September 17th marks the anniversary of the death of the Holy Capuchin priest of Manoppello–the Servant of God, Padre Domenico da Cese.
As a nine year old boy in 1915, Padre Domenico predicted the devastating Avenzzano earthquake in Italy. A 6.7 earthquake hit that region the next morning, killing more than 30,000 people, including two of his sisters and burying him and his father in the rubble of their church. A man he didn’t know pulled him from the rubble to safety, whose face he later recognized on his first visit as a friar to the Shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello. When Padre Domenico knelt before the “Il Volto Santo” or Face of Jesus, the miraculous veil, he exclaimed, “This is the man who saved me from the rubble!”
A short time after Padre Domenico arrived in Manoppello the people were saying, “We have received a Saint!”
In her book, Servant of God, Padre Domenico Da Cese, O.F.M. Capuchin, An Illustrated Biography Petra-Maria Steiner relates an example of Padre Domenico’s extraordinary gifts in the testimony of Giuseppe Orlando, whose fiancee, Anna Maria introduced him to the Padre. After spending nearly an hour in conversation, Padre Domenico suggested that Giuseppe have a mass said for his grandmother, Maria Grazia. “Giuseppe was astonished, ‘But who is she? I don’t have any grandmother by that name.’ Padre Domenico told him not to ask questions but to just say a mass for her.” So, Giuseppe had arranged for a mass for “Maria Grazia.” Still bothered and wanting to get to the bottom of the truth, he went home and researched, and to his surprise he discovered that his father’s mother, who died when his father was only five years old, was named Maria Grazia. His father had been so young when she died that he had forgotten her name.
Like his friend and fellow Capuchin, St. Padre Pio, the humble Padre Domenico was also a mystic and stigmatist who had extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit; such as the gift of “reading souls” and bi-location. Penitents who traveled from Manoppello to go to confession with Padre Pio were admonished by him for traveling such a distance when they already had a holy priest in Manoppello. He told them, ” Why did you come all the way here, so far? You’ve got a priest there, my spiritual son, he’s like me!” St. Padre Pio’s last documented case of bi-location, just before he died, was before the relic of the Holy Face of Jesus at the shrine of “Il Volto Santo” in Manoppello, where Padre Domenico was the rector. Padre Pio had told his fellow Capuchins that the Holy Face of Manoppello was the greatest relic of the Church.
In September of 1968, as Padre Pio lay dying in San Giovanni Rotundo (which is about 200 km south of Manoppello in Italy), his friend Padre Domenico da Cese had just unlocked the doors of the shrine of the Holy Face one morning, and was astounded to find Padre Pio in prayer, in the choir behind the altar before the sacred image of the Face of Jesus. St. Padre Pio spoke then to Padre Domenico saying, “I do not trust myself any more. I am coming to an end. Pray for me. Good-bye until we meet in Paradise.” Twenty-four hours later St. Padre Pio died in his cell in San Giovanni on September 23, 1968. Testimony was later given by witnesses that Padre Domenico da Cese was seen at Padre Pio’s funeral (another case of bi-location). A film was even taken (here) which shows Padre Domenico walking slowly in Padre Pio’s funeral procession, even though Padre Domenico had never left the shrine in Manoppello.
Padre Domenico shared with everyone his ardent love and devotion for the Holy Face of Manoppello, also known as “Il Volto Santo” — a miraculous veil which transmits supernatural beauty, and at the same time indescribable suffering. It is the Face of Mercy, Love and Peace. He would tell pilgrims, “This face is that of Jesus, and it is a great miracle, always love him.”Padre Domenico had done much research on the sheer byssus veil, the image of which is not made with any paint or pigment, and compared the iridescent quality of the colors to the wings of butterflies which also reflect iridescent color naturally. He also made studies of the Face on the Shroud of Turin, and its similarities to the Holy Face of Manoppello. He believed with all his heart that it was the face of the same man, and he was convinced that, like the Shroud of Turin, the Veil of Manoppello was one of the many burial cloths in Jesus’s tomb–the holy sudarium which covered the Face of Jesus in death–and also miraculously bears witness to His Resurrection.
On September 13 of 1978 while visiting Turin to venerate the Holy Face on the Shroud during a rare exposition, Padre Domenico, who was a giant of a man, was hit by the smallest car, a Fiat, as he was stepping out into a street. After suffering for several days in a hospital, and forgiving the man who had hit him, he died on September 17th, offering his life for the Holy Face on the Veil–the Face of the man who saved him as a child.
