Compiled by A MEMBER OF THE URSULINE COMMUNITY BLACKROCK, CORK
Nihil Obstat:Carolus Doyle, S.J. Censor Theol. Deput…. Eduardus, Archiep. Dublinen, Hiberniae Primus. 29 September, 1938
WE KNOW from the writings of the saints that all through the centuries devotion to the Holy Face of Our Lord was practiced in the Church. But it was in the middle of the last century that a fresh impetus was given to it.
The devotion to the Holy Face is naturally linked with that of the Sacred Heart.
A simple Breton girl, a seamstress in Rennes, where her father was a locksmith, entered the Carmelite convent in Tours, taking the name of Sister St. Pierre, and, though the years of her religious life were few, she died in the odour of sanctity.(incorruptable) Her writings, subjected to severe tests, scrutinized by theologians in commission, were found to be altogether free from error and to contain revelations and practical teaching that constitute a treasury of devotional literature. Her mystical experiences belong to the most elevated order of such heavenly communications, and her doctrine reaches sublime heights, only to be paralleled by the writings of the great Fathers of the Church, in which similar mysteries are dwelt upon in a similar manner—writings, it should be observed, with which our Carmelite was utterly unacquainted.
It was during the years 1845-46, shortly before her death, that Our Lord revealed His promises to her with regard to those who would honor His Holy Face. At that time blasphemy, especially in speech, was rife in France, and, here it may be added, that the revelation of the “Golden Arrow” (see last page) was, so to speak, the official beginning of her mission proper. The object of that mission was to procure the establishment of the Archconfraternity of the Holy Face, an association of reparation for blasphemy and of adoration of the Face of God made Man.
“And I will set my face against him: and I will cut him off from the midst of his people, because he hath given of his seed to Moloch, and hath defiled my sanctuary, and profaned my holy name.” [Lev20:3]
Thus we find devotion to the Holy Face revealed quite suddenly to this humble lay sister at the close of her life. Our Lord speaks to her of His Holy Face “as a celestial coin” entrusted to our spending. We are poor, and every day we plunge deeper into debt to God. We are weak, and cannot ,avail ourselves of mortification and much prayer; we have not a great deal to give in alms, that mighty source of blessings, and we need the lamp of Faith in the spiritual darkness of our modern world. Today no one will deny that dangers are more numerous than they were even thirty years ago. Our young people have harder things to face and more of them than their grandparents. Yet there is always the star of hope—none other than the kind, pitying Face of “the bright Morning Star” Himself. Is it not a sign of the times, a modern grace from the great Heart of Christ, that ours should be the days of frequent Communion? We need Him so much nowadays that He calls us to His Altar every morning of our lives. There is also devotion to the Sacred Heart, the glory and fire of our age.
The Sacred Heart was the object of Sister St. Peter’s special love, and to it she owed the graces of the reparatory devotion to the Sacred Face of Christ
The Holy Face defiled in the Passion is, as if it were, a personal bid made by Our Lord for our love. As St. John of the Cross says: “The smallest act of pure love has a greater value in God’s eyes than all good works put together. The slightest spark of that love is of the highest importance to the Church.” Our Lord ardently longs to see us practice this love in our daily lives of work and worry. He wishes us to keep the memory of His tender, sympathetic Face ever looking with love on us, that Face once bruised and mocked for us. He promises His everlasting companionship and his ravishing smile in Heaven, in return for our loving attention to that suffering Face during the days of our earthly pilgrimage. Is it to be wondered at that He could promise the vision of His Face in Heaven to His devout lovers, seeing that He could promise a reward for even a cup of cold water given in His Name?
Every act of perfect love, like every supernatural act, entitles us in this life to an increase of sanctifying grace, and in Heaven to a ray of eternal glory. By multiplying our acts of love, we, at the same time, multiply our measure of light and happiness in Heaven. Did He not say to the adorers of His Face : “May the light of My Countenance be your everlasting gladness”? Even in this life, by our acts of love, we may become more and more the millionaires of Heaven. (Father Faber).
“The light of thy countenance O Lord, is signed upon us: thou hast given gladness in my heart.” [Psalms4:7] Douay Rheims bible
Every good act in our life, every look of love we give to the Face of our Unfailing Friend will deepen that sweet smile of welcome which we hope to see on the Holy Face of Jesus at the hour of our death
Life of Monsieur Dupont.
