Tuesday, 24 February 2015
Veronica and the Good Thief -- From The Life of Sr. Mary of St. Peter.
“Two persons have rendered invaluable service to our Divine Lord during his Passion: Veronica on the road to Calvary, in offering her veil to wipe and soothe his Adorable Face; the Good Thief on the cross, acknowledging and defending his Divinity.” (Words of the Sister.)
Two days after the feast of the apostles,. Simon and Jude, the heavenly Master continued, during the evening meditation, to instruct Sr. Mary St. Peter on the new subject which had been presented to her contemplation.
“Our Lord,” said she, “deigned to abase himself, and hold converse with my ungrateful and sinful soul. That which he revealed to me will, I think, reverend mother, give you much pleasure to learn. It was with difficulty I could persuade myself that he had granted me such a great favour as that of presenting me with the gift of his Holy Face. Therefore, I besought him to give me a visible proof of the invisible grace which I believe I had received from his divine mercy; it was perhaps in proof of its reality that he communicated to me what I am now about to relate.” “Having taken for the subject of my meditation, the treason of Judas, I reflected with sorrow on the enormity of the outrage offered to the Sacred Face of Our Lord by a kiss so perfidious; and it seemed to me that the Divine Master invited me to kiss the likeness of his Holy Face with love, in a spirit of reparation. After having offered .several acts of praise, I felt that Our Lord was attracting me to himself; I obeyed this secret action of grace, and my amiable Saviour deigned to give me some instructions on the excellence of the gift he had bestowed on me, in presenting me his adorable Face; and he again had the good ness to accommodate himself graciously to the weakness of my intellect by a simple comparison, saying: ‘As in an earthly kingdom we can procure all that we desire by having coin stamped with the image of the king, so also with the precious gift of my humanity, which is my adorable Face, you will obtain in the kingdom of heaven, all that your heart can desire.’
“These divine lights or heavenly illuminations, which, for want of capacity, I am forced to express by means of such feeble terms in trying to have them thoroughly understood threw me into an ecstasy of joy, and I experienced something interiorly which it is impossible to describe. I besought my Divine Master to instruct me and to render what I beheld a little more intelligible to my poor comprehension, for the powers of my son! were as if paralyzed.”
The idea of the “piece of coin” filled the sister with joy and confidence. Naturally enough her thoughts reverted to the ground contiguous to the monastery garden which commanded a view of the interior of the house; the same lot of land which the mother prioress had told her to ask of Our Lord. “It seemed to me,” said she, “that I was to purchase it by offering this Holy Face, and our Lord Jesus informed me that before the expiration of another year, we would be in possession of the ground desired; of this he assured me and added, that I must not be anxious how it would come about.”
“In reality, the affair which seemed to be despaired of, was quite suddenly brought before our notice. The proprietor, who hitherto could not be induced to sell, came voluntarily to offer his land on the most favourable conditions; the contract was concluded, and strange to relate, a few days after having affixed his signature thereto, he died very unexpectedly.”
Though afflicted at the sudden death of this good baron, the sister, nevertheless, offered thanks to God for the benefit obtained.
(This proprietor was the Baron de Nom, a most worthy person and a practical Christian. Father Aileron, who was his counsellor and confessor, had not been able to obtain any concession. After some days he himself decided to sell the land, and the contract was drawn up three days before his death which, naturally, he could not have foreseen.)
“This favour filled me with consternation, for I regarded it as a tangible proof of the gift I had received, that of the Holy Face; and I tremble at the thought of the account which God will demand of me, if I know not how to improve this divine talent for his glory and the salvation of souls.”
At the termination of these communications which unveil to Christian piety so vast and so luminous a horizon, Sister St. Peter had an interior vision on the same subject, October 30th, which sublime conceptions she expressed in the following terms: ” Remember, 0 my soul, the instruction which thy celestial Spouse has given thee today on his adorable Face! Remember that this divine Chief represents the Father who is from all eternity, that the mouth of this Holy Face is a figure of the Divine Word, engendered by the Father, and that the eyes of this mysterious Face represent the reciprocal love of the Father and the Son; for these eyes have but one and the same light, the same knowledge, producing the same love, which is the Holy Ghost. In his beautiful silken hair contemplate the infinitude of the adorable perfections of the most Holy Trinity ; in this majestic head, the most precious portion of the sacred humanity of thy Saviour, contemplate the image of the unity of God. This, then, is the adorable and mysterious Face of the Saviour, which blasphemers have the temerity to cover with opprobrium: thus they renew the sufferings of his Passion, by attacking the divinity of which it is the image.”