Prayer for the intercession of Servant of God Padre Domenico da Cese
Oh God, you gave Padre Domenico the capacity of recognizing in the poor and the suffering the very Holy Face of your beloved Son, whose devotion he promoted with such zeal, through his intercession obtain for me the humility of heart, and simplicity of the little ones to whom you have revealed the secrets of the Kingdom, and in my hour of trial give me the strength to overcome the seductions of evil in order to put Satan to flight, and to merit, at the end of my earthly pilgrimage, to be able to contemplate the Holy Face of Jesus in the glory of paradise.
Though unworthy as I am of your Divine favors, I ask that you might grant, through the intercession of your faithful servant Padre Domenico, the grace I humbly ask of you…
A new book will be available in May about the life of the Servant of God Padre Domenico Da Cese, the holy Capuchin, and former Rector of the Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello. Padre Domenico spent countless hours praying before the Holy Veil which miraculously bears the image of the Face of Jesus. Like his friend and fellow Capuchin St. Padre Pio the humble Padre Domenico was a mystic and stigmatist who had extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit.
(For more about St. Padre Pio’s last case of bilocation and Padre Domenico click here.)
As a nine-year-old boy in 1915, Padre Domenico predicted the devastating Avenzzano earthquake in Italy. A 6.7 earthquake hit that region the next morning, killing more than 30,000 people, including two of his sisters and burying him and his father in the rubble of their church. A man he didn’t know pulled him from the rubble to safety, whose face he later recognized on his first visit as a friar to the Shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello. When Padre Domenico knelt before the “Il Volto Santo” or Face of Jesus, the miraculous veil, he exclaimed, “This is the man who saved me from the rubble!” He remained at the Shrine as Rector until the time of his death in 1978.
Burn within us, Holy Fire, so that chaste in body and pure of heart, we may desire to see the Face of God.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 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 from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2Cor 3:17-18)
Be sure to see the video from the previous post of Cardinal Tagle. The light and fire of the Holy Spirit shines on his face as Cardinal Tagle speaks of his experience of seeing the Holy Face of Manoppello in person for the first time. (or click here)
This incredibly powerful testimony is in Italian, but English closed captions have now been added. Cardinal Tagle’s conversation with Antonio Bini– The Cardinal said that it seemed that the Holy Face welcomed him and smiled at him! He says, “The Face of Truth and Love!” Cardinal Tagle’s face says it all! (Just click on the arrow to play the video and be sure to click on cc for closed captioning.)
Italian journalist Antonio Bini said the video interview came about spontaneously in the heart of a friendly conversation. Antonio found Cardinal Tagle to be “an extraordinary person of humility, spirituality, wisdom and culture.” In the video Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle radiates the joy of the Holy Spirit, reflecting the Truth and Love he found in the Holy Face. The Cardinal shares his thoughts directly and sincerely from his heart with Antonio Bini. Antonio is the author of the book shown in the video, “The Holy Face, from Manoppello to the World” which is a treasure trove of information about the Holy Veil of Manoppello. Cardinal Tagle also has an encouraging message in English for “Friends of the Holy Face” who spread this devotion: (click here)
Here is the English transcript of the video, that can be read thanks to Raymond Frost:
Cardinal Tagle: “I saw the Holy Face under the changing of the light, not only a Face of tenderness, but of welcoming. I saw a Face smiling at me, almost saying, “Welcome Luis Antonio!” It is a Face that speaks, it is alive, yes, it is the message, the Word is the Face, yes (referring to the book in the foreground) “Holy Face to the World”, Fr. Carmine sent this to me. It is also a Face turned towards me, but I did not feel fear, fear in front of a judge, or of a face which condemns. A Face of Truth, and the Truth is love, love wins out over fear. I thought this afternoon perhaps this is the Last Judgement–it is not a judgement full of fear and dread, but in front of pure love–I do not want to hide myself. There is no reason to hide myself, but, there is only the reason to open my heart in front of a Face open to love, open to welcoming, open to pardoning my mistakes. It is an experience of liberation, and religious experience for me.”
For more on Cardinal Tagle’s visit you may read “It is the Lord” by Paul Badde/CNA, which may be found by clicking (here)
Basilica of the Holy Face, Manoppello 21 May 2017 Sixth Sunday of Easter [Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; I Peter 3:15-18, John 14:15-21] + Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
We thank our God, who, always filled with love and benevolence towards us, has gathered us as one family of faith for the solemn celebration of the Holy Face of Manoppello. I bring you warm greetings and wishes of peace from the Philippines, where the devotion to the Holy Face is alive, vibrant and widespread. Celebrating the Eucharist with you on this sixth Sunday of Easter gives me great joy.
