Servant of God Domenico da Cese, St. Padre Pio, and the Holy Face

Servant of God Padre Domenico da Cese (1915-1978) before the Veil of Manoppello
Holy Face of Manoppello Photo: Patricia Enk
Holy Face of Manoppello
Photo: Patricia Enk

September 20th marks the anniversary of the death of the Holy Capuchin priest of Manoppello–the Servant of God, Padre Domenico da Cese.  He was born on March 27, 1905, and was baptized Emidio Petracca, named for St. Emidio (c.279-309 AD), the saint who is invoked for protection in earthquakes.  As a nine-year old boy in 1915, young Emidio (later 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. He and his father were buried in the rubble of their church as they attended Mass that morning.

Holy Face of Manoppello
photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

A man with a bloody face, who young Emidio Petracca didn’t recognize as a relative or friend, pulled him from the rubble to safety. Fifty years later, as a Capuchin priest, while visiting the Shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello for the first time, he recognized the face of the man on the miraculous veil as the same man who saved him from the rubble. As Padre Domenico knelt before the holy relic “Il Volto Santo,” he exclaimed, “This is the man who saved me from the rubble!” He asked to be transferred to the shrine and remained at the Shrine as Rector until the time of his death.

The Holy Face of Manoppello, photo by Paul Badde/EWTN

 

Like his friend and fellow Capuchin, St. Padre Pio, the humble Padre Domenico was also a mystic and stigmatist who had extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit; such as the gift of “reading souls” and bi-location. Penitents who traveled from Manoppello to go to confession with Padre Pio were admonished by him for traveling such a distance when they already had a holy priest in Manoppello.  He told them, ” Why did you come all the way here, so far? You’ve got a priest there, my spiritual son, he’s like me!” St. Padre Pio’s last documented case of bi-location, just before he died, was before the relic of the Holy Face of Jesus at the shrine of “Il Volto Santo” in Manoppello, where Padre Domenico was the rector.  Padre Pio had told his fellow Capuchins that the Holy Face of Manoppello was the greatest relic of the Church.

In September of 1968, as Padre Pio lay dying in San Giovanni Rotundo (which is about 200 km south of Manoppello in Italy), his friend Padre Domenico da Cese had just unlocked the doors of the shrine of the Holy Face one morning, 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.”  Twenty-four hours later St. Padre Pio died in his cell in San Giovanni on September 23, 1968.  Testimony was later given by witnesses that Padre Domenico da Cese was seen at Padre Pio’s funeral (another case of bi-location). A film was even taken (here) which shows Padre Domenico walking slowly in Padre Pio’s funeral procession, even though Padre Domenico had never left the shrine in Manoppello.

St. Padre Pio
Image of Manoppello
Photo by Paul Badde/EWTN
The Veil of the Holy Face of Manoppello
Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

Padre Domenico shared with everyone his ardent love and devotion for the Holy Face of Manoppello, also known as “Il Volto Santo” — a miraculous veil which transmits supernatural beauty, and at the same time indescribable suffering. It is the Face of Mercy, Love and Peace. He would tell pilgrims, “This face is that of Jesus, and it is a great miracle, always love him.” Padre Domenico had done much research on the sheer byssus veil, the image of which is not made with any paint or pigment, and compared the iridescent quality of the colors to the wings of butterflies which also reflect iridescent color naturally.  He also made studies of the Face on the Shroud of Turin, and its similarities to the Holy Face of Manoppello.  He believed with all his heart that it was the face of the same man, and he was convinced that, like the Shroud of Turin, the Veil of Manoppello was one of the many burial cloths in Jesus’s tomb–the holy sudarium which covered the Face of Jesus in death–and also miraculously bears witness to His Resurrection.

In September of 1978 while visiting Turin to venerate the Holy Face on the Shroud during a rare exposition, Padre Domenico, who was a giant of a man, was hit by the smallest car, a Fiat, as he was stepping out into a street. After suffering for several days in a hospital, and forgiving the man who had hit him, he died on September 17th, offering his life for the Holy Face on the Veil–the Face of the man who saved him as a child.

The penetrating and gentle gaze of the Holy Face of Manoppello, Italy Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN
The Holy Face of Manoppello- photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

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.

Servant of God, Padre Domenico da Cese, Pray for us!
Servant of God, Padre Domenico da Cese…
Pray for us!

May the Lord Bless and keep you! – The blessing of St. Francis

fullsizerender-22
Blessing of St. Francis to Brother Leo

Within the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi is a precious relic: a small, crumpled piece of yellowed parchment with the writing of St. Francis, now displayed in a silver reliquary. It was written on Mount La Verna after St. Francis had received the stigmata. The first biographer of St. Francis, Bl. Thomas of Celano wrote that for a long time St. Francis’s friend, Brother Leo, had greatly desired to have some memorial from the words of Our Lord written by St. Francis:

St. Francis of Assisi
St. Francis of Assisi

“One day Blessed Francis called him, saying, ‘Bring me paper and ink, for I wish to write the words of God and His praises which I have been meditating in my heart.’ What he asked for being straightway brought, he writes with his own hand the praises of God and the words which he [his companion] wished, and lastly a blessing of the brother, saying: ‘Take this sheet for thyself and until the day of thy death guard it carefully.’ All temptation was at once driven away; the letter is kept and worked wonders for the time to come.” Brother Leo kept it faithfully; folding it in four, he carried it in his pocket and guarded it jealously for a good forty-six years.  The text in the middle, written in black, and marked with a large “Tau” cross is in Francis’s own handwriting, he writes the praises of God* and grants to Brother Leo the blessing from the Book of Numbers 6: 22-27 which later became known as “the Blessing of St. Francis.”

St. Francis of Assisi by Jose Beniliure y Gil
St. Francis of Assisi by Jose Beniliure y Gil

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in his homily for the World Day of Peace, 2013, spoke of this blessing from the Book of Numbers which was for the priests and the people of Israel. “The blessing repeats the three times Holy Name of God, a Name not to be spoken, and each time linked to two words indicating an action in favor of man. Peace is the summit of these six actions of God in our favor, His most sublime gift, in which He turns toward us the splendor of His Face.”

 

The Shroud of Turin
The Shroud of Turin

This is the great blessing that St. Francis desired to impart to his friend, Brother Leo:

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

Amen!

 

*(St. Francis’s “Praises of God” are now now quite faded, but, this much can be still read: “Thou art holy, Lord God, who alone workest wonders. Thou art strong. Thou art great. Thou art most high. Thou art the Almighty King, Thou, holy Father, King of heaven and earth. Thou art the Lord God Triune and One; all good. Thou art good, all good, highest good, Lord God living and true. Thou art charity, love. Thou art wisdom. Thou art humility. Thou art patience. Thou art security. Thou art quietude. Thou art joy and gladness. Thou…”)