Season 5, Devotions with Bishop Dolan, Episode 9: The Holy Face
Domine, ostende Faciem tuam, et salvi erimus. (Psalm 79)*
If we sincerely strive for spiritual progress, it is imperative that we take a closer look at our devotional life.
The important point to consider when choosing any kind of devotion is that we should not think of them as fancy gadgets, so to speak, that cater to our sense of curiosity, but when the thrill of novelty is gone, are forgotten about and discarded. As St. Thomas Aquinas teaches us, devotion is essentially a certain promptness of our will to do the will of God. If we truly ponder upon this short definition, composed by the Angelic Doctor, we should be able to distinguish between a spirit of false piety, which operates merely on a superficial level and that which lifts our souls to God and increases His grace in our hearts.
The Devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus has been a favourite of the Little Flower of Carmel, St. Therese of Lisieux, whose full religious name was St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face. Hers was a life of complete and childlike confidence in the love of God, and total abandonment of self, undoubtedly fostered by the devotion to Christ’s Holy Countenance.
Our Lord appeared to a humble Carmelite, Sr. Mary of Saint Peter, at her convent in Tours, France on the 26th of August, 1841, revealing to the pious nun what we know today as the Golden Arrow prayer, expecting of her to make reparation for the blasphemies uttered against His Holy Name, which, as was told by Our Lord Himself, “was being blasphemed everywhere, even by children.” This prayer of reparation exemplifies just how Our Lord’s Holy Name is inextricably intertwined with the devotion to His Holy Face.
The wonderful thing about this particular devotion is that it admits of personal variations. As Bishop Dolan explains, one is free to choose any pious image of Our Lord, in order to practice it, be it the Holy Face of Jesus in His infancy, the hidden life in Nazareth, or His glorified Face after the Resurrection. Providentially, Pope Pius IX granted an indulgence of 100 days for every prayer said before the image of the Holy Face. However, the original image of this devotion is the Holy Face of Jesus as imprinted on the Veil of St. Veronica, bearing all the bruises, wounds, blood, sweat, and spittle which covered Our Lord’s countenance in His bitter Passion. The Holy Face of Jesus in His agony is what we offer to God the Father in order to appease His just wrath, provoked by the sins of mankind, and by our own offences.
The spirit of reparation is intimately bound with the devotion to the Holy Face, and made truly meritorious and satisfactory by the infinite merits of Our Lord’s Divine Countenance. In the Preface to the 1887 edition of the Manual of the Archconfraternity of the Holy Face we read: “It is evident that, separated from the Holy Face, the reparations we offer to God for contemporary blasphemies and the profanation of Sunday, are in themselves imperfect and very insufficient. What human tears, in fact, even if they were to flow in torrents from the most penitent and the purest eyes, would suffice worthily to weep over the frightful crimes that are committed against the Sovereignty and the Majesty of God? What humiliations and what voluntary sufferings on the part of the holiest souls would ever suffice to repair the sacrileges and other inexpressible outrages invented by freemasonry and modern impiety! But in our Archconfraternity, appropriating to ourselves, in the name and through the authority of the Church, the merits of the Holy Face, and invoking It directly, we present It to the Heavenly Father, we say to Him: ‘Look, O God, our Protector, behold our tears and our expiations, listen to our prayers and our sighs. Protector noster, aspice Deus. But this is not enough. Are we worthy of ourselves to appease Thine anger? Look at the same time on the Face of Thy Christ. Behold the tears which flow from His penitent eyes; the wounds which cover His sacred cheeks! Listen to the cry for pardon which He addresses to Thee on our behalf, and forgive us! Respice in Faciem Christi tui... ' We can understand how marvelously suitable this offering and this spectacle are to disarm the Divine justice.”
The Holy Face devotion is particularly meaningful in our miserable, post-modern age. The 19th century saw enemies of the Catholic Church try relentlessly to overthrow Christ’s reign over societies, their chief battlefield being France. The 21st century world is the Masonic dream that has finally come true. Bishop Dolan explains how these enemies of old, the communists spoken of by Our Lord in His apparitions to Sr. Mary of St. Peter, are also today’s enemies of Christ.
Whether you are an absolute beginner and are just starting to look for a devotion that will set you on the right path in your spiritual life or have already made some spiritual progress but still have your doubts devotion-wise, this episode of Devotions with Bishop Dolan will provide you with just the sound advice and reassurance you need. As for the “old stagers,” there is always something to improve in our devotional practices.
For those who already have a devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus, this episode should also offer much encouragement and intellectual refreshment so as to prevent them from falling into spiritual weariness.
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*Show us Thy Face, O Lord, and we shall be saved. Pope Leo XIII granted an indulgence of 60 days to those who recite these words and devoutly kiss a picture of the Holy Face.