In the Gospel that we just listened to, Jesus told His disciples, “In a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me, because I live and you will live.” These words are fulfilled now in our assembly, in our hearing. We see Jesus’ Face now. We can see Him because He is alive, He is in our midst now. And seeing His Face, we do not die, contrary to the fear of the people of old that seeing the Face of God would mean death for them. On the contrary, seeing Jesus’ Holy Face we draw the life and energy which comes from Him. This is a profound blessing granted to us, now. This gives us a foretaste of eternal life, where we hope to behold the Face of God in eternal contemplation and adoration. Seeing Jesus, we live!
How could it be possible for us to see Jesus? As sinners, we do not have the merit nor the right to see His Face. But we see Him and we live! How could this happen? The answer comes from Jesus in the Gospel of today, “Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal Myself to him.” Strictly speaking, we do not see the Face of Jesus. It is more accurate to say that He reveals His Face to us. He shows His Face, and so we see. This is pure grace. This is pure and total love on the part of Jesus. He manifests His Face, His true self, for no other reason than for the love He has for us. Allow me to share with you three points useful for reflection.
First, when Jesus shows His Face to us, He does not look at His own Face. He looks at us. Even our daily experience, when we show our face to other people, we look at them, not at ourselves. This is love: in showing my face I become someone who sees others, who hears others, who understands others, who feels for others. Showing one’s face means that I spend less time looking at my own face, my activities, my needs, my comfort or wellbeing, my interests, and instead that I devote more time to looking at the face of others, of those who suffer. This is the love that the Holy Face of Jesus shows us. He is interested in us, He is for us, He looks at us more than He looks at Himself. The devotees of the Holy Face must be like Him. Is our gaze directed only at ourselves, our immediate group, those closest us us or are we learning from Jesus who penetrates the hearts of others with His loving gaze?
Second, the Face of Jesus, a loving and other-centered face is also a face that speaks. Even when our lips do not utter “audible” words, our face can speak “visible” words. He said in the Gospel, “If you love Me, you will keep My Commandments.” His Face is not only seen but heard. Jesus’ Face is the human face of the Word of God, now heard and seen especially in His Commandments. In our time, people look at rules as something negative. But the Commandments of the Lord are not burdens to make our life more difficult, not tools to destroy our freedom, not mechanisms of condemnation of our weak and fragile persona. His Commandments are paths to peace, liberty and forgiveness. In Jesus’ Face we see the person who fulfilled the commandment to love God above all and one’s neighbor as oneself. His Commandments are visible in Him who told us, “Come to Me…Take My yoke upon your shoulders and learn from Me for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. My yoke, in Face, is easy and My burden light” (Matthew 11:28-30). The devotees of the Holy Face are called to listen attentively to Jesus who is the visible Word of peace, of freedom, of forgiveness and of love.
Finally, what we have seen and heard, we must share with others. In the first reading, Philip proclaimed in Samaria the Jesus that he had seen and heard. His preaching was accompanied by visible signs of healing and liberation. The Face of Jesus was seen and heard in Philip’s testimony. In the second reading, Peter tells those who are undergoing trials and persecution to be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is in them. The answer is simple: Jesus! He is our sure hope. His love for us and triumph over death is the reason why we have hope. But Peter reminds us to proclaim our hope with gentleness and respect, with a clear conscience and integrity of life, with readiness to suffer for doing good rather than for doing evil. In other words, we best proclaim Jesus if others see and hear Jesus in us.
We see the Face of Jesus because He reveals His Face to us, the Face of the loving God. His is the Face of God turned towards us and not centered on Himself. His is the Face of the One who fulfilled the commandment of love. As we see and hear His Face may our faces be transformed into His Holy Face. Through the testimony of our faces, may the suffering people of the world know that Jesus sees them, listens to them, cares for them and loves them. Amen.
My grateful thanks to Paul Badde/EWTN for sharing his beautiful photos and to Raymond Frost for the English translation of Cardinal Tagle’s inspiring homily.
“what we have seen and heard we must share with others”–Cardinal Tagle
More on Cardinal Tagle’s visit to Manoppello “The Face of Truth” by Antonio Bini may be read (here).
