The Divine Image

 

Pieta, with Holy Trinity, Blessed Mother and St. John (Jean Malouel 1400-1410 Met Museum)

The communication of the Most Holy Trinity is a communication of Persons– Father, Son and Holy Spirit — their communication is love.  God also communicates His love to all mankind so that we may know Him and love Him. We learn about God not only from His creation, but through other human beings. We are all made in His image and likeness, after all, reflecting God’s truth, goodness, and beauty.  As is written in the Book of Wisdom, “for from greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of the Creator.” (Wis. 13:5)

We have the capacity to know God because we are created in His image and likeness; however, we also learn, from ourselves and those around us, how unlike God we are.  St. Thomas Aquinas says, “concerning God, we cannot grasp what He is, but only what He is not, and how other beings stand in relation to Him.” The internet has a great potential for real communication; that is, to convey information exchanged between persons, that could really help us learn about the love of God. Unfortunately, mass communication, such as the internet, communicates more about what God is not, than what God is.

Holy Face Veil of Manoppello, Italy (Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)

“In the world of the internet, which enables billions of images to appear on millions of screens throughout the world, the Face of Christ needs to be seen and his voice heard, for ‘if there is no room for Christ, there is no room for man’.” –Pope Benedict XVI, Verbum Domini

 

Those who love God, therefore, would naturally desire to communicate His love to other human beings through the Face of Christ–using the means which God Himself has chosen to communicate His love to us.  The Face of Christ needs to “be seen and His voice heard” on the internet. But where do we see the Face of Christ on the internet?  Where do we hear His voice?

Sadly, even some Christians on the internet present “a face and voice” more like the evil one, than that of Jesus Christ. Most often Jesus’s Face is hidden in a nauseating ocean of hatred, anger, banality, and filth. But He is still present there in our internet “neighbors” whose faces pass by as we scroll down our screens each day: The innocent children in danger, victims of natural disasters, violence, terrorism, addiction, human trafficking, the spiritually blind and lame — all manner of human suffering, together with perpetrators of crime equally in need of our prayers.  Though we are separated from them by a computer screen, the suffering Face of Jesus is present in all their faces and voices. 

The first element of Devotion to the Holy Face, says Pope Benedict XVI, is “discipleship and orientation of one’s life towards an encounter with Jesus, to see Jesus in the face of those in need.”  We need to begin by seeking out the Divine Image in them, and also by becoming the “face and voice of Christ” to them. In order to do this, “believers first need to become better acquainted with Jesus through the Eucharist,” allowing ourselves first to be transformed by the Holy Spirit into His image, thereby reflecting the Face of Christ to other souls made in His image–to be communicators of His love.

Holy Face of Manoppelllo (Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)

The Divine Image

To Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love
All pray in their distress;
And to these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.

For Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love
Is God, our Father dear,
And Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love
Is man, His child and care.

For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.

Then every man, of every clime,
That prays in his distress,
Prays in the human for divine,
Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.

And all must love the human form,
In heathen Turk, or Jew;
Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.

— William Blake

 

 

The Blessing of St. Francis

Fresco -Assisi (Photo: Paul Badde)
“The Blessing of St. Francis” in reliquary.

Within the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi is a precious relic: a small, crumpled piece of yellowed parchment with the writing of St. Francis, now displayed in a silver reliquary. It was written on Mount La Verna after St. Francis had received the stigmata. The first biographer of St. Francis, Bl. Thomas of Celano wrote that for a long time St. Francis’s friend, Brother Leo, had greatly desired to have some memorial from the words of Our Lord written by St. Francis:

St. Francis of Assisi

“One day Blessed Francis called him, saying, ‘Bring me paper and ink, for I wish to write the words of God and His praises which I have been meditating in my heart.’ What he asked for being straightway brought, he writes with his own hand the praises of God and the words which he [his companion] wished, and lastly a blessing of the brother, saying: ‘Take this sheet for thyself and until the day of thy death guard it carefully.’ All temptation was at once driven away; the letter is kept and worked wonders for the time to come.” Brother Leo kept it faithfully; folding it in four, he carried it in his pocket and guarded it jealously for a good forty-six years.  The text in the middle, written in black, and marked with a large “Tau” cross is in Francis’s own handwriting, he writes the praises of God* and grants to Brother Leo the blessing from the Book of Numbers 6: 22-27 which later became known as “the Blessing of St. Francis.”

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in his homily for the World Day of Peace, 2013, spoke of this blessing from the Book of Numbers:

“The blessing repeats the three times Holy Name of God, a Name not to be spoken, and each time linked to two words indicating an action in favor of man. Peace is the summit of these six actions of God in our favor, His most sublime gift, in which He turns toward us the splendor of His Face.”

