September 17th marks the anniversary of the death of the Holy Capuchin priest of Manoppello–the Servant of God, Padre Domenico da Cese. Like his friend and fellow Capuchin, St. Padre Pio, the humble Padre Domenico was a mystic and stigmatist who had extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit.
(For more about St. Padre Pio’s last case of bilocation and Padre Domenico click here.)
As a nine year old boy in 1915, Padre Domenico predicted the devastating Avenzzano earthquake in Italy. A 6.7 earthquake hit that region the next morning, killing more than 30,000 people, including two of his sisters and burying him and his father in the rubble of their church. A man he didn’t know pulled him from the rubble to safety, whose face he later recognized on his first visit as a friar to the Shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello. When Padre Domenico knelt before the “Il Volto Santo” or Face of Jesus, the miraculous veil, he exclaimed, “This is the man who saved me from the rubble!” He remained at the Shrine as Rector until the time of his death in 1978. To learn more about his incredible life and passionate love for the Holy Face you can watch this wonderful video of his life, “The Long Road of Fr. Domenico, from Cese to Turin” by clicking here.
At the Last Supper Jesus offers His deeply moving prayer to the Father for his disciples, the priests, which begins, “Father the hour has come…” (John 17) Jesus prays that the Father glorify Him and that He may be glorified in them (his priests) and that He keep them in His name that “they may become one as we are.” Jesus prays too, “for those who will believe in me through their word.”
“A priest is not a priest for himself,” St. John Vianney said, “he does not give himself absolution; he does not administer the Sacraments for himself. He is not for himself, he is for you.”
These men, like the first apostles, are fully human and share in the weakened condition of all of mankind since the fall of Adam. Yet they are called by God for the sanctification of God’s people. St. Paul writes:
“Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness and so, for this reason, must make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people. No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God, just as Aaron was. In the same way, it was not Christ who glorified himself in becoming high priest, but rather the one who said to him: “You are my son; this day I have begotten you;” just as he says in another place: “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” In the days when he was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, declared by God high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. (Heb. 5:1-10)
The faithful are entrusted to the priest’s care, who as a Good Shepherd, walks with them on the path which leads to Christ. Through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the priest brings the people to a true knowledge of the Father and the Son and “To the contemplation of the living and pulsating reality of the Trinity ‘faciem ad faciem’ (face to face).” (St. Pope John Paul II) “The Holy Spirit,” says St. Irenaeus, “the stairway of our ascent to God, draws the priest to the Father, stirring in his heart a burning desire to see God’s Face…the Paraclete illumines the priest about his own Person, that the priest may come to see the Spirit in his own heart and history.”
Whenever a priest administers the sacraments, says St. Pope John Paul II, “the priest lendsChrist his own face and voice:” “Do this in memory of Me.” (Luke 22:19) “Priests are called to show forth the Face of the Good Shepherd and therefore to have the Heart of Christ Himself.” (St. Pope John Paul II) Therefore, let us pray for all priests and bishops, that the Holy Spirit will strengthen them in all their gifts. St. Teresa of Avila once said, “When you see a priest you should say, ‘There is he who made me a child of God, and opened Heaven to me by Holy Baptism; he who purified me after I had sinned; who gives nourishment to my soul.'” St. Therese told her sister, Celine, “Let us live for souls, let us be apostles, let us save above all the souls of priests… let us pray and suffer for them and on the last day Jesus will be grateful!” [St. Therese of Lisieux, Letter 94]
The Priest is the Face of Christ to us!
