To delve deeper into the characteristics of this devotion, the Nuova Bussola interviewed Carmelite Father Giorgio Maria Faré, who today (7:30 a.m.) celebrated a Mass dedicated to it at the Carmelite monastery in Monza
Father Giorgio Maria, can you tell us how you discovered your devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus?
My devotion is born from my religious surname: when a postulant becomes a novice in the Carmel, he keeps his baptismal name, but he is also given a religious surname. My religious surname is like that of St. Teresa, who was called Teresa of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face. So I began to deepen in this devotion and then over the years I came to know the figure of Blessed Mother Pierina Maria de Micheli, I read her diary and her biography, even distributing the medals for the faithful that she had coined for the first time.
Concerning Mother Pierina, Jesus had told her: "I want My Face, which reflects the intimate pains of My Soul, the pain and love of My Heart, to be more honored. Whoever contemplates Me consoles Me". There is a request from Jesus to be consoled, even though in the end it is we who are consoled by Him.
Yes, it is a very clear request that Jesus also made to many other saints such as Gemma Galgani, Margaret Mary Alacoque, Pio of Pietrelcina, etc. When the Lord appears in the guise of the Passion, He always asks to be consoled, to receive reparation for all the outrages He has suffered.
Father, have you received testimony of any conversion linked to the Holy Face?
So far I have not heard of any miraculous events related to bodily healings, but several people have spoken to me about devotion to the Holy Face as a miracle of interior conversion, which is what counts most for our eternity. This happens by placing oneself in contemplation before the Face of Jesus and the Eucharist, because let us not forget that the medal of the Holy Face bears the image of the Face of Jesus on one side, and the Eucharist on the other: it is, in fact, an absolutely Eucharistic devotion. Several people who have devoutly participated in the celebration, prayed and received the great image of the Face of Jesus have testified to me precisely this change of life, a life much more committed, much more centered on the Eucharist: this is the fundamental gain of the devotion. And Jesus tells Blessed Mother Pierina: devotion to the Holy Face is not an alternative to devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, but a culmination.
Speaking of culmination, Jesus has asked throughout the centuries that devotion to His Most Holy Name, to the Sacred Heart and now to the Holy Face be propagated. With regard to the Divine Name, St. Bernardine of Siena taught that this devotion was necessary for the renewal of the Church; with regard to the Sacred Heart, the devotion took root definitively through revelations to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque at a time when the Jansenist heresy was turning people away from the sacraments. Now, through many revelations of Jesus and Mary in the last two centuries, Heaven asks all the faithful to spread devotion to the Holy Face, which will then be the Face that those who reach Paradise will be able to contemplate. How do you see this plan of progressive revelation of God to men?
Look, I believe that with this devotion to the Face the Lord wants to focus our attention on his sacred Humanity, exactly according to the way of St. Teresa of Avila, that is, the centrality of the Humanity of Christ, true God and true man. Because we clearly see the face we see the person, there is nothing that refers us more to the person than his face. Let us imagine a photograph, a portrait, a painting: seeing the face, we see the person. Also emblematic is the care with which Our Lord asked, through St. Faustina Kowalska, for the picture of the Merciful Jesus.
St. Faustina herself was saddened at first to see the picture that did not reflect the beauty of Jesus, and cried out to Him, "Who can paint You as beautiful as You are?" But He consoled and reassured her by telling her that the importance of that image did not lie in its beauty, but in the graces it granted to those who venerated it.
Yes, the picture is beautiful, but St. Faustina said that Jesus is much more beautiful and that His beauty could not be represented. The point is precisely the Grace that Jesus communicates. So it seems to me that the heart of the devotion to the Holy Face is to rediscover the Humanity of Christ as the place and time for a true encounter with the Lord, not an ideal or sentimental encounter, but a real encounter with God who became man among us and for us. The other great devotion to the Precious Blood of Jesus, spread by St. Gaspar del Bufalo, also goes in this direction. The whole Humanity of Christ has been made, at various times, the object of meditation and contemplation.
What struck you most about Blessed Mother Pierina Maria de Micheli?
I would say that hers is an experience that must be known in its totality. It is indicative of all the obstacles she had to face from the devil, who did all sorts of things to her and even went so far as to beat her to try to prevent her from minting and distributing the medal with the Holy Face of Jesus. Evidently, because she feared it. Her whole journey of faith - her life as a nun, the apparitions of Jesus and Our Lady - is very beautiful. However, in spite of these very strong mystical experiences, several of which she had in wartime, she always led a normal, ordinary life. It is not simply the medal that she gives us; she is a saint who gives us a truly extraordinary and unique experience of faith and belonging to Jesus, as is the experience of every saint, in which the Eucharist is central.
Already in the 13th century, St. Mechthild had a revelation from Jesus about the Holy Face: the Lord told her that "none of them will ever be separated from Me", referring to those who would honor with love the memory of his Face.
Yes, and all the more reason why this is a feast to be celebrated with such faith.
"O Jesus, who in Thy cruel Passion made Thyself "the reproach of men and man of sorrows," I venerate Thy Divine Face, in which shone the beauty and sweetness of divinity and which has become for me like the face of a leper..... But I recognize beneath those disfigured features Your infinite Love, and I am consumed with the desire to love You and to make all men love You. The tears that flow so abundantly from Thine eyes are like precious pearls that I love to gather to redeem with their infinite value the souls of poor sinners. O Jesus, Your adorable Face enraptures my heart. I beseech Thee to imprint in me Thy divine likeness and inflame me with Thy Love so that I may come to contemplate Thy glorious Face. Amen.
The author of this beautiful prayer, St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face (1873-1897), had learned devotion to the Holy Face from her sister Pauline (Mother Agnes of Jesus) from her first steps in the Carmel of Lisieux. Precisely from the Carmel we want to take example to remember that today, the Tuesday that precedes Ash Wednesday and, therefore, to the time of Lent, falls the feast of the Holy Face, still little spread, but that Jesus wishes that it is established in the whole Church, as he explicitly asked Blessed Mother Pierina Maria de Micheli (1890-1945).