A number of special communications, rapidly succeeding each other, will develop and explain these consoling truths. Our Lord, to manifest the propriety of the choice he made of his Holy Face, as the principal object of these reparatory adorations, declared to Mary of St. Peter that he gave her this Sacred Face that she might comfort and soothe him by her homage and the odour of her praises, then he adds: “According to the diligence you will manifest in repairing my image disfigured by blasphemers, so will I have the same care in repairing your soul which has been disfigured by sin. I will imprint thereon my image, and I will render it as beautiful as when it came forth from the baptismal font. Abandon your self, then, to my good pleasure, and be disposed to suffer everything necessary to restore this image to its pristine beauty. Be not troubled if you experience sadness and darkness, for these have the same effect as the sombre hues in a picture which only throw out the more brilliant. There are those who possess the art of restoring health to the body, but the Creator alone has the power of restoring the beauty of the soul. I have given you the knowledge of this Work of Reparation, I have shown you its excellence, and now I promise you the recompense. Oh! could you but be hold the beauty of my face!—But your eyes are yet too weak.”
“On the 6th of November, she received a new communication on the subject of the Holy Face in regard to the Work of the Reparation. The Saviour makes use of the soul of his servant as a channel through which to reach the souls of men redeemed by his Precious Blood. He declared to her that he wished to make her understand the virtue of his adorable Face, in order to restore the image of God in the souls who have effaced it by sin. “He made me observe the power which this Holy Face exercised over his unfaithful apostle, St. Peter, rendering him penitent by one glance. Jesus cast upon him one look, and Peter wept bitterly. By an illumination from on High, I perceived that this adorable Face is, as it were, the seal of the Divinity, having the power to impress itself on the souls of those who apply to themselves this image of God; it is this sight which causes me to salute the Holy Face, in these words:”
“I salute thee, I adore and I love thee, O most amiable Face of my Jesus, my well beloved! most adorable seal of the Divinity! I give myself to thee with all the strength and power of my soul, and I very humbly beseech thee to renew in us the image of God.”
“Very reverend mother, if these communications have come from heaven, this work is verily the Work of the Reparation; for man is invited to repair the outrages committed against God, and by a return of love, God promises to repair his image in man’s soul in virtue of his adorable Face. What a mystery of love! Let us then relieve and soothe this august Face of our Lord, disfigured by numberless blasphemies, and our Divine Master will efface from our souls the filth and hideousness of sin. This is what Our Lord has imparted to me; it seems that in thus discovering to us the virtue and power of his Holy Face, he has grand designs of mercy over the souls of mankind.”
“We have in this precious gift an infallible means of appeasing the wrath of God the Father, irritated against blasphemers; we shall beg him to cast a glance at the Face of his Divine Son, and the thunderbolts of justice will fall harmlessly from his hands. O God, our protector, look upon us and cast thine eyes on the Face of thy Christ!”
Our humble Carmelite sets a just appreciation on the means offered man to stay the arrows of divine justice. From the beginning of the year following, the Lord gave her new lights, and confirmed her in the mission of mercy which he had already confided to her.
On the 5th of January, 1846, she wrote: “Our Lord gave me to understand that the ground which we have bought from his heavenly Father by the offering of his Holy Face, is a figure of the patrimony for the living we are to purchase for a multitude of souls, with the mystic document of this adorable Face. Then the divine Pastor presented me a flock of sheep, telling me that he appointed me their shepherdess: he made me understand that these poor sheep had been bitten by the serpent, and were poisoned with the venom of blasphemy; that I must lead them to graze on the pastures in the realms of his divine mysteries, that there they might be healed, and that I should place them in the adorable wounds of his sacred body, marking them with the sacred effigy of his Holy Face. He foretold that I would undergo much suffering, because this flock of blasphemers was in a special manner under the guidance of the Prince of Darkness. The Lord give me to understand, that Lucifer willingly abandoned to his subordinates the charge of the other troops of sinners, as for instance, the lewd, the intemperate, the avaricious, but the blasphemers, he kept as his favourite flock. It is he, continued the Saviour, who has caused you to have so much repugnance for this Work of Reparation, but fear not! St. Michael and the holy angels will protect you; with my cross which I give you for your shepherd’s crook, you will become a terror to Hell. He made me understand that he had withdrawn me from the world and called me to inhabit his holy house, in order to accomplish this mission. And as I expressed a certain anxiety, regarding the truth of the communication I had just received, being always afraid of an illusion, he said to me: ‘Be tranquil. Satan has too great a horror of the cross to make use of it in his operations.”
