The Holy Name of Jesus and the Holy Face

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Deus, qui unigenitum Filium tuum
constituisti humani generis Salvatorem
et Jesum vocari jussisti:
concede propitius;
ut, cujus sanctum nomen veneramur in terris,
ejus quoque aspectu perfruamur in caelis.


O God, who didst constitute Thine only-begotten Son
the Saviour of mankind,
and didst command that He should be called JESUS:
grant in Thy kindness
that our heart's joy in heaven may be the Face of Him
Whose Holy Name we venerate on earth.

The Collect for the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus rather ingeniously brings together the Name of Jesus with His Holy Face. While the latin aspectus (used in the Collect above) can mean the sight or appearance of someone, it can also refer to a person's countenance or to the expression of his face.

Friendship with Our Lord Jesus Christ

Nothing is more personal to an individual than his name and his face. We don't consider our knowledge of another person really significant until we can put a name to his face, and a face to his name. So too, our friendship with the Lord Jesus Christ is not significant until we have begun, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, to associate the Holy Name of Jesus with His adorable Face, and His adorable Face with His Holy Name.

This is the very grace that was given in superabundant measure to the Carmelite of Tours, France, Sister Marie de Saint-Pierre (1816-1848) and to her saintly friend in the world, the lawyer, Monsieur Léon Papin Dupont (1797-1876). How did the Carmel of Tours, and the reception room of Monsieur Dupont become centres of devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus?

The Benedictine-Carmelite Connection

In the spring of 1851 the Benedictines of Perpetual Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Monastery of Arras (daughters of Mother Mectilde de Bar), being already devoted to the Holy Face through the influence of Saint Gertrude the Great, gave the Carmel of Tours several reproductions of the image of the Holy Face venerated in Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome. (From the Carmel of Tours the devotion would reach the Carmel of Lisieux where it became a profound influence on Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, Doctor of the Church.) This particular image of the Holy Face became famous after an astonishing miracle that took place in January 1849, during the exile of Blessed Pope Pius IX at Gaeta.

The Roman Miracle of the Holy Face: Epiphany 1849

It was customary on the feast of the Epiphany to expose for the veneration of the faithful the "Veronica's Veil" preserved with other sacred relics in the Vatican Basilica. The "Veil" was darkened by age, and the features of Our Lord's sacred countenance were no longer visible. On the third day of the exposition of the relic, before the eyes of numerous witnesses, the image of the Holy Face took on vivid colours and, in the midst of an unearthly light, became clearly visible, and this for three hours. The expression on the Holy Face was one of profound sorrow and of love. Alerted to the prodigy, the Canons of Saint Peter's ordered the bells rung, summoning the faithful to see the miraculous sign. A Notary Apostolic was called to take the depositions of the eyewitnesses; he drew up a document attesting to the miracle, which was then placed in the archives of the Vatican Basilica.

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Enter Monsieur Dupont, the Holy Man of Tours

Once news of the miracle spread, people everywhere began requesting reproductions of the Sacred Countenance of Our Lord as seen on the Holy Veil of Saint Peter's Basilica. A number of these were printed on silk and linen, marked with a red wax seal of authenticity, and distributed from Rome. Several of these reproductions were sent to the Benedictine nuns of Arras in France; they in turn sent some of them to the Carmel of Tours. On Palm Sunday 1851, the Mother Prioress of the Carmel of Tours gave two of the reproductions to Monsieur Léon Papin-Dupont. Without losing any time, the next day, Holy Monday, he entrusted the two images to a workman in order to have them suitably framed. He gave the more elegantly framed of the two to the Men's Confraternity of Nocturnal Adoration in Tours; the other he kept for himself. On Holy Wednesday, Monsieur Dupont hung the framed image in a recess to the left of the chimney in his room. In front of it, on a chest, there was a chest upon which a votive lamp might be placed. Listen to Monsieur Dupont explain what happened:

After having had framed this terrible proof of the ravages of sin, I placed this Holy Face in my room, to the left of my chimney in the recess, just above a little chest suitable to receive a lamp. Several pious images found place there as well. It was Holy Wednesday. No sooner I had installed it, than I was struck interiorly by a sudden sentiment rising from the bottom of my heart. "Can this image of the Divine Face of the Saviour of men be exposed," said I to myself, "in the house of a Christian during this great week of the Passion, without an outward sign of respect, adoration, and love being given to it? No, certainly not, it shall not be so." And this is how I had, all of a sudden, the thought to light this lamp before the Holy Face, with the intention of leaving it burning only for the rest of Holy Week. Immediately I carried out my thought; but soon there came to me another. This room was the one in which I was accustomed to receive all those who came to visit me, or who needed to speak to me. It was there that I had installed my desk. "Everyone," I thought, "will ask me why there should be a lamp burning in daylight. I will respond, it is to teach those who come to my house that when the affair for which they came has been addressed, they have only to withdraw or speak of God." And I was of a mind to write these words as a kind of commentary on a card of paper, that I would place on my desk to show when the need would arise: "One is free in one's own home. In my home, after treating of the affair for which one came, one must either leave or speak of the things of God."
That day, and the day after, passed without anyone posing me a question. Some paid no attention. Others thought that I had had there a very pious idea. On Good Friday a traveling salesman, having forced my door to propose some Bordeaux wines, had my response, and was so surprised by it that I had to repeat to him twice. There was my opprtunity to speak to him of religion. He stayed listening to me for over an hour. Having come into my house indifferent, at best, he left it, very nearly converted, taking away with faith some water from La Salette.
The next day, that is Holy Saturday, Our Lord began to make His intentions known, and this is how He did it. I received the visited of a very pious person whom I knew, a Miss X. She suffered from an affliction of the eyes; entering my room, she complained loudly of a lancing pain in her eyes due to the cold wind that was blowing and filling the air with dust. She was coming to see him about business. Being occupied in writing, I invited her to pray to the Holy Face while waiting to see me. She took advantage of the opportunity to ask for her healing. In a moment I had joined her. I knelt down and we prayed together. Upon getting up, it occurred to me to say to her, "Put a little of the oil of this lamp on your eyes." She dipped her finger into the oil, rubbed her eyes with it and, taking a chair to sit down, said in astonishment, "My eyes no longer hurt me." At end of her visit, I had to give her a little oil from the lamp to take home because she was leaving for Richelieu, her usual place of residence.

