Holy Face of Jesus: September 2009 Archives

A Patron of Parish Priests

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Saint Gaetano Catanoso

Antiphon: Lord, when was it that we saw Thee hungry and fed Thee,
or thirsty and gave Thee drink?
When was it that we saw Thee a stranger,
and brought Thee home,
sick or in prison and came to Thee?
And the King will answer them:
Believe me, when you did it to one of the least of my brethren here,
you did it to me.

V. Pray for us, Saint Gaetano.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.

Stir up, O Lord, in our hearts
the spirit of adoration and reparation
that filled Saint Gaetano, Your priest,
that we, having our eyes fixed, like his,
on the Eucharistic Face of Jesus,
may live in ceaseless prayer
and in the humble service of those
most in need of compassion.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, forever and ever.

The Priest of the Holy Face of Jesus

Gaetano Catanoso was born on 14 February 1879 in Chorio di San Lorenzo, Reggio Calabria, Italy. His parents, prosperous landowners, were exemplary Christians. Gaetano was ordained a priest in 1902, and from 1904 to 1921 he served in the rural parish of Pentidattilo.

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Adorer of the Eucharistic Face

The Holy Face of Jesus illumined Father Catanoso's life. He venerated the Holy Face as depicted in the image of Veronica's Veil diffused by the Carmel of Tours in France. He began "The Holy Face" Bulletin and established a local chapter of the "Archconfraternity of the Holy Face" in 1920. "The Holy Face," he wrote, "is my life." Saint Gaetano directed anyone seeking the Face of Christ to the Most Holy Eucharist, saying, "If we wish to adore the real Face of Jesus, we can find it in the divine Eucharist where, with the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, the Face of our Lord is hidden under the white veil of the Host."

A Eucharistic Parish Priest

On 2 February 1921, Father Catanoso was transferred to the large parish of Santa Maria de la Candelaria. He served there until 1940. The daily celebration of Holy Mass and Eucharistic adoration were the soul of his priesthood and the sustenance of his apostolate.

As the parish priest of Candelaria, Saint Gaetano drew people to Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar and renewed devotion to the Madonna. The plight of orphans moved him to undertake a number of charitable initiatives. He played an active role in the catechetical instruction of children and young people. Deeply moved by the message of the Blessed Virgin Mary at La Salette, Father Gaetano preached against blasphemy and taught the faithful to sanctify Sundays and the feasts of the Church.

Father Catanoso was compelled to reach out to orphans and to children suffering from neglect and abuse. He sought to provide youth with Christian role models. His charity extended to the forsaken elderly and to priests who found themselves isolated and without support. In all who suffered Father Gaetano saw the Face of Christ. His ardent love for the Most Holy Eucharist found expression in the restoration of churches and abandoned tabernacles.

Servant of Priests

"The Missionary of the Holy Face" spent hours or entire days in prayer before the Tabernacle. In his parish and beyond it he promoted Eucharistic Adoration in the spirit of reparation. He set up "flying-squads" of priests willing to assist other priests by preaching and hearing confessions on special occasions. In 1915 Saint Gaetano published for the first time a "Eucharistic Holy Hour" for priests. Saint Gaetano never let a single day pass without speaking of the Holy Face of Jesus.

Victim Priest

Father Gaetano patiently accepted sickness and, in the last stage of his life, blindness, desiring to unite himself to the saving Passion of Christ. In 1929 he offered himself as a victim priest to the Heart of Jesus.

La Madonna

Saint Gaetano's devotion to the Madonna was tender and childlike. He began praying the rosary daily as a little boy and remained faithful to the practice until his death. The rosary never left his hands, becoming for him a ceaseless prayer of the heart. To all who approached him for spiritual counsel he communicated his love of the Mother of God and his confidence in her intercession.

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Spiritual Father and Founder

From 1921 to 1950 Saint Gaetano served as confessor to various religious communities and in the Reggio Calabria prison. He served as spiritual director of the Archdiocesan Seminary. Everyone called him "Father," a title not normally given parish priests in Italy. He was, in fact, a beloved spiritual father generating holiness of life in countless priests and consecrated women. Father Gaetano's simple and ardent preaching attracted sinners to the contemplation of the Holy Face of Jesus and inspired souls to imitate his life of adoration and reparation.

In 1934, Father Catanoso founded in Riparo, Reggio Calabria, the Congregation of the Sisters Veronicas of the Holy Face of Jesus. The Sisters devote themselves to Eucharistic adoration and reparation to the Holy Face, catechesis, assistance to children, youth, priests and the elderly.

Canonized Three Years Ago

Father Gaetano Catanoso died on the Thursday of Passion Week, April 4, 1963. Pope John Paul II beatified him on May 4, 1997. Pope Benedict XVI canonized him on October 23, 2005. The liturgical memorial of Saint Gaetano Catanoso was fixed on September 20, the date of his ordination to the holy priesthood.

An American Cousin

Saint Gaetano's American cousin, Justin Catanoso, wrote a book recounting his experience of having a saint in the family. Visit Justin's website here.

