Suffering with Jesus Christ

“Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in His footsteps.” (1 Peter 2:21) 

The Divine Prisoner, Holy Face of Manoppello
photo: Patricia Enk

Suffering– it is part of the human condition, and it also human nature to avoid it whenever possible. Even among those rare souls who “suffer well” by following Christ’s example, suffering can be a seemingly unending trial that wears one down. Illness and suffering “can lead to anguish, self-absorption, sometimes even despair and revolt against God.” (CCC 1501)  In times of suffering people could turn to distractions, inward on themselves, or turn their eyes to the Face of Jesus Christ.  It is He who suffers, and no one has suffered more than Him. When He took our human flesh at the Incarnation, He accepted all the suffering of humanity, though completely innocent, to redeem us from our sin.

How do we follow in Christ’s footsteps when we are faced with suffering?

“‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth.’ 

When He was insulted, He returned no insult, when He suffered, He did not threaten; instead, He handed Himself over to the One who judges justly. He Himself bore our sins in His body on the Cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed. For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.” (1 Peter 2: 22-25)

For many though, their suffering may not be a physical one. There is another terrible suffering, experienced worldwide: the separation from our loved ones. And even more painful, the suffering of being separated from “The Loved One,” Jesus, in the sacraments. Again, it is Christ who suffers most, in the Eucharist, isolated in every tabernacle throughout the world.

Perhaps this isolation from loved ones is a warning from Our Loving God of what happens when we turn away from the Face of God by unrepented mortal sin. The result is a painful separation from the love of God for all eternity, which is the suffering of Hell.

What can one do “to suffer with Christ” by staying alone at home? As a Discalced Carmelite nun, St. Edith Stein, contemplated a life of separation from the rest of the world in the cloister. She wrote, “Whoever enters Carmel is not lost to their own, but is theirs fully for the first time; It is our vocation to stand before God for all.”  In quarantine each of us may suffer with Jesus by seeking His Christ’s Face with hearts of prayer, as the Blessed Virgin Mary did at the foot of the Cross – “to stand before God for all.”

“For whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil lips,  from speaking deceit, must turn from evil and do good, seek peace and follow after it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears turned to their prayer, but the Face of the Lord is against evildoers.”  (1 Peter 3:10-12)

Sr. Petra-Maria gazes at the Holy Face Veil of Manoppello (Photo: Patricia Enk)

Prayer to the Holy Face for the liberation from the coronavirus

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

Overcoming the Trial

“Contemplating the face of Christ with the heart of Mary our Mother will make us even more united as a spiritual family and will help us overcome this time of trial,” — Pope Francis 

Painting of the Blessed Mother and the Child Jesus by Margaret Farr

 

LETTER OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
to the Faithful for the Month of May 2020

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The month of May is approaching, a time when the People of God express with particular intensity their love and devotion for the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is traditional in this month to pray the Rosary at home within the family. The restrictions of the pandemic have made us come to appreciate all the more this “family” aspect, also from a spiritual point of view.

For this reason, I want to encourage everyone to rediscover the beauty of praying the Rosary at home in the month of May. This can be done either as a group or individually; you can decide according to your own situations, making the most of both opportunities. The key to doing this is always simplicity, and it is easy also on the internet to find good models of prayers to follow.

I am also providing two prayers to Our Lady that you can recite at the end of the Rosary, and that I myself will pray in the month of May, in spiritual union with all of you. I include them with this letter so that they are available to everyone.

Dear brothers and sisters, contemplating the face of Christ with the heart of Mary our Mother will make us even more united as a spiritual family and will help us overcome this time of trial. I keep all of you in my prayers, especially those suffering most greatly, and I ask you, please, to pray for me. I thank you, and with great affection I send you my blessing.

 

Rome, Saint John Lateran, 25 April 2020
Feast of Saint Mark the Evangelist

FRANCIS

Salus Populi Romani

First Prayer

O Mary,
You shine continuously on our journey
as a sign of salvation and hope.
We entrust ourselves to you, Health of the Sick,
who, at the foot of the cross,
were united with Jesus’ suffering,
and persevered in your faith.
“Protectress of the Roman people”,
you know our needs,
and we know that you will provide,
so that, as at Cana in Galilee,
joy and celebration may return
after this time of trial.
Help us, Mother of Divine Love,
to conform ourselves to the will of the Father
and to do what Jesus tells us.
For he took upon himself our suffering,
and burdened himself with our sorrows
to bring us, through the cross,
to the joy of the Resurrection.
Amen.
We fly to your protection,
O Holy Mother of God;
Do not despise our petitions 
in our necessities,
but deliver us always
from every danger,
O Glorious and Blessed Virgin.