During the lifetime of Sister St. Peter, there was also living in Tours another soul destined by Our Lord to be very closely connected with devotion to His Holy Face, and that was Monsieur Dupont, commonly known as “the holy Man of Tours.” Mr. Healy Thompson has translated the life of Monsieur Dupont. and it is a singularly interesting book, well worth reading. but only the merest outline of it can be given here
Living in Tours, he got to know the Carmelites, of whom he became a devoted friend. He made the acquaintance of Sister St. Peter, and both these holy souls had but one ambition—to spread the love of Our Lord broadcast and to repair all the sins committed against His Holy Name. The little Carmelite told him of Our Lord’s revelations about His Holy Face, and Mons. Dupont put up a picture of it in his drawing-room, and lit a lamp before it. One day a friend of his came to see him. She was suffering from a very painful disease, and, on leaving, she asked if she might take a little of the oil that was burning before the Holy Face. He gave his consent at once, and, when the lady used it, she was cured on the spot. This was the beginning of hundreds of cures of every kind, so that Mons. Dupont’s drawing-room became a place of public pilgrimage, and there, to this day, the Holy Face of our Divine Lord is very specially honored. The foregoing facts bring devotion to the Holy Face down to our own time, and, wherever this practice is established, a greater personal love for Jesus Christ grows up in the heart and a strong desire to make Him reparation for one’s own sins and those of the world. May Jesus Himself deign to bless these pages and to produce such wonderful results in the hearts of all those who read them!
Our Lord Makes a Bid for Our Personal Love
SINGULAR among the great devotions in the Catholic Church, is that great devotion towards the Holy Face of our Divine Lord. It is most ancient, because it is contemporary with Our Lord Himself. It has flourished throughout the ages, under the care and zeal of the Supreme Pontiffs, and in our own times has seen a great development and a new outburst of fervor among the faithful, which have been witnessed to by many extraordinary miracles.
The devotion to the Holy Face is naturally linked with that of the Sacred Heart. The first worshiper of the Holy Face was our Blessed Lady at Bethlehem. She was also the first adorer of the Sacred Heart, and the one who, more than any other creature, has been able to gauge the immensity of its abyss of love. The first apostle of the Sacred Heart was St. John the Evangelist, the apostle of love, who leaned his head upon the breast of Jesus at the Last Supper, and who in his Gospel has recorded for us the fact that when the Heart of Our Lord was pierced by the lance, there came forth blood and water : a prodigy so great that it can be only explained by the fact that Our Lord died, not of His torments, not of loss of blood, but of a broken heart. “He that saw hath given testimony, and his testimony is true.” The first apostle of the devotion to the Holy Face was St. Veronica, the fearless woman who, out of boundless love for our Divine Lord—a love that feared no injury, that braved all—insult and ridicule—met Our Lord on the Way of the Cross, and in the presence of the vast multitude of His enemies handed to Him the veil with which He wiped His adorable Face.
That veil, wonderfully bearing the imprint of His features, and treasured by St. Veronica during her life, bequeathed by her as a priceless legacy to the Bishops of Rome, and there treasured and venerated for centuries as one of the principal relics of Holy Church, is the centre of the great devotion of the Holy Face.
The human face reveals to us the soul and the personality of the individual. We speak of a man as having a degraded face, or a low and sinister expression, because habits of sin and cancerous vice have eaten away and corrupted that innocence and frankness which belonged to him in childhood and youth. In the same way, habits of virtue and holiness of life find expression in the faces of those who have really endeavored to practice Christian perfection. While therefore the soul gives life to the body, as a whole, it is the face which expresses in a wonderful and peculiar way the dignity to which that soul has been raised by the grace of God, or the degradation to which it has descended.
“Convert us, O God: and show us thy face, and we shall be saved.” [Psalms 79:4]
The Incarnation is the concrete expression of the infinite love of God for us. By it the Son of God, dwelling eternally in the Bosom of the Father, took to Himself a human nature, and became a man among men, that we might understand more fully the immensity of the love that created us, and the love that was to redeem us. As St. John, the apostle of Divine Love, tells us: “That which was from the beginning, we have heard, we have seen with our eyes, and our hands have handled of the Word of Life.” As the Sacred Humanity of Our Lord is the visible expression of His almighty, redeeming Love, so the Sacred Heart is at once the symbol and the treasure-house of that infinite Love, and His most Holy Face the expression to us of His infinite charity, His unfathomable pity, His inexhaustible tenderness, and His unfailing sympathy in all our hopes, our needs, and our manifold weaknesses.
