By Patricia McNally
At the sixth station of the cross, Veronica made herself known to everyone that she was a follower of Jesus by stepping out of the crowd and going to him to wipe his blood- stained face. Her focus was on her Lord. This is the beginning of the story of the Holy Face Devotion. We must go back to this important event, for it not only holds the key to who we as followers of Jesus as called to be, but it is revealed as a powefrul devotion which is a source of strength for our times. Let us first reflect in detail on this most significant act of love,courage and devotion – an act that has significant implications for the world we live in today. Veronica, was among the crowd of onlookers that lined the streets to see Jesus carrying his cross.She had the immense courage to step out of the crowd,and go to him to wipe his bloodied and sweaty face.
This powerful and couragous act by Veronica is one to be meditated upon. It invites us to place ourselves into that picture and find our place in the crowd and see where it applies to us in our lives. What would you do? Perhaps we think we would act like Veronica if we were in the same situation, but in reality we may do nothing. Today, more that ever, Jesus calls each one of us to come out of the crowd and not to be afraid to make ourselves known to others around us as to who we are and who we follow.
The momentum of this outreach of love and courage and devotion have carried across the centuries. Fast forward to the 6th January 1849, during a time of political unrest, the relic of St Veronica's veil was exposed for veneration in St Peter's bascilica at the Vatican, and for a three hour period, a vision of the face of Jesus appeared in front of the veil. It was illuminated by a soft light and it was just like a living face. People broke down into tears at what they saw before them,and thousands of people witnessed this Miracle.
Artists made drawings and these were copied and were touched to Veronicas veil, the relic of the true Cross and the Spear that pierced Jesus side. These new Holy face relics were framed and sealed with a red seal and distributed globally.
Sister Marie of Saint Peter was a Carmelite nun who lived in France until her death in 1848. Our Lord revealed to her the devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus, saying: “Those who will contemplate the wounds on My Face here on earth shall contemplate it radiant in heaven.” Our Lord also dictated the following prayer to Sr Marie of Peter, saying that it would heal the injuries inflicted by the impious. The sin of blasphemy, Our Lord revealed, grievously offends Him. By blasphemy the sinner curses Him to His Face, attacks Him openly, annuls redemption, and pronounces his own condemnation. This prayer is known as the golden arrow prayer and it is the central prayer in the devotion to the Holy Face.
"May the most Holy, most Sacred, most Adorable,Most Incomprehensible and Ineffable Name of God Be always Praised, Blessed, Loved, Adored 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."
After Sr Marie of St.Peter's death,the superior of her convent gave one of these relics to a man called Leo Dupont. Leo was a lawyer and a holy man.He felt a desire to burn an oil lamp before the relics of the Holy Face and he then invited people to pray the holy face prayers with him.This devotion drew more and more people, and miracles began to happen when people came to pray this devotion. Countless miracles continued over a 30 year period. The Lord had asked him to establish a praying association or a confraternity and Leo worked tirelessly to promote this devotion and to get the prayers published. This only came to fruition when Leo was an old man.
The devotion was approved by Pope Leo XIII in 1885 establishing a global Arch-confraternity. It's headquarters are based in Leo's old home which is now the oratory of the Holy face in Tours,France. St Therese of Liseiux was enrolled into the Arch-confraternity of the Holy face at aged 12 years and she had an immense devotion to the Holy Face, so much so, that on entering religious life, she took the name 'Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face'. Before 1898 the image of the Holy Face was based on artists' representations from the Vatican miracle of 1849, then the Shroud of Turin which is held to be the authentic face of Jesus emerged onto the world stage in 1898.
On the first Friday of Lent 1936, a holy nun, now Blessed. Maria Pierina de Michelli, reported a vision of Jesus. In further visions she was urged to make a medal bearing the Holy Face of Jesus. She was given permission to reproduce the face of the Holy Shroud of Turin and authorisation by the Curia to proceed in 1940 with the medal. One side has the image of the Holy Shroud of Turin and the words of Ps 66:2 "illumina Domine Vultum Tuum super nos" (may the light of your Face, O Lord, shine upon us).
On the other side the sacred host. The letters IHS and "Mane nobiscum Domine" (stay with us O Lord). Pope Pius XII approved the devotion and medal in 1958. Maria also reported Jesus' desire of a special feast day on the Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday each year (Shrove Tuesday), to be preceded by a 9 day novena of prayer.
In 1958, Pope Pius XII declared the feast of the Holy Face of Jesus for all Roman Catholics to be the day before Ash Wednesday. As revealed to Sister Pierina, Tuesday is a day of reparation to the Holy Face, particularly before the Blessed Sacrament. All are encouraged make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament.
The primary purpose of the devotion is to make reparation for sins against the first three commandments. Denial of God (Atheism/Communism) Blasphemy, and the profanation of Sundays and Holy Days.The Devotion is a weapon to combat the militant atheistic Communism which currently threatens to overwhelm the world. Our Lord told Sister Marie of Saint Peter that this holy image is destined to be the means of defeating atheistic Communism and restoring peace to the world.
Where do we see ourselves in the crowded world of today? Do we show others that we follow Jesus or do we hide our faith away discreetly so no one will notice? Veronica's act was an act of faith, love, and charity combined with compassion,devotion and of courage. Our world today needs more Veronicas now more than ever because of the times we are living in. It takes courage to speak up for our faith,it takes bravery to stand out from the crowd.
“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14).
For more information on Holy Face devotion and prayers https://humanlife.ie/history-of-the-holy-face-devotion/