As the youth of the world gather in Sydney, Australia together with Pope Benedict XVI and many Cardinals, Bishops, Priests and Religious it seems that the world is becoming more united, more open to Jesus Christ. May this august gathering, and its associated assemblies, flourish and transform the hearts of many nations, to "throw open wide the doors to Jesus Christ" in the immortal words of Pope John Paul II. What follows is the special Prayer to Recognize the Face of Jesus which was composed by Pope Benedict XVI on September 1, 2007 the first anniversary of the Pope's own visit to the Holy Face of Manoppello.
Lord Jesus as the first apostles whom you asked, "What do you seek?", accepted your invitation to "Come and see", recognizing you as the Son of God, the promised Messiah for the world's redemption, we too, your disciples in this difficult time, want to follow you and be your friends, drawn by the brilliance of your Face, much desired yet hidden. Show us we pray you your Face ever new, that mirror, mystery laden, of God's infinite mercy. Grant that we may contemplate it with the eyes of our minds and hearts, the Son's face, radiance of the Father's glory and the imprint of his Nature, the human face of God that has burst into history to reveal the horizons of eternity. The silent Face of Jesus suffering and risen, when loved and accepted changes the heart and life. "Your Face, Lord, do I seek, do not hide your face from me". How many times through the centuries and millenia has not resounded the ardent invocation of the Psalmist among the faithful! Lord, with faith we too repeat the same invocation: "Man of suffering, as one from whom others hide their faces", Do not hide your Face from us! We want to draw from your eyes, that look upon us with tenderness and compassion, the force of love and peace which shows us the way of life and the courage to follow you without fear or compromise so as to be witnesses of your Gospel with concrete signs of acceptance, love and foregiveness. O Holy Face of Christ, Light that enlightens the darkness of doubt and sadness, Life that has defeated forever the force of evil and death, o inscrutable gaze that never ceases to watch over men and people, Face concealed in the Eucharistic signs and in the faces of those that live with us, make us God's pilgrims in the world, longing for the Infinite and ready for the final encounter when we shall see you Lord "face to face" and be able to contemplate you forever in heavenly Glory. Mary, Mother of the Holy Face, help us have "innocent hands and a pure heart", hands illumined with the truth of love and enraptured by divine beauty, that transformed by the encounter with Christ, we may give ourselves to the poor and the suffering whose faces reflect the hidden presence of your Son Jesus who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen!
Thanks to Fr. Carmine Cucinelli, O.F.M., Cap., Rector of the Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello for providing me with this prayer, and to Paul Badde for allowing the use of his photograph of the Holy Face.