Pilgrimage – A Journey Toward the Face of God, Pt. 8

Pt. 8: Seeking the Face of the Father in Rome

St. Peter's Basilica in Rome
St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome

“Jesus Christ is the Face of the Father’s mercy.  These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith.” –Pope Francis, Face of Mercy

The final stop of our pilgrimage was Rome and to enter the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica on the Feast of the Assumption.  Most pilgrims to Italy begin their pilgrimage in Rome, but there was a reason that I chose St. Peter’s for the final destination of our pilgrimage and it had to do with the pope.  Sometimes our motivation for doing things isn’t always clear, not even to ourselves.  It was upon reflection, in hindsight, that I understood why the order of the pilgrimage and also why seeing the Holy Father last, was so important to me.

Veil of the Holy Face of Manoppello Photo: Patricia Enk
Veil of the Holy Face of Manoppello
Photo: Patricia Enk

Looking back on our pilgrimage for the Jubilee Year of Mercy, we began with the image of the Face of Jesus in the Veil of Manoppello.  The bible tells us that there is only one mediator between God and man–Jesus Christ. (1 Tim 2:5) The Face of Jesus Christ is like a Door of Mercy–the face of the Church, through which we reach the Father.  We enter this “door” through devotion to the Holy Face through prayers and contemplation of the wounded Face of Jesus; by discipleship, to see Jesus in the Face of our neighbors, in the poor, the sick and the suffering; and through the Eucharistic Face of Jesus, from which we draw the grace and strength needed for our journey.  Then our faces, too, become like a “door” to our hearts and souls, and can radiate the Face of Jesus, the Face of Mercy to others.  Therefore, the “door” of the Face of Jesus was the best place for us to begin, the start of the journey.

Adoration of the Eucharistic Face of Christ in Loreto
Adoration of the Eucharistic Face of Christ in Loreto

After the sanctuary of Manoppello there were other steps along our path to seek the Face of God. The next step was Loreto–entering the door of the Holy Home in Nazareth.  God himself chose Mary as the ark of His dwelling place, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in this home.  Through Mary and the Holy Family we learn the examples of humility, obedience, and love. Here we saw the Face of Jesus in the Eucharist and in the sick and suffering.

Face of Jesus in Assisi photo: Paul Badde
Face of Jesus in Assisi
photo: Paul Badde

Next was Assisi–a powerful reminder of the Communion of Saints.  We are not alone in our quest to see the Face of God but have brothers and sisters in Heaven who have gone before us and are ready to help us if we only ask their help and guidance in trials and tribulations.  Their example encourages us to be a consolation and help, or a “Veronica,” to Jesus in our brothers and sisters here on earth. Reminding us that “…whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did it for me.” (Mt. 25:40)

Assisi Photo: Patricia Enk
Assisi
Photo: Patricia Enk
Catching a glimpse of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
Catching a glimpse of the Holy Father, Pope Francis “While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him…”(Lk.15:20)

And lastly, Rome.  Every year millions upon millions of people go to Rome just to get even a little glimpse of the pope. Most people consider those who actually have met the pope very fortunate. Why? After all, he is just a man like any other man, isn’t he? Well, yes and no.  Yes, Jorge Bergolio is a man, but as Pope Francis he is the Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth, and, whoever sees Jesus, sees the Father. (Jn. 14:9)  In a way, by seeking out the face of the pope, his words, and his blessing, we are seeking the Face of Our Father in Heaven.  All mankind has been created in the image and likeness of God and we have a natural longing, therefore, to see His Face; to enter into relationship with Him.  When the Word of God became man in Jesus Christ, at the Incarnation, what was previously impossible (to see God) became possible. In God’s infinite mercy He has not left us orphans; in and through Jesus He has given us His Church, His ministers, and His sacraments, so that is possible for us here on earth, albeit in an imperfect way, to see His Face.

Our pilgrimage mirrored the journey of the Christian soul on earth: through Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit, with the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints toward the Face of the Father. Our pilgrimage did not end in Rome, but begins anew each day.  We continue to seek His Face by taking up our cross and following Him in the hope that finally one day we will have the joy of truly seeing Him as He is in eternal glory.

