Friday, February 21, 2014

His Gaze Heals Us

by Fr. Daren J. Zehnle, K.H.S.
from his blog "Servant and Steward"

February 16, 2014

"The eyes of God are on those who fear him," a sage of Israel today reminds us, and "he understands man's every deed" (Sirach 15:19). Having seen the eyes of God in the image of the Holy Face enshrined at Manoppello, this verse has taken on a great depth of meaning.

Most regrettably, the fear of the Lord has been, if you will, watered down in recent decades and all but written off as unnecessary or even unwarranted. But, since "the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom," this cannot be true (Psalm 111:10).

No, possessing a fear of the Lord is good, holy, and proper, but an authentic fear of the Lord does not lead to grovelling or cringing before the Lord who looks upon us with compassion (cf. Matthew 9:36; Mark 10:21; Luke 10:33). Because he knows our deeds, he looks upon us with compassion. As the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews reminds us: "For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every way has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning. Let us then with confidence draw near the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:15-16).

Speaking to our concerns about our need for a correct understanding of the fear of the Lord - of which the Sacred Scriptures so frequently speak - His Holiness Benedict XVI once noted:
Perhaps this is a phrase with which we are not very familiar or do not like very much. But "fear of God" is not anguish; it is something quite different. As children, we are not anxious about the Father but we have fear of God, the concern not to destroy the love on which our life is based.
Fear of God is that sense of responsibility that we are bound to possess, responsibility for the portion of the world that has been entrusted to us in our lives. It is responsibility for the good administration of this portion of the world and of history, and one thus helps the just building of the world, contributing to the victory of goodness and peace.
None of us wants to waste our lives or to disappoint those who love us and whom we also love. We might well say if we have the fear of disappointing him who died for us we have the fear of the Lord, a fear based not on grovelling but on love. Because he knows our deeds and looks on us with love and compassion, we feel all the more intently, when we look into his eyes, our lack of love of him and of our neighbor.

When we consider his eyes or his face, how can we not remember the look he gave to Simon Peter (cf. Luke 22:61-62)? What did Peter see in those eyes? He saw what everyone sees who fears the Lord, what Benedict XVI described in his encyclical Spe salvi:
The encounter with him is the decisive act of judgement. Before his gaze all falsehood melts away. This encounter with him, as it burns us, transforms and frees us, allowing us to become truly ourselves. All that we build during our lives can prove to be mere straw, pure bluster, and it collapses. Yet in the pain of this encounter, when the impurity and sickness of our lives become evident to us, there lies salvation. His gaze, the touch of his heart heals us through an undeniably painful transformation “as through fire”. But it is a blessed pain, in which the holy power of his love sears through us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves and thus totally of God. In this way the inter-relation between justice and grace also becomes clear: the way we live our lives is not immaterial, but our defilement does not stain us for ever if we have at least continued to reach out towards Christ, towards truth and towards love. Indeed, it has already been burned away through Christ's Passion. At the moment of judgement we experience and we absorb the overwhelming power of his love over all the evil in the world and in ourselves. The pain of love becomes our salvation and our joy.

Looking upon the veil that once covered the face of the Crucified Lord and was found in the empty tomb, one sense this moment, this encounter, has begun. On that veil it is possible to look upon his face, to gaze into his eyes, the eyes of the Living Lord. In that gaze is love, mercy, and understanding.

photos by Paul Badde

Monday, February 17, 2014

Pope Benedict, Peter the Rock and the Holy Face

The Departure of a Revolutionary
By Paul Badde
Published in Le Figaro, Paris, February 11, 2014

At the end of his pontificate, Benedict XVI had his Fisherman’s Ring destroyed, as is the practice after the death of a Pope. On the other hand, he did not give up his name. He did not become Jozef Ratzinger again, as did Celestine V who, on December 13, 1294 after a few months in his office as Pope, resumed his former name, Pietro del Morrone. That is why, since February 11, 2013, the pontificate is no longer what it was. It will remain, however, the foundation of the Catholic Church. Now it is this base that Benedict XVI has effectively modified and he has done it as a sovereign just as Charles V did when, on October 25, 1555, in Brussels he laid down the most powerful imperial crown in the world. One should not have been astonished, then, to see a lightning flash strike the dome of St Peter’s on the night of February 11, 2013. Benedict XVI stepped back, a revolutionary.