Sunday, May 21st, was a day of great celebration and joy, commemorating the arrival of the Holy Veil, bearing a miraculous image of the Face of Jesus, to Manoppello, Italy, centuries ago. The town of Manoppello welcomed Cardinal Tagle of the Philippines, who presided at the Solemn Mass and Procession of the Veil of the Holy Face from the Basilica Shrine to San Nicholas Church in the city center. The Veil is to be brought back to the Sanctuary Basilica the next day.
The recorded history tells of the arrival, in May, of the Veil in Mannoppello, “in around 1506,” in the hands of a mysterious stranger who was thought to have been a holy angel, who gave the precious relic to a local doctor, who later gave it to the local Capuchins for safe-keeping. (The history of the arrival of the Veil may be read here).
Thank you to Raymond Frost at Holy Face of Manoppello blogspot (here) for the news and beautiful photos of Antonio Bini, who will have more to report on the celebrations. (More here)
Was there actually a St. Veronica? It is an important question, and a very personal one to me, as Veronica was my chosen patron Saint for Confirmation as a child; the name is part of my own identity and life’s devotion to the Face of Jesus Christ. “Bernice Veronica” is a family name–both names referring to the Woman who wiped the Face of Jesus, commonly depicted in every Catholic church, at the Sixth Station of the Cross. Veronica is now also the name of one of my granddaughters. So, whether there is an actual person, a saint named “Veronica” who wiped the Face of Jesus, is a question that I have sought to know the truth about for most of my life. Did she exist? And what does it mean to be “a Veronica?”
The Catholic Church tells us that a veil bearing a miraculous image of the Face of Jesus has existed since the earliest centuries, recorded in history and in art. Explanations for the existence of such a veil were all different (see “Four Stories, One Face“). About the time this miraculous veil first appeared in Rome, in the Middle Ages, the name “Veronica” referred to the veil itself–“Veronica” meaning “vera” or true, and “icon” meaning image, or even more precisely, “to be present.” Those who gazed upon the veil bearing the true Face of Jesus stood in God’s presence. They were turned toward His Face.
Legends sprang up sometime later about a woman named “Veronica,” who was sometimes associated with the woman “Berenice” or “Bernice,” the bleeding woman who touches the hem of Jesus’s garment in the Gospel. There is a version, written in 1191 by Robert de Boron, that tells of a woman named “Veronica” wiping sweat from the Face of Jesus. The stories are many and varied, but the legend that most people are familiar with today is traced to a version by Roger d’Argenteuil in the 1300s, which tells of a woman “Veronica,” associated with the sixth station of the Cross–the compassionate woman, wiping the Face of Jesus on the way to Calvary with a cloth, upon which He leaves an image of His Face.
“These pious traditions cannot be documented, but there is no reason why the belief that such an act of compassion did occur should not find expression in the veneration paid to one called Veronica.” —The Catholic Encyclopedia
Pope St. John Paul II expressed the answer to the question of Veronica most beautifully in his poem, “The Name:”
In the crowd walking towards the place
[of the Agony]–
did you open up a gap at some point or were you
[opening it] from the beginning?
And since when? You tell me, Veronica.
Your name was born in the very instant
in which your heart
became an effigy: the effigy of truth.
Your name was born from what you gazed upon.
Since the detailed historical facts about the veil itself cannot be verified with absolute certainty in this life, the more important and answerable question is, “What does it mean to be a Veronica?”
“Your name was born from what you gazed upon.”
When a soul performs an “act of compassion,” Jesus leaves His image on the “veil” of the soul. In other words, while contemplating the Face of Jesus in an image, in the Word of God in the Scriptures, in a person made in the image and likeness of God, or above all, in the Eucharist, the soul places itself in the Presence of God. When we are turned completely toward the Face of God, through a daily face-to-face encounter in prayer–by the power of the Holy Spirit–God gradually transforms the soul into the “True Image” of His Son, Jesus Christ. As Pope St. John Paul II says, our hearts must become an “effigy of truth,” a “true icon.” Then our name too will be born from what we gaze upon. It will be “Veronica.”