Pilgrims carrying the Jubilee of Mercy Cross into the Holy Door of St. Peter's
Pilgrims carrying the Jubilee of Mercy Cross into the Holy Door of St. Peter’s

In Gratitude to God

“The grace of our Lord has been abundant, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I am foremost. But for that reason I was mercifully treated, so that in me, as the foremost, Christ Jesus might display all his patience as an example for those who would come to believe in Him for everlasting life. To the King of the ages, incorruptible, invisible, the only God, honor and glory forever and ever.” (1 Tim. 1:14-17)

Christus Imperat! photo: Patricia Enk
Christus Imperat!
photo: Patricia Enk

 

Pilgrimage – A Journey Toward the Face of God, Pt. 3

Pt. 3  The Steps of Pilgrimage – Works of Mercysteps

While the world media moves on rather quickly from disasters, the Christian remains at the foot of the Cross, because it is Jesus who suffers in our neighbor. Though the cameras and reporters depart, for some, just recovering from shock, it is just the beginning: Suffering from the deaths of loved ones, loss of belongings and means of support, living in hot tents or shelters, burying the dead, trying to put back together their lives. These are the steps of our pilgrimage: “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Mt. 25:40) We can become the face of Jesus to others.

“The Lord Jesus shows us the steps of the pilgrimage to attain our goal: ‘Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back. (Lk 6:37-38) …It is my burning desire that, during this Jubilee, the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy…to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. And let us not forget: to counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offenses, bear patiently those who do us ill, and pray for the living and the dead.” –Pope Francis, Face of Mercy 

Louisiana floods
Louisiana floods

As the rain poured down in Manoppello, we received word from our family that the state of Louisiana was once again flooding–which renewed anxiety and fear for our friends and loved ones back home.  Our area had already suffered greatly from floods back in March. Facing our fears and trusting in God is always a part of pilgrimage. And now, the heartbreaking news of the devastating earthquake in central Italy as well as the ongoing suffering from the terrible floods here in Louisiana remind us to seek the Face of Jesus in our neighbor on our life’s pilgrimage.

Image of Jesus crucified which hung in Bl. Mother Teresa's room. It was one of her last sights before dying.
Image of Jesus crucified which hung in Bl. Mother Teresa’s room. It was one of her last sights before dying.

In a few short days, we will celebrate the canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.  Blessed Mother Teresa heroically carried out the corporal and spiritual works of mercy by being the Merciful Face of Christ to others and by seeing the Merciful Face of Christ in others and most especially in the Eucharist, from which she and the Missionaries of Charity drew the grace and strength to serve Jesus “in the distressing disguise of the poor.”

“Seeking the Face of God in everything, everyone, all the time, and His hand in every happening; This is what it means to be contemplative in the heart of the world.  Seeing and adoring the presence of Jesus, especially in the lowly appearance of bread, and in the distressing disguise of the poor.”  –Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Mother Teresa source: Flicker
Mother Teresa
source: Flickr

Let us follow the example of Mother Teresa and seek the face of Jesus in our neighbor by whatever means we have and remember in our prayers all those who have suffered and are continuing to suffer in the world. “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (to be continued in Pt. 4...)

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!”

 

 

 

Face of Mercy – This is the time to change our lives

“This is the opportune moment to change our lives!  This is the time to allow our hearts to be touched!” — quotes from Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus 

"Jesus Christ is the Face of the Father's Mercy." -- Pope Francis
“Jesus Christ is the Face of the Father’s Mercy.” — Pope Francis

“Jesus Christ is the Face of the Father’s Mercy.  These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith.  Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching it’s culmination in Him…We need to constantly contemplate the mystery of mercy.  It is a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace.  Our salvation depends on it.  Mercy:  the word reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity.”  “With our eyes fixed on Jesus and His merciful gaze, we experience the love of the Most Holy Trinity.  The mission Jesus received from the Father was that of revealing the mystery of Divine Love in its fullness. ‘God is love.'” (1Jn 4:8,16)

“…wherever there are Christians, everyone should find an oasis of mercy.”

“Mercy is not contrary to justice but is the behavior of God toward the sinner…God does not deny justice. He rather envelops it and surpasses it with an even greater event in which we experience love as the foundation of true justice” (MV, 21). Jesus is the face of the mercy of God the Father: “God so loved the world […] [that] the world might be saved through him [the Son]” (Jn 3:16, 17)

FullSizeRender-11We are called to be merciful to each other and seek the Face of Jesus in our neighbor. “It is my burning desire that, during this Jubilee, the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.  It will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty.  And let us enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy.  Jesus introduces us to these works of mercy in His preaching so that know whether or not we are living as His disciples.  Let us rediscover these corporal and spiritual works of mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead.  And  let us not forget the spiritual works of mercy:  to counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offences, bear patiently those who do us ill, and pray for the living and the dead.”