Christus Imperat! – Assisi
(photo: Patricia Enk)

This is the same, great blessing that St. Francis desired to impart to his friend, Brother Leo:

“May the Lord bless and keep you; may He make His Face shine upon you and be merciful to you; may He turn His Countenance toward you and give you His Peace!”  (Num. 6:22-27)

Amen!

Altar in front of the tomb of St. Francis of Assisi (Photo:Patricia Enk)

 

*(St. Francis’s “Praises of God” are now now quite faded, but, this much can be still read: “Thou art holy, Lord God, who alone workest wonders. Thou art strong. Thou art great. Thou art most high. Thou art the Almighty King, Thou, holy Father, King of heaven and earth. Thou art the Lord God Triune and One; all good. Thou art good, all good, highest good, Lord God living and true. Thou art charity, love. Thou art wisdom. Thou art humility. Thou art patience. Thou art security. Thou art quietude. Thou art joy and gladness. Thou…”)

St. Francis, Pray for us!

Assisi – The bells of the church of St. Stephen the Martyr which rang by themselves when St. Francis died.

 

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!”

 

 

 

The Eucharistic Face of Christ

St. Pope John Paul II
St. Pope John Paul II

It was Pope St. John Paul II who first used the phrase, “Eucharistic Face of Christ,” which was previously unknown in the Church.  Pope St. John Paul II, by dedicating the millennium to the Face of Christ, drew back the veil for us, so that like disciples on the road to Emmaus, who recognized Jesus in the “breaking of the bread,” (Luke 24:30-32) we too, may seek, find and adore His Face present and hidden in the Eucharist where we may gaze on Him freely in faith.

“May, O Lord, the light of Thy Face shine upon us.”  These words were the inspiration for Pope St. John Paul II to place  the 3rd Millennium under “the radiant sign of  the  Face of Christ.” He emphasized the importance of contemplation of the Face of Christ by stating:  “And it is the Church’s task to reflect the light of Christ in every historical period, to make His face shine also before the generations of the new millennium. Our witness, however, would be hopelessly inadequate if we ourselves had not first contemplated His face.”

Face of Jesus on veil by Michael Wolgemut, teacher of Albrecht Durer. The “Veil of Veronica” in artwork before 1the early 1500’s resemble the “Il Volto Santo” of Manoppello.
Face of Jesus on veil by Michael Wolgemut, teacher of Albrecht Durer. The “Veil of Veronica” in artwork before the early 1500’s resemble the “Il Volto Santo” of Manoppello.

“O my soul, you will always find in the Blessed Sacrament, great consolation and delight, and once you have begun to relish it, there will be no trials, persecutions, and difficulties which you cannot endure.”

“Let him who wills ask for ordinary bread.  For my part, O Eternal Father, I ask to be permitted to receive the heavenly Bread with such dispositions that, if I have not the happiness of contemplating Jesus with the eyes of my body, I may at least contemplate Him with the eyes of my soul.  This is Bread which contains all sweetness and delight, and sustains our life.” –St. Teresa of Jesus, “The Way of Perfection”

“He is always looking at you; can you not turn the eyes of your soul to look at Him?”–St. Teresa of Avila

Sacred Host viewed through the Holy Face Veil of Manoppello Photo Paul Badde
Sacred Host viewed through the Holy Face Veil of Manoppello Photo Paul Badde

Hope for a broken world: “Their face is the Face of Christ” –Pope Francis

"Each child that is unborn... bears the Face of Christ." --Pope Francis
“Each child that is unborn… bears the Face of Christ.” –Pope Francis

On this infamous anniversary of the legalization of abortion in The United States, we reflect on the millions of faces which we will never see and the blindness of those who deny the humanity of unborn babies.

Unborn babies are not material to be used or blobs of tissue to be dissected and sold.  We must  recognize the humanity of the baby in the womb; we must look at their faces and see there the Face of Christ.  Pope Francis has emphasized  this truth, “Each child that is unborn, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted bears the Face of Christ.  They cannot be discarded, as the culture of waste proposes!  They cannot be discarded!”

Science and technology has made it possible to see this reality in an undeniable way, as shown in the ultrasound picture of the smiling baby in the photo above.  They have a face and unique identity; he or she is created in the image and likeness of God!  God has a plan and a mission for each unborn child. They are the hope of this broken world – if only the innocent unborn are able to live and grow to fulfill their part in His divine plan.

May they gaze on the Face of God and intercede for us before the throne of God that the horrors of abortion may finally be at an end. May Jesus, in His infinite mercy, remove the blindness from the eyes of those who support abortion so that, they, together with the millions of babies who have been killed in abortions, may one day together see God face to Face.

O Jesus, whose adorable human Face was formed and hidden in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary for nine months — have mercy on us!

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

 

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!