He was the first to succeed the Apostle Peter in the new millennium. A multitude of challenges awaited him. He faced them as a passionate guardian of the deposit of faith seen in its totality. But this great conservative considered his latest responsibility in a more sober and modern manner than nearly all his predecessors. In his capacity as a theologian, he knew how weak Simon, to whom Jesus had given the name Peter, the Rock, was in reality. Yet the Rock remains the Rock. When Benedict XVI recognised that he was beginning to crumble, he gave up his responsibility so that, considering there were superhuman tasks to accomplish, he could make way for a successor who would also be as solid as the Rock. He did so in his role as “Pontifex Maximus” (supreme builder of bridges) between different worlds that had drifted away from each other. As he declared in Latin at Rome on that February 11, his strength was no longer sufficient “to exercise the Petrine ministry in an adequate manner”.

The key words in this declaration in Latin are the expression “munus petrinum”. The Latin term “munus” has a number of meanings. It can mean simply “ministry” as well as “gift”, “duty”, “direction”, “victim”, but also “wonder”. But Benedict understands it most of all, before as much as after his resignation, as “Petrine ministry”. This ministry of service he has therefore not abandoned by his step of February 11, 2013.

To the very personal Petrine office he has added a collegial dimension, as if it were a question of a common ministry. Since that day, there are not two Popes, but one enlarged and somehow more powerful pontificate. That is why he has not given up either his white cassock or his name. That is why he has not withdrawn, as the emperor Charles V did, to a monastery in far-off Spain. He has taken the opposite direction, choosing a step deeper into the heart of the Vatican - as if he was simply moving aside to give room to his successor and to allow for a new stage in the history of the papacy, which he has enriched by this step with a power-station of prayer and good counsel. . . in the gardens of the Vatican. He has not taken flight from the Petrine responsibility. He has rather strengthened its power. And that is what will remain.

And yet: in a hundred years, who will still be reading the books he succeeded in publishing during his pontificate, in a nearly Herculaneum effort? No one knows. There will certainly still be “read” a document which he himself did not publish, but which he has revealed by taking a just as significant as inconspicuous step. This document is not another book for our library but a unique iconographic document.
It is the image of Christ “not made by human hands”, which has borne many names in the course of the centuries. It has been known as the “sudarium”, the “true Face” or “the veil of St Veronica”. From 706 to 1527 it was kept in St Peter’s Basilica and was venerated in the Byzantine empire under the name of the “Mandylion” or the “image of Edessa”. It is an extremely fine and delicate object because the image is on a veil of sea silk (or “byssus”, a fibre obtained from mussels). This precious cloth disappeared from St Peter’s Basilica during the Sack of Rome in 1527 and was probably kept for safety on an isolated hill in Abruzzo by Ferdinando de Alarcon, the Spanish commander of the Castel Sant’Angelo.

For a long time it was thought to have disappeared. It even entered into the category of a legend so that it took a platonist intellectual like Benedict XVI to take really seriously the message conveyed by this original “not-man-made” image of the Lord. Four hundred and seventynine years after its disappearance from Rome, he was the first Pope who dared kneel before this cloth on which appears the Face of Christ. This he did on September 1, 2006, at Manoppello (200km east of Rome) where the cloth is permanently kept.

Since that day, the “human Face of God” has become the seal of his pontificate. In his sermon on New Year’s Day, January 1, 2013, he referred to it 16 times. And over 25 times during his second last general audience! This is THE testament of Benedict XVI: God became man and we have an image of the face of the invisible God. It is the “unique selling point”, it is the distinguishing mark of Christianity, which Benedict has brought back into history. He has rediscovered this original visual “text” as a cosmic “memory chip” for the future - which continues to proclaim, as no other document, the Resurrection of Christ from among the dead and until the end of time.

(Translated by Paul MacLeod, Geelong, Australia.)

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Wider View of the Holy Face -- from the Land of Lincoln to the Coastlands and Mountains of Italy

In the past week Fr. Daren J. Zehnle, K.H.S., a priest of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois studying canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, wrote about his recent visit to the Shrine of the Holy Face. His articles include a number of beautiful photographs of the Holy Face. Father Zehnle is a prolific blogger whose several sites are inspirational. Here are the links to his postings on the Holy Face.

Servant and Steward: I have looked upon the eyes of Love

Servant and Steward: The face of Jesus

Quoting Fr. Zehnle

"If you come to Rome, you simply must plan to take a half a day and visit the shrine at Manoppello; I promise you will not regret it."

"In the end, all I can find to describe what I experienced and saw is simply this: I have looked upon the eyes of Love, and I long for the day when "his servants shall worship him; they shall see his face, and his name shall be on their foreheads. And night shall be no more; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they shall reign for ever and ever" (Revelation 20:3-5)."