“Life is a pilgrimage, and the human being is a viator, a pilgrim travelling along the road, making his way to the desired destination.” Let us keep our faces turned toward the Merciful Face of Jesus while on our pilgrimage, and “introduce everyone to the great mystery of God’s Mercy by contemplating the Face of Chirst.”  (Misericordiae Vultus) 

Prayer of Pope Francis for the Jubilee of Mercy

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

Lord Jesus Christ,
you have taught us to be merciful like the heavenly Father, and have told us that whoever sees you sees Him. Show us Your Face and we will be saved.  Your loving gaze freed Zaccheus and Matthew from being enslaved by money; the adulteress and Magdalene from seeking happiness only in created things; made Peter weep after his betrayal, and assured Paradise to the repentant thief.  Let us hear, as if addressed to each one of us, the words that You spoke to the Samaritan woman: “If you only knew the gift of God!”

You are the visible Face of the invisible Father, of the God Who manifests His power above all by forgiveness and mercy: let the Church be Your visible Face in the world, its Lord risen and glorified.  You willed that your ministers would also be clothed in weakness in order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error: and forgiven by God.

Come Holy Spirit!
Come Holy Spirit!

Send Your Spirit and consecrate every one of us with its anointing, so that the Jubilee of Mercy may be a year of grace from the Lord, and Your Church, with renewed enthusiasm, may bring good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed, and restore sight to the blind.

We ask this through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Mercy, You Who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.

 

Pope Francis also recommends we pray the Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen)  so that Mary, our Mother of Mercy “may never tire of turning her merciful eyes towards us, and make us worthy to contemplate the Face of Mercy, her Son Jesus.”

The Salve Regina or “Hail, Holy Queen”

Queen Beauty of Carmel
Queen Beauty of Carmel

Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope! To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears! Turn, then, O most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

“The face of evil bares itself more and more…”

“The Lord has always revealed to mortals the treasures of His Wisdom and His Spirit, but now that the face of evil bares itself more and more, so does the Lord bare His treasures more and more.”  — St. John of the Cross

Drawing by Sr. Genevieve of the Holy Face (Celine Martin, the sister of St. Therese)
Drawing by Sr. Genevieve of the Holy Face (Celine Martin, the sister of St. Therese)*

A blindness has descended upon the world–a spiritual blindness.  Society as a whole seems unable to distinguish what is good and true from evil and lies.  Like Pontius Pilate, few can recognize Truth even when He (Jesus) is standing before them.  The importance of being able to distinguish the Face of God from the face of Satan couldn’t be more serious; it is a matter of life and death for us.

Satan, first appearing as an angel of light, and proudly confident of his victory over mankind, now bares his “face of evil more and more,” but, “so does the Lord bare His treasures more and more.”  God’s greatest treasures are hidden in His Holy Face. (To name a few: the virtues of humility, detachment, love of suffering, self sacrifice and love–the treasures of the Holy Face are infinite.) Perhaps that is why, in this crucial point in history, St. Pope John Paul II dedicated the millennium to the Holy Face of Christ; and why Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI called upon us to contemplate and shine the light of the Face of Christ on every human being through evangelization; and why Pope Francis holds out to mankind the Merciful Face of Jesus Christ.  Mankind must turn back to the Face of God or perish!

But, in order to turn back to the Face of God, we must be capable of recognizing Him, in our neighbor, in the Scriptures, in the Holy Eucharist and in the Person of Jesus Christ who was born, suffered, died, and rose again for our sake.  If we do not recognize Jesus, neither will we be able to recognize the face of Satan, who seeks to destroy us.

