Beautiful fireworks exploded in the evening skies above Manoppello, Italy to celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration and to honor in a procession the great gift of God: “Il Volto Santo” — a precious relic bearing the miraculous image of the Holy Face of Jesus, on a sheer veil. The incredible history of the veil providentially brought it to Manoppello several centuries ago. Though at first shrouded in mystery, it was hidden from the world, and thus protected from many dangers. It may now be seen by all. Pilgrims flock from around the world for the opportunity to gaze on the Face of Jesus; to kneel, pray and adore Him; repeating the words of St. Peter on Mount Tabor: “Lord, it is good to be here.”
Fireworks may be seen shimmering through the holy veil at it is carried in procession through the crowded streets, which were captured in this wonderful video of the event by Angelo Ruetz from Switzerland:
This holy veil is so transparent that the decorative lights over the path of procession may be seen through it. At times it appears to the viewer that what is being carried so reverently is merely a white rectangle. Yet, as the veil is exposed to various changes in light, its secret is gradually revealed. Truly a great blessing to see!
“May God be gracious to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us…” (Psalm 67:1)
(To learn more about the veil click the Manoppello Tab above.)
“Kept in a village church in the mountains of Italy is a veil bearing what some believe to be the image of the face of Jesus….”
Kathryn Jean Lopez, contributing editor to Angelus Magazine, and editor-at-large of National Review Online has written a fine article about the Veil of the Holy Face of Manoppello, and how devotion to the face of Jesus can make all the difference in our lives. With permission, it has been re-printed here:
A Window Into His Love
by Kathryn Jean Lopez/Angelus
There’s an altar dedicated to the Holy Face of Jesus at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan, New York, where I find myself many days for Mass and prayer. It is one of the spots I am always drawn to. It has a cloth with an image of our Lord.
Despite being in the middle of everything — and maybe it’s all the more powerful because it is — there can be great quiet there, right on Fifth Avenue in one of the busiest cities in the world, and opportunities for deep prayer. I’m forever seeing piety from daily visitors, joggers, and tourists who appear to be seeking the face of God whenever the doors of the church are open.
This particular altar is definitely no exception. I’ll often see flowers left behind, a man kneeling, a woman lighting a candle. And I always feel like I am being drawn deeper into a love story — God’s love for us.
From the Holy Face, my route is largely the same every time I’m there on my way to the Blessed Sacrament chapel dedicated to Our Lady. I always stop at the sixth station on the wall and look at the depiction of the face of Jesus there.
I always try to get into the line of sight, between Jesus and Veronica. Veronica is so moved by the suffering of Christ in his passion that she walks up and gives him her veil to wipe his sweat and blood on, to give him a moment’s relief.
Sometimes I see someone working on the frontlines of love — whether it be family life, or supporting struggling families, or another more hidden or thankless ministry; sometimes it’s the priesthood, and I want to do the same.
Whatever church I’m in, truth be told, it does not have to be as grand as the cathedral in Manhattan or anywhere else — I’m always drawn to this station. I imagine myself looking at Jesus in his passion. Sometimes I’m pretty sure I can see him looking at me.
We make him suffer and he knows our suffering. We’re together every day. These two profound realities are how we can more consciously live our lives with God.
Lent is about remembering that, returning to him in love, knowing his presence. Seeing his face — most importantly in the Eucharist, especially after a good Confession — makes all the difference.
It often doesn’t take very long after leaving a church in a city to encounter his face again in the faces of others.
The other day it was the counterterrorism officer who was checking the outside of the cathedral with a dog who was sniffing everything that could be a potential hidden threat (the dirt and grass by the handicap ramp; the box that keeps the traffic light on the corner sidewalk running).
If I’m at St. Patrick’s, frequently the first people I see there are tourists taking selfies. “May they see Christ’s image in them!” I whisper in prayer — sometimes as a plea, because God would appear furthest from their minds, on the surface between Victoria’s Secret and NBA store bags (such is the neighborhood).
Most especially, Jesus’ face can be — and must be, for the sake of our souls and for the love of every man and woman and child on earth, which is how we love God in this mess of a world — seen in a man nesting on concrete, asking for spare change or a meal, desperate to be noticed, never mind loved.
In so many of the artistic depictions of the Holy Face of Jesus, both his love and our need are laid bare. (If you were to Google now, you will find plenty of them. I’m partial to El Greco, but I always am.) There’s something about artistic renditions of his face that always seem to capture the depths of love.
The human imagination captures something both of the truth of God and our longing for him. And as beautiful as so many of them are, they only begin to tell the story. They flow from the love of Jesus on the cross, a love that most of us have not even begun to fully truly appreciate.
There’s no requirement to believe the Shroud of Turin or the Veil of Manoppello are, in fact, evidence of the Lord’s death and resurrection. But they do seem yet more windows into his love for us, not just in the images themselves but in the possible physical evidence for the skeptical and notes of love for the faithful they so many pilgrims believe them to be.
As German journalist Paul Badde has laid out, the two of them, when brought together, show the exact same face — one a man who has died, and one of the same man with his eyes opened — and healed.