“May the Lord grant that in the new millennium, the Church will grow ever more in holiness, that she may become in history a true epiphany of the merciful and glorious Face of Christ the Lord.” –Pope St. John Paul II
Act of Consecration to the Holy Face
O Lord Jesus, we believe most firmly in You, we love You. You are the Eternal Son of God and the Son Incarnate of the Blessed Virgin Mary. You are the Lord and Absolute Ruler of all creation. We acknowledge You, therefore, as the Universal Sovereign of all creatures. You are the Lord and Supreme Ruler of all mankind, and we, in acknowledging this Your dominion, consecrate ourselves to You now and forever. Loving Jesus, we place our family under the protection of Your Holy Face, and of Your Virgin Mother Mary most sorrowful. We promise to be faithful to You for the rest of our lives and to observe with fidelity Your Holy Commandments. We will never deny before men, You and Your Divine rights over us and all mankind. Grant us the grace to never sin again; nevertheless, should we fail, O Divine Saviour, have mercy on us and restore us to Your grace. Radiate Your Divine Countenance upon us and bless us now and forever. Embrace us at the hour of our death in Your Kingdom for all eternity, through the intercession of Your Blessed Mother, of all Your Saints who behold You in Heaven, and the just who glorify You on earth. O Jesus, be mindful of us forever and never forsake us; protect our family. O Mother of Sorrows, by the eternal glory which you enjoy in Heaven, through the merits of your bitter anguish in the Sacred Passion of your Beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, obtain for us the grace that the Precious Blood shed by Jesus for the redemption of our souls, be not shed for us in vain. We love you, O Mary. Embrace us and bless us, O Mother. Protect us in life and in death. Amen.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.
Wishing you all a holy Lent under the gaze of the Holy Face of Jesus.
“All of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image.” (2 Cor 3:18)
Prayer for Priests
“Eternal Father, we offer Thee, with the hands of Mary, the Holy Face of Jesus, Thy Son, and the entire generous holocaust of all that we are, in reparation for so many sins that are committed, and, especially, for offenses against the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. We make this offering, in a particular way, so that Priests, by the holiness of their lives, may show the world the adorable features of the Divine Countenance shining with the light of truth and love, for the triumph of the Church, and for the spread of the Kingdom.” Bl. Mother Maria Pierina De Micheli, “Missionary of the Holy Face”
Prayer to the Holy Face by Pope St. John Paul II
Lord Jesus, Crucified and Risen; the image of the glory of the Father, Holy Face, which looks at us and searches for us, kind and merciful, You who call us to conversion and invite us for the fullness of love, we adore and bless You. In Your Luminous Face, we learn to love and to be loved, to find freedom and reconciliation, to promote peace, which radiates from You and leads to You.
In Your glorified Face we learn to overcome every form of egoism, to hope against hope, to choose works of life against the actions of death. Give us grace to place you at the centre of our life, to remain faithful amidst dangers and the changes of the world, to our Christian vocation; to announce to all people the power of the Cross and the Word which saves; to be watchful and active, to attend the needs of the little ones; to understand the need of true liberation, which had its beginning in You and will have its end in You.
Lord, grant to Your Church to stand like Your Virgin Mother, at the glorious Cross, and at the crosses of all people to bring about consolation, hope and comfort.
May the Holy Spirit which You have granted, bring to maturation Your work of salvation, through Your Holy Face, which shines forever and ever. Amen.
The beauty of the glory of the Face of God is reflected in the mountains surrounding the Sanctuary of the Holy Face in Manoppello in the days leading up to the historic “Omnis Terra” feast and procession. (Sr. Blandina Paschalis Schlomer took this breathtaking photo of the Sanctuary and hills covered in pure white snow and a beautiful rainbow.) On the second Sunday of Epiphany, January 15, 2017, the Basilica of the Holy Face established the first new feast and procession, making it the third on the calendar of the Sanctuary, since the year of 1712.
The “Omnis Terra” (All the Earth) procession in honor of the Holy Face had its beginning in 1208 when Pope Innocent III processed with the Veil of the Holy Face from St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome to Spirito Santo church and hospital, giving alms to the poor and the sick along the way. It was very fitting then that Our Lord’s Holy Face should be specially honored by a new feast and procession at the Basilica Sanctuary of the Holy Face in Manoppello on this same Sunday.
Journalist Paul Badde, who loves the Holy Face of Manoppello and has written so well about the rediscovery of this Holy Veil of the Face of Jesus, was present for the sacred occasion and related the following details of the day:
“It was as if the sky had opened a window over Manoppello for exactly that day. It had been snowing all the time before, then on Friday a rainbow appeared. On Saturday it was immaculately blue. On Sunday, Omnis Terra, the clouds had come back. And on Sunday night Manoppello was covered with snow again. Liturgy of the Eucharist and the procession with incense, candles and beautiful music by the choir of Maestro Cosantini was so noble and “degno” [worthy] that it couldn’t have been performed more nobly in Saint Peter`s in Rome.