“The Lord turn his countenance to thee, and give thee peace.” [Numbers 6:26]
In the Old Testament men beheld the majesty of Creation, the vastness of the heavens, peopled with innumerable stars, the grandeur of the sun and moon, the beauty of earth and sea, the unbroken silence of great mountains, the power of tempests; they knew all this to be but the fringe of the splendors of God’s eternal majesty. They adored God in fear, on account of the sublime isolation of the Godhead, and were awed by the unbridgeable distance that separated the Creator from the things that He had made.
But the Incarnation revealed new and amazing aspects of God’s love for men. The Babe of Bethlehem makes God easy to be loved, and all things easy to understand. The whole earth sings a new canticle: “Come, let us adore the Lord, because He is little and exceedingly to be loved.” He is a little Babe, so helpless. so simple, so humble; one of the frail things of creation; and yet His Mother’s knee is the throne from which He is ruling the vast universe that He has made, and it is His tiny hands that support the heavens.
The Incarnation makes the Love of God for each one of us easy to understand. It is the appeal of Our Lord to each of us for a real and personal love. We do not love all men alike. For some we have a special love, which is based on our knowledge and experience of their character, and of their goodness to us. We cannot help ourselves. Such is our nature, that it compels us to make friends, to love them, and to express our love for them in our actions. We rejoice to see the faces of our friends, and are comforted by their presence and take delight in their company.
The whole life of Our Lord on earth, and His bitter Passion and Death, His glorious Resurrection and triumphant Ascension are all an infinite appeal for a return of personal love. It was all the result of an infinite Love directed to each one of us. It was an expression of Divine Love translated into human words and actions. It was an attempt by Our Lord to win our individual and personal love on the same terms, and in the same way in which our friends win our love for themselves.
Our Lord displays to us, in an infinite degree, all those things which are the foundations of human love. His Sacred Heart presents itself to us as the unceasing fountain of all that we can have or hope for, and as a vast abyss of tenderness and pity for us in all our difficulties and trials. And since so mighty a love must call forth a response from us, the Sacred Heart is the object of our personal love, and His most Holy Face, the face of our Friend of Friends, the object of our constant veneration and reparation.
“And thy heart was softened. and thou hast humbled thyself in the sight of God for the things that are spoken against this place, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and reverencing my face, hast rent thy garments, and wept before me: I also have heard thee, saith the Lord.” [2 Paralipomenon, 2 Chrn 34:27]
The Holy Face of Our Lord the Centre of attack in His Passion
From the account given us by the sacred writers, it is clear that, while the whole Body of Our Lord was insulted in every way that could be devised, His beautiful Face was singled out in a special manner for insults, humiliations and injuries. The Passion itself almost opens with the treacherous kiss of Judas, the sign of his betrayal. The memory of this awful kiss brooded darkly over the Soul of Jesus during His Passion, and down through all the centuries, it has since filled the heart of the Church with horror and detestation. It has been our Lady’s wonderful privilege to imprint maternal kisses upon the Holy Face. For three and thirty years, from the first time she beheld it, as the Face of her own little babe, it had been the object of her adoring love; she, beyond all others, understood that Face was the centre of the worship of the heavenly hosts. She knew the sanctity that surrounded its awful majesty. It was the Face of God. How heaven must have shuddered at the kiss of Judas!
The same horror begins to steal over our own hearts, so often hardened in sin,
when we consider how extraordinary was the love of Our Lord for Judas. He had been one of the chosen twelve, predestined from all ages to be the intimate companion of Jesus in His public life: upon him the graces of the apostleship had been heaped. Day after day, for three long years, he had listened to the words of Eternal Wisdom; he had lived and eaten and walked with Him who was the most lovable of men: time after time, he had been admonished with infinite tenderness for his growing vice of avarice: and, even when at last, he had determined to sell his Master and struck his bargain with the priests, who were thirsting for the blood of our Saviour, the love of the Sacred Heart for him did not falter. At the Last Supper the final warning was given probably in the midst of the very institution of the Sacrament of Love. The washing of his feet by his divine Victim, the prophecies of the approaching betrayal, and lastly the morsel of bread dipped in the dish and given as a sign to him were the supreme and final efforts of Jesus to turn Judas from his unspeakable crime.
