Lent & Devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus

02-18-2024Weekly ReflectionFr. Leonard F. Villa

The primary purpose of the devotion is to make reparation for sins against the first three commandments: Denial of God, Blasphemy, and the profanation of Sundays and Holy Days.

Devotion to the Holy Face was revealed by Jesus to Sr. Marie of St. Peter (1816-1848) a Carmelite nun of Tours in France. The devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus, based on the life and writings of Sr. Marie of St. Peter, was eventually approved by Pope Leo XIII in 1885 who established the devotion as an Arch-confraternity for the whole world.

In January 1849 Pope Pius IX had the relic of Veronica’s veil placed for public veneration in Rome. During this time, the Divine Face appeared distinctly, as if living, and was illuminated by a soft light. Reproductions of the veil were later printed, touched to the original and sent abroad for veneration.

The Holy Man of Tours - Leo Dupont
Leo Dupont heard of the reported visions of Jesus and Mary by the Carmelite nun Sister Marie of St Peter from 1844 to 1847. Based on this, Dupont started to burn a vigil lamp continuously before a picture of the Holy Face of Jesus based on the painted image on the Veil of Veronica. Dupont used that image because the existence of a clear image on the Shroud of Turin was not known to anyone at that time for the somewhat faded image of the face on the Shroud can not easily be seen with the naked eye and was only observed in May 1898 via the negative plate of Secondo Pia's first photograph. In 1851 Dupont formed the "Archconfraternity of the Holy Face" in Tours. He prayed for and promoted the case for a devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus for around 30 years.

Blessed Maria Pierina de Micheli & The Holy Face of Jesus Devotion & Medal
At the age of twelve, when she was in her Parish Church during the 3pm Good Friday service, she heard a Voice saying quite distinctly: "No one gives me a kiss of love on My Face to make amends for the Kiss of Judas."
In her childlike simplicity, she believed that the voice was heard by everyone and was pained to see that only the wounds were kissed but not the face. In her heart exclaiming, "Have patience, dear Jesus, I will give you a kiss of love", and when her turn came she lovingly and devoutly imprinted a kiss on His Face.

Mother Maria Pierina de Micheli obtained permission from her spiritual Director and although she did not have any financial means to get medals of the Holy Face made. She obtained the permission of the photographer Bruner to take copies of the Holy Shroud as reproduced by him, and she received the permission to do so by the Archdiocese of Milan on August 9, 1940. Since then the devotion and the medal have been spread worldwide with much enthusiasm, accompanied all the while by wonderful graces, conversions and cures as a testament and heavenly sign of God's institution and approval of both. This devotion to the Holy face of Jesus so inspired St Therese that she took the full title: ‘Sr. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face’. An image of the Holy Face is attached to the statue of St. Therese here at St Paul’s for reverence and devotion.

Sister Pierina explained that evil is rampant and diabolical networks extend to eradicate faith from hearts. The opening prayer of the Mass on Ash Wednesday reminds the faithful that Lent is a campaign of Christian warfare against spiritual evils. In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius Loyola reminds us that the battle is between two armies under two battle standards: Satan and his minions wage war against Christ and His Church. Satan summons together innumerable devils and spurs them to go, some to one city, some to another, throughout the world, omitting no province, place or state of life nor any person in particular. His attack is universal. St. Ignatius is the last person to attribute all temptations to the devil. Still the fact remains, and the Saint strongly emphasizes it, that Satan is constantly at our side, as the embodiment of evil, bent on organizing the attacks of the world and the flesh against us, and on undoing God’s work in our souls. Aloysius Ambruzzi S.J., A Companion to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius , Newman Press 1948 p.105 The Son of God was manifested to undo the works of the devil 1 John 3:8

Spiritual protection is needed: the Holy Face of Jesus. Jesus wanted Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, dedicated to this particular intention of reparation because of the excesses of Mardi Gras, also known as Carnevale. Today all of Lenten practice has become lax. While many people come to church to get ashes, many forget the meaning of the ashes which is to reform our lives and become better Catholics. A Catholic writer recently remarked … (O)n Ash Wednesday a steady stream of people would flow in, all day long, to receive their ashes from the friars who worked in relays to satisfy the demand. Only a few of those people would stay for Mass; most would march in to the chapel, receive their ashes, and march back out. No doubt some of those people were pious practicing Catholics who happened to be pressed for time. But many, I’m sure, were entering a Catholic church for the first time in months.

