Chosen Souls Who Have Venerated the Thorn-Crowned Head of Our Savior
Throughout the centuries there have been chosen souls who have had special devotion to the Holy Face. Among the most illustrious were St. Augustine, St. Bernard, St. Gertrude the Great and St. Mechtilde. One of the most beautiful hymns in honor of the Sacred Face (“O Caput Cruentatum — O Sacred Head”) was composed by St. Bernard (1153) ; another was written by St. Bonaventure (1275). These saints worshiped in a special manner the thorn-crowned head of Christ. The aim of the Church in propagating devotion to the Holy Face is to impress ever more deeply in the minds of the faithful the memory of the sufferings of our Lord, that they may nourish sorrow for their sins and an ardent desire to make reparation for the offenses committed against the Divine Majesty.
With wonderful clearness our Savior impressed upon St. Gertrude how beneficial it is for a soul to meditate upon His sufferings and the great consolation He derives from the compassion thus offered Him. One day the saint beheld our Lord in the pitiable state in which He was bound to a pillar between two executioners, one of whom tore His flesh with thorns whilst the other lashed Him with scourges. Both of them struck Him on the Face, which was so disfigured that the sight of It filled Gertrude with bitter grief. During the remainder of her life she could not restrain her tears whenever she remembered this sorrowful vision. It seemed to her as though Jesus turned His Face from side to side, but each time He did so, He was only struck the more cruelly by the other executioner. “Tell me, O Lord,” exclaimed St. Gertrude, “ the remedy that can soothe the sufferings of Thy Divine Face.” Jesus replied: “If anyone meditates upon My sufferings with tenderness and compassion, his heart will be to me as a soothing balm for these wounds.”
Frequently during her meditations St. Gertrude saw the Divine Countenance of our Savior resplendent as the sun, illuminating priests, inflaming the devout and converting sinners. Once she asked why the Blessed Countenance of our Redeemer shone like the sun, and she received this explanation: “Like the sun, My Countenance illuminates , warms and fructifies.”
On one occasion when St. Gertrude was compassionating the Adorable Face, wounded and disfigured, she asked our Lord for a special grace for those who would practice this devotion. From His Divine lips she heard this consoling promise: “All those who meditate frequently on the vision of My Divine Face, attracted by the desires of love, shall receive within them, through My Humanity, a bright ray of My Divinity, which shall enlighten their inmost souls so that they shall reflect the light of My Countenance in a special manner throughout eternity.”
Overcome with ardor, St. Mechtilde once exclaimed to her sisters: “Let us all, full of holy desire, hasten to venerate the sweetest Countenance of our Lord, which will in heaven be our all — all that a glorified soul can desire.” On one occasion when this saint had asked our Lord to grant that those who celebrate the memory of His sweet Face should never be deprived of His amiable company, He replied in these precious words: Not one of them shall be separated from Me (Bk. I. ch. xiii). The Lord then pronounced this blessing: “The splendor of My Countenance be their eternal rejoicing.”
The great servant of God, St. Edmund of Canterbury, was accustomed to pray: “May I expire from ardent desire of beholding the Face of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face
The dear Carmelite Saint, Teresa of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, more familiarly known as the “Little Flower,” who died September 30, 1897, nourished a touching, ardent devotion to the Adorable .Countenance of our Savior. She sought to soothe the sufferings of the Holy Face by bringing sacrifices to save souls, and encouraged others to do likewise. She composed a most beautiful prayer in honor of the Holy Face and recited it daily. This prayer reveals her compassion for Jesus in His sufferings, as well as her vehement longing to behold His Divine Face in glory. Veneration of the Holy Face was one of her dearest devotions. After Holy Communion she would, in spirit, bend over the Face of her Beloved, which delighted her with Its secret charms.
The Carmelite Nun of Tours
On July 8, 1848, Sister Mary of St. Peter died in the odor of sanctity, in the Carmelite Convent of Tours in France. She had been favored by heaven with many revelations concerning the reparation of blasphemies uttered against the Holy Name of Jesus, and veneration of the Holy Face had been pointed out to her as a most efficacious means of making such reparation. Our Divine Savior transported her in spirit to the spot where He was met by Veronica, on His way to Calvary, and made known to His spouse how great was the service this heroic woman had rendered Him when, with her veil, she wiped His Adorable Face, all covered with spittle, dust, perspiration and blood.
Our Savior revealed to this religious how great is the satisfaction He derives from the veneration of His Sacred Countenance, saying: “According to the care you take in making reparation to My Face, disfigured by blasphemers, so will I take care of yours which has been disfigured by sin. I will reprint upon it My image and render it as beautiful as it was on leaving the baptismal font.”
At another time our Lord said to Sister St. Peter, “I seek pious souls who, like Veronica, will wipe My Divine Countenance and venerate It. . . Those who on earth venerate My wounded Countenance will once behold It in heaven all resplendent in glory.”
Again Jesus said to His spouse: “All who honor My Holy Face in a spirit of reparation thereby perform for Me the services of the pious Veronica.”
Devotion to the Holy Face is regarded as a sign of predestination, for how were it possible that a soul who had loved this Divine Countenance here on earth should be excluded from beholding It in glory in heaven!