The Power of the Holy Face Over Sinners

Image may contain: 1 person

The Power of the Holy Face Over Sinners

TAKEN FROM Devotion to the Holy Face, TAN BOOKS
with Imprimatur, 1934

THE effect of our Saviour’s look upon the Apostle St. Peter furnishes an example of the virtue of the Holy Face in touching souls. The sight of that sorrowful Face, the light of those sad, tender eyes, that gaze of gentle reproach, compassion and love pierced the Apostle’s heart and filled him with shame and repentance.

St. Vincent de Paul once sought vainly to convert a sinner. At length, presenting a picture of the Holy Face to the dissolute youth, he said, “I entreat you to look at this picture for one moment every evening before you retire.”

“Is that all?” interrupted the young man, laughing.

“Nothing more; that will suffice,” replied Vincent de Paul with an earnest smile, and the Saint and sinner parted.

The first night, the sinner laid the image aside unmoved. The second night, it seemed more pitiable. Soon he found it tedious always to look at the same picture, but he continued to do so eight, ten, twelve days, because he had promised St. Vincent he would do so. On the 13th day, changed and contrite, he sought the Saint and exclaimed: “I wish to go to Confession. I can bear it no longer! The Countenance of my Saviour, streaming with blood and tears, reproaches me too bitterly! I will return to God and make my peace with Him.” And he remained true to his resolution.

Hippolitus, a pious priest of Florence, had a painting made of our thorn-crowned Saviour and hung it in his room near a window. Before this image he often stood for a long time, meditating upon the infinite love which had constrained Our Lord to suffer so much for us. This meditation proved for him the most fruitful source of holy thoughts and pious resolutions.

Directly opposite his house there lived a vain, self-conceited woman who often saw the priest standing long before what she thought was a mirror. At length, to satisfy her curiosity, she ventured to ask the priest to show her the mirror in which he so often viewed himself. The priest consented and brought her the painting, that she might gaze into this new mirror to her heart’s content and see herself as she truly was.

What was her amazement, even fright, when, instead of a crystal mirror, she beheld the Ecce Homo! She was much embarrassed, yet she could not turn her eyes from the touching image. There her gaze rested upon the head of Our Lord encircled with a crown of thorns, with mournful eyes and pale, sad Face. The priest profited by this opportunity to admonish the worldly woman, and said: “Behold here the mirror in which you, too, should daily contemplate yourself. See our poor Saviour, for love of us so basely maltreated! Will you, too, remain cold as did the Jews to whom Pilate presented the lacerated Jesus, crying out, ‘Behold the Man!’? As this Countenance of our Redeemer is disfigured by wounds, so is your soul disfigured by sin. Wash your soul with tears of compunction, and instead of this sad and disfigured image, you will one day behold and admire the glorified Countenance of the Divine Saviour eternally in Heaven.” These words impressed the heart of the sinner. From that hour she led a penitential life.

For us, too, dear Christian, the image of the thorn-crowned Christ is a most instructive mirror. If one would look upon an image of the Holy Face daily, and then say his prayers, he would certainly become milder, purer, nobler, more serious, more charitable. The impression made by the image would compel him to do so.

Yield or Suffer Said Diocletian

Image may contain: one or more people and outdoor

Yield or Suffer Said Diocletian

Barbarians menaced the Roman empire. Emperor Diocletian instituted a number of reforms aimed at saving the sprawling political entity. He reorganised the provinces and made the army more mobile while increasing its size. To battle inflation, he issued a new coinage, established a uniform system of taxation and implemented wage-price controls.

Recognising that the empire was too large for a single man to rule, he divided it into four administrative units. In doing this he raised to power a man who did Christians much harm. This man, Galerius, instigated by his mother (a die-hard pagan) prodded the Emperor to persecute the Christians. With their new customs, Christians were a threat to imperial unity, he said; and their vast, well-knit organisation was the largest non-governmental body ever seen. Surely they could not be trusted: their loyalty was to Christ Jesus the King rather than to Caesar. Diocletian, who for eighteen years had never lifted a finger against the Faith, followed this wicked advice. The crackdown began on this day, February 23, 303.

The persecutors dragged off Church leaders and tortured them to death, employing the rack, the scourge, slow fires, crucifixion, and many other barbarities against them. They burned Christian books and scriptures. Many Christians died deaths of great courage. Theodotus, for example, after terrible tortures said as he was being led back to prison, “It is but just that Christians should suffer for Him who suffered for us all.”

Timothy, a deacon in Mauritania, allowed his eyes to be put out with red-hot irons rather than reveal the hiding place of the Scriptures. His wife of just three weeks was then brought in and she attempted to persuade him to recant for love of her. He refused. Growing stouthearted, she joined him. After horrendous torture, both were crucified.

In the end, it was the church which won the showdown. All the powers of Rome could not crush its allegiance to Christ. Even Galerius eventually left off the persecution. In 311, the dying emperor issued an edict of toleration. The Faithful had outlasted the might of the empire. Their resistance to arbitrary power was instrumental in winning the right to follow the Faith.

Saint Peter Damian

Image may contain: 4 people

Saint Peter Damian

Cardinal Bishop

Saint Peter Damian, born in 988, lost both his parents at an early age. His eldest brother, to whose hands he was left, treated him so cruelly that another brother, a priest, moved by his piteous state, sent him to the University of Parma, where he acquired great distinction. His studies were sanctified by vigils, fasts, and prayers, until at last, thinking that all this was only serving God halfway, he resolved to leave the world. He joined the monks of Fonte Avellano, then in the greatest repute, and by his wisdom and sanctity rose to be Superior.

Saint Peter was called upon for the most delicate and difficult missions, among others the reform of ecclesiastical communities, which his zeal accomplished. Seven Popes in succession made him their constant adviser, and he was finally created Cardinal Bishop of Ostia. He withstood Henry IV of Germany, and labored in defense of Pope Alexander II against an antipope, whom he forced to yield and seek pardon. He was charged, as papal legate, with the repression of simony and correction of scandals; again, was commissioned to settle discords amongst various bishops; and finally, in 1072, to adjust the affairs of the Church at Ravenna. He had never paid attention to his health, which was at best fragile, and after enduring violent onslaughts of fever during the night, would rise to hear confessions, preach, or sing solemn Masses, always ready to sacrifice his well-being and life for the salvation of the souls entrusted to him.

After succeeding in this final mission as he ordinarily did, on his journey back to Ostia he was laid low by fever; he died at Faenza in a monastery of his Order, on the eighth day of his sickness, while the monks chanted Matins around him.

Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul GuĂ©rin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 2; Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).

Continue reading