Badde has literally written the book on the Holy Face, which is preserved at a shrine in the mountain village of Manoppello, Italy. Ask him to talk about the face of Christ, and he will immediately be making plans to show you things.
If you can’t plan a day trip to Manoppello with the Holy Face, he will show you a replica in his apartment, and likely hand you a card with its image before you part ways.
He says it was the Blessed Mother under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe who first brought the Holy Face of Jesus to his attention — because she always brings you to her Son. He’s since written of the Veil of Manoppello as an adventurous investigation.
He’s convinced this is the face of Jesus and that it is about the most important relic there is because of the deeper knowledge it draws us into, the reality of Jesus in our lives and in our world. God “didn’t become a book, he became a person. God became a person. Man.”
Badde is not the only evangelist for Manoppello. In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI took a pilgrimage to the shrine where it resides in the Abruzzo mountains.
He said at the time: “As the Psalms say, we are all ‘seeking the Face of the Lord.’ And this is also the meaning of my visit. Let us seek together to know the face of the Lord ever better, and in the face of the Lord let us find this impetus of love and peace, which also reveals to us the path of our life.”
The “Volto Santo” (“Holy Face”) has very much become a ministry for Badde. He believes it is critical in this age of disbelief to stop and look and consider the implications of a God who would live and die and be resurrected for love of us and to redeem us for our sins for eternity.
He fears that so many — even at high levels in the Church — don’t actually believe in the Resurrection. The Holy Face can change this, he believes. And he’s not only talking about people in the pews, but theologians and bishops, too.
Maybe that explains how scandals can happen — the weakness of belief, the rise of unbelief and outright hostility to real religious faith, even where it would be expected to be most solid. They think resurrection is “good preaching or … a living community.
“No, resurrection is real. Jesus was dead and he resurrected from the dead. He’s alive. From the dead to alive. … That’s so important. It’s so important against all the heresies about it, because all the heresies … at the foundation … are about not believing in the Resurrection anymore.”
He believes the veil bears witness to the reality of the Resurrection, which is why he is somewhat tenderly relentless about telling its story.
In his own reflection on the relic, Cardinal Robert Sarah says: “In Manoppello we encounter God face-to-face. It is such a moving place. One is so touched by the gentleness of Christ’s eyes, with their extraordinary penetrating and calming power. And when we let ourselves be seen by him, his gaze purifies and heals us. We can really sense how much Jesus has loved us — so much as to die for us. For true love is dying for the one you love.”
It’s hard to miss that when I ask Badde about the veil, his morning routine, and how he spends his days. All he can talk about is the love of God and the love he draws us into in the Eucharist and the eyes we see on the face on the veil.
When meditating on the Holy Face of Jesus, whether the Shroud of Turin, the Veil of Manoppello, your parish’s sixth station of the cross, or whatever image your Google search seeking his face lands you on, be drawn in to the truth of what we celebrate as “Good” on that last Friday before Easter year after year.
There’s no guarantee any one of us will live to see another Paschal Triduum — so don’t let Holy Week be reduced to a series of mere obligations and traditions.
Gaze at the Lord in his passion, walk with him even to the gates of hell on Holy Saturday. Go to the empty tomb with Mary Magdalene in prayer. Make his love story for us the story of your life, because this is what he wants, this is our identity as Christians.
Look at him with love and let him look at you with just a touch of a taste of the enormity of his love for you. And you will see this more and more as everything. And you will see his face more and more in the world, just as others will be able to see his face in yours by how you look at them with love.
Manoppello is worth reading more about. But even if you don’t, remember the love with which the Lord looks down at you from the cross, remember the love with which he forgives and heals and makes you new again. Keep seeking his face.
Daisy Neves in front of her Beloved Holy Face of Jesus
Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN
“We have no need of wings to go and search for Him, but have only to find a place where we can be alone and look upon Him present within us.”
So said St. Teresa of Jesus, and yet even this Doctor of the Church recommended having an image of Jesus before us to come to the aid of our human weakness. “Never set aside the Sacred Humanity of Christ,” she said. 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.” This mutual gaze of love, which is prayer, bears fruit in the soul and a burning desire to share in some way the love of Christ with others — to make Him known and loved. Such was the desire of Daisy Neves.
Daisy, first glimpsed the Holy Face of Manoppello in 2006, in a newspaper photo of Pope Benedict XVI in prayer before the holy relic. She made up her mind then that she must see it. Five years later, at Easter in 2011, she found herself face to face before the Holy Veil bearing the Face of Jesus. Her heart was moved to such a degree that she placed all her money in the collection before returning home to America.
From that moment on, she told everyone she met about the Veil with the Face of Jesus in Manoppello, Italy. Daisy travelled the world, in spite of illness and obstacles, and she relentlessly sought whatever means she could to share the love of Jesus made manifest by the veil of His Holy Face. Daisy has now entered into Eternal Life. But by the fruit of her deep love and devotion, she brought the image of Holy Face to basilicas, churches, and orphanages. Through her efforts, replicas of the Holy Veil have been enthroned in many churches throughout the world, drawing many souls to contemplate in prayer and experience, as she did, the merciful loving gaze of her beloved Jesus. May she gaze on God’s Face for all eternity. Daisy Neves, Requiescat in Pace!