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

 

 

 

St. Joseph – Contemplating the Mystery of the Human Face of God

“The most illustrious thing the Church has is that which she hides most.” ~Bossuet

Detail, St. Joseph with the Child, by Alonso Miguel de Tovar

His countless virtues made him worthy to be the foster father of the Son of God. He was the first man to see the human Face of God; the first man to hear the cry of the Word of God. Yet for centuries the most just and humble St. Joseph was fairly hidden in the Church. Not a word is spoken by St. Joseph in the Gospels. But as Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “His is a silence permeated by contemplation of the mystery of God, in an attitude of total availability to His divine wishes.”

Josephs’s Dream by Rembrandt c.1645

It was St. Teresa of Avila who recognized St. Joseph as the model of contemplative prayer. She wrote: “Would that I could persuade all men to have devotion to this glorious Saint; for I know by long experience what blessings he can obtain for us from God.”  Because St. Joseph was silent, he was attuned to hear the voice of God, although it was in darkness and obscurity.  “Those who practice prayer,” says St. Teresa, “should have a tremendous devotion to him always.”

“Joseph, the honest man, seeks God. Joseph, the selfless man, finds God. Joseph, the hidden man, delights in God’s presence.” –Second Panegyric on St. Joseph by Bossuet

Holy Family with bird, c. 1650, by Murillo

St. Joseph, through continuous prayer, sought God’s Will in each present moment. St. Teresa writes that he is the master of the interior life.  “In human life Joseph was Jesus’ master in their daily contact, full of refined affection, glad to deny himself in order to take better care of Jesus.  Isn’t that reason enough for us to consider this just man, this holy patriarch, in whom the faith of the old covenant bears fruit, as master of interior life?  Interior life is nothing but continual and direct conversation with Christ, so as to become one with Him.  And Joseph can tell us many things about Jesus.”  St. Joseph reveals those hidden graces in our daily lives; gifts from God that are available in each ordinary moment, as well as in trials and times of suffering. St. Joseph teaches us to live by faith as he did, before the presence of such a great mystery, by contemplating the human Face of God.

 

 

The Pure in Heart Will See God’s Face

Our Lady of Mount Carmel with Angels and souls in Purgatory – Baroque Sculpture Beniajan, Spain

The sixth beatitude proclaims, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”  What does it mean to be “pure in heart” and how can we attain purity of heart in this life?   

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that the “heart is the seat of our moral personality.” and there is a connection between purity of heart, of body, and of faith.  St. Augustine summed up this connection:

“The faithful must believe the articles of the Creed so that by believing they may obey God, by obeying may live well, by living well may purify their hearts, and with pure hearts may understand what they believe.”

The “pure in heart” are promised that they will see God face to face and be like him.  “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.  But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor 13: 12-13) Purity of heart is the precondition of the vision of God.  

But what  happens to a soul who dies in God’s grace and friendship, but is not yet perfectly purified in these three areas of “heart, body, and faith”  in order to see the Face of God?  The Church teaches that these souls are assured of eternal salvation, “but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.” (CCC 1030) The joy of Heaven–which is the joy of seeing God face to face eternally. The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of souls that enables them to attain the beatific vision.  Theologians have said that this purification or suffering of the souls in Purgatory is their intense longing for the Face of God.

“It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.” (2 Macch. 12, 46)

The faithful departed being purified are also members of the communion of saints, however, they can no longer pray for themselves; the opportunity for them to gain merit and virtue ended with their lives. They are in need of our prayers.  

“We must say many prayers for the souls of the faithful departed, for one must be so pure to enter Heaven.”–St. John Vianney

St. Teresa of Avila interceding for the Holy Souls in Purgatory

We can help these holy souls by our prayers, especially in the month of November, when the Church remembers the Faithful Departed in its prayers.  There are many ways to obtain indulgence from God for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, through the Church, such as visiting a cemetery and praying for the dead. A plenary indulgence for the souls in Purgatory can be obtained by visiting a cemetery any day between November 1 and November 8 or by a visit to a church or public oratory on November 2nd and reciting the Our Father and the Creed.  A partial indulgence can be obtained for the souls in Purgatory, especially in the month of November, when we recite:

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.  May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen.

