“This Year of Mercy invites us to discover the core; to return to what is essential. This time of mercy calls us to look at the true Face of Our King, the one that shines out at Easter, to rediscover the youthful, beautiful Face of the Church…” –Pope Francis, close of the Year of Mercy. November 20, 2016
Sunday, November 20th, 2016 will be the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe and Living Face of the Father’s Mercy. The Jubilee Year of Mercy will be at an end.
“On that day,” says Pope Francis, “as we seal the Holy Door, we shall be filled, above all, with a sense of gratitude and thanksgiving to the Most Holy Trinity for having granted us an extraordinary time of grace. We will entrust the life of the Church, all humanity, and the entire cosmos to the Lordship of Christ, asking Him to pour out His mercy upon us like the morning dew, so that everyone may work together to build a brighter future….May the balm of mercy reach everyone, both believers and those far away, as a sign that the Kingdom of God is already present in our midst!”
I would be remiss if I didn’t express gratitude to God for this Year of Mercy and most especially for His incredible, miraculous gift of His Holy Face on the Veil of Manoppello–the Face of all faces–the Face of the Mercy of God! Look at His Face! Look at those eyes filled with mercy and peace! It has been said that His eyes look both like a lion’s and a lamb’s.
This has been a very turbulent year in the world, and the next may become even more turbulent, as the enemies of Christianity wage war against the followers of Christ. It is all the more necessary that we keep our eyes fixed on the Face of the King and the Lamb.
“They will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is the Lord of lords and the King of kings, and those who are with Him are called chosen and faithful.” (Rev. 17:14)
So, keep fighting the good fight and keep your eyes on His Holy Face, because…
A historic pilgrimage of the Holy Face has taken place in Rome, though few were aware of its importance or of the great spiritual significance of the quiet procession by devoted pilgrims carrying a replica of the Holy Face of Manoppello this weekend.
Rev. Daren J. Zehnle of the United States was present for the joyous event and has posted wonderful photos and a moving, first-hand description of the procession through the Door of Mercy in St. Peter’s Basilica to the Pieta, altar of St. Veronica and to the Church of the Holy Spirit for veneration of the Holy Face and the Rosary. Mass was offered by His Excellency the Most Reverend Georg Ganswein, Prefect of the Papal Household and Secretary to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. (Fr. Zehnle’s excellent post may be found here.)
Archbishop Georg Ganswain’s spoke these words in his homily at Spirito Santo Church. “808 years ago, for the first time, Pope Innocent III carried in procession the Holy Sudarium of Christ from St. Peter’s to Santo Spirito. It was the holy veil that shows ‘the human Face of God’, which Pope Benedict XVI will never get tired of speaking about; and ‘the living face of the Father’s mercy’ to which Pope Francis has dedicated this Jubilee Year. And also back then, in January of 1208, the Divine Face of God here in this church, was connected to the concrete mercy of men; this church which much later, in 1994, St. John Paul II dedicated to the ‘Divine Mercy,’ in honor of Saint Faustina Kowalska, whose relics we venerate here. The Polish Pope was also a visionary and once more we experience that here today.”
Devotion to the Holy Face is the antidote for the ever-increasing evil in the world. The greatest sins are those against God Himself: atheism, blasphemy, the profanation of the Holy Name and the Holy Day of Sunday. The importance of Devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus, in this Jubilee Year of Mercy cannot be over stressed. “Lord, God of Hosts, bring us back. Let Your Face shine on us and we shall be saved!” (Psalm 80)
“Omnis terra adoret te, Deus, et psallat tibi!” (“Let all the earth adore you, O God and sing psalms to you”) (Psalm 65)
Homily of Archbishop Georg Ganswain at Spirito Santo
Dear sisters and brothers!
Sunday today is called “Omnis Terra” in the words of Psalm 65 that we heard at the beginning of the Mass: “Omnis terra adoret te, Deus, et psallat tibi!” (“Let all the earth adore you, O God and sing psalms to you”). This Sunday was also called this eight hundred years ago ; and even then, as now, in all Catholic churches the Gospel of the wedding at Cana was proclaimed. Since then empires have fallen, swept away like autumn leaves; the Church has seen the succession of ninety popes; violent revolutions and wars have shaken Europe; fatal divisions have torn Christianity. So it seems almost a miracle the tranquility with which, in this Sunday’s liturgy, we sing today as then: Praise the Lord, all you nations!
