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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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Happiness is secured through virtue;
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St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin

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St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin

Juan Diego was born in Cuautlitlán – today part of Mexico City – in the year 1474 and given the name "Cuauhtlatoatzin" or "Eagle that speaks". He was a gifted member of the Chichimeca people, one of the more culturally advanced indigenous groups living in the Anáhuac Valley.

In 1524, at fifty years of age, Juan Diego was baptized with his wife Maria Lucia by one of the first Franciscan missionaries to arrive in Mexico, Fray Pedro de Gante. His religious fervor, his simple artlessness, and his respectful but gracious demeanor are among his defining characteristics. It is said that after their baptism, he and his wife, inspired by a sermon on the virtue of chastity, mutually decided to embrace this evangelical counsel by living celibately afterwards. After the 1529 death of his wife, Juan Diego moved to be near his aged uncle Juan Bernardino in Tolpetlac. Thereafter, the pious widower was in the habit of walking to the Franciscan mission at Tlatelolco for religious instruction and to perform his religious duties. His frequent journeys took him close by the hill at Tepeyac.

At daybreak on Saturday, December 9, 1531, Juan Diego was on his way to morning Mass as usual, when he suddenly heard the exquisite sound of many birds singing. The beautiful melody came from higher up the hill, and thinking himself transported to heaven, his whole being attracted by the sound, he let it draw him up the Tepeyac. When the birdsongs suddenly ceased, he heard his name called in his native Náhuatl language and he beheld a beautiful young maiden. She called him to come closer and Juan Diego, “filled with admiration for the way her perfect grandeur exceeded all imagination,” prostrated himself in her presence. With unutterable sweetness, she revealed her identity to him “… the ever-virgin Mary, Mother of the true God who gives life and maintains its existence. He created all things. He is in all places. He is Lord of Heaven and Earth.” She asked him to go to the bishop in Mexico City, Don Fray Juan de Zumárraga, and to request in her name that a shrine be built at Tepeyac, where she promised to pour out abundant graces upon those who invoked her.

After some difficulty in gaining admission to the bishop, the humble messenger recounted the marvels he had witnessed and delivered the lady’s message. However, the prelate’s response was discouraging and Juan Diego left downcast and disappointed.

The Queen of Heaven was waiting for him at the top of Tepeyac on his return that evening, and casting himself down he told her of his heart’s sorrow at meeting with incredulity on the part of the bishop and adds: “I beg you, my Lady, Queen, my little girl, to have one of the nobles who are held in esteem, one who is known, respected, honored, [have him] carry, take your dear breath, your dear word, so that he will be believed. Because I am really [just] a man from the country, I am a [porter’s] rope … a man of no importance: I myself need to be led, carried on someone’s back. That place you are sending me to is a place where I’m not used to going or spending any time in, my little Virgin, my Youngest Daughter, my Lady, Little girl.”

With great gentleness, she tells him that he is the one that must carry out this commission. And Juan Diego promises that he will return to the bishop the following day with her request.

Despite the obstacles posed by the bishop’s attendants, Juan Diego was again admitted into his presence. Don Juan de Zumárraga questioned the Indian kneeling before him thoroughly but remained unmoved by the man’s account. Not on his word alone would he believe, he told him, a sign must be given to prove that the apparition was indeed from heaven.

Undaunted by the prelate’s request, he returns to Tepeyac to convey it to Our Lady, who asks him to return in the morning that she might give it to him. During the night, however, Juan Diego’s sick uncle worsens and it is clear that he is dying. Shortly after midnight, his nephew sets off for Tlatilolco to summon one of the priests that he might confess and prepare for death.

Not wanting to meet the beautiful Lady, who would surely want to send him to the bishop with the “proof” he had requested, he hurried along, set on his task. But the Queen of Heaven came down to meet him and gently chiding him she asked, “What is happening, youngest and dearest of all my sons? Where are you going, where are you headed?” Humbling himself before her, he told her of his uncle’s grave illness and his need for a priest to assist him. She assured him that the illness was not grave and that he had nothing to fear on that account. Her solicitude filled him with joy and consolation: “Am I not here, I, who am your mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need something more? Let nothing else worry you, disturb you; do not let your uncle’s illness pressure you with grief, because he will not die of it now. You may be certain that he is already well…” And, as they later found out, his uncle became well at that very moment.

Full of confidence, Juan Diego begged her to send him immediately to the bishop with the sign she had promised. The Blessed Mother told him to climb the hill and to pick the flowers that he would find there. He obeyed, and although it was winter time and the frost at that time of year was very harsh, he found flowers of many kinds, in full bloom. Astonished, he cut and gathered the fragrant blossoms and took them to Our Lady who carefully arranged them in his mantle – the rough-woven “tilma” worn by his people – and told him to take them to the bishop as "proof". When he opened his tilma to show the bishop the profusion of blooms, the flowers fell to the ground, and there remained impressed upon his cloak an image of the Blessed Mother, the apparition at Tepeyac.

With the Bishop's permission, Juan Diego lived the rest of his life as a hermit in a small hut near the chapel where the miraculous image was placed for veneration. Here he cared for the church and the first pilgrims who came to pray to the Mother of Jesus. He died in 1548 and was buried in the first chapel dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe. He was beatified on May 6, 1990 by Pope John Paul II in the Basilica of Santa Maria de Guadalupe in Mexico City and canonized by him on July 31, 2002.

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Allow me to live, work, suffer, be consumed and die for Thee...

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Prayer to the Immaculate Conception

Allow me to praise Thee, O most holy Virgin Mary, with my personal commitment and sacrifice.

Allow me to live, work, suffer, be consumed and die for Thee, just for Thee.

Allow me to bring the whole world to Thee.

Allow me to contribute to your ever-greater exaltation, to Thine greatest possible exaltation.

Allow me to give Thee such glory that no one else has ever given up to now.

Allow others to surpass me in zeal for Thine exaltation and me to surpass them, so that by means of such noble rivalry, your glory may increase ever more profoundly, ever more rapidly, ever more intensely as He Who has exalted Thee so indescribably, above all other beings Himself desires.   Amen

By Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe

 

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