Cures and Graces

From that day forward the life of Monsieur Dupont became an uninterrupted flow of miracles, healings, and graces attributed to the Holy Face of Jesus, and to the pious use of the oil that burned in the lamp before it. He recounts that on the following Easter Tuesday a young man of the town came on an errand; one of his legs was injured, he walked painfully and limped. Monsieur Dupont thought that if he applied some of the oil burning in the lamp, and prayed to the Holy Face of Jesus, the young man might obtain some relief. This he did. Immediately the young man was healed and began to run around the garden with the greatest ease.

The Lamp Burns On

Monsieur Dupont considered that he intended to keep the oil lamp burning before the Holy Face only during Holy Week, but after these experiences, he couldn't bring himself to remove it. Soon thereafter it was Our Blessed Lady's month of May, another reason to keep the lamp burning. After that came June, the month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and July, the month of the Most Precious Blood. Monsieur Dupont knew that it would not at all do to allow the lamp to go out during months dedicated to the mysteries of the Redemption. Graces and favours began to abound. More than twenty persons were healed after having prayed to the Holy Face of Jesus, and used oil from the lamp. A movement of devotion to the Holy Face was born. The faithful would gather in front of the image of the Holy Face, together with Monsieur Dupont, to recite the Litanies of the Holy Face composed by Sister Marie de Saint-Pierre, cloistered in the nearby Carmel.

In the Healing Radiance of the Holy Face

Prodigies began to multiply. Healings of all sorts took place: from cancers, from ulcers both external and internal, from deafness, from cataracts, and from sprains. By December 2, 1852 Monsieur Dupont had distributed more than eight-thousand little vials of oil from the lamp. Crowds began coming to his door. On certain Saturdays more than three-hundred people crowded into his reception room. The greatest wonder of all was that, for all of these people, their devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus was crowned by a good Confession and fervent Holy Communion.

Miracles continued to abound. Until his death in 1876, Leon Papin-Dupont noted each miracle worked by the Holy Face of Jesus in a register kept for that purpose. To his great confusion, letters would sometimes arrive addressed "To the Wonderworker of Tours" or "To the Holy Man of Tours." Like the Curé of Ars hiding behind the intercession of Saint Philomena, and like Saint André Bessette hiding behind that of Saint Joseph, Monsieur Dupont sought only to disappear into the glory of the Holy Face of Jesus. Today, Monsieur Dupont's room, having been transformed into the Oratory of the Holy Face (8 rue Bernard Palissy, 37000 Tours, France) remains a place of pilgrimage and of prayer. Dominican Fathers of the Province of France, now living in the home of Monsieur Dupont, are charged with the pastoral care of pilgrims to the Oratory of the Holy Face.

A Devotion Confirmed by the Sacred Liturgy

For Monsieur Dupont and for Sister Marie de Saint-Pierre, devotion to the Holy Face was inseparable from love for, and faith in, the adorable Name of Jesus. The layman and the Carmelite demonstrated in their piety the very association made by the Church in the Collect for the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus.

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To enroll in the Archconfraternity of the Holy Face; and to obtain devotional items (Protection Cross, Chaplet, Medals, Oil, images) or the manual or prayer cards of the Holy Face, write to:

Archconfraternity of the Holy Face
Monastery of the Little Flower of Jesus
75 Carmel Road
Buffalo, NY, 14214-1098

What a wonderful post, timely and providential for me because I have dedicated this year 2011 to the daily devotion of the Holy Face of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thank You Father Mark for blogging. It was Santa Croce in Gerusalemme (in wonderful picture) what opened me this blog and since that time it has been for me a source of a lot of joy and grace. I have learned about glory of liturgy, the reading is so full of spiritual treasure and moreover with splendid pictures (only music is missing to be complete).
I would like to ask You for a favour. We publish a bulletin in our parish and I would like to ask You for permission to use any posts and translate it into Slovak - with due acknowledgement, of course.
God bless You and also The Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle.
Erika Strelingerová, Slovakia

An image of the Holy Face , circa 1905 has been in my family's posession initially in Kenya for ~90 years -I only found out about the history and significance of the Latin description and seals on my image from the Vatican 12 months ago when I discovered a similar image in Sydney. My image is now placed in our lounge where we have a votive lamp burning since reading the life of Leo Dupont and are praying before this image. I strongly believe God is calling us anew to venerate the Holy Face image. Melbourne Australia

For some reason the Holy Face of Jesus keeps popping up in my path. Perhaps it is time I should look into adopting this devotion?

For the last five years I have been tripping across this devotion. I am now in the process of making Chaplets Beads for the Devotion at Milford, Connecticut. I have read The Holy Man of Tours by Dorothy Scallan and will begin reading The Holy Face of Jesus Christ, Discovery, Journey and Destination by Gordon Deery. If there is any other reading material that someone would like to suggest please email me at pat_crowe_46@hotmail.com with the subject Holy Face or after Lent is over leave me a message on my wall at Patricia E. Crowe on Facebook..

Lord show us your face and we shall be healed, Psalm 80:3

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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