“In one of my meditations, the date of which I have forgotten, our Divine Lord chided me for my negligence in not praying for blasphemers, and showed me how I had given occasion to the evil spirit to tempt me to doubt of his mercy; it seemed that he said: ‘Did I not give you an example to pray for blasphemers when I was suspended on the cross? ‘He likewise declared to me that he had wonderful designs of mercy on this class of sinners, that he wished to make use of me as an instrument for the accomplishment of his work. He made me understand that this reparatory work embraced not only reparation for blasphemy properly so called, but for all manner of invectives uttered against the Church; however, it is specially applied to blasphemy against the Name of God.”
Thus is verified what we have previously stated of that kind of blasphemy professing to be doctrinal, which attacks religion and the Church. This is the real, the direct object of the “Work of Reparation; for all the invectives hurled against the Church or religious worship, are at the same time an outrage offered the Name of God thrice holy. The year 1846 had set in, and nothing in the exterior course of events gave any indication whatever that the desires of the sister were soon to be put into execution. On the 23rd of January, she received a communication which she relates in these words: “I can no longer restrain my tears at the thought of what Jesus has just told me after communion; behold the terrible words of this meek Saviour: ‘The aspect of France has become hideous in the eyes of my Father, provoking his justice; offer him there fore the Face of his Son, in whom he has placed all his complaisance, in order to draw down upon France his forgiveness, else she will be severely punished.’ There lies her salvation, that is, in the Face of the Saviour. ‘Behold,’ added he, ‘the wonderful proof of my goodness towards France! Yet she repays me with ingratitude !”
Affrighted, the pious sister added: “Is it really thou, my Lord, who communicates this to me?” Our Lord replied: “Would you have been able to procure it yourself in your last communion? I have purposely left you in profound darkness for eight days, to make you discern that now it is my operation which you experience.” Docile and convinced, she immediately began to say this prayer which she repeated continually: “Eternal Father, we offer thee the adorable Face of this thy well-beloved Son, for the honour and glory of thy Holy Name and for the salvation of France.”
“My poor heart,” said she, “is wounded by a sword of sorrow. Our Lord directed my attention anew to the contemplation of his sacred head crowned with thorns, and to his adorable Face outraged by the enemies of God and of the Church. Once more I heard his sorrowful plaints, and my amiable Saviour told me, that in our community he sought for souls to repair the outrages inflicted on him, and to heal his wounds by applying to them the wine of compassion and the oil of charity. He informed me that if the members of the community devoted themselves to this exercise of reparation, he would bestow upon them a kiss of love which would be a pledge of the eternal union; new and consoling promise, most worthy of this gracious and merciful Saviour. Such a favour responds most admirably to the desire of every Christian soul and to the aspirations of mankind in general, expressed by the Spouse in the Canticle when she asks of the divine Word to ‘come forth’ by the Incarnation from the bosom of his Father, in order that she might listen to his voice, behold his countenance and be admitted to the kiss of peace from his sacred lips. (Cant.L., I. ; IY. I.) while awaiting to contemplate him face to face in the splendours of his glory.”
