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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 November 17, 2019

I want to adorn myself, not out of worldly pride, but for th...

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November 17

 

I want to adorn myself, not out of worldly pride,
but for the love of God alone – in a fitting manner, however,
so as to give my husband no cause to sin, if something about me were to displease him.
Only let him love me in the Lord, with a chaste, marital affection,
so that we, in the same way, might hope for the reward
of eternal life from Him who has sanctified the law of marriage.

St. Elizabeth of Hungary


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Elizabeth of Hungary

Elizabeth’s mother was murdered by Hungarian nobles, proba...

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St. Elizabeth of Hungary

Also known as Elizabeth of Thuringia, she was born in Hungary in 1207. She was a daughter of King Andrew II of Hungary and his wife Gertrude, a member of the family of the Counts of Andechs-Meran; Elizabeth’s brother succeeded his father on the throne as Bela IV; St. Hedwig, the wife of Duke Heinrich I, the Bearded, of Silesia was her mother’s sister, while another saint, Queen St. Elizabeth of Portugal, the wife of the tyrannical King Diniz, was her great-niece.

In 1211 a formal embassy was sent by Landgrave Hermann I of Thuringia to Hungary to arrange a marriage between his eldest son Hermann and Elizabeth, who was then four years old. This marriage was the result of political considerations and intended as a ratification of an alliance against the German Emperor Otto IV, a member of the house of Guelph, who had quarreled with the Church. Not long after the little girl was taken to the Thuringian court to be brought up with her future husband and, in the course of time, to be betrothed to him.

The court of Thuringia was at this period famous for its magnificence. Its centre was the stately castle of the Wartburg, splendidly placed on a hill in the Thuringian Forest near Eisenach, where the Landgrave Hermann lived. Notwithstanding the turbulence and purely secular life of the court and the pomp of her surroundings, little Elizabeth grew up a very religious child with an evident inclination to prayer and pious observances and small acts of self-mortification. These religious impulses were undoubtedly strengthened by the sorrowful experiences of her life.

In the year 1213, Elizabeth’s mother was murdered by Hungarian nobles, probably out of hatred of the Germans. On December 31, 1216, the oldest son and heir of the landgrave, Hermann, who Elizabeth was to marry, died; after this she was betrothed to Ludwig, the second son. It was probably in these years that Elizabeth had to suffer the hostility of the more frivolous members of the Thuringian court, to whom the contemplative and pious child was a constant rebuke. Ludwig, however, must have soon come to her protection against any ill-treatment and his mother, the Landgravine Sophia, a member of the reigning family of Bavaria and a deeply religious and very charitable woman, became a kindly mother to the little Elizabeth.

The political plans of the old Landgrave Hermann involved him in great difficulties and reverses; he was excommunicated, lost his mind towards the end of his life, and died on April 25, 1217, still unreconciled with the Church. He was succeeded by his son Ludwig IV, who, in 1221, was also made regent of Meissen and the East Mark. The same year, Ludwig and Elizabeth were married, the groom being twenty-one years old and the bride fourteen. The marriage was in every respect a happy and exemplary one, and the couple were devotedly attached to each other. Ludwig proved himself worthy of his wife. He gave his protection to her acts of charity, penance, and her vigils, and often held Elizabeth’s hands as she knelt praying at night beside his bed. He was also a capable ruler and brave soldier.

They had three children: Hermann II (1222-41), who died young; Sophia (1224-84), who married Henry II, Duke of Brabant, and was the ancestress of the Landgraves of Hesse; and Gertrude (1227-97), Elizabeth’s third child, who was born several weeks after the death of her father and later in life became abbess of the convent of Altenberg.

The followers of St. Francis of Assisi had made their first permanent settlement in Germany the year of Elizabeth’s marriage to Ludwig. For a time, the German Franciscan Caesarius of Speier was her spiritual director and through him she became acquainted with the ideals of St. Francis. These strongly appealed to her and she began to put them into practice: she observed chastity, according to her state of life, and practiced humility, patience, prayer, and charity. Her position, however, prevented her from living one she ardently desired: voluntary and complete poverty. In 1225, with Elizabeth’s assistance, the Franciscans founded a monastery in Eisenach.

Shortly after their marriage, Elizabeth and Ludwig made a journey to Hungary; Ludwig was often after this employed by the Emperor Frederick II, to whom he was much attached, in the affairs of the empire. During the spring of 1226, when floods, famine, and the plague wrought havoc in Thuringia, Ludwig was in Italy attending the Diet at Cremona on behalf of the emperor. Under these disastrous circumstances Elizabeth assumed control of affairs, distributed alms, giving even state robes and ornaments to the poor. In order to care personally for the unfortunate she built below the castle of Wartburg a hospital with twenty-eight beds and visited the inmates daily to attend to their needs; at the same time she aided nine hundred poor daily. It is this period of her life that has preserved Elizabeth’s renown as the gentle and charitable chételaine of the Wartburg. Upon his return, Ludwig confirmed all that she had done in his absence.

The following year he set out with Emperor Frederick II on a crusade to Palestine but died of the plague on September 11 at Otranto. The news did not reach Elizabeth until October, just after she had given birth to her third child. Upon hearing the news the queen, who was only twenty years old, cried out: “The world with all its joys is now dead to me.” In that winter of 1227, Elizabeth directed the Franciscans to sing a Te Deum and left the castle of Wartburg, accompanied by two female attendants. Her brother-in-law, Heinrich Raspe, now acted as regent for her son Hermann, then only five years old.

At Pope Gregory IX’s recommendation, Master Conrad of Marburg, a well known preacher of the crusade and inquisitor, had become Elizabeth’s spiritual guide. He directed her by the road of self-mortification to sanctity, and after her death was very active in her canonization. Although he forbade her to follow St. Francis in complete poverty as a beggar, by the command to keep her dower she was enabled to perform works of charity and tenderness.

