"I seek Veronicas to wipe and venerate My Divine Face which has but few adorers…"
Devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus is as ancient as devotion to the Crucified Lord. This pious custom began with the offering of a holy Jewish woman’s veil to wipe the spittle, dirt and blood from the countenance of Our Lord during His agonizing journey to Calvary. The reward for her courageous act of mercy was the impression of His Face on her veil. The Image of Our Lord in His Passion is so detailed that it is written:
"A deep feeling of compunction is felt on beholding the head of the Savior pierced with thorns; the bleeding brow, the eyes swollen and filled with blood, the teeth loosened, the beard and hair torn off in many places, the face livid and blackened; on the right cheek, and seen through the bruises, is the print of the gauntlet of Malchus, who cruelly struck him in the house of Anne; on the other cheek, stains of spittle and mud; the nose bleeding and broken; the mouth open and filled with blood."
Shortly after Christ’s Ascension into Heaven, this relic was brought from Jerusalem to Rome by Veronica. Tiberius Caesar learned from Pilate of Christ’s Passion and Resurrection. He had heard of the cloth of Veronica and its miracles. He sent his ambassadors to Jerusalem to ask for this miraculous image to obtain a cure. Veronica would not allow this relic to be taken from her so she carried it to Rome in a reliquary. This image obtained the cure for Tiberius. Because of this, Tiberius wished to put Jesus on the same level as other pagan gods but was not allowed as the Roman Senate believed it was not right to give homage to man as God.
This precious Image has been under the safekeeping of all the Pontiffs from the time of St. Veronica’s death. It was first bequeathed to Clement I., fourth successor to St. Peter, and held in their possession up to our present Pontiff.
In the early years of the Church, it was hidden in the Catacombs to ensure its safety from the persecutors of the Faith. When the persecution ended, the relic was brought back into the Churches of Rome for veneration. It was encased in a special niche in St. Peter’s Basilica along with the other Holy Relics of the Passion which include the Lance of Longinus and the Relic of the True Cross. Up until recent times, this relic was rarely seen by the faithful as it was held in such great esteem. Kings and Queens who gave allegiance to the Pope were allowed special privileges and indulgences to venerate this Holy Image. "In times of suffering and calamity, and during the ‘Holy Years,’ the people flew to this precious relic as a powerful palladium, crying, ‘Oh God, show thy face, and we shall be saved!’ Many miracles were obtained in favor of this devotion. The Church has always granted reluctantly the removal of the veil, which covers the precious Image; it was only permitted at distant intervals, and dates were kept in the archives of the Vatican noting this great event and the edict sanction"
In more recent times, most especially in the 1800’s, veneration of this Image has become more popular due to the fact the popes of this time desired that "the faith of the people, so tepid and relaxing, may become reanimated to devotion."
"We are living in a time of so much infidelity and immorality, the contagion of false opinions, the licenses, crimes, and violations of divine and social laws have reached such a climax, that not only our holy religion, but human society is perverted and miserably upset." (Apostolic Letter of our Holy Father Pius IX., convoking the Ecumenical Council to Rome, on the 'feast of the Immaculate Conception, 1869)
On October 27th, 1845, Our Lord spoke to Sr. Marie Pierre, a Carmelite in Tours France who had been chosen by Our Lord to establish a reparatory association against the sins of blasphemy and profanation of Sunday. He said,
"I seek Veronicas to wipe and venerate My Divine Face which has but few adorers…To You I give My Holy Face as a recompense for the services you have performed for Me… It is true you have actually achieved only little but your heart is filled with ardent desires. To you, therefore, I now give this Holy Face in the presence of My Eternal Father and in virtue of the Holy Ghost. Before all the angels and saints, I offer you this gift of My Holy countenance through the hands of my Mother and those of St. Veronica who will teach you how it must be venerated. By My Holy Face you will work wonders!"
This Work of Reparation is at the core of this devotion. For greater detail refer to Part 1 and Part 2.
An Example to follow:
A "Veronica" took His words to heart to repair the damage done to Our Lord’s Holy Name
In 1885, a dear family of relatives took the words of Our Lord seriously and put their signatures to the Holy Face Confraternity in Tours, France. They became "Defenders of the Holy Name of Jesus." These families were none other than the close knit families of Guerin and Louis Martin. St. Therese was then only 12 years old. Did this act of becoming "Veronicas" cause this holy Martin family to become saints? It is an interesting question to think about. With the exception of Therese who is already canonized, all of the members of the Martin Family currently have their Cause for Canonization put forth. Thus St. Therese leads the way with her "Little Way".
On the 10th January 1889, the day of her clothing, Sister Therese of the Child Jesus took the new name of Sr. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. It seems to be a prophetic announcement of what she was about to undergo. First, she was to endure the great "standing by the cross" as St. John and the Blessed Mother as she watched helplessly, as her father became ill and mentally unrecognizable. In him, she saw the Crucified Christ as she records, "Our dear Father drinking of the bitterest and most humiliating chalice of all" in this mental affliction. Therese even distinguishes Our Lord’s Holy Face in the facial features of her humiliated father.
The words of Isaias Chapter 53 come to mind.
"There is no beauty in him, nor comeliness: and we have seen him, and there was no sightliness, that we should be desirous of him. Despised, and the most abject of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with infirmity: and his look was as it were hidden and despised, whereupon we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows: and we have thought him as it were a leper, and as one struck by God and afflicted."
Indeed, Therese’s sister, Mother Agnes commented about her: ‘Devotion to the Holy Face was the Servant of God’s special attraction." This was the basis of all her piety.