The Golden Arrow Prayer
“May the most holy, most sacred, most adorable, most incomprehensible and unutterable 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.” (END)

The Meaning of “INRI” On the Cross of Jesus
In Exodus 20.2 God reveals his name to Moses: "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt". The word translated with “the Lord” is the famous Tetragrammaton (Greek for “four-letter”) that the Jews cannot even pronounce and Christians should reverence: “YHWH“, vocalized in various ways including “Yahweh“. The four Hebrew letters that compose it are these: “יהוה”, yod-he-waw-he. Remember that Hebrew is read from right to left. In the Gospel of John, chapter 19 verses 16-22, we read: They took Jesus and he, carrying the cross, went towards the place called the Skull, in Hebrew Gòlgotha, where they crucified him and two others with him, one from a side and one from the other, and Jesus in the middle. Pilate also composed the inscription and had it placed on the cross; it was written: «Jesus the Nazarene, the king of the Jews». Many Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; it was written in Hebrew, Latin and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews then said to Pilate: "Do not write: 'The king of the Jews', but: 'He said: I am the king of the Jews'". Pilate replied: "What I have written, I have written".

Although the passage in question is very famous, the scene that took place in front of the crucified Jesus must have been a little different from how we have always imagined it. St. John perhaps tried to emphasize it, but if the reader, does not know the Hebrew language, He would be unable to understand the real meaning: The inscription John speaks of is the famous acronym "INRI", still depicted today above the crucified Jesus. The acronym, which stands for the Latin Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum, means precisely "Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews". But John specifies that the inscription was also in Hebrew. Not only that: in such an important moment, the evangelist seems to dwell on apparently insignificant details: 1) the fact that many Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; 2) the chief priests, who turn to Pilate, to have the inscription changed; 3) Pilate refuses to change it.
Pontius Pilate, who was Roman, probably did not understand that, perhaps without meaning to, he had created a bit of embarrassment to the Jews who observed Jesus crucified with that inscription above his head. Henri Tisot, an expert in Hebrew, turned to several rabbis to ask, what was the exact Hebrew translation of the inscription compiled by Pilate? He talks about it in his book Eva, the Woman on pages 234-237. He discovered the grammar of the inscription in Hebrew. With Hebrew letters we get הנוצר ומלך היהודים ישוע. Remember to read from right to left. These letters are equivalent to our “Yshu Hnotsri Wmlk Hyhudim” vocalized “Yeshua Hanotsri Wemelek Hayehudim“. Thus, as for the Latin we get the acronym “INRI“, Iesus Nazarenum Rex Iudaeorum Jesus the Nazarene King of the Jews but for the Hebrew we get acronym .”YHWH “,“יהוה”

This explains the attention that John reserves for the situation that takes place under the crucified Jesus. At that moment the Jews saw the man put to death, who had claimed to be the Son of God, with the name of God, the unpronounceable Tetragrammaton, engraved above his head. It could not be good that YHWH was written there, visible to all, and they tried to convince Pilate to change the engraving. Here the phrase of the Roman prosecutor "What I wrote, I wrote" acquires a much deeper meaning. Sounds amazing? Think that Jesus had prophesied exactly this moment. In John 8:28 we find written: "Then Jesus said: "When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that “I Am". By "lifting up" Jesus means the crucifixion. “I Am” alludes to the name that God revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:14: “God said to Moses, "I am who I am!" And he added: «So you will say to the Israelites: « I-Am has sent me to you »”