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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Feast of Saint Veronica and Devotion to the Holy Face - July 12

Saint Veronica
And Devotion to the Holy Face

"The Lord bless you and keep you!
The Lord let his face shine upon you,
and be gracious to you!
the Lord look upon you kindly
and give you peace!"
(Numbers 6:24-26)

The Sixth Station of the Cross depicts Saint Veronica in a great act of charity wiping the face of Jesus with her veil. Jesus accepted this offering and after having wiped his face He handed the veil back to Veronica with a miraculous imprint of His Holy Face, an icon made without hands.

The name Veronica was probably not her real name, but a name ascribed to her, coming from the Latin Vera meaning true and Icona meaning image. 

There is no reference to Saint Veronica or her veil in the New Testament.  But the story of the woman with the hemorrhage does appear in the synoptic Gospel’s (Mark 5:25-34, Luke 8:43-48, and Matthew 9:20-22) and this woman is identified as Veronica later in Church writing.

The first known connection in writing of the woman with the hemorrhage and Veronica is from the  apocryphal work called the Acts of Pilate, written around 380 A.D.  

“And a certain woman named Bernice (Veronica in the Latin) crying out from afar off said: “I had an issue of blood and touched the hen of His garment and the flowing of my blood was stayed which I had twelve years.” (The Acts of Pilate, Chapter VII)

Tradition holds that Veronica passed the relic of her veil on to Pope Clement I (papacy 92 AD to 99AD) who hid the veil in the catacombs where it remained for the next three centuries during the persecutions the Church.  

Between 1843 and 1847, Sister Mary of Saint Peter, a Carmelite nun in Tours France experienced a series of revelations from the Lord about the devotion He wished to be established to His Holy Face in reparation for the sin of blasphemy.  

In one of these private revelations, the Lord told Sister Mary of Saint Peter that blasphemy was a sin that wounds His divine Heart more grevously than all other sins, for it was like a "poisoned arrow."

Our Lord then dictated to Sister Mary of Saint Peter the "Golden Arrow Prayer," by which a person can "shoot directly into the Heart of God" an arrow to heal the wounds inflicted on it by the sin of blasphemy.

May the most Holy, most Sacred, most Adorable,
Most Incomprehensible and Ineffable Name of God
Be always Praised, Blessed, Loved,
Adored and Glorified,
In Heaven, on Earth and under the Earth,
By all the Creatures of God,
And by the Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ
in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Amen

In 1849 just after the death of Sister Mary of Saint Peter, Pope Pius IX placed the relic of Veronica's veil on a three-day exposition for public veneration to Christ's Holy Face at Saint Peter's Basilica.  On the third day of the showing, Our Lord's face is said to have become very distinct and glowed with a soft light. 

In 1885, Pope Leo XIII endorsed the devotion of the Holy Face.  Shortly thereafter in 1888, Saint Therese of Lisieux became a Carmelite nun.  She was so devoted to the Holy Face of Jesus she took this into her name and became Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face.  Finally in 1958, Pope Pius XII formally declared the Feast of the Holy Face of Jesus as the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday for all Roman Catholics.  

Presently the relic of Veronica's Veil is kept in the south west pier, one of the four great piers that support the dome of Saint Peter’s and surround Bernini’s baldacchino.

Each pier has a large niche at its base, which is filled with a statue of the saint representing each of Saint Peter’s Basilica’s four major relics, Saint Helena (the True Cross), Saint Longinus (the spear), Saint Andrew (his head), and Saint Veronica (Christ’s True Image on her veil). 

Every year after Vespers on the 5th Sunday of Lent (Passion Sunday) there is a short procession within the basilica, a bell sounds and three priests hold a heavy frame containing the relic of Veronica's Veil and Christ True Image out over the balcony above the statue of Saint Veronica.  

The Vatican does not claim authenticity of the relic of Veronica’s Veil nor for that matter, the True Cross, spear or Saint Andrews head.   But yet there is still something to the ritual and tradition surrounding these relics or they would not be in such a place of prominence in the basilica, or brought out to be viewed with such reverance only once a year.
Besides Veronica's veil, the only other picture we have of Our Lord is imprinted on the Shroud of Turin.

Devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus is in a sense to become like Saint Veronica, to comfort Our Lord during His time of suffering, as He continues daily to be wounded by our sins of irreverence, sacrilege and blasphemy.

"See God's face; your face, Lord do I seek!" (Psalms 27:8)

St. Veronica - Hans Memling
St. Veronica - Rogier Van der Weyden
6th Station of the Cross Blessed Sacrament Chapel Carmel Mission
Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face
St. Veronica Pier - St. Peter's
St. Veronica - Francesco Mochi (1629)
Picture of the Relic of Veronica's Veil in Frame
Priests holding up relic of Veronica's Veil
Icon - Not Made By Hands

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