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Devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus

Header - The Holy Face Devotion; Bruised for our sins

 

As Our Lord made His way up to Calvary, there was a touching scene. A woman, powerless to stop the injustice, simply offered her veil as an act of compassion. Our Lord gratefully accepted the cloth to wipe His bruised and bloody face. With the Savior’s face miraculously stamped on her veil, she would come to be known simply as Veronica, from the words “Vera Icon” or true image. Her compassionate gesture inspired a devotion to the Holy Face of our Redeemer that has continued throughout the Church’s history.

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Venerable Leo Dupont

Venerable Leo Dupont

The greatest development of the devotion to the Holy Face was seen in the turbulent nineteenth century because of the efforts of a wealthy lawyer named Leo Dupont. He was born into an aristocratic French family during the final years of the French Revolution and was sent to America owing to the upheavals in France. He would later return to his homeland where he finished his studies in Paris. Although the bloodstained guillotines were now silent, a far greater threat remained. The errors promulgated by the French Revolutionaries were eroding the faith of Catholic France and spreading throughout the world.

Surrounded by a spirit of irreligion, Mr. Dupont gave himself up to numerous apostolic ventures. He distributed Saint Benedict medals by the thousands and was an active member of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society where he gave his time and huge amounts of money in the support of those less fortunate. He promoted all-night vigils honoring Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and desired to have such vigils all over the world. Saint Peter Julian Eymard, who once visited Mr. Dupont in his home, appreciated this particular work.

One day, Mr. Dupont was approached by Prioress Mother Mary of the Incarnation regarding an occurrence in her convent that would change his life. She was the prioress of the Carmel in Tours, France, and was puzzled by Our Lord’s revelations to Sister Marie Pierre, one of her young novices.

 

 

The Holy Face Devotion

The main request Our Lord made to Sister Pierre was for an association to do reparation for the sin of blasphemy. “You cannot comprehend the malice of this sin,” the novice reported Our Lord saying. “Were my Justice not restrained by my Mercy, it would instantly crush the guilty. All creatures, even those that are inanimate, would avenge My outraged honor, but I have an eternity in which to punish them.”[1]

Punishments were not long in coming. Tours was nearly destroyed when the Loire River left its banks and a generalized panic gripped the citizens. Many people recognized this as a punishment from God and even non-practicing Catholics were forced to acknowledge that it was only through a miracle that the whole city did not perish.              

The instruments Our Lord would use to punish sin, however, would not only be the elements, said Sister Pierre, but also the “malice of Revolutionary men.”[2] First among them was a new group of people called Communists whom Our Lord designated as His worst enemies. It was around this time that Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx were putting the finishing touches on the Communist Manifesto, which was commissioned by the Communist League. Although at this time the workings of this anticlerical sect were primarily in the intellectual field, it was not long before they put theory into practice, provoking a worldwide bloodshed untold in history.

The appeal for an association, properly approved by the Church for honoring God’s name and doing reparation, met with resistance foretold by Our Lord. Sister Pierre accepted this with patience and though her short life was ending, she knew that Leo Dupont would continue to work toward its realization.

Persecution of the Church

Sister Pierre died on July 8, 1848, content that she had done everything requested of her. Six months later, the hatred of revolutionary men would be directed against Pope Pius IX. Members of the Carbonari, an anticlerical secret society, murdered Count Pellegrino Rossi, Pope Pius IX’s trusted assistant.

The following day, Pope Pius IX was besieged in his palace of the Quirinal and forced to Pope Pius IXaccept a revolutionary ministry. He escaped in disguise a week later to Gaeta in the Kingdom of Naples.

In January 1849, from his retreat in Gaeta, Pope Pius IX requested public prayers for the Papal States and had the relic of Veronica’s veil placed for public veneration in Rome. Those in attendance were astonished on the third day of the exposition when the image on the veil, formerly so faint as to be barely visible, became transformed.

“The Divine Face appeared distinctly, as if living, and was illuminated by a soft light. The features assumed a death-like hue, and the eyes, deep sunken, wore an expression of great pain.”[3] An apostolic notary was immediately summoned, and a certificate drawn up and sent to Pope Pius IX. Reproductions of the veil were later printed, touched to the original and sent abroad for veneration.

One of these copies fell into the hands of Leo Dupont. Another reached the convent of Lisieux where a nun named Thérèse was practicing her “little way.” She would later become one of the greatest saints in modern time and attributed her spiritual progress to the contemplation of the Face of her Divine Spouse. Saint Thérèse of Lisieux will always be remembered as a devotee of the Infant Jesus but “however tender was her devotion to the Child Jesus, it cannot compare to that which Sister Thérèse felt for the Holy Face."[4]

 

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Miraculous Image

Mr. Dupont made a shrine with his representation of the Holy Face in his small apartment and kept an oil lamp burning in front of it. One day he received the visit from a woman who complained of an unknown malady in her eyes that caused her constant pain. At his suggestion, they prayed together in front of the Holy Face. Afterwards he took some oil from the lamp and blessed her eyes with it. To her astonishment she was immediately cured.