With this praise, however, today we also remember the fact that here 808 years ago, for the first time, Pope Innocent III carried in procession the Holy Sudarium of Christ from St. Peter’s to Santo Spirito. It was the holy veil that shows “the human Face of God”, which Pope Benedict XVI will never get tired of speaking about; and “the living Face of the Father’s mercy” to which Pope Francis has dedicated this Jubilee Year. And also back then, in January of 1208, the Divine Face of God here in this church, was connected to the concrete mercy of men; this church which much later, in 1994, St. John Paul II dedicated to the “Divine Mercy”, in honor of Saint Faustina Kowalska, whose relics we venerate here. The Polish Pope was also a visionary and once more we experience that here today.
In fact, 808 years ago, in that very first procession, Pope Innocent III decreed that the holy image was not brought to the nobles of Rome, but to the sick pilgrims and the poor of the city, whose most important abode back then was this hospital of Santo Spirito. He also ordered that the papal chaplain, drawing from Peter’s Pence, should distribute three coins to each of the three hundred sick and the thousand poor who were invited to attend the ceremony and who came from all over the city: one for bread, one for wine and the third for meat. He also connected substantial indulgences to visiting the “true image” and for participating in its procession.
In fact it was an anticipation of the Holy Year, which only later, in 1300, was introduced to Rome by Boniface VIII. This all began right here!
From that time to the present modern age processions and expositions of the Holy veil have never ended. Soon there were countless pilgrims to Rome who wanted to contemplate the Face of God. Later, it was in one of these processions that Dante learned to know the Face of God. It is the Face before which he ends the “cosmic excursion” of his Divine Comedy, as Pope Benedict XVI said ten years ago, when he presented his encyclical Deus Caritas Est. It is the Face of the love that “moves the sun and the other stars”, as Dante wrote in the best known passage in Italian literature.
It is the love of God who rejoices in us as “the bridegroom to the bride,” as we have just heard in the words from the prophet Isaiah; and the strength of the Holy Spirit of whose various gifts St. Paul has once again made us aware in this church of Santo Spirito. And yet, nowhere else does this Spirit speaks more clearly and with more evidence as in the silent Face of Christ, before whom we are gathered here today.
Because “this is the vocation and the joy of every baptized person: to bring and give Jesus to others”, as Pope Francis said on January 3. And this is exactly what today is given to us – to become witnesses, in the moment when the good Capuchin friars of Manoppello here “bring and give Jesus”, in whose Face God himself shows his Face.
In conclusion I would add just one thing on the Gospel of the wedding at Cana, about which so many instructive things have been said: who, in fact, could still wonder that Jesus worked his first public miracle exactly in favor of marriage and the family which are in such danger today that Pope Francis has dedicated synods to each of these! Indeed, in this time of Christmas in which we are still, we can understand perfectly that first miracle as a necessary extension of the mystery of the incarnation of God. For it is only within a family that we become human! With a mother and a father and – if we are lucky – with brothers and sisters. For this reason Christian artists have always portrayed the Face of Jesus referring to his mother’s, and vice versa. Because if God is the Father of Jesus, His Face should and can only look like hers. And it is this most ancient Face that today in an almost miraculous way has returned to Santo Spirito in Sassia, that Face which seems to be almost identical to the Face of the Divine Mercy which has been venerated here for more than two decades.
It is a copy of that ancient original that Pope Innocent III showed the pilgrims and which for four hundred years was kept in Abruzzo, on the Adriatic, in an outlying area of Italy, which today for the first time has been brought back to where its public worship began. From here, countless copies brought all over the world the true Face of God that Christians knew. Precisely in this lies the deeper meaning of this moment. Before coming to Rome, the Holy Veil was kept in Constantinople, earlier in Edessa and even before in Jerusalem. It is not possible, in fact, that this Face could be the property, could be the treasure of anyone, not even of the Pope. It is the signature of Christians. Only we know that God has a Face – how and who He is. For this reason, the Face of Christ is the first, the most noble and most precious treasure of all Christendom, even more: of all the earth. Omnis Terra! Before this Face we ought to open ourselves again and again. Always as pilgrims; always to the outlying areas; and always having before our eyes one goal: that moment when we will be before him face to Face.