Scripture seems to contradict itself in describing Jesus Christ:  “You are the fairest of the children of men, and graciousness is poured out upon you lips.” (Ps. 45) “He was transfigured before their eyes, His Face became as dazzling as the sun, His clothes as radiant as light.” (Mt. 17:2) “There was in Him no stately bearing to make us look at Him, no appearance that would attract us to Him. He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity.  One of those from whom men hide their faces, spurned and we held Him in no esteem. (Isaiah 53:2-3)   It is not always easy to recognize Jesus, He may also be hidden in the poor, the suffering, the young the old. To truly recognize Jesus, we need to ask God for eyes of faith and the light of the Holy Spirit.  As Pope Benedict XVI had said,“The Holy Spirit illuminates the reciprocity:  Jesus has divine dignity and God has the human Face of Jesus.  God shows Himself in Jesus and by doing so gives us the truth about ourselves.”  The truth that He is God, Eternal Wisdom, Power, and Merciful Love… and we are not.  We have nothing that does not first come from God. So, to recognize the Face of God we must be able to distinguish it from the face of the enemy.  

So, how then do we recognize “the face of evil,” especially when Satan may appear as an angel of light?  When he announced the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis also recommended the reading of Dante’s Divine Comedy as a spiritual preparation. There is a relevant passage in Canto 34 of Dante’s The Inferno that contains keen insights that can help us to recognize the face of Satan… or rather faces, as Dante gives Satan three faces in mimicry of the Blessed Trinity.

Gustav Dore's illustration of Canto 34 of Dante's Inferno
Gustav Dore’s illustration of Canto 34 of Dante’s Inferno
If once
He was as fair as he is ugly now, 
and raised his brow against his Maker still, 
he well is made the source of every woe. 
But when I saw three faces in his head, 
how great a marvel it appeared to me! 
One face in front, and it was ruddy red; 
the other two were joined to it upon 
the middle of the shoulder on each side, 
and joined above, where the cock sports his crown;
and the right was a kind of yellowish white, 
and where the Nile comes rolling to the plains, 
men’s faces are the color on the left. 
Beneath each face extended two huge wings, 
large enough to suffice for such a bird. 
I never saw a sail at sea so broad.
They had no feathers, but were black and scaled
like a bat’s wings, and those he flapped, and flapped, 
and from his flapping raised three gales that swept 
Cocytus, and reduced it all to ice. 
With his six eyes he wept, and down three chins
dribbled his tears and slaver slick with blood. 
Anthony Esolen writes in his excellent commentary on The Divine Comedy: “At the center of evil there is nothing but a small, hard, cold kernel of self, transcendentally small, a something just this side of emptiness. Despite his apparent power in the world, that is what Lucifer finally is, and despite his threatening size, that is how Dante has portrayed him. That he flaps his wings everlastingly only underscores his impotence. He is the ‘evil worm’ who ‘gnaws a whole into the world.’ For Dante, escape from sin is escape from that tight little hole, to breathe the air of freedom and humanity, and to look upon those vast realms above–realms meant for the fire of love, and therefore also meant for man.”
….”Satan is an anti-Trinity. The power, wisdom, and love of God are inverted here into impotence, ignorance, and hate. The colors of the faces seem to correspond with the colors of the men of the three continents Dante knew: ruddy, (European), yellowish (Asian), and dusky (African).” 
. . . “Satan’s action locks him in place. What should be a symbol of freedom–the flapping of wings–is the engine of his imprisonment. He who would be free of God is bound by his own will and shackled into a dumb, mechanical dullness.” 
Satan’s face will always be always be one of impotence, ignorance, and hate and God’s Face will always be one of Divine Power, Wisdom and Love.  One wonders how the world persists in blindness; how it calls good “evil” and evil “good” in failing to recognize either the Face of God or the face of Satan.  We must pray for the “eyes of faith” and the light of the Holy Spirit for ourselves and the world.  We must pray too, that as “evil bares it’s face more and more” that God will reveal the treasures of the Divine Power, Wisdom, and Merciful Love of His Holy Face more and more so that mankind will return to the Merciful Face of God!
************
Young Celine (left) and St. Therese (right) 1881
Young Celine (left) and St. Therese (right) 1881

*The drawing above is by Sr. Genevieve of the Holy Face (Celine Martin) the sister of St. Therese of The Child Jesus and the Holy Face.  One year after the Saint’s death in 1898, the photographer Secondo Pia took the first photographs of the Shroud of Turin.  He was shocked when on the photographic negatives, the “positive” image of a man who had endured terrible suffering appeared.  While Celine was reading a book on the amazing discovery, she heard the voice of her sister St. Therese speak these words, “Paint Him, paint a new Holy Face, paint Him as He was!”  In 1904, after praying and meditating hours before a print of the Holy Face on the Shroud of Turin she  executed the charcoal drawing.