Longing to see His Face — The Expectation of The Blessed Virgin Mary

Every expectant mother shares something with the Blessed Virgin Mary — the longing to see the face of her child.  The mother cannot yet kiss or caress her baby, she cannot hear the sound of a cry, or smell that baby-sweetness, so she waits in loving attentiveness for the stirring of the babe beneath her heart, that fills her with joy and knowledge of the baby’s presence within.

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

During the 3rd week of Advent, on December 18th, in some places in the world the Church celebrates a beautifully contemplative feast which is called the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The feast has it’s origin in the year 656 in Spain and spread throughout the Middle Ages.  Because the ancient law of the Church prohibited the celebration of feasts during Lent, the Church transferred the Feast of the Annunciation from March 25th to the season of Advent.  The Tenth Council of Toledo assigned the feast to the 18th of December.  It was kept as a solemn octave, eight days leading to Christmas.  When the ancient laws regarding fasts were changed, the Annunciation was celebrated twice, on March 25th and December 18th.

On this day and the days leading up to Christmas we are invited to contemplate, together with Mary, the Divine Child within her womb, who is Our Savior.  We too, through sanctifying grace, bear the supernatural image of God within us. Like Mary, we desire to become a peaceful sanctuary for the living God. We are called to be attentive, in prayer, to the faint stirrings of His presence in our hearts, which will fill us with a deep longing to see His Face as we pray:

“Mary, your life with Jesus was one of the purest, most fervent, most perfect emotions of longing and most eager expectation of the Birth of the Divine Child! How great must have been that longing!  You were longing to see the Face of God and to be happy in the vision.  You were soon really to see the Face of God, the created image of divine perfection, the sight of which rejoices heaven and earth, from which all being derive life and joy; the Face whose features enraptured God from all eternity, the Face for which all ages expectantly yearned.  You were to see this Face unveiled, in all the beauty and grace as the face of your own child.  Most just indeed it is, O Holy Mother of God, that we should unite in that ardent desire which you had to see Him, who had been concealed for nine months in your chaste womb; to know the features of this Son of the heavenly Father, who is also your own; to come to that blissful hour of His birth, which will give glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace to men of good will.  Yes, dear Mother, the time is fast approaching, though not fast enough to satisfy your desires and ours.  Make us re-double our attention to the great mystery; complete our preparation by your powerful prayers for us, so that when the solemn hour has come, our Jesus may find no obstacle to His entrance into our hearts.  Amen.” Prayer by Rev. Lawrence Lovasik, S.V.D.

This prayer may be prayed as a Triduum from December 15th to the Feast Day on December 18th, or continue to be prayed on the days leading up to Christmas. 

 

St. Teresa of Avila – A gaze of faith fixed on Jesus

St. Teresa of Avila Icon by Patricia Enk
St. Teresa of Avila, Feast Day Oct. 15th Icon by Patricia Enk

“It is the Church’s task to reflect the light of Christ in every historical period, to make His Face shine also before the generations of the new millennium.  Our witness, however, would be hopelessly inadequate if we ourselves had not first contemplated His Face.”

–Pope St. John Paul II

Contemplation is a gaze of faith fixed on Jesus in silent, loving, attentiveness. It is a gift and a grace from God. Theologians have written volumes about what has been called by the Catechism of the Catholic Church “the simplest expression of the mystery of prayer,” yet when the Catholic Church wants to teach anyone about contemplative prayer it invariably directs them to St. Teresa de Jesus, Doctor of the Church and Foundress of the Discalced Carmelite Order.  St. Teresa is a “down-to-earth” sort of saint who can explain prayer to us in the most understandable terms.  “Contemplative prayer” says Teresa, “in my opinion is nothing more than a close sharing between friends, it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us.”

Image of the Holy Face of Jesus that captivated St. Teresa
Image of the Holy Face of Jesus that captivated St. Teresa

St. Teresa suffered for years as a religious from an inability to pray, so she gives some solid advice to those who struggle as they seek the Face of God in prayer: “Never set aside the Sacred Humanity of Christ.” We cannot come to the Father except through Him.  Intimacy with Jesus draws us into the life of the Trinity. “If we can, we should occupy ourselves in looking at Him Who is looking at us; keep Him company; talk with Him; pray to Him; humble ourselves before Him; have our delight in Him.”  St. Teresa complained that she didn’t have much of an imagination, so she found it helpful to have an image of Christ to look at as she prayed, especially an image of Jesus in His Passion. “Speak with Him as with a Father, a Brother, a Lord and a Spouse–and, sometimes in one way and sometimes in another.  He will teach you what you must do to please Him… Remember how important it is for you to have understood this truth–that the Lord is within us and that we should be there with Him.”

He is only waiting for us to look at Him!

Statue of Jesus Scourged St. Teresa's moment of conversion occurred while praying before this image.
Statue of Jesus Scourged
St. Teresa’s moment of conversion occurred while praying before this image.

 

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/