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.