  If you have an opportunity, look closely.  Yes, there is something about the faces, and it is something supernatural.  They are not made by human hands, but by the Hand of God.

“O Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe,

By your presence you made the desert bloom with flowers

may your love transform us into the image of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Amen.”

(Prayer by Dom Mark Kirby, Prior, Silverstream Monastery, Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland)

God’s Mirror – The Immaculate Conception

Immaculate Conception by Bartolome Esteban Murillo
Immaculate Conception by Bartolome Esteban Murillo

“Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.”

Pope Francis has chosen December 8th, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, as the opening of the Holy Jubilee Year of Mercy, “because of its rich meaning.” “After the sin of Adam and Eve, God did not wish to leave humanity alone in the throes of evil.  So he turned his gaze to Mary, holy and immaculate in love (cf. Eph 1:4), choosing her to be the Mother of man’s Redeemer.  When faced with the gravity of sin, God responds with the fullness of mercy.” Pope Francis (Face of Mercy)

Mary was “Blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing,” (cf. Eph 1:3) chosen by God from all eternity to be the Mother of the Redeemer.  It is she who leads us to Jesus, so that we may contemplate, together with her, the Face of Mercy.  As the Immaculate Conception, Mary bears in herself the most perfect reflection of the face of God.  Pope St. John Paul II wrote, “The Blessed Virgin saw shining upon her, as no other creature, the face of the Father, rich in grace and mercy.”

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

A Little Litany by G.K.Chesterton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Anniversary – Bl. Mother Teresa and The Merciful Face of Jesus

Re-post in honor of the Anniversary of Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s death September 5th

Mother Teresa source: Flicker
Mother Teresa
photo: Flicker

“Seeking the Face of God in everything, everyone, all the time, and His hand in every happening; This is what it means to be contemplative in the heart of the world.  Seeing and adoring the presence of Jesus, especially in the lowly appearance of bread, and in the distressing disguise of the poor.”  –Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Many Catholic faithful are hoping and praying for the possible canonization of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta during The Holy Year for Mercy. During the upcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy Pope Francis wants us to “Keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and his merciful gaze, that we may experience the love of the Most Holy Trinity.”  He calls us to be merciful to others and reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy as a way of awakening our conscience and enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel so that “we become merciful just as our heavenly Father is merciful.” (Lk 6:36)

Blessed Mother Teresa, by her heroic life’s witness of seeking the Face of Christ in the “distressing disguise of the poor,” perfectly exemplified how Christians can live the works of mercy. When someone would ask her what they could do to serve, she was known for taking the person’s hand and touching each finger, she would say, “You-did-it-to-me.” “I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me. Whatever you did to the least of my brethren, you did it to me.”

Blessed Mother Teresa’s example points out to us the primary task of the Church, which, as Pope Francis urges us, is to be a herald of mercy,” “especially at a moment full of great hopes and signs of contradiction, to introduce everyone to the great mystery of God’s mercy by contemplation of the Face of Christ.”

The greatest desire of Bl. Mother Teresa was “to satiate the thirst of Jesus by serving him in the poorest of the poor.” Though suffering spiritual darkness in her own soul, she allowed the blazing brilliance of Christ’s love to radiate through her face to others and she sought continually Jesus’ face in those she served. In photograph after photograph of Mother Teresa we can see her looking intensely into the faces of children, the poor, the sick and the dying, while tenderly caressing their faces, searching in their face for the face of her beloved, Jesus.  Pope Francis tells us, “We must embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison. “ (Mt 25:31) “To love God and neighbor is not something abstract, but profoundly concrete: it means seeing in every person the face of the Lord to be served, to serve him concretely. And you, dear brothers and sisters are the face of Jesus!”

Blessed Mother Teresa heroically carried out the corporal and spiritual works of mercy by being the Merciful Face of Christ to others and by seeing the Merciful Face of Christ in others. Pope Benedict XVI has characterized devotion to the Holy Face as having three separate components:

The first element is discipleship and orientation of one’s life towards an encounter with Jesus, to see Jesus in the face of those in need. In order to do this, believers first need to become better acquainted with Jesus through the Eucharist.  Mother Teresa’s whole being was directed toward this encounter with Jesus in the poor.

Image of Jesus crucified which hung in Mother Teresa's room. It was one of her last sights before dying.
Image of Jesus crucified which hung in Mother Teresa’s room. It was one of her last sights before dying.