“Every family has an Uncle Louie.” I was told this fact while discussing funerals with a priest. “Uncle Louie” represented those “black sheep,” who, though beloved by their family and friends, we all knew were no saints and unless Heaven had lowered the bar considerably, didn’t stand much chance of walking straight through the Pearly Gates when they died. However, as Christians we hope that through the mercy of God and the prayers of the Church that “Uncle Louie” did make it into Purgatory. Perhaps before he died, “Uncle Louie” mumbled a heartfelt pray from childhood and turned back to God.
“All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.” (CCC 1030) The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of souls that they may attain the beatific vision, or gaze on the Face of God. Theologians have said that the purification or suffering of the souls in Purgatory is their intense longing for the Face of God. This is expressed beautifully in Dante’s Divine Comedy, which is recommended reading by Pope Francis for the Year of Mercy. In the poem, a soul in Purgatory proclaims:
“We were all sinners till our latest hour/… when light from Heaven made us wise to see our sins,/ and we repented and forgave,/ leaving our lives at last in peace with God,/ who now torments our hearts with the desire,/ to see His Face.”
Since the faithful departed being purified are also members of the communion of saints, we can help obtain indulgences for them, so that temporal punishments due for their sins may be remitted through the merits of Jesus Christ. (Explanation of indulgences here.) Throughout November the Church, in charity, remembers the Faithful Departed in its prayers. “It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.” (2 Macch. 12, 46) There are many ways to obtain indulgence from God through the Church such as visiting a cemetery and praying for the dead. A plenary indulgence for the souls in Purgatory can be obtained by visiting a cemetery each day between November 1 and November 8 or by a visit to a church or public oratory on November 2nd and reciting the Our Father and The Creed. A partial indulgence can be obtained for the souls in Purgatory, especially in the month of November, when we recite:
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
In your charity, please pray for the souls in Purgatory, so that they may soon see God face to face.
St. Faustina Kowalska, “The Apostle of Mercy,” whose feast day is October 5th, was known as a mystic and visionary. Her diary Divine Mercy in My Soul is a record of the journey of her soul. Our Lord granted St. Faustina a deep understanding of the love and mercy of God which she was to share with the world. Because Pope Francis has declared a “Jubilee Year of Mercy” beginning December 8, 2015, it would be beneficial to read St. Faustina’s message of mercy to better understand the significance of the upcoming holy year.
Our Lord spoke strongly to St. Faustina about putting mercy into action:
“I demand from you deeds of mercy which are to arise out of love for me. You are to show mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse yourself from it.” (742)
Pope Francis exhorts us in the Jubilee Year “to introduce everyone to the great mystery of God’s mercy by contemplating the face of Christ.” Practicing the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy will also enable us to fulfill the Lord’s command to let your light “shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.” (Mt. 5:16) Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has said, “The Face of Christ is the supreme revelation of Christ’s Mercy.”
“I have ever before my eyes His sorrowful Face, abused and disfigured. His divine Heart pierced by our sins and especially by the ingratitude of chosen souls.” (487) –St. Faustina
The Jubilee Year will also have a “door”—a “Door of Mercy”—a Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica and other designated churches through which “anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons and instills hope.” (The Face of Mercy) St. Faustina, in her diary, wrote of “a door of mercy”: “While there is yet time, let them have recourse to the fountain of my mercy.” (848) … He who refuses to pass through the door of My mercy must pass through the door of My justice.” (1146)
I have often reflected on the meaning of this Holy Door and the Face of Mercy. I believe they are both one and the same: The Face of Jesus Christ, the face of the Church, who leads us to the Father. We enter this “door” through devotion to the Holy Face by discipleship, to see Jesus in the faces our neighbors, through prayer and contemplation of the wounded Face of Jesus and through contemplation of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus. Our faces, too, are like a “door” to our hearts and souls, which can radiate the Face of Jesus, the Face of Mercy to others. When Pope Francis came to the United States he spoke to the homeless in St. Patrick’s Parish in Washington, D.C., “Jesus keeps knocking on our door in the faces of our brothers and sisters, in the faces of our neighbors, in the face of those at our side.”