Purity of heart makes it possible to see God in heaven. So, we should strive to attain purity of heart here on earth which helps us to see things according to God in this life. To do this demands prayer, the practice of chastity, purity of intention and of vision. (CCC 2532). Purity of heart also requires the modesty which is patience, decency, and discretion. (CCC 2533). So, in charity, let us pray, not only for ourselves but for the souls of the departed, so that they may soon see God face to face. 

Eternal Father I offer you the most precious blood of your divine Son Jesus, in union with the masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in purgatory, for sinners everywhere, sinners in the universal church, those in my own home, and within my family. –St. Gertrude Prayer

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Paul Badde pondering the Holy Veil of Manoppello

UPDATE: THE HUMAN FACE OF GOD IN THE HOLY VEIL OF MANOPPELLO (NEW- 2017) will air on EWTN, Tuesday, November 8th, at 6:30 pm Eastern time (U.S.). Filmed on location in Italy, host Paul Badde introduces the Veil of Manoppello as he relates it to other images of the Holy Face of Jesus. (30 minutes)

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

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

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

In The Power of Silence Cardinal Sarah writes:

Robert Cardinal Sarah (photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holy Face of Manoppello, photo: Patricia Enk

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

Holy Face of Manoppello photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

Pilgrimage – A Journey Toward the Face of God Pt. 1

Part 1:  The Face of Mercy in Manoppello

Manoppello, Sanctuary Basilica of the Holy Face, photo: Paul Badde
Manoppello, Sanctuary Basilica of the Holy Face, photo: Paul Badde

“The practice of pilgrimage has a special place in the Holy Year, because it represents the journey each of us makes in this life.  Life itself is a pilgrimage, and the human being a viator, a pilgrim traveling along the road, making his way to the desired destination…each according to his or her ability will have to make a pilgrimage. This will be a sign that mercy is also a goal to reach and requires dedication and sacrifice. May pilgrimage be an impetus to conversion; by crossing the threshold of the Holy Door, we will find the strength to embrace God’s mercy and dedicate ourselves to being merciful with others as the Father has been with us.”  –Pope Francis from The Face of Mercy, Misericordiae Vultus

Human beings are made in the image and likeness of God, and so our souls have a yearning, a natural longing for the infinite.  We are called to communion with God, to see Him “face to face.”  He is calling us to seek Him, to know Him, and love Him with all our heart, mind, and strength.  The history of salvation can be described as a gradual discovery of the Face of God by nations and individuals, marked by their battles, falls and triumphs, as they turn toward or away from the Face of God, on a pilgrimage–a journey which will only end when each person comes “face to face” with God.

The Year of Mercy cannot be complete until we have made some sort of pilgrimage toward God.  Although I had made a local pilgrimage to the Door of Mercy at St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, I had felt a very strong tug in my heart to return to Italy and re-visit places of pilgrimage that were especially meaningful to me. Together with my husband, I made the necessary preparations, but, the most important “packing” for the journey was to remember on our pilgrimage all those God has given us to love, and their intentions, people that we would like to have with us, but could not make the journey. We especially carried within our hearts those who were too sick, or too old, as well as those who have lost their faith, the deceased, and people in our country and in the world in need of someone’s prayers, placing all in our hearts so that we could carry them, in spirit, through the Doors of Mercy.

We began with the place in which I encountered the Face of Mercy in a very profound way in October of 2012: the Sanctuary Basilica of the Holy Face in the small mountain village of Manoppello. This humble, beautiful village has hidden in its heart, for centuries, what St. Pio of Pietrelcina called “The greatest relic of the Church”–a gossamer-thin byssus veil, bearing, in a miraculous way, an image of the human Face of Jesus.

Panel on Holy Door of Shrine commemorating the visit of Pope Benedict XVI in 2006
Panel on Holy Door of Shrine commemorating the visit of Pope Benedict XVI in 2006

We arrived very late at night after 28 hours of travel to a hotel in the village very near the Sanctuary.  The next morning we walked to the Basilica for Mass, entering the beautiful dedicated Holy Door, engraved with depictions of events in the history of the Veil.  My favorite was the panel recalling the visit of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to the Shrine in September of 2006.  It was a year later, that he wrote his moving prayer to the Holy Face in honor of that occasion and elevated the Shrine to the status of a Basilica.