 

Celine has written this about St. Therese’s devotion to the Holy Face:  “Devotion to the Holy Face was, for Therese, the crown and compliment of her love for the Sacred Humanity of Our Lord.  This Blessed Face was the mirror wherein she beheld the Heart and Soul of her Well-Beloved.  Just as the picture of a loved one serves to bring the whole person before us, so in the Holy Face of Christ, Therese beheld the entire Humanity of Jesus.  We can say unequivocally that this devotion was the burning inspiration of the Saint’s life.

St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face
St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face
St. Therese herself said, “Until my coming to Carmel, I had never fathomed the depths of the treasures hidden in the Holy Face... I understood what real glory was.  He whose kingdom is not of this world (John 13:36) showed me that true wisdom consists in ‘desiring to be unknown and counted on as nothing’ (Imitation of Christ 1,2-3) ‘in placing one’s joys in the contempt of self.’Ah! I thirsted after suffering and I longed to be forgotten.”  —The Last Conversations
 

 

 

Happy New Year 2016 – May The Lord Bless and Keep You!

Mary, Mother of God (Fra Angelico)
Mary, Mother of God
(Fra Angelico)

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

Peace, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has said, is the summit of the six actions of God in this blessing, which are in our favor; “His most sublime gift, in which He turns toward us the splendor of His Face.”

January 1st is the Feast of Mary, Mother of God, who is the Queen of Peace and this is also the World Day of Peace.  Today Pope Francis said, “She is the Mother of Mercy, because she bore in her womb the very Face of Divine Mercy, Jesus, Emanuel, the Expectation of the nations, the “Prince of Peace.” (Is. 9:5)  Jesus has given us His Mother so that we may never be left alone on our pilgrimage through life, especially in times of trouble and uncertainty.

Pope Francis has also said, “Our eyes need to focus on the particular signs God has given us, to see His merciful love first-hand.”  The Holy Father recalled the suffering, violence and death of many innocent people in the previous year, but he also noted the many acts of kindness, love and solidarity that go unnoticed but should not be obscured “by the arrogance of evil.”  The good always wins,” said Pope Francis, “even if at times it can appear weak and hidden.” 

One of the “particular signs God has given us, to see His merciful love first-hand” is the Face of Christ which He offers to all humanity as “the supreme revelation of the Father’s Mercy.”  By contemplating and rejoicing in the splendor of His Face through devotion to the Holy Face we may obtain the peace that the world so desperately needs.

Pope Francis concluded his blessing by appealing to Mary saying, “Send us your blessing on this day consecrated to your honor.  Show us the Face of Jesus your Son, who bestows upon the entire world mercy and peace.” Finally, the Pope concluded by calling on the faithful to pray each morning for God to “shine his face” on us, and invited those in the square to repeat after him: “Today, the Lord makes His Face to shine upon me.”

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has written, “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,” Pope Benedict XVI says, “is the foundation of our Peace, which nothing can take from us.”

+Peace and have a Blessed New Year!

“Mary, Mother of the Holy Face, help us to have ‘hands innocent and a heart pure,’ hands illumined by the truth of love and hearts enraptured by divine beauty, that transformed by the encounter with Christ, we may gift ourselves to the poor and the suffering, whose faces reflect the hidden presence of your Son Jesus. Amen.” — Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

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!

God’s Mirror – The Immaculate Conception

Immaculate Conception by Bartolome Esteban Murillo
Immaculate Conception by Bartolome Esteban Murillo

“Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.”

Pope Francis has chosen December 8th, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, as the opening of the Holy Jubilee Year of Mercy, “because of its rich meaning.” “After the sin of Adam and Eve, God did not wish to leave humanity alone in the throes of evil.  So he turned his gaze to Mary, holy and immaculate in love (cf. Eph 1:4), choosing her to be the Mother of man’s Redeemer.  When faced with the gravity of sin, God responds with the fullness of mercy.” Pope Francis (Face of Mercy)

Mary was “Blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing,” (cf. Eph 1:3) chosen by God from all eternity to be the Mother of the Redeemer.  It is she who leads us to Jesus, so that we may contemplate, together with her, the Face of Mercy.  As the Immaculate Conception, Mary bears in herself the most perfect reflection of the face of God.  Pope St. John Paul II wrote, “The Blessed Virgin saw shining upon her, as no other creature, the face of the Father, rich in grace and mercy.”