Prayer for Priests
“Eternal Father, we offer Thee, with the hands of Mary, the Holy Face of Jesus, Thy Son, and the entire generous holocaust of all that we are, in reparation for so many sins that are committed, and, especially, for offenses against the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. We make this offering, in a particular way, so that Priests, by the holiness of their lives, may show the world the adorable features of the Divine Countenance shining with the light of truth and love, for the triumph of the Church, and for the spread of the Kingdom.” (Bl. Mother Maria Pierina De Micheli)
Torrential rains have caused heavy flooding here in Louisiana on March 11 &12. In your charity, please pray for all those who have been affected. The Benedictine St. Joseph’s Abbey & Seminary College in Covington, Louisiana, has suffered tremendous damage from the flood, but, praise God, no loss of life. The Monastery took in approximately two feet of water. This is a link to their Facebook page with updates on their condition since the flooding and efforts to help: (click here)
The terrible flooding has also devastated the FOCUSTV studio destroying much of their equipment and historic archives. FOCUSTV, begun by the late Archbishop Philip Hannan (Google “The Archbishop Wore Combat Boots” to learn his story), gives glory to God through the social media. They have been instrumental in sharing the devotion to the Holy Face as well. Please pray for the good people at FOCUSTV and if you would like to help, please click (here).
“I never cease to implore blessings for you from Jesus, and to beg the Lord to transform you totally in Him. How beautiful His Face, how sweet His eyes and what a good thing it is to stay close to Him…”–St. Padre Pio O.F.M.Cap
St. Padre Pio, a Friar Minor Capuchin priest and mystic, was well-known for his many spiritual gifts such as the stigmata, bi-location, and for his ability to read the hearts of penitents who came to him in confession. During his life St. Padre Pio suffered as Our Lord did, not only through physical pain, but by humiliations, calumny, slander and mistrust that deeply wounded his heart, in this he shared in the suffering of the Face of Christ.
He wrote in his meditations on The Agony of Jesus of the Face of Jesus, the “Innocent Lamb,” “His Face covered with sadness and at the same time with love:”
“He [Jesus] seems to be at the extremity of suffering… He is prostrate with His Face to the ground before the majesty of His Father. The Sacred Face of Him Who enjoys through the hypostatic union the beatific vision of the Divine Glory accorded to both Angels and Saints in Heaven, lies disfigured on the ground. My God! My Jesus! Art Thou not the God of Heaven and earth, equal in all things to Thy Father, Who humiliates Thee to the point of losing even the semblance of man? …It is to repair and expiate for my haughtiness, that Thou bowest down thus before Thy Father.”
It is no wonder then, in the extremity of his own suffering, St. Padre Pio’s last case of bi-location was before the relic of the Holy Face of Jesus at the shrine of “Il Volto Santo” in Manoppello, Italy, 200 km north of San Giovanni Rotundo, where Padre Pio lay dying. His friend and fellow Friar Minor Capuchin, the Servant of God, Padre Domenico da Cese, was at that time the rector of the shrine. Padre Domenico gave testimony that at the dawn of the last day of St. Padre Pio’s earthly life, he unlocked the doors of the shrine of the Holy Face and was astounded to find Padre Pio in prayer, in the choir behind the altar before the Sacred Image of the Face of Jesus. St. Padre Pio spoke then to Padre Domenico saying, “I do not trust myself any more. I am coming to an end. Pray for me. Good bye until we meet in Paradise.” 24 hours later St. Padre Pio died in his cell in San Giovanni.
“If I know that someone is afflicted in body or in soul, what will I not do in the presence of the Lord to see him freed from these evils? I should willingly take upon myself all his sufferings, if I could only free him from them. I should surrender in his favor the fruits of these sufferings, if the Lord were to permit it.” — St. Padre Pio
Below are photos of the miraculous image “Il Volto Santo” that Padre Pio prayed before in his own agony. This “living image” is very difficult to capture in a photograph because it is a changing image, one face, an infinite number of expressions but always a Face of Mercy and Peace.
Jesus makes Himself our mirror – “He who never meditates is like a person who never looks in the mirror, therefore, not knowing that he is untidy, he goes out looking disorderly. The person who meditates and directs his thoughts to God, Who is the mirror of his soul, tries to know his faults, attempts to correct them, moderates his impulses, and puts his conscience in order.” — St. Padre Pio
Like St. Padre Pio let us “look into the mirror” and contemplate always the Face of Christ!