Rector of the Shrine Padre Carmine Cucinelli places the Holy Veil in the movable reliquary
Rector of the Shrine Padre Carmine Cucinelli places the Holy Veil in the movable reliquary

The day after we arrived was a special occasion as well, as the next day, August 6th, was a Feast of the Holy Face, the Transfiguration.  The Veil, normally kept in a special reliquary high above the back of the altar (but accessible by a stairway from behind) was to be brought down after the Mass and placed in another movable reliquary, used in processions, near the front of the altar. The Veil would remain there throughout the day for prayers and veneration of the faithful, then be returned to its place behind the altar for the night.

Earlier in the day, on the steps leading up to the relic, I bumped into journalist Paul Badde, who has taken more photos perhaps than anyone of the Holy Veil and written so much about its amazing re-discovery.  I couldn’t have been more surprised than if I had bumped into Lazarus emerging from the tomb!  Paul has been making an amazing recovery from heart surgery, stroke, and a coma which lasted for more than

Sr. Petra-Maria gazes at the Veil of Manoppello
Sr. Petra-Maria gazes at the Veil of Manoppello

three weeks during Lent of 2016. Paul later introduced me to Sr. Petra-Maria, who, I soon discovered, shares with pilgrims her extensive knowledge and love for “Il Volto Santo.”  Like two other nuns, who shared similar names–Sr. Marie St. Pierre, a Discalced Carmelite nun associated with the Holy Face in Tours, and Bl. Mother Maria Pierina, an Immaculate Conception nun associated with the Holy Face Medal–Sr. Petra-Maria is a true apostle of the Holy Face of Manoppello.  The Holy Face draws her like a magnet; she never tires of gazing at His Face or drawing others to His peaceful, merciful countenance and telling and re-telling the incredible details of the features, the history, and especially, the spiritual significance of the miraculous image.  (I’ll have to save those details for a special post.)

Basilica of the Holy Face of Manoppello on Vigil of the Transfiguartion
Basilica of the Holy Face of Manoppello on Vigil of the Transfiguartion

Celebrations and entertainment were held in honor the Holy Face in the piazza in front of the Basilica in the evening by local musicians and very talented young people of the community, who gave a very enjoyable musical performance of the life of St. Francis. I’ll never forget the line of young “Franciscan monks” on the stage singing “Andiamo! Andiamo!…” “We go! We go! For the Blessed Mother!”  The next day the Holy Veil was brought out after Mass on the Feast of the Transfiguration for the day and in the evening there was planned a solemn procession with the Veil and benediction.  But, as in all things in life, plans change… (To be continued in Pt.2)

"Andiamo! Andiamo!"
“Andiamo! Andiamo!”

 

 

 

Face of Mercy – This is the time to change our lives

“This is the opportune moment to change our lives!  This is the time to allow our hearts to be touched!” — quotes from Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus 

"Jesus Christ is the Face of the Father's Mercy." -- Pope Francis
“Jesus Christ is the Face of the Father’s Mercy.” — Pope Francis

“Jesus Christ is the Face of the Father’s Mercy.  These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith.  Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching it’s culmination in Him…We need to constantly contemplate the mystery of mercy.  It is a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace.  Our salvation depends on it.  Mercy:  the word reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity.”  “With our eyes fixed on Jesus and His merciful gaze, we experience the love of the Most Holy Trinity.  The mission Jesus received from the Father was that of revealing the mystery of Divine Love in its fullness. ‘God is love.'” (1Jn 4:8,16)

“…wherever there are Christians, everyone should find an oasis of mercy.”

“Mercy is not contrary to justice but is the behavior of God toward the sinner…God does not deny justice. He rather envelops it and surpasses it with an even greater event in which we experience love as the foundation of true justice” (MV, 21). Jesus is the face of the mercy of God the Father: “God so loved the world […] [that] the world might be saved through him [the Son]” (Jn 3:16, 17)

FullSizeRender-11We are called to be merciful to each other and seek the Face of Jesus in our neighbor. “It is my burning desire that, during this Jubilee, the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.  It will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty.  And let us enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy.  Jesus introduces us to these works of mercy in His preaching so that know whether or not we are living as His disciples.  Let us rediscover these corporal and spiritual works of mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead.  And  let us not forget the spiritual works of mercy:  to counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offences, bear patiently those who do us ill, and pray for the living and the dead.”