As the Jubilee Year of Mercy begins, let us fix our gaze on Mary rather than on the profane things of the world. We keep Mary before our eyes in order to contemplate in her everything that is good and true and beautiful. “She is the proclamation of a merciful God who does not surrender to the sin of his children,” Pope St. John Paul II tells us “in Mary shines forth God’s sublime and surprising tenderness for the entire human race.  In her, humanity regains its former beauty and the divine plan is revealed to be stronger than evil…” In Mary “the Creator has kept the original beauty of creation uncontaminated” so that in the Immaculate Conception, “the Father’s original, wondrous plan of love was reestablished in an even more wondrous way.”

A Little Litany by G.K.Chesterton

Madonna and Child from the Robert Lehman Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art
“Our Lady, in whose face – more than any other creature – we can recognize the features of the Incarnate Word.” –Pope Benedict XVI Madonna and Child from the Robert Lehman Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art

When God turned back eternity and was young,
Ancient of Days, grown little for your mirth
(As under the low arch the land is bright)
Peered through you, gate of heaven – and saw the earth.

Or shutting out his shining skies awhile
Built you about him for a house of gold
To see in pictured walls his storied world
Return upon him as a tale is told.

Or found his mirror there; the only glass
That would not break with that unbearable light
Till in a corner of the high dark house
God looked on God, as ghosts meet in the night.

Star of his morning; that unfallen star
In the strange starry overturn of space
When earth and sky changed places for an hour
And heaven looked upwards in a human face.

Or young on your strong knees and lifted up
Wisdom cried out, whose voice is in the street,
And more than twilight of twiformed cherubim
Made of his throne indeed a mercy-seat.

Or risen from play at your pale raiment’s hem
God, grown adventurous from all time’s repose,
Of your tall body climbed the ivory tower
And kissed upon your mouth the mystic rose.

 

The Coming of the King and Living Face of the Father’s Mercy

“As a deer yearns for running streams, so my soul is longing for you, my King and my God.  My soul is thirsting for God, the living God, when shall I see Him face to face?” (Ps. 42)

Jesus Christ King of the Universe..."and living face of the Father's Mercy."--Pope Francis
Jesus Christ King of the Universe…”and living face of the Father’s Mercy.”–Pope Francis

“I would like to ask many of you to think about this: “There will be a day in which I encounter the Lord face to face.” And this is our goal, our encounter. We do not await a time or a place; rather we are going to encounter a person: Jesus. Thus, the problem is not “when” these premonitory signs of the last days will occur, but rather that we find ourselves prepared. It’s also not about knowing “how” these things will happen, but instead “how” we have to act today, in awaiting these things.”–Pope Francis (Angelus Address November 15, 2015)

On the last Sunday of the liturgical year before Advent, November 22, 2015, we celebrate the coming of the King  – “The Solemnity of Jesus Christ King of the Universe,” the majestic title given by Pope Paul VI in 1969. When referring to this feast day Pope Francis has added seven words, “– and living face of the Father’s Mercy,” in Misericordiae Vultus, the document declaring the upcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy.

The Feast of Christ the King was instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XI in response to the world’s increasing secularization.  He wrote in Quas Primas:

“While nations insult the beloved name of our Redeemer by suppressing all mention of it in their conferences and parliaments, we must all the more loudly proclaim His kingly dignity and power, all the more universally affirm His rights.”

The virtue of Christ’s claim to kingship, which embraces the whole of mankind, as Creator and Redeemer, Pope Pius XI explained, is that societies as well as individuals owe Him obligations as King.  Pope Pius XI also asserted the Church’s right to be free from secular authority.

“When we pay honor to the princely dignity of Christ, men will doubtless be reminded that the Church, founded by Christ as a perfect society, has a natural and inalienable right to perfect freedom and immunity from the power of the state; and that in fulfilling the task committed to her by God or teaching, ruling, and guiding to eternal bliss those who belong to the kingdom of Christ, she cannot be subject to any external power.”

This assertion was true and necessary to proclaim in 1925 and even more true and necessary today as the Church’s freedom to govern itself and proclaim the Gospel is seriously threatened. We must also defend and honor the name of our God and King as well, particularly when the name of God is used to carry out barbaric and horrific acts of violence against mankind, made in His Image.  As Pope Francis stated in his Angelus address, “to use the name of God to justify this path is blasphemy.” Blasphemy is the greatest sin against the face of God.  (Prayers of reparation may be found here.)