 

Blessed Mother and Jesus, Basilica Shrine ion the Holy Face in Manoppello, Photo: Paul Badde

Second Prayer

“We fly to your protection, O Holy Mother of God”.

In the present tragic situation, when the whole world is prey to suffering and anxiety, we fly to you, Mother of God and our Mother, and seek refuge under your protection.

Virgin Mary, turn your merciful eyes towards us amid this coronavirus pandemic. Comfort those who are distraught and mourn their loved ones who have died, and at times are buried in a way that grieves them deeply. Be close to those who are concerned for their loved ones who are sick and who, in order to prevent the spread of the disease, cannot be close to them. Fill with hope those who are troubled by the uncertainty of the future and the consequences for the economy and employment.

Mother of God and our Mother, pray for us to God, the Father of mercies, that this great suffering may end and that hope and peace may dawn anew. Plead with your divine Son, as you did at Cana, so that the families of the sick and the victims be comforted, and their hearts be opened to confidence and trust.

Protect those doctors, nurses, health workers and volunteers who are on the frontline of this emergency, and are risking their lives to save others. Support their heroic effort and grant them strength, generosity and continued health.

Be close to those who assist the sick night and day, and to priests who, in their pastoral concern and fidelity to the Gospel, are trying to help and support everyone.

Blessed Virgin, illumine the minds of men and women engaged in scientific research, that they may find effective solutions to overcome this virus.

Support national leaders, that with wisdom, solicitude and generosity they may come to the aid of those lacking the basic necessities of life and may devise social and economic solutions inspired by farsightedness and solidarity.

Mary Most Holy, stir our consciences, so that the enormous funds invested in developing and stockpiling arms will instead be spent on promoting effective research on how to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future.

Beloved Mother, help us realize that we are all members of one great family and to recognize the bond that unites us, so that, in a spirit of fraternity and solidarity, we can help to alleviate countless situations of poverty and need. Make us strong in faith, persevering in service, constant in prayer.

Mary, Consolation of the afflicted, embrace all your children in distress and pray that God will stretch out his all-powerful hand and free us from this terrible pandemic, so that life can serenely resume its normal course.

To you, who shine on our journey as a sign of salvation and hope, do we entrust ourselves, O Clement, O Loving, O Sweet Virgin Mary. Amen.

+++

“O God, be gracious and bless us, and let Your Face shed its light upon us. So will your ways be known upon earth, and all nations learn your saving help.” (Psalm 67)

The byssus Veil of Manoppello, which is thought to be one of the burial cloths of Jesus, photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

Prayer to the Holy Face for the liberation from the coronavirus

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

+ Bruno Forte
Archbishop of Chieti – Vasto (Italy)

The Extraordinary Blessing of Pope Francis “Urbi et Orbi”

“The waves of death rose about me; the pains of the nether world surrounded me. In my anguish I called to the Lord, and from His holy temple He heard my voice. (Psalm 18)

EWTN live-streamed video of Pope Francis’s Urbi et Orbi extraordinary blessing on March 27, 2020:

The Gospel from Mark 4:35-41 was first read:   

 On that day, when evening came, He said to them, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him. And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They became very much afraid and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”

Pope Francis then gave a beautiful meditation on the Gospel.  In conclusion he said, “By His Cross we have been saved, in order to embrace hope…embracing the Lord in order to embrace hope. This is the strength of faith, which frees us from fear and gives us hope. Why are you afraid, have you yet no faith?  Dear brothers and sisters from this place that tells of Peter’s rock solid faith, I would like this evening to entrust all of you to the Lord through the intercession of Mary, Health of the People and Star of the Stormy Sea.  From this colonnade that embraces Rome, and the world may God’s blessing come down upon you as a consoling embrace: Lord, bless the world, give health to our bodies and comfort our hearts. You ask us not to be afraid, yet our faith is weak, Lord, and we are fearful. But you, Lord, do not leave us at the mercy of the storm. Tell us again, ‘Do not be afraid.’  And we, together with Peter, cast all our anxieties onto You, because we know that You care for us.”  

Miraculous Crucifix of San Marcello
The Last Vision of St. John Bosco

After his meditation the Pope proceeded to the icon of Our Lady “Salus Populi Romani” where he prayed for several minutes before moving again to pray before the miraculous Crucifix of San Marcello. This was followed by prayers, and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament just inside the door of St. Peter’s Basilica. The powerful image called to mind the last vision of St. John Bosco: The pope on the deck of a large ship in a stormy sea, with no land in sight, being attacked on all sides by smaller vessels and trying to anchor the ship between two columns rising out of the sea — one with the Blessed Sacrament and the other with Our Lady, Help of Christians. 

