When he placed the New Millennium under “the Radiant sign of the Face of Christ” Pope St. John Paul II wrote, “To contemplate the Face of Christ, and to contemplate it with Mary, is the ‘program’ which I have set before the Church at the dawn of the third millennium…It is the Church’s task to reflect the light of Christ in every historical period, to make His Face shine also before new generations of the new millennium. Our witness, however, would be hopelessly inadequate if we ourselves had not first contemplated His Face.” The Rosary is a traditional Christian prayer directed to the contemplation of Christ’s Face. “Without contemplation, the Rosary is a body without a soul,” says Pope St. John Paul II, “and runs the risk of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas, in violation of the admonition of Christ.”
Contemplation is a gift, a grace, from God. It is a communion in which God transforms a soul into His likeness. To put it more simply, as St. Teresa of Jesus says, contemplation is “a close sharing between friends…taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us.” Contemplation is not something beyond our reach however–we have an incomparable model in Mary; the eyes of her heart were always turned toward His Face. To dispose our souls to receive this great gift of God we need only reach for a Rosary and pray it with humility, listening attentively in the Spirit together with Mary, in silent love–that veil of mystery–to the Father’s voice. When we contemplate the scenes or mysteries of the Rosary in union with Mary, the Rosary becomes an unceasing praise of God; a way to learn from her about her son, Jesus, to discover His secrets and understand His message for us.
To recite the Rosary, which can be called a compendium of the Gospel, Pope St. John Paul II says, “is to contemplate the Face of Christ in union with, and at the school of, His Most Holy Mother…Against the background of the words of the Ave Maria the principal events of the life of Jesus Christ pass before the eyes of the soul. They take shape in the complete series of the joyful, [luminous,] sorrowful and glorious mysteries, and they put us in living communion with Jesus through–we might say through the heart of his Mother…The Rosary belongs among the finest and most praiseworthy traditions of Christian contemplation…To look upon the Face of Christ, to recognize its mystery amid the daily events and sufferings of His human life, and then to grasp the divine splendor definitively revealed in the Risen Lord, seated in glory at the right hand of the Father; this is the task of every follower of Christ and therefore the task of each one of us. In contemplating Christ’s Face we become open to receiving the mystery of Trinitarian life, experiencing ever anew the love of the Father and delighting in the joy of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul’s words can then be applied to us ‘Beholding the glory of the Lord, we are being changed into His likeness, from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.'” (Rosarium Virginus Mariae)
The entire month of October is dedicated to the Holy Rosary and October 7th is celebrated as the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. The feast, originally named for Our Lady of Victory, commemorated the stunning victory, against all odds, obtained by Our Lady in the Battle of Lepanto through the prayer of the Rosary–which saved Christendom on October 7th, in 1571. By keeping our eyes fixed on the Face of Jesus as we pray the Rosary, together with Mary, through her maternal intercession, we too may obtain great victories through the heart of her Son Jesus, who obtained for all mankind the greatest victory over sin and death by His Resurrection.
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).
“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
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.
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!
*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 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
“Christ’s response, “Whoever has seen me, has seen the Father, “lead us into the heart of Christological faith.” — Pope Benedict XVI
Act of Consecration
O Lord Jesus, we believe most firmly in You, we love You. You are the Eternal Son of God and the Son Incarnate of the Blessed Virgin Mary. You are the Lord and Absolute Ruler of all creation. We acknowledge You, therefore, as the Universal Sovereign of all creatures. You are the Lord and Supreme Ruler of all mankind, and we, in acknowledging this Your dominion, consecrate ourselves to You now and forever. Loving Jesus, we place our family under the protection of Your Holy Face, and of Your Virgin Mother Mary most sorrowful. We promise to be faithful to You for the rest of our lives and to observe with fidelity Your Holy Commandments. We will never deny before men, You and Your Divine rights over us and all mankind. Grant us the grace to never sin again; nevertheless, should we fail, O Divine Saviour, have mercy on us and restore us to Your grace. Radiate Your Divine Countenance upon us and bless us now and forever. Embrace us at the hour of our death in Your Kingdom for all eternity, through the intercession of Your Blessed Mother, of all Your Saints who behold You in Heaven, and the just who glorify You on earth. O Jesus, be mindful of us forever and never forsake us; protect our family. O Mother of Sorrows, by the eternal glory which you enjoy in Heaven, through the merits of your bitter anguish in the Sacred Passion of your Beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, obtain for us the grace that the Precious Blood shed by Jesus for the redemption of our souls, be not shed for us in vain. We love you, O Mary. Embrace us and bless us, O Mother. Protect us in life and in death. Amen.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.