Kiss of Betrayal on Thy Holy Face:
“And Judas went out into the night and it was dark.” It was dark in the traitor’s heart. from which the last glimmer of divine grace had faded away; and it was cold, for the last spark of love had died out. He would betray his Master and friend by no ordinary sign: he would not point with his finger to single Him out, or touch Him on the arm. No, he was one of the first to think of so vile a sign, and we know that ever since, the kiss of treachery is always spoken as the “kiss of Judas.” Judas consummated and masked his baseness in the moment of supreme injury, by the supreme sign of friendship. “And he that betrayed Him had given them a sign, saying: `Whomsoever I shall kiss, that is He: lay hold on Him and lead Him away carefully.’ And when he was come, immediately going up to Him, he said : ‘Hail, Rabbi,’ and he kissed Him.“
It was a refinement of torture for the Sacred Heart, which had poured out all its treasures upon Judas to win his love. But even his diabolical malice could not prevent a last attempt of the Sacred Heart to avert the dreadful doom of this unhappy man. From the lips of Jesus came the gentle rebuke, so full of tenderness: “Friend, wherefore art thou come? Judas, dost thou betray the Son of Man with a kiss?”‘ But love could no longer soften the heart of Judas. For the last time, he had been called “Friend”; never again will he hear his name spoken in accents of love; never again will he have a friend in the whole world, and, in a few hours, he will stand before his God to be judged. :’‘The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written: but woe to him by whom the Son of Man shall he betrayed!”
“Because for thy sake I have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face.“[Psalms 68:8]
It is not enough for us to detest the crime of Judas; we have to bring home to ourselves that it is but a type of the many crimes that we ourselves do and can commit. The endless mercies of the Sacred Heart in our regard place Our Lord at the mercy of the same base ingratitude.
That contemptuous casting away of the friendship of Jesus, in order to obtain some fleeting pleasure, which, like thirty pieces of silver is but a misery in disguise, is a repetition by us of the betrayal. Remembering, therefore, how afflicted the Sacred Heart was by the sin of Judas and remembering also the countless number of mortal sins throughout the world, in particular our own personal sins, we begin dimly to realize the need of making reparation for the innumerable acts of treachery, man’s return for His boundless love, and this we can very fittingly do by devotion to His holy Face.
As the dread drama of the Passion unfolds itself, the insults to our Blessed Saviour multiply beyond number. In the night of Maundy Thursday, when our Blessed Lord stood arraigned before the court of the High Priest, St. John tells us that because of one of His answers. Jesus was struck, receiving so terrible a blow that it deserved special mention among the many insults of the Passion.
And when He had said these things, one of the servants standing by gave Jesus a blow, saying: "Answer thou the High Priest so"? (John xviii, 22). St. John Chrysostom and other early Fathers identify this assailant of the Saviour with Malchus, whose ear Our Lord had miraculously healed but a few hours earlier. All through the rest of the night, "then they did spit in His Face" (Matt. xxxi, 69). "And the men that held Him mocked Him and struck Him. And they blindfolded Him and struck Him with the palms of their hands" (Mark xiv, 65). "And they blindfolded Him and struck His Face. And they asked Him, saying: Prophesy who it is that
struck Thee?’ And blaspheming, many other things they said against Him.” (Luke xxii 65).
Let us contemplate the ignominies to which the Holy Face of Our Lord was subjected during the rest of that night. He was imprisoned in a dungeon, surrounded not only by his guards, but also by the rabble of soldiers and servants that had come together to wreak their brutality on Him. Like their masters, they vie with one another in cruelty. Our Lord is seated on some convenient stone, and blows are rained on His Face from all sides: some blows being given by the open hand, others by hands encased in iron gauntlets. The air resounds with ribald songs and coarse jests. “They that drank wine made me their song.” The Sacred Face is bruised, battered and streaming with spittle, and, in the midst of all these horrors, Our Lord sits patient and uncomplaining. The love of the Sacred Heart for each of us is so great that He willingly bears all these insults for us. From time to time, one of the priests comes down to see how matters are faring and to gloat over Our Lord’s misery, and, at each visit, the horrible orgy gains in intensity.
