When we speak or think about the Most Holy Face of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, we usually turn our minds to the sixth station in the Way of the Cross where St. Veronica, beholding the Sacred Face covered with blood and sweat, compassionately wiped it with her veil, heedless of the rabble surrounding Jesus.
However, we forget that veneration of the Sacred Face ties in with the mystery of the Incarnation and that the devotion began much earlier. Already in the stable at Bethlehem, the first, besides Mary and Joseph, to express their reverence were the angels, the shepherds and the Magi.
Likewise, we fail to reflect on the Divine Face, perspiring in fatigue during His teaching of the crowds or beaming at the sight of people rejoicing because of a miraculous cure or conversion. We also do not too frequently remember the Sacred Face radiant with glory during the Transfiguration at Mount Tabor. The Face of Christ at that moment was so resplendent and beautiful that the Apostles looking at it “saw no one else but Jesus alone, the Son of God in Whom the Father was well pleased.”
Unfortunately, there were no photographs and for this reason there would be no perfect replica of the Face of our Spouse and Lord for posterity. However, the Lord Himself must have thought of this and He provided a true copy, even unto the present times, by imprinting His sorrowful Face at the time most important to mankind, that of His Passion and Crucifixion.
In connection with this topic, many unusual events and research have been reported for the benefit of those who are especially interested in the veneration of the Holy Face and who wish to study or to do a deeper reflection concerning it.
To some degree, worship of the Divine Face of Our Lord had begun not too long after the Passion. When Emperor Tiberius, afflicted with leprosy, found out from Pilate that Veronica possessed the Veil with the imprint of the Divine Face of the Nazarean, he called on her because he desired a miracle. Veronica brought the chest in which the miraculous Veil was enclosed. The moment Tiberius touched the chest, he was totally healed.
According to historians, St. Veronica presented the Holy Veil to St. Clement, the third Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. During the period of persecutions, the Popes kept this sacred relic in great security; but, from the seventh century, the relic has been venerated in public on May 13. The Holy Veil has been kept securely in a chest of then locks, the keys of which were entrusted to the highest officials of the City of Rome. Presently, this Holy Relic is kept i a special chapel inside one of the four pillars holding up the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, within a case fitted with three locks, the keys of which are entrusted to certain Canons specifically appointed to take care of this treasure.
From the fourteenth century the Popes arranged solemn processions from the Basilica of St. Peter, the Apostle, to the Basilica of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem during which either the Veil of St Veronica or the Statue of the “Ecce Homo” were carried for public veneration.
In 1629 Pope Urban VIII gave an order to keep the Holy Veil together with the Spear and the salvaged pieces of the Holy Cross and to display these together for public veneration. In the nineteenth century the relics were exhibited twelve times a year and also during great disasters, earthquakes, wars, etc. When Pope Pius IX was exiled to Gaeta in 1849, the Holy Face of Jesus was exposed during the Nativity season till the Feast of Epiphany. On the third day of this public veneration, the picture gained color and the Divine Face of Our Lord Jesus became more prominent as if it were alive in the pale light. The Canons, who were nearby in adoration, notified the clergy of the Basilica. When the bells were rung to signal this event, a large throng of people gathered and the Apostolic Notary testified in writing about the miracle which lasted for three hours. That same evening the Sacred Face had been copied upon white material which was rubbed against the true relic. These imprints were sent to France. The Benedictine nuns of Arras received the three copies, two of which they sent to the Carmelite nuns of Tours. The Carmelites retained one for themselves and the other they offered to the Servant of God Leopold Dupont who mounted it in his parlor.
At about this period of time (1844-1848), a humble Carmelite at Tours, Sister Mary of St. Peter (1845), experience apparitions from Jesus concerning the veneration of the Holy Face in the Church especially in France. Thus, the devotion gained a nationalistic French character.
Leon Dupont, with the permission of the Carmelite Superior of Sister Mary of St. Peter, acted as the intermediary between the Carmel monastery and the Bishop of Tours in regard to these repeated apparitions, which the Church approved after the death of the saintly nun. From 1851, Dupont kept in his parlor a burning olive oil lamp before the Sacred Image and prayed there with people who visited to venerate the relic. Many people were miraculously cured after using the oil from the lamp and after praying before this Sacred Picture.
When Leon Dupont died in 1876, the parlor was converted into a chapel to which multitudes of pilgrims came from all over. The Archbishop Meignan of Tours organized a Society of Priests of the Sacred Face, whose first general-superior was Father Janvier. Also, in 1884, the Archbishop established a pious confraternity which in 1885 became an Archconfraternity. The devotion of the Most Holy Face, in accordance with the directions given by Jesus to Sister Mary of St. Peter, were of reparative nature and the by-laws of the Archconfraternity require the members to render special praise and love to the Most Holy Face.
Many cloth imprints of the Sacred Face, having been rubbed against the three relics, together with documents of proper authentication have been sent out from Rome and Tours. To burn an oil lamp before these relics is one of the requirements.
From the letter written in Rome, dated January 20, 1973, by Mother Mary Magdalen Rozanska corresponding with the present moderator here, we are informed that annually letters are received in Tours from different continents of the world. These include lists of names of new members who number in “hundreds of thousands”.