The second element is relating to the Passion of Jesus, and the suffering expressed by the images of the wounded Face of Jesus, relating this to the Eucharistic experience. This image of Jesus Crucified hung on the wall of Mother Teresa’s room in Calcutta. It was one of her last sights before dying. She identified completely with the Crucified Jesus. “Jesus, I love with my whole heart, with my whole being, I have given Him all, even my sins, and He has espoused me to Himself in tenderness and love. Now and for life I am the spouse of my Crucified Spouse.”

The third element, the Eucharist, is woven between the other two. The eschatological element then builds on awakening to Christ by contemplating His face in the Eucharist. The Eucharist was central to Mother Teresa’s mission.  “Seek him in the tabernacle. Fix your eyes on Him who is the Light. Bring your hearts close to His Divine Heart and ask Him to grant you the grace of knowing Him.”  She insisted that each Missionary of Charity begin their day in prayerful silence before the Eucharistic Face of Jesus from Whom they drew the strength to serve the poor.

“Jesus gives us two faces,” Pope Francis says, “actually only one real face, that of God reflected in many faces, because in the face of each brother, especially the smallest, the most fragile, the defenseless and the needy, there is God’s own image.  And we must ask ourselves: when we meet one of these brothers, are we able to recognize the face of God in him?”  

If we hope one day to see the Face of God we must open our eyes to our neighbor.  Pope Benedict XVI has said, “closing our eyes to our neighbor also blinds us to God.”

Bl. Mother Teresa, pray for us, help to recognize the Face of Jesus and carry out the “Works of Mercy,” so that we too may contemplate “the Living Face of Christ’s Mercy.”

The Corporal Works of Mercy           The Spiritual Works of Mercy

Feed the Hungry                                              Teach the ignorant

Give Drink to the thirsty                                 Pray for the living and the dead

Clothe the naked                                              Correct sinners

Shelter the homeless                                       Counsel those in doubt

Comfort the prisoners                                     Console the sorrowful

Visit the sick                                                      Bear wrongs patiently

Bury the dead                                                    Forgive wrongs willingly

 

What’s in a name?

"IHS" Monogram of The Holy Name - Church of The Gesu, Rome
“IHS” Monogram of The Holy Name – Church of The Gesu, Rome

 

Any mother-to-be, poring over lists of baby names, knows the importance of choosing a name.  She knows this is serious business.  The name should have meaning, giving a clue to shed light on the mystery of the person.  Our names, connected with our face become the basis of our relationship with others.  When we give our own name, and turn our face to others, we are giving something of ourselves.  So too, it is with God.

The Hebrew term for name is “shem” and for face, it is “panim.”  These are both terms which describe relationships.  In fact, “panim” means to see the face of God or the presence of God.  God has a face and a nameThe revelation of the face of God took on a new and beautiful manifestation when God became man in the person of Jesus Christ, as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has taught. As fully God and fully man, Jesus Christ gave us a human face that revealed the face of God.  He says, “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!”  The Son of God was made man He is given a Name, Jesus.  The one who “saves His people from sin.”  Through His Face and His Name, He gives us Himself.

There is a direct connection between the Holy Face and the Name of God.  Jesus shows us the face of the Father, as He told His disciples:  “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.”  Jesus also makes known to us the Name of God, as He said at the Last Supper when praying to His Father, “I have made Your Name known to them.”  The expression “Name of God” means God as He who is present among men.  His Name is a concrete sign of His Existence.

Because of the profound connection between our relationship with God and His Name and Face,image-20 sins committed against this relationship with Him are reflected in the Face of Jesus Christ.  When a man’s name is slandered, or reviled, those insults are reflected on his face.  So too, in the Passion, the Face of Our Lord was beaten, bloodied, bruised, spit upon.

How are sins against our personal relationship with God revealed in His Face?  The manifestation of our sins on His Countenance come through blasphemy, atheism, disrespect of God in Sacred things, the profanation of Sunday, hatred of God’s Church.  These indignities suffered by Our Lord in His Face represent the most serious sins, because they are against God Himself.

St. Veronica, model of reparation to The Holy Face
St. Veronica, model of reparation to The Holy Face

The damage done by our sins to our relationship with God are reflected in the Face of Jesus Christ.  For this reason, devotion and reparation to the Holy Face is fitting in order to make amends for what we have done.  By prayers and act of reparations we are performing the office of Veronica, the model of reparation to the Holy Face, in wiping the Face of Jesus and restoring dignity to His Holy Name and in a small way repairing mankind’s relationship with God.