Amor Meus Crucifixus Est

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Twenty-Fourth Sunday of the Year B

Isaiah 50:5-9a,
Ps 115:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9
James 2:14-18
Mark 8:27-35

I Hid Not My Face From Shame

By a happy coincidence, the Word of God today announces tomorrow's solemn festival of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and transports us, ahead of time, into its mystery. We listened, in the First Reading, to Isaiah's mysterious prophecy of the Passion of Christ. Like a photograph developed in a darkroom, an image emerged from the sacred page: the portrait of One who goes forward into suffering, fully conscious of what awaits Him, totally abandoned to God who alone can save Him. "I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I hid not my face from shame and spitting" (Is 50:6). The adorable Face of the suffering Christ came into focus, the Holy Face that, from the earliest preaching of the Gospel, captivated believers, drawing them irresistibly into the mystery of the Cross.

The Adorable Face of the Saviour

In the apse of ancient Christian basilicas, it was not uncommon to see an immense cross, worked in shimmering mosaic. The body of Christ was not depicted on the cross; instead, at the center of the cross, in a shining circle at the juncture of the vertical and horizontal beams, was an image of the Holy Face of Christ. The arms of the Cross converged in the Face of Christ, His most distinctive characteristic.

The Cross of Christ

The uniqueness of each human face expresses the uniqueness of each person's identity. Our personal identity is linked to the image of our face, as on a photo ID card. By placing the Face of Christ at the center of the Cross, the artisans of old were suggesting that the Cross is the key to Christ's identity and the Face of Christ the key to understanding the mystery of the Cross. Apart from the Cross, there is no knowledge of Christ, no understanding of His mission, no experience of His love, no way of answering the question put to Peter in today's Gospel, "Who do you say that I am?" (Mk 8:29).

His Voice

The First Reading focused our attention on the Face of the suffering Christ; the Responsorial Psalm filled our hearts with the sound of His voice. To the uniqueness of Christ's human face is added that other identifying characteristic of the human person, the uniqueness of the voice. By juxtaposing this particular psalm to the prophecy of Isaiah, the liturgy suggests that in it we are to hear the voice of the suffering Christ, and the unmistakable accents of His prayer to the Father. "I love the Lord -- my Father -- because He has heard my voice and my supplications. He inclined His ear to me, therefore I will call on Him as long as I live" (Ps 116:1-2).

Prayer With Loud Cries and Tears

The Letter to the Hebrews describes this prayer of the suffering Christ to the Father: "In the days of His flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to Him who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard for His godly fear" (Heb 5:7). The sacred liturgy is precisely the experience in faith, here and now, of the Face and of the voice of the living Christ; of the penetrating gaze from the Cross and of the prayer from the Cross; of the gaze that searches hearts and of the prayer that pierces the heavens and fills the whole cosmos.

The Supreme Work of the Church

In the Second Reading, Saint James says, "I by my works will show you my faith" (Jas 2:18). The Church, the assembled body of believers, shows forth her faith by doing the work of the liturgy. The liturgy is the supreme work of the Church, the source and summit of all her works, the highest expression of her faith, the work done always, in every place, by all believers, "from the rising of the sun to its setting" (Mal 1:11, E.P. III). Just as a faith without works is dead, so too, a church without the Most Holy Eucharist is no church at all.

Love's Work

The doing of the Eucharist in obedience to Christ's command, "Do this in remembrance of me" (1 Cor 11:24), shows forth the mystery of the Cross, and makes it present. The Cross is Christ's own work, the immense work of redeeming love accomplished with hands outstretched upon the wood. The liturgy of September 14th sings, "This was Love's great work that death should die, when Life itself was slain upon the tree" (Antiphon, 2nd Vespers). The Cross is the work of love "obedient unto death" (Phil 2:8), the work of a "love "strong as death" (Ct 8:6).

The Cruciform Work of the Eucharist

The death of the crucified Jesus signifies the completion of His work in the Spirit. Jesus prays, "Father, I glorified thee on earth, having accomplished the work which thou gavest me to do" (Jn 17:4), and then, from the Cross, He utters, "It is finished" (Jn 19:30). In the Eucharist, the work of Christ intersects the work of the Church. The cruciform work of the Eucharist reveals the faith of the Church and shows forth the Cross, the key to Christ's identity.

Jesus Crucified

Before the work of the Cross was accomplished, not even Peter held the key to the identity of his Master. "Who do you say that I am" (Mk 8:29)? At one level, Peter answered correctly. "You are the Christ" (Mk 8:29). Nonetheless, the separation of the Christ from the Cross so compromised Jesus' mission, and so distorted His identity, that Peter was sharply rebuked. "Get behind me Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men" (Mk 8:33). There is no half-truth so dangerous to the faith of Christians as the separation of Jesus the Christ from the mystery of the Cross.

The Cross and Our Life

What is true of Christ is true of Christians. The lifework of the Christian, quite apart from any gifts, accomplishments, words, or deeds, is the work of the Cross, the surrender of self to the Father in the crucible of suffering. Paul says it: "I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of His body, that is, the church" (Col 1:24). The identity of the Christian is inextricably bound, I want to say, nailed, to the wood of the Cross. "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (Mk 8:34).

To the Altar and the Cross

Because the essential work of the Christian is the Cross, it is also the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, for in the crucible of the Mass, suffering is converted into love, and love into victory over death. And so, it is time now to do what we have announced, time to fulfill again the words of the apostle, "As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes" (1 Cor 11:26).

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.

Donations for Silverstream Priory