“Life is a pilgrimage, and the human being is a viator, a pilgrim travelling along the road, making his way to the desired destination.” Let us keep our faces turned toward the Merciful Face of Jesus while on our pilgrimage, and “introduce everyone to the great mystery of God’s Mercy by contemplating the Face of Chirst.”  (Misericordiae Vultus) 

Prayer of Pope Francis for the Jubilee of Mercy

Have Mercy on us! Holy Face of Manoppello Photo: Paul Badde
Have Mercy on us!
Holy Face of Manoppello
Photo: Paul Badde

Lord Jesus Christ,
you have taught us to be merciful like the heavenly Father, and have told us that whoever sees you sees Him. Show us Your Face and we will be saved.  Your loving gaze freed Zaccheus and Matthew from being enslaved by money; the adulteress and Magdalene from seeking happiness only in created things; made Peter weep after his betrayal, and assured Paradise to the repentant thief.  Let us hear, as if addressed to each one of us, the words that You spoke to the Samaritan woman: “If you only knew the gift of God!”

You are the visible Face of the invisible Father, of the God Who manifests His power above all by forgiveness and mercy: let the Church be Your visible Face in the world, its Lord risen and glorified.  You willed that your ministers would also be clothed in weakness in order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error: and forgiven by God.

Come Holy Spirit!
Come Holy Spirit!

Send Your Spirit and consecrate every one of us with its anointing, so that the Jubilee of Mercy may be a year of grace from the Lord, and Your Church, with renewed enthusiasm, may bring good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed, and restore sight to the blind.

We ask this through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Mercy, You Who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.

 

Pope Francis also recommends we pray the Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen)  so that Mary, our Mother of Mercy “may never tire of turning her merciful eyes towards us, and make us worthy to contemplate the Face of Mercy, her Son Jesus.”

The Salve Regina or “Hail, Holy Queen”

Queen Beauty of Carmel
Queen Beauty of Carmel

Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope! To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears! Turn, then, O most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Thank you, Mother Angelica!

Eternal Rest grant unto her O Lord
Eternal Rest grant unto her O Lord

“In our life as Contemplatives, we may never see the fruit of all the prayers and penance we do.  It isn’t easy at first, but after a while as you dig deeper into your interior and Jesus comes along with light–it dawns on you, as it must, that the only thing that the Eternal Father wants from you and from me is to become transformed in Love.  Then, the Divine Image of His Son will be so clear in us that when He looks at us, He will see no one but Jesus.”

–Mother Angelica, born into Eternal Life, Easter Sunday 2016

Thank you, Jesus, for the beautiful life, inspiration and example of Your beloved spouse, Mother Angelica

Mother Angelica and Jesus
Mother Angelica
and Jesus

Love seeks to know the Beloved – Seeking the Face of Christ in Scripture

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

FullSizeRender
The Face of Jesus can be found in Sacred Scripture “God is Love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. (1 John 4:16)

Human beings are made in the image and likeness of God, and so our souls have a yearning, a natural longing for the infinite; we are called to communion with God, to see Him “face to face.” He is calling us to seek Him, to know Him, and love Him with all our strength. Because we are made in His image, we have a capacity to know God through the truth and beauty of the created world, through moral goodness and our human reason, but there are many things that stand in our way; we are in need of enlightenment. God has said everything in His Word, so we must “seek the Beloved” in the Scriptures.  As St. Jerome said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”

Through all the words of Sacred Scripture, God speaks only one single Word: Jesus Christ, the Word Incarnate. And there, in the Scriptures, we contemplate His Face.  “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God, in which, as in a mirror, the pilgrim Church contemplates God, the source of all her riches.” (CCC 97) The Word of God, which is Truth, acts as a mirror held before our gaze in which we may see our sins more clearly and feel the heartfelt sorrow of repentance, which can be the impetus for conversion or turning back to the Face of God.

"Your Face, LORD, do I seek!"
“Your Face, LORD, do I seek!”

Beginning in Genesis, the Sacred Scriptures reveal the pilgrimage: the struggles of nations and individuals in pilgrimage, as they turn toward or away from the Face of God–their battles, falls and triumphs.  In “The Face of Mercy” Pope Francis speaks of the importance of the practice of pilgrimage, which has a special place in the Holy Jubilee Year of Mercy.  He says “everyone, each according to his or her ability, will be asked to make a pilgrimage. This will be a sign that mercy is also a goal to reach and requires dedication and sacrifice.”  Through the Scriptures, “The Lord Jesus shows us the steps of the pilgrimage to attain our goal: ‘Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be poured into your lap.  For the measure you give will be the measure you get back’ (Lk 6:37-38)” —Face of Mercy  Scripture guides us in our pilgrimage by keeping our eyes fixed on Christ…and NOT on the world.