The homily of Don Americo [Mons. Americo Ciani] was absolutely powerful and very clear with great parts he added by heart with great enthusiasm.
Before the procession and benediction a prayer by Padre Carmine [Capuchin Rector of the Sanctuary] for all the victims of the earthquakes was said, then a beautiful new litany of the Holy Face by the absent Sr. Petra Maria.”
Mons. Americo Ciani, Canon of the Patriarchal Basilica of St. Peter’s in the Vatican, was presider for the Liturgy of the Eucharist and gave the beautiful homily (translation of the homily by Mr. Raymond Frost below). Mons. Ciani was formerly a judge of the Roman Rota, the highest judicial office of the Church, from the year 2000 to 2009. As a canon, Mons. Ciani was also one of the very few persons to have displayed the famous reliquary of Pope Urban the VIII in St. Peter’s Basilica at the balcony over the Veronica altar during Passion Week.
(Some may also recall Monsignor Ciani from the Catholic New Agency article “Willy’s Story-the Homeless Man Buried at the Vatican” on Willy Hereteer, a pious homeless man who lived on the streets near St. Peter’s Basilica and was befriended by Mons. Ciani and Paul Badde.)
Manoppello Feast of the Holy Face January 15, 2017 Omnis Terra Sunday
(homily of) Monsignor Ciani
We are commemorating that most ancient procession which the great pontiff Innocent III desired in 1208 during which he had carried for the first time the Holy Sudarium of Christ from the Basilica of St. Peter to the Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia. It was a foretaste of the Holy Years, the first of which was decreed by Pope Boniface VIII in 1300. On that memorable occasion the numerous faithful would have been able to contemplate the Holy Face impressed on the mantilla [veil] of Saint Veronica. The Holy Relic, preserved in the patriarchal Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican, disappeared in 1527 during the Sack of Rome.
We have repeated the same solemn procession with the Holy Face, preserved here in Manoppello, from the Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican to the Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia, in January 2016, where we celebrated the Holy Mass, presided by Archbishop Monsignor Georg Gänswein and a second one presided by Archbishop Monsignor Edmund Farhat, who just a few days ago has left us to return to the House of the Father.
Here we are gathered to contemplate the Face of God, who became man in His Son Jesus. This precious relic is “the human Face of God”, which since 1636 has been jealously cared for here at Manoppello and venerated by Pope Benedict XVI on September 1, 2006, a good 479 years later, when he knelt before that which had been the most precious treasure of the Popes.
From the first chapter of the Gospel of St. John, “No one has ever seen God,” the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known. On the Face of Christ shines the majesty of God, who in His turn God has shown Himself under the form of a man.
Let us fix then our gaze upon the Face of the Son of God made man.
The image belongs to our everyday life. We are immersed in the culture of images, in private and in public.
With how much care we display the photos of our loved ones! Go into the rooms of young people, the walls of which are an exposition of images of leaders, from the world of fashion, of sport, of singers, etc. Go silently into cemeteries, how many images to remember loved ones! The list would be too long, and it’s not necessary for us to go on about it.
The image speaks louder than the word, in fact the word passes but the image remains. The Church in addition to place, to gesture, to word, to song, has utilized the image, from the beginning she has created a treasury of images to communicate, to evangelize., it is the “Bible of the poor”.
The word passes, the image remains and can be admired, contemplated by everyone and in all kinds of circumstances. Word and image speak together in the Church.
We are gathered here to contemplate this Image, the Holy Face, which is the Face of God who died and is risen, Jesus Christ, Son of God, He who is Himself God.
The Holy Bible, especially in the Psalms, touches on the theme which today is for us so dear: “The Face of God”, the seeking of the Face of God, the desire to see the Face of God, and the invocation to see the Face of God.
From Psalm 27: Confidence in God in times of danger: “My heart repeats your exhortation: Seek my face! Your face, O Lord, do I seek. O Lord, do not hide your face from me.”
Psalm 31:16 “Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your steadfast love”.
Psalm 88:15 “Why O Lord do you cast me off, why do you hide your face from me?”
Psalm 102:3 “Do not hide your face from me, in the day of my agony, turn your ear towards me. When I call upon you, respond to me quickly Lord.”
Psalm 105:3-4 “ Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice, Seek the Lord and his strength, seek his face continually.”
Psalm 119:135 “Make your face shine on your servant, and teach me your statutes”.
The problem which today torments us, is precisely fear and terrorism!