At length. they devise a new kind of game. Is He not the great Prophet, so He can prophesy for them, and at once a filthy rag is found, and with it they veil the majesty of the Holy Face. Then, one by one, they come before Him, and bending the knee in mockery, they strike Him with many blows. “Prophesy who it is that struck Thee?” As these men stood before the veiled Face of Jesus, He saw each of them distinctly, and also every human being, who, in the ages yet to come, would ever join in mockery of Him. Perhaps His all-pure eyes recognized you and me in that crowd of daring sinners! If so, here we have sufficient reason for reparation to His Holy Face. For our consolation, in after years, He was to reveal to a holy soul that He would accept every act of reparation offered to His Holy Face, and that He would delight to restore to our souls the beauty they had on leaving the baptismal font.
In this meditation we cannot follow the Passion step by step. There was never a moment during it that Our Lord’s Face was not the special object of degradation. His captivity in the hands of the brutal soldiers was a perpetual outrage. His examinations before Pilate, the humiliations which He endured at the hands of the shrieking mob that hooted after Him, crying out for His blood in the streets of Jerusalem, His mockery before Herod, all of these were affronts from which His Sacred Heart shrank with the keenest sensitiveness, but all of which He bore for us with the tenderest patience. But let us dwell for a moment on the dreadful scene after the scourging, when the horrors of the preceding night are again repeated by the soldiery of Pilate. During the night-watches He has been treated with derision as the great Prophet and Physician of souls. It is His Holy Head which is now to be the target of their mockery. “And, stripping Him, they put a scarlet cloak about Him, and, plaiting a crown of thorns, they put it upon His Head, and a reed in His right hand, and, bowing their knees, they adored Him, saying: “Hail, King of the Jews!” and they gave Him blows. They struck His Head with the reed and they did spit upon Him.“
The scarlet cloak of mock royalty is about Him, the diadem of cruel thorns is on His Head, decorated with the rubies of His Precious Blood, and the frail reed in His hand, the scepter of His kingly power. Remembering how very sensitive we are to the least insult to our pride, which is based on our nothingness and sins, let us contemplate with fear and trembling the sight of the outraged majesty of our God, and let us adore the Holy Face, which willingly suffered such great things for our love.
The sentence has been pronounced and the whole city is in a tumult. Surrounded by an infuriated mob, torn and exhausted, really “a worm and no man,” dragged by soldiers, Our Lord proceeds slowly through the streets crowded with sightseers, for, at the time of the Pasch, Jerusalem was filled with Jews from all parts of the known world. The awful procession now draws near to a certain house, in which one of those faithful women dwells, who used to minister to Jesus, and whose heart is still full of love for Him. A momentary halt is made outside her house. She sees the Face of her divine Master streaming with blood and the sweat of agony, disfigured by filth and spittle. In a moment, braving all the insults and anger of the mob, she is by His side, she hands Him her folded veil, and with it Our Lord wipes His adorable Face and Eyes that are streaming with tears and blood. She is quickly hustled away and forced to take shelter in her house. The tragic procession moves on, and Veronica, through her tears, gazes on the veil. Swift as was Our Lord’s forgiveness for the repentant Peter, swift as will be His answer to pardon the dying thief on his cross, so also just as swift has been the reward for
She kneels in reverence before the Veil, now become her dearest treasure, for on it, miraculously imprinted, are the features of her divine Master. He has given her a lasting pledge of His undying gratitude, a pledge, too, of the wonders of grace that He will work in souls who seek to make reparation to the Sacred Heart for the insults and outrages upon His Holy Face.
The Golden Arrow revealed by Our Lord Himself to Sister St. Pierre (Peter) in reparation for blasphemy against His Holy Name “May the most holy, the most unutterable, the most Sacred Name of God be praised, blessed, adored and glorified and loved in heaven, on earth and under the earth by all creatures and by the Most adorable Heart of Jesus in the Most adorable Sacrament of the Altar! Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus.” Our Lord, on revealing this to the nun, told her this prayer gave Him great pleasure.
Daily indulgence: Partial (300 day) (Pius IX, Rescript in his own hand, Sep 20, 1860; S.P. Ap., mar 10, 1933). RACCOLTA pg. 155.
#223. “May the Sacred heart of Jesus be loved in every place.”
Part 2-2 Continues tomorrow 06/05/2019.