Denial of St. Peter by Carl Bloch
Denial of St. Peter by Carl Bloch

In seeking the Face of Jesus in the Scripture we also experience His loving and powerful gaze. The power of the gaze of Jesus in this journey is illustrated unforgettably in chapter 22 of Luke’s gospel which tells of Peter’s denial of Christ.  When Jesus is arrested, Peter was “following at a distance” then sat near a fire in a courtyard.  When he is accused of being a follower of Jesus, Peter denies Him, through fear, choosing to be viewed as part of the crowd, and seeking instead the approval of the world.  “Just as he was saying this, the cock crowed, and the Lord turned and looked at Peter; and Peter remembered the word of the Lord…He went out and wept bitterly.”(Lk. 22:60-62)  From Jesus’s merciful gaze came Peter’s repentance and second conversion.

Jesus Blindfolded Fra Angelico
Jesus Blindfolded
Fra Angelico

Interestingly, the next few lines of Luke’s gospel also demonstrate the attitude of those who refuse to look at the merciful gaze of the Face of Jesus: “The men who held Jesus in custody were ridiculing and beating Him.  They blindfolded Him and questioned Him, saying, ‘Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?’  And they reviled Him in saying many other things against Him.” (Lk. 22:63-65) These blasphemous men could not bear the gaze of Jesus, so they blindfolded Him, refusing to look in the mirror of Truth, which is the Face of Jesus.  No one can receive mercy who refuses to acknowledge their sins.

When we seek the Face of God by reading and praying with the Scriptures, we discover the true Face of Jesus, our Beloved, the Innocent Lamb, who is meek and humble of heart. St. Paul wrote that “a veil” lies over our hearts, “but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is removed… All of us gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor. 3:18) His gaze transforms our hearts from darkness to light as we strive to mirror His life.  “For God who has said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to bring to light knowledge of the glory of God on the Face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor. 4:6)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Malice of Blasphemy – Spitting in the Face of God

Cologne Cathedral
Cologne Cathedral

On New Years Eve, beneath the shadow of the Cologne Cathedral in Germany, one of the most important places of pilgrimage in Europe, about 1,000 drunk and aggressive men of Arab or North African appearance, surrounded groups of young women in order to molest, rob and rape.  The young women, who no doubt felt they were safe in the company of friends, were separated by the “men” (the cowardly vermin who attacked those who are weaker) whose primary objective was to perpetrate violence and sexual assault, and to degrade and dehumanize the young women.  A video soon surfaced, which originated from the attackers themselves, bragging about their rape of “a virgin” by several of the “men,” some of whom spit upon her as she lay on the ground beaten and bleeding, covered in filth.

To add to the humiliation of the victims, the mayor pointed a finger of blame at the women of the city.  The police were blamed for failing in their duty to defend and protect.  The men of Germany were equally blamed for not protecting their woman.    While politicians avoided blaming the actual perpetrators, there were actually those who would blame God for not protecting the innocent from the wicked.

But it is God Himself who suffers.  He suffers in the young women, made in His image, who were assaulted and spit upon.  It is God Himself who is blasphemed, either directly or indirectly by those who have malice toward Him, by acts of hatred carried out in the name of their religion.

  “You are no God who loves evil; no sinner is your guest.  The boastful shall not stand their ground before your Face.  You hate all who do evil:  you will destroy all who lie.  The deceitful and bloodthirsty man the Lord detests.” (Psalm 5)

It is not a coincidence that the violence took place in the shadow of the Holy Cathedral.  It is also no coincidence that the attack was upon women.  Satan hates “the woman” who is Mary, the Mother of God and directs his attacks upon on all women.  “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers. He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.” (Gen 3:15)  “When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, it pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child.” (Rev. 12:13)  Thus, all women are the special object of his hatred, so we see in our culture a flood of pornography, abortion, and degradation of women, not only by degenerate men, but even by other women.

