He concludes his heartfelt piece with these words.
In reading Benedict, I became accustomed to his frequent references to the Holy Face of God. “Rely on the mighty Lord,” implores Psalm 105, “constantly seek his face.” So I was pleasantly surprised to read in Francis’ Urbi et Orbi message for Christmas 2013: “Today, I voice my hope that everyone will come to know the true face of God.” It is my hope, too. That even in the dying face of one’s father one can see the face of God: obedience even in the face of death.
I marveled when I looked into this devotion to the Holy Face. I found it to be a reference to the Veil at Manoppello in the Abruzzi Region of Italy. It is said to be the “napkin” mentioned in John 20:7, which covered the head of Jesus at his burial and upon which is a vivid, startling impression of a man’s bruised face with open eyes, as if he has just awakened, startled, new life having been breathed into him. The peaceful gaze of the incarnated Agnus Dei. The Face of God, then, is not one of an agonized death, but of resurrected life. Paul Badde’s The Face of God, chronicling the incredible story of this veil, would have certainly been one to share with my father.
“‘Your face, O Lord, I seek’: seeking the Face of Jesus must be the longing of all of us Christians; indeed, we are ‘the generation’ which seeks his Face in our day,” Benedict said in his address at Manoppello on September 1, 2006. Two weeks after returning from this visit, he raised the tiny chapel housing the veil to a basilica.
I pray that my own life and death be as dignified and humble as those of the holy fathers I have written about. I certainly would not have glimpsed the divine face without them.