Pope Francis then proceeded out of St. Peter’s carrying the Blessed Sacrament, and with bells pealing, together with the sounds of sirens in the distance, he blessed the world, in the pouring rain, before a dark, empty St. Peter’s Square. The rain streaming down the side of the miraculous crucifix, recalling the blood and water which flowed from the side of Christ. Please, at least watch the blessing in the video, which begins around 54:54 minutes. One could not fail to be moved by such powerful imagery. This Urbi et Orbi blessing was like no other in history, and a decisive moment for the world to turn back to the Face of God.

Mother Angelica
and Jesus

And how very fitting, that this historic, spiritual event would coincide with the anniversary of the death of Mother Angelica, Foundress of EWTN. It was Mother Angelica’s “Yes” to God that made it possible for millions around the world to see and hear the humble pleas of Pope Francis, and to receive his blessing!

“And we, with our unveiled faces, reflecting like mirrors the brightness of the Lord, all grow brighter and brighter as we are turned into the image that we reflect; This is the work of the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor. 3:18) These are the words on Mother Angelica’s tomb.

2 Chronicles 7:14

“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.

Merry Christmas!!!

Come, let us adore Him!

Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God. (Mt. 5:8)

Adoration of the Shepherds – Gerard van Honthorst 1622

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!

 

As those who see light are in the light sharing its brilliance, so those who see God are in God sharing his glory, and the glory gives them life.  To see God is to share in life.” ~St. Ireneaus

“In Thee God will manifest the splendor of His presence, for the whole world to see”~Baruch 4

Merry Christmas! May His Face shine upon you and your loved ones, today and always!

To the Sacred Heart

“For God so loved the world”

To the Sacred Heart of Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Jesus, Your ineffable image is the star which guides my steps. Ah, You know, Your sweet Face is for me Heaven on earth. My love discovers the charms of Your Face adorned with tears. I smile through my own tears when I contemplate your sorrows.”~St. Therese

Happy New Year 2018 – Let His Face Shine Upon You!

In God’s beautiful design, the Christmas liturgy continues at the beginning of the New Year by drawing us toward the Face of Christ with three holy feast days. We begin on January 1, with the Feast of Mary, Mother of God, who teaches us how to contemplate the Face of her Son. The first reading for this feast day is the priestly blessing on God’s chosen people from the book of Numbers.

Virgin and Child,1510

The Feast of Mary, Mother of God

The LORD said to Moses:
“Speak to Aaron and his sons and tell them:
This is how you shall bless the Israelites.
Say to them:
The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon
you, and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly and
give you peace!
So shall they invoke my name upon the Israelites,
and I will bless them.” (Num 6:22-27)

In celebrating the centenary of Fatima, Pope Francis gave this reflection of that scripture passage: “This blessing was fulfilled in the Virgin Mary. No other creature ever basked in the light of God’s Face as did Mary; she in turn gave a human face to the Son of the eternal Father. Now we can contemplate her in the succession of joyful, luminous, sorrowful and glorious moments of her life, which we revisit in our recitation of the rosary…With Mary’s protection, may we be for our world sentinels of the dawn, contemplating the true Face of Jesus the Saviour.”

At the last New Year Pope Francis said,

“Begin the year by recalling God’s goodness in the maternal face of Mary, in the maternal face of the Church, in the faces of our own mothers…”

The next holy feast, on January 3 is…

The Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus

 Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI teaches us, The expression “name of God” means God as He Who is present among men.  His name, is the concrete sign of His Existence. The Hebrew term, “panim”, which means “face” means to see The Face of God, or the presence of God.  “Panim” is a term that describes relationships.  The Hebrew word “shem” meaning “name” is also a term of relationship.  God has a Face and a Name!

To rejoice in the splendor of His Face means penetrating the mystery of  His name made known to us in Jesus, understanding something of His interior life and of His will, so that we can live according to His plan for humanity.  Jesus lets us know the hidden Face of The Father through His human Face; by the gift of The Holy Spirit poured into our hearts. This, is the foundation of our Peace, which nothing can take from us.”

And the third great holy day drawing us to adore the Holy Face is…

Adoration of the Magi,
Fra. Angelico & Fra. Lippi

The Feast of the Epiphany

 The Epiphany is closely linked to the Holy Face–because the Epiphany is the feast on which Jesus Christ first shows Himself to the world represented by the Magi–and He shows Himself through a human face, the face of an infant. On the feast of the Epiphany, we ask God to shine His Face upon us, to reveal His Face to us once more as we come before Him in adoration.

On the occasion of the Closing of the Holy Door, January 6, 2001, Pope St. John Paul II prayed for the Church:

“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.”   

Amen!

May Our Lord grant us, in this New Year, through intercession the Blessed Virgin Mary, the grace to contemplate always His Holy Face.

“Vladimirskaya” icon

Happy New Year!

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