My beloved this sublime truth consoles us: “The Lord is my light and my salvation, of whom should I be afraid?”
The psalm exhorts us to a solid hope: “Hope in the Lord, be strong, let your heart take courage, and hope in the Lord.”
All of us, whether small or great, need to cast out fear, to cast it far away from us, to succeed in controlling it and in conquering it.
The Face of God manifested itself in the Face of His Son Jesus Christ, born of Mary of Nazareth. God made Himself one of us, went about doing good, gave Himself for us and for our sins, and to make us His people.
Let our desire to see Jesus be as strong as those pagans who asked the Apostle Philip: “We want to see Jesus” and as Zacchaeus, the publican, who “wanted to see Jesus”, and climbing up a tree, because he was short of stature, precisely so that he could see Jesus. Jesus passed by, looked up and called him by name: “Zacchaeus, come down, today I wish to come to your house”. And from that encounter came the miracle of the conversion of Zacchaeus.
Our constant prayer is the commitment: “I want to see your Face”.
History is not ensnared in a blind alley, closed off from hope. Our society today is lost, suffers from nightmares, because it has lost “the Face of God”. It does not perceive the ways of God in history.
God the Father has sent His Son Jesus among us. He is the youthfulness and the freshness of history. Jesus is the Son of God, of the God that is the joy of our youth. For over 2000 years God has shown His face to the world by the Incarnation of His Son Jesus, from whom beauty and richness has poured out security, above all for those of us who need security: the poor, the oppressed, the “least ones”, because He “ will judge with justice the poor and with equity the oppressed”. So that humanity, turned toward the presence of Christ, will be able to breathe deeply.
To judge how things are going, today, one might think that Christ is pretty much just a dream. Christ renews us and make us true. We need purity and to be purified. Jesus has come to accompany us, to put Himself at our disposition. He comes. Jesus in us and we breathe liberty.
In Jesus we know where we come from, who we are and where we are going: we who can accompany him, we who have listened to him, we have the power to become sons of God, we are a “new race”, created by God and by Him regenerated in Christ the Lord, Wisdom of the Most High, Word of God, is “the true light which enlightens every man”. He is the Wisdom of God that became love and the love became light.
Here is the tragedy of yesterday and today: “He came into the world but the world did not recognize Him. He came to his own but his own did not receive Him.”
And our struggle continues: It is the mess in which we find ourselves still caught up in (“How long, O Lord? When will you return and finally liberate us?”) Let us repeat with faith “Come Lord, do not delay”. Today we cling to Jesus and tomorrow we run away from Him.
We need to enter more vividly into the mystery of Christ.
All of us, fragile and sinners, we can take a deep breath, a liberating breath, and even a cry of liberty and hope. Slaves of sin, we can resist sin, we can defeat it, because Jesus has come and will always remain with us, He who “opens the eyes of the blind, sets prisoners free and delivers those living in darkness.”
Thus, holiness is possible, even for those who must rise from the depths, because Jesus has come “to do good and to heal all those who are under the power of the devil”. Before, we were under the power of the devil, now no more; the chains on our feet have been broken and we can walk towards the heights.
Hope is rekindled in us, “God will return soon and will show his face to the world and shake the foundations with his all-powerful voice”.
Just as the Apostle John who entered the Tomb after the Resurrection, “saw and believed”, so it happens for each us today, we see and contemplate the Face of God and we firmly believe.
Holy Father, accept with benevolence our prayers and guide us to the seeking of Your Face, which you have revealed in fullness in Jesus, Your Son.
O Lord, make Your Face to shine on us so that we might enjoy your goodness in the peace we are protected by your powerful hand, freed from every sin by the strength of your outstretched arm, and saved from those who hate us unjustly.
Grant harmony and peace to us and to all the inhabitants of the earth, as you have granted to our fathers, when they invoked you devoutly in faith and in truth, you alone, O Lord, can grant us these good things. (Translation by Raymond Frost)
(Bishop Farhat, on left, died December 17, 2016-May he gaze on God’s Face!)
“We saw in the Face the mercy of God”: A dialogue with Cardinal Koch
Paul Badde interviews the president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity on a special event
By Paul Badde
(Manoppello, September 2016 / 9:15 a.m.)