 

 

We need a Chaplain – Fr. Willie Doyle, S.J.

Military Chaplain for the 8th Royal Irish Fusiliers WWI
Military Chaplain for the 8th Royal Irish Fusiliers WWI

We Christians are in the midst of a battle raging all around us.  We are assailed on every side by terrorism, violence, murder, racism, human slavery, trafficking, degradation of the family and by the most deplorable evil of all, abortion. Videos that reveal horrors surpassing Nazi death camps, show babies ripped from the wombs of mothers, crushed, dissected and their parts sold off to the highest bidder.  We pray and pray as it seems the battle has been lost.  Battle-weary Christians are in danger of despair.

If Christians are indeed soldiers in Christ, then I would say at this point in the battle, we need a chaplain.  I recommend one to you, my hero: Fr. Willie Doyle S.J.  It may seem rather incongruous that a mother, grandmother and by all accounts a church-mouse, should have for her hero a WWI Irish Military Chaplain who traversed the bloody, muddy, battlefields of Ypres in 1917.  Fr. Doyle ministered to exhausted soldiers of all faiths or none, with little or no sleep himself, little food, no relief, suffering from the cold, waist-deep mud in flooded, stagnant trenches, gas-attacks and all the horrors of war.  Risking his own life at each moment, he administered absolution, anointing with oil faces smashed by shells, and then amid bursting shells buried the dead.  Once, he even laid face down in the mud of a trench, in order that a sick doctor could get a little sleep by lying on his back.  He died on August 16th, 1917, his body never found, he was last seen running back and forth across the battle fields giving absolution to dying men. But that is not why he is my hero.

Fr. Doyle’s life had a profound influence on the lives of a young Mother Teresa of Calcutta, as recounted in “Come Be My Light,” and on St. Josemaria Escriva and many others, not for what he did in the battlefields of Ypres, but in the battlefield of his own soul.  Fr. Doyle’s great love of the Sacred Heart and the Holy Face of Jesus was made manifest in small sacrifices, born of a heartfelt desire to console Jesus, hated and outraged, blasphemed and spit upon.  Like St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, to whom he had a great devotion, he followed her “Little Way” of abandonment and trust, practicing hidden works of virtue, accepting each little cross or small sacrifice.  He wrote,

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

“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.”

“How many deceive themselves 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.”

Fr. Doyle made daily sacrifices that even I could handle, such as the first battle of getting out of bed when the alarm goes off. “Self-love,” Fr. Doyle has said, “is our own greatest enemy.”  Yet we are all capable of “little things.” This is why he is my hero.  St. Josemaria Escriva wrote to a friend of an example that set him on the road to sainthood.  It was known as “The Butter Battle.”

“We were reading — you and I — the heroically ordinary life of that man of God. [Fr. Doyle] And we saw him fight whole months and years at breakfast time: today he won, tomorrow he was beaten… He 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 not reading newspapers.] “Not reading newspapers, is  for me no small mortification.  Nevertheless, with God’s grace, I stayed faithful to it… What battles these struggles of mine were!  These epics can be understood only by those who have gone through similar ones.  Sometimes conquering; more often, being conquered.” 

Inspired by the mortification of Carmelite Nuns to whom Fr. Doyle had given a retreat, he begged God earnestly for the grace to give up butter, sugar in his coffee, salt and so on.  Little things are of great importance to God.  It was by being “faithful in little things” those small sacrifices, that he was prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice “to lay down ones life for ones friends.” Let us pray, like Fr. Doyle, “to be faithful in little things.”  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!

Below is a passage from Fr. Doyle’s writing showing his devotion to the Face of Christ, and possibly the passage which most inspired Bl. Mother Teresa.

“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

We don't know the Crucifix Fr. Doyle spoke of but this is The Holy Face of The Miraculous "Limpias Crucifix"
We don’t know the Crucifix Fr. Doyle spoke of but this is The Holy Face of The Miraculous “Limpias Crucifix”

to________and once more had an opportunity of a quiet prayer before the life-size 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 in 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.

If you would like to read more about Fr. Doyle’s extraordinary life, please visit “Remembering Fr. William Doyle, S.J.” at http://fatherdoyle.com/