Elizabeth’s aunt, Matilda, Abbess of the Benedictine convent of Kitzingen near Würzburg, took charge of the widowed landgravine and sent her to her uncle Eckbert, Bishop of Bamberg. The bishop, however, was intent on arranging another marriage for her, although during the lifetime of her husband Elizabeth had made a vow of chastity in the event of his death; the same vow had also been taken by her attendants.

While Elizabeth was maintaining her position against her uncle the remains of her husband were brought to Bamberg by his faithful followers who had carried them from Italy. Weeping bitterly, she buried his body in the family vault of the landgraves of Thuringia in the monastery of Reinhardsbrunn. With the aid of Conrad she now received the value of her dower in money, namely two thousand marks; of this sum she divided five hundred marks in one day among the poor. On Good Friday, 1228, in the Franciscan house at Eisenach Elizabeth formally renounced the world; then going to Master Conrad at Marburg, she and her maids received from him the dress of the Third Order of St. Francis, thus being among the first tertiaries of Germany. In the summer of 1228 she built the Franciscan hospital at Marburg and on its completion devoted herself entirely to the care of the sick, especially to those afflicted with the most loathsome diseases. Conrad of Marburg still imposed many self-mortifications and spiritual renunciations, while at the same time he even took from Elizabeth her devoted domestics. Constant in her devotion to God, Elizabeth’s strength was consumed by her charitable labors, and she passed away in 1231 at the age of twenty-four.

Very soon after the death of Elizabeth miracles began to be worked at her grave in the church of the hospital. By papal command examinations were held of those who had been healed and at Pentecost of the year 1235, the solemn ceremony of canonization of the “greatest woman of the German Middle Ages” was celebrated by Pope Gregory IX at Perugia.

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The Conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne

Born in 1814, Alphonse Ratisbonne was from a family of wealthy, well-known Jewish bankers in Strasbourg, France. In 1827, Alphonse’s older brother, Thèodore, converted to Catholicism and entered the priesthood, thus breaking with his anti-Catholic family whose hopes now lay in the young Alphonse. At 27, Alphonse was intelligent and well mannered. He had already finished his law degree, and decided to travel to Italy before marrying and assuming his responsibilities in the family business. However, God had other plans for him.

While in Rome, Alphonse visited works of art, and strictly out of cultural curiosity, a few Catholic churches. These visits hardened his anti-Catholic stance, and nourished his profound hatred for the Church. He also called on an old schoolmate and close friend, Gustave de Bussières.

Gustave was a Protestant and several times had tried, in vain, to win Alphonse over to his religious convictions. Alphonse was introduced to Gustave’s brother, Baron de Bussières, who had recently converted to Catholicism and become a close friend of Father Thèodore Ratisbonne. Because of the Baron’s Catholicism and closeness with his turncoat brother, Alphonse greatly disliked him.

On the eve of his departure, Alphonse reluctantly fulfilled his social obligation to leave his calling card at the Baron’s house as a farewell gesture.

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Hoping to avoid a meeting, Alphonse intended to leave his card discreetly and depart straight away, but was instead shown into the house. The Baron greeted the young Jew warmly, and before long, had persuaded him to remain a few more days in Rome. Inspired by grace, the Baron insisted Alphonse accept a Miraculous Medal and copy down a beautiful prayer: the Memorare. Alphonse could hardly contain his anger at his host’s boldness of proposing these things to him, but decided to take everything good-heartedly, planning to later describe the Baron as an eccentric.

During Alphonse’s stay, the Baron’s close friend, Count de La Ferronays, former French ambassador to the Holy See and a man of great virtue and piety, died quite suddenly. On the eve of his death, the Baron had asked the Count to pray the Memorare one hundred times for Alphonse’s conversion. It is possible that he offered his life to God for the conversion of the young Jewish banker.

A few days later, the Baron went to the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte to arrange for his friend’s funeral. Alphonse reluctantly went with him, all the while making violent criticisms of the Church and mocking Catholic practices. When they arrived, the Baron entered the sacristy to arrange the funeral while Alphonse remained in the church.

When the Baron returned just a few minutes later, the young man was gone. He searched the church, and soon discovered his young friend kneeling close to an altar, weeping.  Alphonse himself tells us what happened in those few minutes he waited for the Baron: “I had only been in the church a short while when, all of a sudden, I felt totally uneasy for no apparent reason. I raised my eyes and saw that the whole building had disappeared. Only one side chapel had, so to say, gathered all the light. In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar. She was grandiose, brilliant, full of majesty and sweetness, just as she is in the Miraculous Medal. An irresistible force attracted me to her. The Virgin made a gesture with her hand indicating I was to kneel.”

When de Bussières talked to Alphonse, he no longer found a Jew, but a convert who ardently desired baptism. The news of such an unexpected conversion immediately spread and caused a great commotion throughout Europe, and Pope Gregory XVI received the young convert, paternally. He ordered a detailed investigation with the rigor required by canon law, and concluded that the occurrence was a truly authentic miracle. 

Alphonse took the name Maria Alphonse at baptism, and, wishing to become a priest, was ordained a Jesuit in 1847. After some time, and at the suggestion of Pope Pius IX, he left the Jesuits and joined his brother Thèodore in founding the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion, dedicated to the conversion of the Jews. Father Theodore spread his congregation throughout France and England, while Father Maria Alphonse went to the Holy Land. In Jerusalem, he established a house of the congregation on the plot of land where the praetorium of Pilate had formerly stood.

The two brothers died in 1884, both famed and well-loved for their exceptional virtues.  

By Armando Santos  

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In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar"

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