After this touching elucidation, she continues: “It seems to me, reverend mother, that Our Lord bids me thank you for what you have already done for him in this “Work of Reparation for Blasphemy, and if possible, to prevail upon you to continue. I had some difficulty in resolving, to speak of these things, for I feared an illusion; and I told him, that notwithstanding my desire to see him glorified, I never would have uttered a single word which was simply an effect of my own imagination; but he urged me to plead his cause that he might be relieved from his cruel sufferings. For nearly two hours I was conscious of the presence of this divine Saviour in my soul. ‘My Lord,’ said I to him, ‘deign to choose a more worthy instrument, a Teresa or another Gertrude!’ My sighs and tears afforded some relief to my poor, sad heart! This day was a one of bitter, but happy suffering, for it seemed that Jesus made me understand that the willingness with which I shared all his pains, was a source of much consolation to him.”
“Oh! my good Mother, I beg of you in mercy for the love and consolation of Our Lord, send to our houses these prayers of reparation which are so agreeable to him. I have said them twice during the course of the day, begging our Divine Lord to receive them as the precious perfume which Mary Magdalene poured over his sacred head on the eve of his Passion.”
“Behold, as near as possible, reverend mother, what has passed in my soul; for five weeks my divine Master has operated nothing extraordinary. I have been continually occupied in offering reparation for blasphemy, and in sighing for the birth of this Work, but always in great peace of mind. I have been also occupied in guiding and caring for the flock which has been committed to my care; every day I take them to graze in the divine pastures of the mysteries of the life and Passion of the Good Shepherd, who has given his life for his sheep that not one might perish.”
“We here understand what she means by these “divine pastures” where she leads the flock committed to her care; they are the mysteries of the life and Passion of Our Lord, as enumerated by St. Dominic in the devotion of the holy rosary: the joyful, the sorrowful, and the glorious mysteries. By them our Saviour has merited for us the graces which nourish and give life to our souls; the fruits of which are found in the sacraments of the Church, especially those of penance and the Holy Eucharist, two fruitful sources, wherein the sinner can find the means of purifying and nourishing himself according to his necessities.
The pious Carmelite had been chosen to be the “Shepherdess” of these heavenly pastures; certainly not that she was to preach these “mysteries” or administer the “sacraments,” which are functions appertaining exclusively to the priesthood. But the mission assigned to her was, as her seraphic Mother St. Theresa teaches in her rule, to aid apostolic labourers by prayer, contemplation and by the exercises of the interior life, thus to obtain the light and unction necessary for the ministers of the Church to bring sinners back to Jesus, and to clothe them with his merits, that they might find in these mysteries the grace necessary to sanctify, nourish and save their souls. This mission of charity was, four days after, more fully explained by Christ himself. He informed her that two persons had rendered him special service during his Passion, the first of whom he had already spoken, — the pious Veronica, who served his sacred humanity by offering him wherewith to soothe his adorable countenance on his way to Calvary; the second, the Good Thief, who from his cross as from a pulpit, undertook to defend his cause and proclaim his divinity, even at the very moment he was being blasphemed by the other thief and by the Jews.
“Our Lord gave me to understand that both the one and the other are the two models given to the Work of Reparation, Veronica, the model for those of her sex who are not appointed to defend his cause by their eloquence, but to soothe his Holy Face in reparation for the blasphemy of sinners, by prayer, praise and adoration; the Good Thief, as the model for his ministers, who in the Work of Reparation should defend him publicly.”
“My amiable Master caused me to notice the magnificent recompense which he bestowed on these two persons, the one in leaving her his divine portrait, the other in assigning him a place in his heavenly kingdom, as a testimony of the esteem he had for the services they rendered him. Then he promised me that those who, in reparation for blasphemy, would defend his cause by prayers, words, or writings, would be defended by him before his Heavenly Father and that he would make them partakers of his kingdom. It seemed to me that he told me to promise in his Name, to those of his ministers who would preach this work, to his spouses who would endeavour to soothe and honour his Holy Face in reparation for the blasphemy of sinners, that at the hour of death, he would purify their souls by effacing the stains of sin, and would restore to them their primitive beauty.”
“Methought also that he said: ‘Write down these promises, they will make more impression on the minds of men than all I have hitherto said to you concerning this Work, because of the promise of eternal life, which although not the purest motive, is at least, not unworthy of consideration, since I have given my life that sinners may obtain the kingdom of heaven. He added, if you keep these things secret, through fear, you will be guilty of injustice to mankind.’ My Divine Master spoke to me thus because I hesitated to believe this communication, for I am always afraid of being deceived.”