In 2017, it will be 500 years since in the West the Lutheran brothers and sisters began to separate themselves from the Pope and from the Roman Catholic Church. However, even older than the Reformation and the division of the Western Church is the Great Schism of the East, and the division of Christianity into the Church of the East and the Roman Catholic Church in the West, which occurred in 1054 between Rome and Constantinople. Only on December 7, 1965 Pope Paul VI from Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras from Istanbul solemnly cancelled the reciprocal anathemas “from the memory and from the center of the Church” “abandoning them to oblivion.” But the Eastern Church and the Western Church remained estranged, above all from the cultural point of view. Now, however, at the invitation of Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto, on September 18, 2016, seventy Orthodox bishops celebrated the “Divine Liturgy” of Saint John Chrysostom under the Face of Christ, there exposed above the principal altar, together with two cardinals and numerous other prelates of the Roman Catholic Church in the Basilica of the Holy Face of Manoppello.
CNA: Lord Cardinal, Archbishop Bruno Forte calls the “Holy Face” of Christ “the polar star of Christianity.” For him, there is no reasonable cause to doubt that the image on the veil is the sudario of Christ that John cites in the Holy Sepulchre near the burial clothes. But is it not also a provocation for the Orthodox brothers?
Cardinal Koch: Christians believe in one God who showed his concrete face in Jesus Christ. When we know more closely the Face of Christ and when we more deeply identify ourselves with him, the more deeply we become one, as well. For this is a miraculous event to be in front of the Face of Christ, to pray, to venerate the Face, because it fulfills his [Christ’s] desire that we be one.
Catholics have something to bring to the Orthodox. Also for the Orthodox it is so, as for instance for their culture of the veneration of icons. Could it be that from this day forward also in the Catholic Church the images can come to be understood and evaluated in a new way – in the midst of that mighty “Iconic Turn” that the experts of communication today note, in which the images expect a general role in communications like never before?
Yes, the very profound mystery of ecumenism is an exchange of gifts. Today the Church has her gifts. And a particular gift the Orthodox have are the icons. So I think that also many Christians in the West can find a new access to the icons and thus deepening the faith. It is a great gift. It is very important that we also re-evaluate the images in the Western tradition. With the Reform of the sixteenth century, we have placed a whole new accent on the word. But the Word has become flesh, the Word became visible, so also the images belong to the faith. This is a gift from the Orthodox that we welcome gratefully. At Chieti, in these recent days the delicate question of the theological and ecclesiological relations between primacy and synodality in the life of the Church, then the role of Peter and that of all bishops, was discussed within the commission that has come on pilgrimage to Manoppello. Ten years ago Peter came here in the vesture of Pope Benedict. Since then, there has been an enormous turning point in the evaluation of this image of Manoppello that has become famous throughout the world. What significance do you think will be given to this day of pilgrimage, in which the synod of bishops gathered here?
It is very beautiful that we could come here on this anniversary ten years later. Pope Benedict came in the name of the whole Catholic Church. Today is present here the Church of the East and of the West. So this anniversary maybe can also help in the search for the unity between the Church in the East and the Church in the West. You, as president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, are responsible to Rome for ecumenism. In this regard, Pope Francis affirmed: “Look at Christ and go ahead with courage!” Which next step would indicate to you today to go with courage to encounter Christ, in a day in which notwithstanding the difference between the Eastern Church and the Western Church you have come together before this image?
In reality, we are always on the way towards Christ. Because it is His Will that we find unity, it is not a human project. Christ himself on the eve of His Passion prayed that His disciples might be one, that the world might believe. The credibility of this testimony depends on the fact that we are one. This is also a particular request of Pope Francis, when he says that when we can walk on the same road toward Christ, then we find unity.
“Misericordiae Vultus”: with these first Latin words begins the Bull of Indiction with which Pope Francis announced this year of the Jubilee of Mercy. The “Face of Mercy” has given to this year a very particular meaning. What do you sense today being here before the merciful gaze of Jesus, who looks at us from this wonderful veil?
It is a magnificent message that we can have a merciful God, for which we know that there are no cases without hope. Per as long as a man can fall down, he can never fall lower than the hands of God. Now you can really see this face, encounter it, it is naturally a marvelous deepening of this message of the Holy Year. The men of today need nothing more than the mercy of God. And if they can look on the Face of the merciful God it is a marvelous gift. And what will you tell Pope Francis about this event in case you will have the opportunity?
I will certainly tell him that we saw in the Face his great message of the mercy of God. And that this Face is important for the whole Church. It is in a certain way the manifesto of the Church: the merciful Face of God!
(Re-printed with the Author’s permission) Translation from the Italian by Fr. Daren J. Zehnle