Thursday, August 15, 2013

Report from a Pilgrim to the Holy Face of Manoppello from the Heartland of the USA

An Eyewitness Report on a True Image of Jesus' Face,
The Veil of Veronica, found in Manoppello, Italy

By Carol Surowiec, Naperville, Illinois
originally published in Medjugorje Magazine, Fall 2012 edition

photos below by Paul Badde

(editor's note: I am so happy to share this wonderful eyewitness account with you. Scans of the original article can be seen below at the end of the article, if you click on the scans they will open and you can enlarge them so they can be read.)

It all started simply enough, with a catalogue of Catholic books. I like to read and the title drew my attention. The book was titled “Face of God” (editor's note: by Paul Badde, published by Ignatius Press) and the excerpt on the book jacket appealed to my love of all things Catholic.

I pored through the book in a short time, and I was hooked.
I became convinced that the Holy Relic was indeed one of several burial cloths still extant, the most notable of which is the Shroud of Turin. This second cloth, the Veil of Manoppello, Italy, is unknown to most of the English-speaking world, and as I found out later, to the Italian-speaking world that I came in contact with on my journey to Manoppello.

I am not a stranger to Catholic shrines, pilgrimages nor the Shroud. I believed in the Shroud from the moment I heard of it. But now to behold the face of the Risen Christ as in a photograph? Could it be true? Should not the news be broadcast to every Christian in the world? To see the Living God and not just ponder what he looks like? Unthinkable grace! Unimaginable gift! And yes, I must report as an eyewitness, a seeker, a lover of God, of Jesus, of all things true and holy: that the veil is real, it is the image of the living God!

Shortly after being captivated by this image of Jesus Holy Face and reading about the mysteries of how the Veil came to reside in Manoppello, Italy, I began planning a trip to Rome with my two daughters.

Our daughters grew up hearing stories of both Rome and Medjugorje. As a single woman in the 80’s, I made five pilgrimages to Medjugorje including three side trips to Rome. My dream was to travel with all my family members back to these holy places. I promised my older daughter a trip to Europe for high school graduation. Seven years after graduation, we finally made it in March 2012.

What started out as a trip to Rome, ended with the highlight (for me!) being a side-trip to an obscure, mountain village called Manoppello. After we arrived in Rome and made arrangements for a car to take us to Manoppello, even our driver asked us why we were traveling to this small mountain town. He had not heard of the existence of the relic or its significance.

We left Rome early in the day, 7:30 am and arrived around 10 am, missing the morning Mass. I was surprised to discover that the church of the Holy Veil was a basilica. A church is deemed a basilica based on either unusual beauty or historical significance. Here in Manoppello, the Church is called Volto Santo, or Holy Face. Pope Benedict traveled to the shrine of the Volto Santo in 2006 and soon after, elevated the shrine to a basilica.

While the exterior of the church is certainly beautiful, the interior is simple compared to the many extravagant churches and basilicas of Rome and antiquity. The official website for the Manoppello Basilica Volto Santo reports that the current church was completed in 1871 and the high altar area dates to 1923. We did not realize until we returned home that we could have registered our visit and had a guided tour of the shrine. Instead we made a quiet pilgrimage with only a few other persons present.

We hoped that we might be able to talk to Sr. Blandina whose research on the veil catapulted it into recent notoriety. But because of our inability to speak Italian or German, we were content with viewing the Holy Veil of Jesus Face and praying as private pilgrims.

Sr. Blandina writes on the official Basilica website, that she was always fascinated by the human face. She was the first to discover, by superimposing an image of the Holy Veil over a photocopy of the Shroud of Turin, that the dimensions are a perfect 1:1 match. She has also done extensive scientific research on the Veil and noted other significant features of the face of Jesus, such as the asymmetry of his eyes.

On first view of the veil, the image was difficult to see with the sun streaming through the large stained glass windows behind. We were able to walk behind the main altar, climb a short flight of stairs, approach and stand inches away from the beautiful relic. We knelt in prayer and snapped a few photos. With a little discussion, we realized that the photos might not turn out due to the bright light behind. But moving around the image brought a more crisp view of Jesus face, so we took a couple of photos while kneeling and they were the best of the images we captured.

Afterward, we went down into the church facing the altar where there are chairs set up in front of the pews. While quietly reflecting, a Capuchin friar returned to the area with another pilgrim and we watched while he turned off the interior light in the enclosure holding the veil. The face on the veil disappeared and only a white linen was visible from where we were sitting. He turned the light back on and the image reappeared with the reflection of the light.

The veil has been referred to as “Acheiropoieta” or not made by human hands. The cloth in fact is made from a rare silk called byssus or sea silk. It is the most expensive cloth known to the ancient world. The cloth is transparent like a nylon stocking.
Jesus’ image is seen on both sides of the cloth. Standing in front of the relic, with the sunlight streaming through stained-glass windows, it was difficult to see the image or photograph it. But kneeling, we were able to capture the beauty and magnificence of the King! (Had I known I would be graced to write an article, I surely would have taken more photos)

It is thought that the cloth was one of several burial cloths used in a traditional Jewish burial, the face cloth or sweat cloth (also called a sudarium). And conjectured to be the image captured at the moment of Resurrection! The cloth is also referred to as the Veronica, which comes from Vera Icon meaning true Icon.

The internet has an explosion of information on wikkipedia, youtube and other websites both pro and con concerning this amazing relic and shrine. (
I also recommend a video by Ignatius press, The Holy Face. I have continued to read about this holy relic since my trip in March 2012.

I have been asked why the Western world has not heard of this most-holy relic, when the Shroud has been visited and seen by millions. One only has to turn on the television, listen to the “worldly news” the killing, the culture of death here in the United States to know that now is the acceptable time, now is when we most need to know and see the Face of God.

Prayer of Pope Benedict XVI on Sept. 1, 2007

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 mind and hearts, the Son's Face, radiance of the Father's glory and the imprint of his Nature (Hb 1:3), 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" (Ps 27:8ff). 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" (Is. 53:3) 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 forgiveness. 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 this world, longing for the Infinite and ready for the final encounter when we shall see you Lord "face to face" (1 Cor 13:12) 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 hearts 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!

1 comment:

Paula Lawlor said...

I think the veil used as a napkin over Jesus' face when he was buried was the veil of Mary Magdalene. If you think about the women that were there at his burial, it is a logical choice. The veil made of sea byssus or sea silk was a fabric that was made at the time, but extremely expensive. And I think that it was on Mary Magdalene's veil that his image appeared as he was resurrected through it. When John entered the empty tomb after Peter had gone in, the gospel tells us, "He saw and he believed." What do you think he saw? If all he saw was the linen cloths on one side and the napkin on the other, don't you think he would naturally assume that someone had stolen the body of Jesus? But rather he saw something that made him believe. I think he saw the Face of God on the napkin in the empty tomb, and that is why "he believed."
On March 8, 2013 I brought the relic of Saint Mary Magdalene from La Sainte-Baume in Provence, France with a French Dominican priest to Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in your town of Naperville. I am wondering if you were able to come to venerate it?
How blessed you have been to have gone to Manoppello and seen the true icon, the Face of God. I too was there in 2011 on Good Friday with my daughter, and was fortunate enough to meet Sister Blandina and look at the exhibit she has prepared in the Church.
Many blessing to you...
Paula Lawlor
Solana Beach, Californis