“This is, reverend mother, a precise account of what has passed in my soul. The communications which I have just received have greatly disturbed me, I am filled with interior sorrow, and I suffer from a devouring fire; I tremble and humble myself before God, adoring his divine operations in a miserable atom.”
If the reader be astonished at the important position assigned the Good Thief in the “Work of Reparation, let him recall what is written in the Gospel, that “whilst the Good Thief was hanging on the cross, there came from all parts those who blasphemed: And the people stood, beholding, and the rulers with them deriding him saying: He saved others, let him save himself, if he be Christ, the elect of God. And one of these robbers blasphemed him saying: ‘If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.’ These words of the wicked thief contain a positive blasphemy, for they are equivalent to saying: If thou dost not descend from thy gibbet, and take us with thee, thou art not the Christ as thou dost profess; thou dost prove thyself an impostor by thy very powerlessness. What more cruel injury could be offered to the Son of God! But the other answering, rebuked him, saying: “Neither dost thou fear God, seeing thou art under the same condemnation, and we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds, but this man hath done no evil.”
Behold a true type of zeal and of courageous charity! This fervent convert could not suffer that his companion in disgrace, at the very moment of appearing before his Sovereign Judge, should be so far lost to the fear of God, as to join with those who blasphemed the Messiah, as if the kingdom of Christ was to be extinct at his death; he reproached him for his perversity and audacity; and full of faith, humility and contrition, confessed his sins and accepted with resignation the chastisement due their enormity. From his gallows, he renders public testimony to the innocence and holiness of Jesus. He endeavours to silence the blasphemers, and he proclaims his greatness at the very moment that all were anathematizing him. The cross of the Lord was in his eyes neither a scandal nor a folly, but the wisdom and virtue of God; in this patient, meek One crowned with thorns, he adores the Sovereign Lord and the King of kings. Casting a respectful and suppliant glance toward this dolorous Face bruised and bleeding, he says, “Lord re member me when thou shalt come into they kingdom.” So heartfelt a prayer deserved an immediate response. The divine Face of Jesus directed toward him a glance, full of compassion, and in these ineffable words assured this model reparator of the immediate vision of his Face glorified. “Verily, I say unto thee, this day, thou shalt be with me in Paradise.” The eulogy given to the Good Thief by the holy Fathers and Doctors of the Church is inexhaustible. St. John Chrysostom, considering his faith, extols it above that of Abraham, of Moses and of Isaiah. “These,” said he, “have beheld Christ seated on the throne of his magnificence, surrounded with glory, and they believed; whereas the Good Thief beholds him in agony on an infamous gibbet, yet he adores him as if he beheld him in the realms of his glory; he beholds him upon the cross, and he prays him as if he beheld him seated on the clouds of heaven; he beholds him as a criminal condemned to death and yet he invokes him as a God.”
According to the same Doctor, he became on the spot an evangelist and a prophet. He preaches Christ crucified, and he proclaims the eternity of his reign.
Tradition recognizes him under the name of Dysmas. The Roman martyrology places him among the ranks of the holy martyrs on the 25th of March, and the Breviary, in the feasts proper to particular places, indicating his feast as of double rite on the 24th of April. The prayer of his office contains a significant passage; the Church asks of God, who is ever-powerful and full of mercy, and who justifies the wicked, to move us to repentance by the merciful regards of his only Son who converted the Good Thief, and to grant us the same eternal glory. A more worthy model could not have been offered to the zealous worshippers and propagators of the reparation.
As for Veronica, her life, although not written in the Gospel, is sufficiently well known and authenticated by tradition. The heroic deed to which Sr. St. Peter makes allusion, is the sixth station in the “Way of the Holy Cross.” Her veil is at Rome in the basilica of St. Peter, of the Vatican; from time immemorial it has always been considered as one of the most precious relics of the Passion of Our Lord and has been the object of the greatest veneration. Since the time of the communications made to the Carmelite of Tours, and thanks to the zeal of M. Dupont, the authentic copy of this venerable image in France and in the Catholic world, is the object of special devotion, and is the exterior symbol of reparation for blasphemy.
The pious Veronica, herself, is the patroness and protectress of the work. Her heroic example would, most naturally, be offered as a model to all generous souls who devote them selves to reparation.