We infer that as Poland accepted Christianity and cultivated devotion to the Divine Passion, the nation must have venerated the Most Holy Face of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
In 1208 in Saxia there was founded and Order of Canons Regular and Canonesses of the Holy Spirit to venerate the Most Holy Face of Jesus Christ. The purpose of this devotion was to inspire the members to perceive in the faces of the patients in their hospitals the Sacred Face of Jesus. In 1220 this custom had been introduced into the Order of the Canonesses in Poland, whose convents keep the Sacred Face in special veneration. They celebrate the Feast of the Most Holy Face on the first Sunday after Epiphany. On that day in Krakow, these religious processionally bring the picture of the Divine Face from their choir into the parish church where Mass is celebrated in the intentions of the Order. Some of the doctors who serve the hospital participate in the Eucharistic Liturgy holding lighted candles. Most probably they pray for the grace of recognizing the Sacred Image in the face of each of their patients.
In 1625 Ladislaus, the son of King Sigismund III, the King of Poland, for his bravery in defense of the Church was appointed by Pope Urban VIII as Canon of St. Peter’s Basilica in charge of the Veil of St. Veronica, presenting it to the people visiting there. Later when Ladislaus became King of Poland, in his acknowledgements of congratulations from the College, he reminded the Canons that during his sojourn in Rome he, too, was named a member of their College so that he could have the privilege of a closer view of the Most Holy Face of Jesus Christ.
In 1888 Father Honorat Kozminski together with Mother Eliza Cejzik founded the Congregation of Reparation or the Missionaries of the Sacred Face, who in addition to their works of charity have for their purpose the veneration of the Most Holy Face of Christ the Lord.
In connection with the worship of the Sacred Face of Jesus, Father Honorat wrote a book entitled “The New Gift of Jesus”, Krakow 1891 and the second edition of the book in 1902 with the new title “Devotion of Reparation”.
Besides these two works, in 1903 there appeared in Gniezno a shortened version of the same works by an unknown author entitled “Devotion of Reparation and Veneration of the Most Holy Face of Our Lord”; likewise, in Warsaw in 1899 “The Month of the Most Holy Face of Our Lord” by an anonymous author.
In our Congregation
Sister Mary Simplicia Rotariusz, while collecting alms in Belgium from 1884-1885, became acquainted with the spirit of the Archconfraternity of the Most Holy Face, founded in Tours. She was named by one of the Belgian Bishops with the consent of the Bishop of Krakow as the first moderator of this organization in Poland. In her alms gathering journeys through France, she was fortunate to visit in Tours. From that time, the Felician Sisters began cultivating this devotion to the Most Holy Face of Jesus.
Since within the first three years about 4.000 persons joined the Archconfraternity and later over 10.000, Mother Mary Magdalen Borowska, the General-Superior, in 1884 acquired the affiliation of the Krakow branch with that of the Archconfraternity in Tours. Annually letters enclosing lists of new members were sent to Tours so that no such lists can be found in our archives and no books of these names were kept. However, there is a book of entries dated since 1948 and a somewhat soiled but incomplete copy of former years.
Moderators of the Archconfraternity at the Smolensk Center were: SM Simplicia Rotariusz, SM Gabriel Budzynska, SM Hugolina Klimaszewska; names of moderators who followed are not fully known. Many sisters were moderators in different centers. Hence, we add these names: SM Josaphata Reschieff, SM Bernardine Samborska, SM Isabelle Jablkowska, SM Julianna Czarnowska, SM Raymond Kruszynska, SM Witalisa Dedeko, SM Stepahnie Baranska, SM Bonaventure Zarzyczka, SM Ignatius Zarzycka, SM Theodore Kmiecik, SM Evangelista Klap.
In the letter written to the Chancellor in 1895 in connection with publishing the lists and appointing new moderators, Mother Mary Magdalen recorded that annually about 1,000 persons register with the Krakow Archconfraternity, both from Poland and America. Presently, however, only about 500 new members register each year.
As to our Mother Foundress in her devotion to the Sacred Face of Jesus, one of the witnesses during the Informational Process toward her Beatification, declared that Mother frequently prayed prostrate before the picture of the Sacred Face of Jesus, hanging on the corridor wall in the provincial house at Smolensk. She begged graces for the sisters, in particular for those wavering in their vocation, those to be dismissed from the Congregation and those in spiritual turmoil. We do not doubt that the prayers of Mother for her spiritual children were heard by God.
To inform the sisters about the responsibilities and indulgences granted to members of the Archconfraternity, we include the following excerpts as found on the registration from, printed in 1972.
Responsibilities of the members are as follows:
- In the intention of the Archconfraternity pray daily: Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, and add the ejaculation: “SHOW US YOUR MOST HOLY FACE, LORD, AND WE SHALL BE SAVED.”
- Wear a medal, crucifix or scapular with the Image of the Sacred Face.
- Promote as much as is possible the devotion to the Holy Face.
- Enroll as a member of the Archconfraternity.
Plenary Indulgences as Granted on October 1, 1968
- On the day of admission to the Archconfraternity
- On the following feasts:
- Feast of the Sacred Face/ Tuesday before Ash Wednesday
- The Seven Sorrows of Our Lady / September 15
- Peter, the Apostle / June 29
- The Fifth Sunday of Lent / formerly called Passion Sunday