Our Crucified King of Mercy
Our Crucified King of Mercy

The date for the Feast of Christ the King, which was originally set by Pope Pius XI as the Sunday preceding All Saints Day, was moved  by Pope Paul VI to the end of the liturgical calendar, the last Sunday preceding Advent, to more perfectly anticipate the “Coming of the King,” and look forward to His coming, that day when we will see our King  face to face in hope.

“Hope: this virtue that is so hard to live.” says Pope Francis. “The smallest of the virtues, but the strongest. And our hope has a face: the face of the Risen Lord, who comes “with great power and glory,” and this will manifest his love, crucified and transfigured in the Resurrection. The triumph of Jesus at the end of time will be the triumph of the cross, the demonstration that the sacrifice of oneself for love of neighbor, in imitation of Christ, is the only victorious power, the only stable point in the midst of the upheavals of the world.”

While earthly “kings” may forcibly impose their power over their subjects, Jesus Christ Our King comes to us as a Good Shepherd and Servant of all.  Though “All power in Heaven and on earth has been given Him ,” the Almighty King of the Universe, the Alpha and the Omega is also our Crucified King.  When we turn back to His Face in repentance and love, He “Who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood,” turns His Merciful Face towards us.

We can look forward in hope to His coming again.  But He must reign in our minds, in our wills, and in our hearts. We must desire to love and serve Our King, Christ Jesus alone, for “Behold, he is coming amid the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him.  All the peoples of the earth will lament him.  Yes.  Amen.”  (Rv 1:7)

Prayer to Christ the King

O Lord our God, You alone are the Most Holy King and Ruler of all nations.
We pray to You, Lord, in the great expectation of receiving from You, O Divine King, mercy, peace, justice and all good things.
Protect, O Lord our King, our families and the land of our birth.
Guard us we pray Most Faithful One.
Protect us from our enemies and from Your Just Judgment
Forgive us, O Sovereign King, our sins against you.
Jesus, You are a King of Mercy.
We have deserved Your Just Judgment
Have mercy on us, Lord, and forgive us.
We trust in Your Great Mercy.
O most awe-inspiring King, we bow before You and pray;
May Your Reign, Your Kingdom, be recognized on earth.

Amen.

The Next Solemnity of  Christ the King will be at the conclusion of the Jubilee Year  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–Pope Francis) 

 

 

 

Pope Francis – Discovering the authentic face of man through the Face of Jesus

On November 10th, during his visit to the beautiful city of Florence, Italy, Pope Francis spoke about the Holy Face of Jesus and the authentic face of man:

Pope Francis
Pope Francis

“We can speak about humanism only by starting from the centrality of Jesus, discovering in Him the features of the authentic face of man.  And the contemplation of the face of the dead and risen Jesus that recomposes our humanity, fragmented as it may be by the hardships of life, or marked by sin.  We must not domesticate the power of the face of Christ.  The face is the image of His transcendence…. I do not wish here to draw an abstract image of the ‘new humanism,’ a certain idea of man, but to present with simplicity some features of Christian humanism, which is that of the sentiments, the mind of Christ.  These are not abstract temporary sensations but rather represent the warm interior force that makes us able to live and to make decisions:”

Humility

“The first sentiment is humility. The obsession preserving one’s own glory and ‘dignity,” one’s own influence, must not form part of our sentiments.  We must seek God’s glory, that does not coincide with ours.  God’s glory that shines in the humility of the stable in Bethlehem or in the dishonor of Christ’s cross always surprises us.”

Selflessness

“Another sentiment is selflessness; The humanity of the Christian is always outward-looking.  Please, let us avoid ‘remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits that make us feel safe.’  Our duty is to make this world a better place, and to fight.  Our faith is revolutionary because of the inspiration that comes from the Holy Spirit.”

Beautitude

“Another of Jesus Christ’s sentiments is beatitude.  The Christian is blessed.  In the Beatitudes, the Lord shows us the path.  By taking it, we human beings can arrive at the most authentically human and divine happiness.  For the great saints, beatitude is about humiliation and poverty.  But also in the most humble of our people there is much of this beatitude:  it is that of he who knows the richness of solidarity, of sharing the little he possesses.  The Beatitudes we read in the Gospel begin with a blessing and end with a promise of consolation.  They introduce us to a path of possible greatness, that of the spirit, and when the spirit is ready all the rest comes by itself.”