Even Christ’s Passion and Death was reflected in St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. Her "dark night of the soul" recalls Christ’s Agony in the Garden and was her preparation for her last fatal illness.
On the eve of the Transfiguration, August 5th, 1897, the image of the Holy Face from the choir of the Carmelites was installed in the infirmary. It was a great consolation and joy for Therese. She was quoted as saying, :"Oh! How that Holy Face has done me so much good in my life!" It is said that during those last sleepless nights she would spend gazing upon His Countenance.
"This loving contemplation leads her to a constant configuration with her Beloved, right up to the hour of her agony, endured on September 30th, in imitation of the agony of Jesus, "with no added consolation". At 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the monastery bell rang, as it rang every day, to recall the death of Christ. When "with her arms outstretched in the form of a cross, leaning on her two sisters, she is seen in her agony gasping for breath, it is the vision of the Crucified that makes its mark on the witnesses" The passion of St. Therese caused by the end stages of Tuberculosis mirrored that of Crucifixion of Our Lord in that the patient dies of suffocation just as the victim of crucifixion. And so it is that His Beloved consummated her life in the same way as He did. Her last words being, "My God, I love You!"
So if we are too look deeper into the life of St Therese – "her Little Way" was also the Way of the Cross- the Way to Calvary.
Since 2005, the Apostolate of Our Lady of Good Success has worked to spread devotion to the Holy Face in Quito, Ecuador. We have sent thousands of holy cards and medals on the Holy Face (in Spanish) to our dear sisters in both the Carmelite and Conceptionist convents in Quito, Ecuador. Through their assistance the devotion is spreading.
As a result of a recent unfortunate occurrence, we now feel that promoting the devotion to the Holy Face in the United States by the Apostolate should begin. In July, the month of the Precious Blood of Our Lord, our family experienced a great loss in the death of a dear relative, a true friend and member of the Apostolate, David R. Heckenkamp. With this sudden and tragic loss, we felt a great urgency to promote this devotion, as David was an "Apostle for the Holy Face." David died unexpectedly in his sleep at the age of 49. He spent his last years spreading devotion to the Holy Face by handing out this particular image printed here and the book, "The Holy Man of Tours." He was in the process of ordering medals and holy cards on the Holy Face to distribute when he passed away.
David was born on July 8th, 1958 and died on July 26th, 2007. The dates bear an interesting significance for they are connected in a certain way to the two most popular devotions of the Holy Face. In the 19th Century, a devotion to the Holy Face known as "The Golden Arrow Devotion" was promoted by a Carmelite Sister from Tours, France, Sr. Marie of St. Peter, who died on July 8th, 1848. Then in the 20th Century, the Holy Face devotion was promoted by a Conceptionist Sister in Buenos Aires, South America, Sr. Maria Pierina de Micheli, who died on July 26th, 1945. Was it a coincidence that David’s Birthday and Death day coincided with the deaths of these sisters? We don’t know. However, as we were doing the research on the Holy Face to write this article, we found these striking facts that gave us the encouragement and that little "extra push" to feature this subject in this issue as we felt perhaps Our Lord truly wanted us to write about His Holy Face Devotion at this time. We will not eulogize about Dave but will only say that Dave lived his life as all Catholics should live it. One of his nephews said about David, "He truly practiced what he preached." We need not say any more. We kindly ask all members of the Apostolate and readers of our newsletter to pray for the repose of the soul of David R Heckenkamp. "Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen."
Additionally, my father, Richard Zibolski who died on December 15th, 1991 was a devout Catholic father. He was a Mechanical Engineer by trade but on the side he had other jobs such as CCD instructor, and member of the Holy Name Society in his parish. The details surrounding David’s death has caused a deep reflection of my own father’s life once again. I recall him working late into the night on projects to defend the Catholic Church. One project stands out the most in my mind. It is that of a drawing he made of Christ’s Holy Face-the Volto Santo. In this drawing, the Crown of Thorns bore the sins of our present day in writing. It was a project he was doing for his local parish to defend the truths of the Faith.
Before his death in 1991, my father did extensive study on the Shroud of Turin. He was the first one in our family to become interested in this devotion. Now sixteen years have past since Dad’s death, and we find that Our Lord’s face on the Shroud of Turin was the image of choice for the Holy Face devotion in the 20th Century.
Since we assist the Carmelite and Conceptionist Convents in Quito, we find it very appropriate to write about these two sisters and the two different yet very similar devotions to the Holy Face that they were ordered by Our Lord.
At the very core of both of these devotions are Our Lord’s words to both of these sisters who had a desire to fulfill the wishes of His Sacred Heart. He explained to these sisters that no one should fear that this devotion will take away from the devotion to His Sacred Heart but to the contrary the devotion of the Sacred Heart is "completed and augmented" in the devotion to the Holy Face since "in contemplating My Face, souls will share in all My gifts and will feel the need for love and reparation."
And so it is that you will find in Part 1 and Part 2 of the Work of Reparation the importance of this devotion for our times. It is our hope that you will share in our idea that the practice of this devotion will help to compliment our work and fulfill the prophecies of Our Lady of Good Success. The devotion has touched our lives in a very special way and has permanently branded our hearts with the flame of His Love as we realize that in order to enter His Heaven we are all called to be replicas of His Holy Face. Please join us in spreading this wonderful devotion given to us by Christ Himself.
Holy Face medals and holy cards available – please send $1.00 to the Apostolate to cover postage and we will send you a medal and holy cards and information on this wonderful devotion that all good Christian families should be practicing according to many popes. including Pope St. Pius X.