So, what is the answer to this violence and contempt expressed in blasphemy against other human beings made in God’s image, blasphemy which is ultimately against the Face of God?  Wringing our hands over the news and at the culture that has permitted the evil is not the answer.  We are not entirely helpless and we have the means in our power to fight against evil:  the opposite of blasphemy would be praise of God, the sole object of our exalted esteem, honoring and extolling His Holy Name publicly, to make reparation before the Holy Face of Jesus, who became man and whose Face can be seen, in His images, in our neighbor and in the Eucharist.  Blasphemy can also be countered by honoring and reverencing the Virgin Mary, as He has given her the greatest honor and dignity by choosing her to be the mother of His Son, Jesus.

On February 9th, 2016, the “Feast of The Holy Face” will be celebrated.  My parish, along with many other Catholic parishes, will be having evenings of Prayer and Adoration on this day. This feast day coincides each year with “Mardi Gras Day,” the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.  It is an opportunity to make reparation for blasphemy by coming before the Face of Jesus to honor Him.  Beginning January 31st, I will post each day the Novena to the Holy Face leading up to the Feast of the Holy Face and Act of Consecration. Please join in the Novena or read the prayers of reparation (here) if you are able.  They are powerful weapons against those who would spit in the Face of God!

Miraculous Limpias Crucifix
Eternal Father I offer you the Most Holy Face of Your Beloved Son Jesus, covered with blood, sweat, dust and spittle, in reparation for the crimes of communists, blasphemers, profaners of the Holy Name and of the Holy Day of Sunday. (Miraculous Limpias Crucifix)

 

Eternal Father, turn away Your angry gaze from our guilty people whose face has become unsightly in your eyes. Look instead upon the Face of Your Beloved Son, for this is the Face of Him in Whom You are well pleased. We now offer You this Holy Face, covered with shame and disfigured by bloody bruises in reparation for the crimes of our age in order to appease Your anger, justly provoked against us. Because Your divine Son, Our Redeemer, has taken upon His Head all the sins of His members, that they might be spared, we now beg of You, Eternal Father, to grant us Mercy. Amen.

Of the Father’s Love Begotten

“So when we hear tell of the birth of Christ, let us be silent and let the Child speak. Let us take his words to heart in rapt contemplation of his face.” –Pope Francis 

The desire to see the Face of God has been the deep longing of all humanity “since the world began to be.” Yet deeper still is God’s desire to show His Face to us…

Adoration of the Christ Child and Annunciation to the Shepherds by Bernardino Luini
Adoration of the Christ Child and Annunciation to the Shepherds by Bernardino Luini

God’s love for mankind is so great that He desired to become visible to men. In the fullness of time, when earth was covered in darkness, the bright dawn of the Word made flesh descended to the womb of a Virgin, so that, for the first time in the history of the world, on the day of His birth, God’s Face could be seen. He could be looked upon without fear and trembling because in the supreme manifestation of His merciful love He allowed us to gaze upon Him as a tiny baby, who is the redemption and light of all mankind.

The darkness of sin and death is overcome by the light emanating from the Face of the Infant Jesus, shining first upon the Blessed Virgin Mary, then St. Joseph, the humble shepherds and kings and on and on. The divine light extends to all peoples, down through the centuries to each of us. As we contemplate and adore Jesus, we in turn, must make the light of His Face shine to others, to all we meet, until finally the darkness is dispelled forever by the Glory of His Face… “evermore and evermore.”

Below is the beautiful Christmas Hymn “Of the Father’s Love Begotten,” sung by the Benedictine Sisters of Mary. Enjoy!

Of the Father’s love begotten,
Ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega,
He the source, the ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see,
Evermore and evermore!

He comes in splendor, the King who is our peace; the whole world longs to see Him."
“He comes in splendor, the King who is our peace; the whole world longs to see Him.” The Holy Night by Carlo Maratta

O that birth forever blessèd,
When the virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving,
Bore the Savior of our race;
And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer,
First revealed His sacred face,
evermore and evermore!

O ye heights of heaven adore Him;
Angel hosts, His praises sing;
Powers, dominions, bow before Him,
and extol our God and King!
Let no tongue on earth be silent,
Every voice in concert sing,
Evermore and evermore!

Christ, to Thee with God the Father,
And, O Holy Ghost, to Thee,
Hymn and chant with high thanksgiving,
And unwearied praises be:
Honor, glory, and dominion,
And eternal victory,
Evermore and evermore!

Merry Christmas! May His Face shine upon you today and always!