Thursday, October 27, 2016

Italian Pilgrimage: The Veil of Manopello

"Seek the Lord and his strength:  seek his face evermore." ~Psalms 105:4

"My heart says of you, 'Seek his face!'"  Your face, Lord, I will seek."  ~Psalm 27:8

The altar of the Church of Volto Santo di Manopello

An experience of resurrection, that's what Fr. Crispin, a Capuchin Monk who greeted us at the door of the Church of Volto Santo di Manopello, promised us as he shared a brief history of the shrine.  He said, "Look for the face of Jesus and impress it in your soul and your heart."  He told us that an image on the door of the church represents a soul holding a precious pearl which is the indulgence we gain from visiting here, but to us the precious pearl is Jesus Christ.  St. Therese of Lisieux, who had a great devotion to the Holy Face, said upon her visit here, "If I put in my heart the face of Jesus, God will look on me as he looks in His mirror." 

Fr. Crispin told us that it's believed that the veil of Manopello was originally kept in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome and was stolen from the church in the 1500's.  Shortly after this a Dr. Leonelli was approached by an unknown pilgrim in the Manopello square who handed him a package that contained the Holy Face.  When Dr. Leonelli turned to thank the pilgrim he was nowhere to be found!
The Church of Volto Santo di Manopello
Once we were inside of the church, German Sister Petra-Maria Steiner who guides pilgrims who have come to see the Holy Face, greeted us as we walked up the stairs behind the altar to venerate the holy cloth and she pointed out its transparency to us.  You can see through it!  And, no matter which side you are on the face always looks at you, it doesn't have a front and a back but the face can be seen from either side.  On one side the mouth is open, showing the teeth, and the other side his mouth is closed in a slight smile.  It's a mystery, she said.  She also told us that the face seems to be older than the time of icons.What a blessing it was to stand face to face with an image of Christ!  Words can't describe how unbelievable it was!  Like the Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano, it was hard for me to tear myself away.

Then Sister followed us to a separate room where all of the scientific information about the veil is kept.  She told us that the veil was made of byssus which is an ancient fabric made from shells. The fabric was mainly used by Kings and nobility.  She said that Byssus is so old and rare that it can't be touched without breaking it.  Today pollution is killing the shells and there is only one woman in the world, living in Sardinia, who continues to make this fabric today.

The byssus shells and fabric
Many people believe that the Face of Manopello is Veronica's Veil but the face is really that of the resurrected Jesus, not of Christ as he was suffering.  The veil is actually the cloth that covered Jesus' face in the tomb, directly under the burial shroud and is the image of that moment when Jesus arose from the dead.  Sister further said that when St. John and St. Peter ran to the tomb on Easter Sunday John stayed behind because he was part of a religious class that could not enter tombs due to the impurity of a dead body.  Then he entered after St. Peter had already found the burial cloths because he knew that he wouldn't find a dead body in the tomb but that Jesus had really risen from the dead.

Sister Petra-Maria showed us an image of the Shroud of Turin and pointed out that their faces were an exact match.  Everyone in our group was fascinated and enthralled by the information that Sister shared with us.

The picture of the veil from the explanation area
When we were told that we had a short time to spend on our own in the church before leaving, I went back to take pictures of the veil from the church.  Sister came and stood beside me and once again pointed out its transparency and the fact that He was watching me.  Just wow!  It was so amazing!

Leaving Manopello we traveled to Subiaco to the Monastery of St. Benedict.  Like Loreto, I had no idea of the treasures that were in store for us in Subiaco.  The drive through the Apennine Mountains was magnificent and the monastery unbelievably gorgeous and fascinating.  I think I took more pictures at the monastery than anywhere else on the pilgrimage, so that's a head up that the next post will be very picture heavy.

The Veil from the church-can you see its transparency through the blur?

a closer angle of the veil (sorry for the blurriness)

even closer (sorry for the blurriness)

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