“Write this: before I come as the just Judge, I am coming first as the King of Mercy.” — Our Lord to St. Faustina
The Jubilee Year will end on November 20, 2016, on the Sunday dedicated to “Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe–and living Face of the Father’s Mercy.” (The Face of Mercy, Bull of Indiction)
St. Faustina’s Prayer for Divine Mercy
O Greatly Merciful God, Infinite Goodness, today all mankind calls out from the abyss of its misery to Your mercy — to Your compassion, O God, and it is with its mighty voice of misery that it cries out: Gracious God, do not reject the prayer of this earth’s exiles! O Lord, Goodness beyond our understanding, Who are acquainted with our misery through and through and know that by our own power we cannot ascend to You, we implore You, anticipate us with Your grace and keep on increasing Your mercy in us, that we may faithfully do Your holy will all through our life and at death’s hour. Let the omnipotence of Your mercy shield us from the darts of our salvation’s enemies, that we may with confidence, as Your children, await Your final coming — that day known to You alone. And we expect to obtain everything promised us by Jesus in spite of all our wretchedness. For Jesus is our Hope: Through His merciful Heart as through an open gate we pass through to heaven. (1570).
The West is experiencing a severe drought; just how bad it was, was brought home to me when I visited the Los Angeles area this past week, after an absence of six years. I had always been surprised by the lush greenery, flowers, flowering trees and palms that lined the freeways of “Tinsel Town.” That is all gone. Streets, highways, homes and gardens now display signs that read “Brown is the new green.” What was once lush, verdant and colorful is now dry as dust, brown, and dead. The West is suffering from a great thirst for water. It is emblematic of its thirst for God.
“O God, you are my God, for you I long, for you my soul is thirsting, My body pines for you like dry, weary land without water…
It is no secret that Los Angeles is mecca of images, idolatry and false faces. But on September 8th, the feast of the birth of the Blessed Mother, a replica of a miraculous image arrived in California, bearing the Face of Jesus Christ. It had traveled all the way from a shrine in a small mountain village in Italy called Manoppello, accompanied by the rector of the Holy Face Sanctuary, Fr. Carmine Cucinelli, OFM Capuchin and Mr. Paul Badde, journalist and author of several books about the Holy Face of Manoppello, who were there to give talks about the Holy Face. The first stop was the Carmelite Chapel of St. Joseph in Duarte, and the second stop, Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral in Los Angeles.
“… So I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and your glory.” Ps. 63:1
It is significant, that this holy image should come to this place, at this time. Images have great
impact on human beings, for good or evil, as everyone in Hollywood knows. When God became Man at the Incarnation, He made His Face known to us. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has said, the Face of Christ is “the supreme revelation of Christ’s Mercy.” Pope Francis, has declared an “Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy,” in a Bull of Indiction – THE FACE OF MERCY from the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 2015 to the Feast of Christ, King of the Universe and Face of the Father’s Mercy” November 20th, 2016. The primary task of the Church, Pope Francis urges us, is to be “a herald of mercy,” “especially at a moment full of great hopes and signs of contradiction… to introduce everyone to the great mystery of God’s mercy by contemplation of the Face of Christ.”
As I departed Los Angeles, a rain shower fell. It made all the news programs, it was so rare. It seemed to me that the arrival of His Holy Face to Los Angeles was bringing blessings and showering grace on the City of Angels. The Face of Jesus is the antidote to the poison of sin and evil in the world. He comes to give us “Living Water.” Nothing less will quench our thirst.
Let us follow Pope Francis’ exhortation to contemplate the Face of Christ through discipleship, images of the Face of Christ and in the Eucharist, and be true “heralds of mercy” by spreading devotion to the Face of Christ.
A special thanks to Mr. Paul Badde for allowing me to use his beautiful photos of The Holy Face of Manoppello!