Word of this cure spread quickly and throngs of people visited his shrine looking for similar healings. The cures obtained were so numerous that Pope Pius IX declared Leo Dupont to be perhaps the greatest miracle worker in Church history. Mr. Dupont eventually photographed his representation of the Holy Face and had 25,000 lithograph copies made and distributed at his own expense. He also began filling bottles with the oil from his lamp and eventually distributed over one million vials of the miraculous liquid.[5]

The turning point for approval of the association for reparation came one day when two men visited Mr. Dupont’s residence. One of them, Father Musy, who lost his voice as a result of a throat infection, was sent to visit Leo Dupont by Cardinal Morlot, the same prelate who five years earlier had placed Sister Pierre’s writings under lock and key. After reciting the litany to the Holy Face composed by Sister Pierre, Mr. Dupont anointed Father Musy’s throat with the oil. To the astonishment of everyone in the room, Father Musy’s speech was immediately restored.

In 1874, Archbishop Charles-Théodore Colet was installed as the new ordinary for Tours. He wasted no time in opening the sealed archives concerning Sister Pierre’s revelations. He read them and was so edified he had them sent to the Benedictines at the Abbey of Solesmes where they were given the highest recommendations.[6] Leo Dupont died two years later with his dream having been fulfilled.

In 1885, Pope Leo XIII endorsed this devotion by establishing an Archconfraternity of the Holy Face. In 1958, Pope Pius XII formally declared the Feast of the Holy Face of Jesus as Shrove Tuesday, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, for all Roman Catholics.

 

“Bruised for Our Sins”

Besides Veronica’s veil, the only other picture we have of Our Lord is imprinted on the Shroud of Turin. What is most impressive about both images is the manner in which Our Lord allowed His face to be remembered. Whereas most people choose to look their best for the camera, the two representations of His Divine Face did not show Our Lord at His best.

Shroud of Turin - Veronica's Veil

Our Lord Jesus Christ’s Passion is unparalleled in history for its brutality. Of all the ill treatment heaped upon Our Lord however, none was more injurious to His infinite dignity as those directed at His face. “If I have spoken the truth why dost thou strike me” was His response to the slap from the high priest’s servant. When slapped, He meekly turned the other cheek, and when His enemies spat in His face, He merely lowered His eyes. He was wounded this way for our iniquities and bruised for our sins.[7]

His physiognomy is a testimony of the enormous sacrifice He made for us and an invitation to see Him through the distorted lens of His enemies’ unbridled hatred.

This treatment might have disfigured His face and obscured the majesty it expressed, but it did not dampen the affection of His followers.

Although our Lord’s enemies today are unable to physically harm Him, they nevertheless continue to insult Him with waves of blasphemies whose number is only outdone by the audacity of their content. Since these insults are public they demand public reparation. “Woe to those cities,” Our Lord told to Sister Pierre, “that will not make this reparation.”[8]

Had Saint Veronica stayed at home during Our Lord’s Passion, she would have remained anonymous in face of the most monstrous crime in history. By doing otherwise, she became the patron saint for all those who are willing to face the crowds in the public arena defending Our Savior. With a simple and public act of compassion, a previously anonymous individual walked onto the stage of history and will never be forgotten.

 

 


 

 

The Golden Arrow Prayer

May the most holy, the most sacred, the most adorable and the most incomprehensible Name of God be always praised, blessed, adored, loved and glorified in Heaven, on earth and under the earth, by all the creatures of God, and by the Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.

Amen.

  


Notes:

1. Dorothy Scallan, The Holy Man of Tours (Rockford, Ill.: TAN Books and Publishers, Inc., 1990), p. 126.[back to text]

2. Ibid. p. 131.[back to text]

3. Peter Janvier, The devotion to the Holy Face at St. Peter’s of the Vatican (1894), p. 154.[back to text]

4. From the testimony of Sister Agnes at the canonization process of her sister, Saint Thérèse. See Dorothy Scallan, The Holy Man of Tours (Rockford, Ill.: TAN Books and Publishers, Inc., 1990), p. 210.[back to text]

5. Ibid., p. 176.[back to text]

6. Ibid. p. 198.[back to text]

7. Isaias 53:1–11.[back to text]

8. Doris Sheridan, Golden Arrow (Rockford, Ill.: TAN Books and Publishers, Inc., 1990), p. 132.[back to text]

Photos:  
Leo Dupont - Attribution:  History 2007
Pope Pius IX - Attribution: Tholme

 


  

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Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for July 24, 2021

It is easy to infuse a most fervent devotion into others, ev...

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July 24

 

It is easy to infuse
a most fervent devotion into others, even in a short time;
but the great matter is
– to persevere.

St. Philip Neri


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Charbel Makhlouf

Multiple times, he successfully lit an oil lamp which was fi...