Happy Feast of The Holy Face of Jesus!
“It is the Church’s task to reflect the light of Christ in every historical period, to make His Face shine before the generations of the new millennium. Our witness, however, would be hopelessly inadequate if we ourselves had not first contemplated His FACE!” –St. Pope John Paul II
All are invited…
Tuesday, February 17th from 6pm to 9pm Benediction, St. Anselm Catholic Church, Madisonville, Louisiana
You are invited to an evening of prayer, sacred music, and Adoration of The Eucharistic Face of Christ in The Blessed Sacrament. The Sacrament of Confession will be available throughout the evening.
For those in the New Orleans, LA area, there will take place the Annual Holy Face Triduum February 14, 15 and 16 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Kenner. Each night begins with the Rosary at 6:00 pm, followed by Mass at 6:30 pm.
In addition, on February 16th, there will be the Mardi Gras Day of Prayer. Mass at 12:00 noon, 6:30 pm, and closing Midnight Mass for Ash Wednesday. In between Masses, the Church will be open for prayer and devotions.
“O Jesus, Whose adorable Face ravishes my heart, I implore Thee to fix deep within me Thy Divine Image and set me on fire with Thy Love, that I may be found worthy to come to contemplation of Thy glorious Face in Heaven. Amen.” — St. Therese
Ever since I first laid eyes on the Holy Face of Manoppello, Italy, I have wanted to paint it. Surely every artist who has looked upon the image has felt the same desire. The “Il Volto Santo” seems to be the prototype of ancient images of the Face of Christ in the Eastern and Western Church as there is abundant evidence in museums and churches. There were more than a few obstacles to fulfill this desire of my heart to paint His Face. For one thing, I didn’t attempt to take a photograph when I saw the “Il Volto Santo” as I had come to pray as a pilgrim to the Basilica in Manoppello, and made up my mind to get a picture or holy card at the Sanctuary’s small gift shop. Also, I had seen numerous photographs–all different, some strange, flat or distorted, the color itself varying greatly from one picture to another. Some photos are very dark and the image appears covered with wounds, as one would see Christ in His Passion. Others bright, beautiful and fresh, with wounds healed as it must have appeared at the moment of The Resurrection.
The changeability of the image itself posed a great challenge. When standing by myself before “Il Volto Santo,” I saw the face with wounds, from a crown of thorns, bruises, blood, torn beard and red inflamed skin. But, upon kneeling … words cannot express what is felt, a living face of a man, wounds very faint and the eyes…! The eyes filled with mercy and peace more deep and still than if Jesus had stilled the waters of the ocean to it’s depths… Again, nothing could compare to what my eyes beheld. In addition, seeing was one thing and experiencing another. I knew that trying to use paint to convey that experience of God’s Mercy and Peace would fall infinitely short of the goal. Still, the desire to paint His Face remained.
More than two years passed before I even began. As I said, no photo I’ve seen would do, but finally I decided to look at several and use the elements that, for me, came close to my memory of the veil. Even though I cannot paint icons in the traditional sense, I do paint them in my own fashion, not having formal art education. Being a wife and raising six children has been my primary vocation in life, and I’ve fit my painting in between the many things that fill a mother’s day. So, when I got fed up with my own excuses not to begin to paint the Face of Jesus, I prepared an icon board, selected a few pictures and began to draw.
Artists look at things a little differently, I think. I had planned on making a simple outline of the main features of the face from a relatively clear photo of the Veil of Manoppello that I came across, but my plan took a different turn. Come to think of it, that is often how the Holy Spirit works. Icons are said to be “written” by the hand of the artist through the Holy Spirit. I drew the lines, and as other faint lines and shadows appeared to my eyes, I drew them as well with the same value or darkness as the most obvious lines.