Friday, February 7, 2014

Confirmation Day, St. Ignatius Church

photo by Paul Badde

O Light eternal, Light Divine
Grant us charity of mind

O Fire within that blazes still
Grant us charity of will

O Wind that steers the stars above
Grant us memory of Love

O you who bore the Three in One
Turn these poor bones into your Son

Monday, February 3, 2014

Report on March 2013 Seminar on the Holy Face of Manoppello

Translation of an article which appeared in the July 2013 edition of Il Volto Santo di Manoppello, the official journal of the Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello.

by Padre Domenico del Signore
photos by Paul Badde

A seminar dedicated to studies on the Holy Face was held on the Saturday just before Palm Sunday (March 23) in the auditorium of the Shrine of the Holy Face which had also welcomed Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Among those present were Father Paolo Martinelli, Dean of the Franciscan Institute of Spirituality of the PUA (Pontifical University of the Antonianum)and Father Luca Bianchi, Professor of spirituality at the same university. A number of specialized scholars participated. There were theologians, experts in history, in liberal arts, in iconography, scientific researchers, etc. coming from many different places: Rome, Otranto, Bari, Milan, Lugano and Chicago with the participants representing a wide range of prestigious universities.

The program for the day was the following:

10:45am Introduction and presentation of the projects already underway

Historical Research, Cristina Terzaghi
Presentation of the Exhibit "The Rediscovered Face", Raffaella Zardoni
Spirituality of the Holy Face, Father Luca Bianchi

12:30pm Visit to the Veil and praying of the Angelus

1pm Lunch

2:30pm to 4pm Discussion on the projects

Having received prior to the seminar the gift from one of the participants of the beautiful volume of Evdokimov: "The Theology of the Beautiful", the author of this article brought the scholars together with a thought from the same author: "When "knowing" is no longer an attitude of adoration, a praying communion, knowledge is separated from contemplation. One renounces the deepening of interiority which leads towards the encounter with the gain a "knowledge for the sake of power". The implicit invitation to "studium" understood as love and desire of the true and of the beautiful was favorably received by those present.

After the profound presentations and the expositions of the themes laid out in the program, the participants expressed their thoughts according to their various fields of study. Father Paolo Martinelli described the reason for his presence referring to a previous gathering which took place at the Antonianum in the presence of, among others, the Provincial Minister of the Capuchin province of Abruzzo, Father Carmine Ranieri. He underscored the fact that the Antonianum has a center for spirituality promoted by the Capuchins within a structure which plays a leading role for the friars minor. "We spoke of this project of studies on the Holy Face in order to be able to connect together with an academic institution, of spirituality in particular, in order to provide a specific contribution also in joining together with other research. The purpose is that of accompanying study on the cloth of Manoppello which is cared for by our Order. The goal would be that of developing a spirituality that begins from the Holy Face" and which -- I would add-- unites itself to the franciscan spirit which gives great importance to the mystery of the Passion, Incarnation and Resurrection of Christ.

The idea of deepening the studies on the Holy Face was given favor by the idea of presenting to the Meeting of Rimini the theme: "The Rediscovered Face: The unmistakable features of Christ". The curator of the exhibit is Raffaella Zardoni, assisted by the historical research of Professor Cristina Terzaghi and with the participation of exponents with various titles from the exhibit committee of Rimini.
Father Paolo Martinelli, in an e-mail sent after the meeting, expressed the wish that "we might truly think about for the future the celebration of a conference on the veil of Manoppello to be held regularly, which would attend to the scientific-historical aspect, but that would above all promote the spirituality of the Holy Face.

Fr. Luca Bianchi encouraged and proposed to the friars the possibility of developing a concise text on the history of the spirituality of the Face of Jesus and/or choosing some students or scholars to do research on the various topics for doctoral theses, there would also be the opportunity to organize days of study on the theme of the Holy Face.

Some information which emerged from the discussion and from correspondence following the gathering would seem already to be encouraging: the historian Terzaghi holds that the persons cited in the "Relazione Historica" of Padre Donato da Bomba are not made up figures but really existed. The expert on medieval studies, liberal arts and the Renaissance, Michele Colombo, writes: "that the analysis of da Bomba's text which you have permitted me to examine at Manoppello confirms, considering the nature of the corrections it contains, that we are dealing with an original official copy, which strengthens its testimonial value". The analytical research, conducted up until now with competence, accuracy and great discretion has not denied --which is a negative verification, although still a verification-- the possibility that the Holy Face may be something other than a simple painting.

The iconographic examination shows an unmistakable face which served as a prototype for the classic works coming from noted artists in the history of art.
I conclude these notes with the reflection of Raffaella Zardoni: "The discreet allure of this Veil remains unusually powerful"