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St. Charbel Makhlouf

Youssef Antoun Makhlouf was born in the village of Bekka Kafra in Lebanon on May 8, 1828 and was one of five children born to Antoun Zarrour Makhlouf and Brigitta Chidiac. His father was a mule driver who died when Youssef was only three years old, leaving his widow to bring up their children alone.

Although Brigitta was left nearly destitute, she reserved a profoundly religious atmosphere in their home and instilled in her children a deep spirit of piety. Because of this fidelity, Youssef became unusually devoted and inclined to prayer and solitude at a very young age. He was greatly attracted to the life and spirituality of hermits; and as a young boy tending his family’s small flock, he would often go to a nearby grotto where he had erected a little shrine to the Holy Mother of God and would spend his whole day there in prayer.

When he was twenty-three years old, Youssef, feeling the call to the religious life, left his home and family to join the Lebanese Maronite Order at the Monastery of Our Lady in Marfouq. Here he began his formation as a monk before later being transferred to the Monastery of St. Maron near Beirut. There he received the religious habit of the Maronite monk and took the name Charbel. He made his final profession as a religious brother on November 1, 1853 – he was twenty-five years old.

Brother Charbel immediately began his studies for the priesthood under the instruction of Father Nimattullah Kassab, who was also later declared a saint by the Church. Charbel was ordained on July 23, 1859, following which he returned to the Monastery of St. Maron where he lived a life of great austerity. In 1875, he was granted permission by his superiors to live a solitary life in the Hermitage of Sts. Peter and Paul, which was under the jurisdiction of the monastery; and there he resided for the remaining twenty-three years of his life until his death on Christmas Eve, 1898.

St. Charbel is renowned for his many miracles both during his life and after his death. His most famous miracle – which was also his first – occurred when, multiple times, he successfully lit an oil lamp which was filled with water. He is also credited with many healing miracles.

After his death, he was interned at the Monastery of St. Maron, now a famous pilgrimage site. His tomb was often witnessed surrounded by a dazzling light, and to this day his remains are incorrupt and an unexplainable blood-like fluid flows from his body. He was canonized on December 9, 1977, by Pope Paul VI, who held him up as an example to help us understand “in a world, largely fascinated by wealth and comfort, the paramount value of poverty, penance and asceticism, to liberate the soul in its ascent to God.”

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

John shared with me the story of his conversion from Protest...

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Walk to Conversion

In September, I brought the statue of Our Lady of Fatima to the home of Mr. John Black and his family in Kings City, California.  John shared with me the story of his conversion from Protestantism: about thirteen years ago he was visiting one of the 21 Spanish missions in California (though these are holy sites, they also serve as tourist attractions.)

“Who is this Junipero Serra anyways?”  he asked, as the tour guide shared the history of the mission. “Well,” the guide responded, “you are standing on his grave!”  Surprised, John looked down and read inscription on the stone. Sure enough, Blessed Father Junipero Serra was buried right there. “I became electrified,” John told me, “I had to learn more about this man and about the missions.”  The more he studied Blessed Serra, the founder of the first nine missions, the more impressed he became, and he decided to travel on-foot to all 21 missions. 

With the blessing of his wife, now left at home with their two infant sons, John left for his solo expedition, taking with him a single backpack, the bible and little money.  He told me that every mission he visited he felt the presence of someone receiving him, even if the mission was empty. He felt this ambiance in the missions so serene and uplifting, and began to realize it was the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament that made him feel so at home.

At one point, John collapsed from exhaustion near a mission run by Franciscans, who kindly hosted him for the night. Before he left the next day, one of the friars gave him a first-class relic of Blessed Serra. Since he was Protestant, John did not know what a relic was, but not wanting to appear rude, he accepted it. Not long after he left the Franciscans, John became lost in the wilderness in the middle of the night. Through his exhaustion and fear he heard a voice say, “Let’s help John.” He had the distinct feeling that Blessed Serra was guiding him, and gathered the strength and courage to continue. About six hours later, he stumbled upon the next mission. “It was kind of a miracle,” he said, “I was really lost!”

During his journey, John slowly came to a realization. “I know what you want from me, God,” he thought to himself one day, “you what me to became a Catholic. That is what this is all about!” However, he still had many questions about aspects of Catholicism that have been rejected by his Protestant faith – mainly about the Blessed Mother. Yet, from that point on he received answers to all of his questions, especially his reservations about devotion to Mary: he believed that it was once again Blessed Serra answering him.

With the help of Blessed Serra, one problem after another was resolved in the solitude of his travels. By the time John reached the final mission, he wholly decided to become a Catholic. “I realized that by having devotion to Mary, you love Our Lord even more,” he told me.

John returned home, filled with zeal and enthusiasm for his newfound faith. He shared his astonishing experiences with his wife, and she too converted. “I feel at home in the Catholic church,” John said, “and I have never loved Our Lord Jesus Christ more than I do now.”

by Joseph Ferrara

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John shared with me the story of his conversion from Protestantism: about fourteen years ago he was visiting one of the 21 Spanish missions in California 

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