The results left me astonished. What isn’t readily apparent manifested itself in such a beautiful way. Faint marks on the forehead, for example, appeared as marks from thorns. Faint short lines on the face which turned this way and that were obviously the hair from a torn beard. Looking very closely and drawing each curved line became soft waves of hair. All were there, but faintly. The drawing just made the facts more noticeable. The concentration of the lines above the brow and below the nose accentuated the space surrounding the eyes as though a blindfold had protected them from some of the blows inflicted on the rest of the face.
I began the painting in silent prayer. Although sacred music can elevate the mind and heart, I greatly prefer the “language of heaven” which is silence. My family would attest to the fact that when I paint, I tune out all noise anyway. The house could come down around my ears and I probably wouldn’t look up. St. Teresa of Avila spoke of ignoring “the mad-woman running around the house” referring to distractions while she was trying to pray. We probably all have our own “mad-woman” who tries to distract us with many cares, anxieties and trivialities as we try to turn our attention to God. Painting is a wonderful way to shut the door on the crazy lady and focus solely on listening to God.
It is true that God’s Face can be found in the Scriptures and in our neighbor, but I seek Him most often in images of Jesus and in particular, I love the image of “Il Volto Santo,” in Italy. It is for me an icon which encapsulates the whole of Divine Revelation in one Face. As I select colors and brush and begin my work, I gaze at Him, the words of Scripture are ever present in my mind, beginning with the longing of all mankind, “Your Face, O Lord, I seek. Hide not your Face from me.” (Psalm 27) “There was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him, nor appearance that would attract us to him.” “…a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity”(Isaiah 53:2 – 3), “For God so loved the world that He gave it His only begotten Son.” (John 3:16) “The word became flesh, and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14) With sorrow, I look at the terrible wounds on the face of Christ, and the words of St. Pope John Paul II echo in my heart, “We cannot stop at the image of The Crucified One. He is the Risen One!” and St. Paul’s words, “All of us, with unveiled faces, seeing seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image.” (2 Cor 3:18) and more and more… There are no end to the depths of the treasures in His Face.
How could I hope a painting could ever match the beauties that are found in His Face? It can never be possible unless He painted it Himself, so I ask Him to paint His image in my heart. I knew at the outset I would be unsatisfied with the result of my painting, because only seeing Him face to face in eternity could satisfy that infinite desire. Still, I can look at the work of my hands, pray, and remember that there is always “more than meets the eye.”
The words on the icon are: Illumina, Domine, Vultum Tuum Super Nos. or “Shine the light of Your Face on us, O Lord.”
May His Face shine upon you always!
“Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” –Hebrews 11:1
Webster’s Dictionary gives these definitions for “epiphany”: 1. January 6th observed as a church festival in commemoration of the coming of the three wise men to Jesus in Bethlehem or in the Eastern Church in commemoration of Jesus’ baptism. 2. an appearance or manifestation especially of a divine being 3. an intuitive discovery or realization [derived from Late Latin epiphania, from late Greek, plural, probably Greek epihaneia “appearance, manifestation,” from epi + phanein “to show.”
The feast of the Epiphany is thus 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.
The words inscribed on the Holy Face Medal, which bears a replica of the Holy Face image from the Shroud of Turin, and which inspired St. Pope John Paul II to dedicate the millennium to the Holy Face, are based on Psalm 66:2: “Illumina, Domine, vultum tuum super nos,” which means, “May, O Lord, the light of Thy countenance shine upon us,” or as it has also been interpreted, “Show us Thy Face, O Lord.” On the other side of the medal, there is an image of a radiant Sacred Host, the monogram of the Holy Name (“IHS”), and the inscription “Mane nobiscum, Domine,”that is, “Stay with us, O Lord,” which recalls the words of the disciples to Jesus on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24: 13-35). “So he went in to stay with them and it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, and said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.”
On the occasion of the Closing of the Holy Door, January 6, 2001, St. Pope 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!