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A Short History of the Devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus

Feb 28, 2017 By Laura Jean Rabiipour | 44 Comments
Veneration of the Holy Face of Jesus has its beginning during the very passion of Our Lord, making it one of the oldest devotions in the Christian tradition. This devotion originated with the sacred image of Our Lord that miraculously appeared on St. Veronica's Veil. Below is a short account of how this devotion has spread from ancient times to today.

TIMELINE OF THE HOLY FACE OF JESUS DEVOTION

33 AD: St. Veronica, as a sign of her love and compassion, offered Our Savior a veil to wipe the blood and sweat from his face as he carried his cross. In reward for her charity and compassion, Jesus left an impression of his Holy Face upon the veil.  This meeting of Our Lord and St. Veronica is forever memorialized in the Stations of the Cross The meeting of Jesus and St. Veronica along his walk to the place of his crucifixion is the 6th Station.

History of the devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus Scene of St. Veronica and Jesus from The Passion of the Christ movie

1st - 4th c. AD: According to tradition, St. Veronica later entrusted the veil to St. Clement, a disciple of St. Peter who became the third Bishop of Rome. For the next three centuries the Holy Veil was kept in the Roman catacombs during the early persecutions of the Church. Eventually the Veronica's Veil was placed in the Basilica of St. Peter and kept there until the present day.

A Short History of the Devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus An exact copy of the original Veronica's veil made in 1617 during the reign of Pope Paul V

1843: Our Lord, in visions to Sister Marie of St. Peter, requested that a devotion to His Holy Face be established, also known as the "Golden Arrow." The purpose of this devotion was to make amends for the wrongdoings in the world, as well as to request special intentions. Special prayers and promises were given to Sister Marie from Our Lord, who said:

“All who honor My Holy Face in a spirit of reparation thereby perform for Me the services of the pious Veronica.”

The Golden Arrow - The Devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus

Read more How to Pray the Chaplet of The Holy Face of Jesus

1849: Soon after the death of Sister Marie, a revolution erupted in the Papal States. Pope Pius IX ordered public prayers to be offered in Rome to implore God’s mercy, and Veronica’s Veil was put on display for public veneration for three days. On the third day the sacred features of Our Lord, normally faded, became distinctly seen and surrounded by a soft halo of light. This lasted for three hours and was documented by Vatican officials.

A Short History of the Devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus The display of St Veronica's veil from the relic niche above her statue. This and other relics are shown on the fifth Sunday of Lent in St Peter's Basilica.

1849-1876: After the miracle of the Holy Veil, it was customary to have copies of the Holy Face made. These copies would then be touched to the original Veil, making them objects of devotion. A holy man named Leo Dupont hung one of these copies in his home, accompanied by an oil lamp. Those who would say the devotional prayers and anoint themselves with oil from his lamp would receive healing. For the next 30 years, miracles of healing occurred in his home through adoration of the Holy Face. 

1885: Because of the miracles credited to the Holy Face, Pope Leo XIII established the devotion as an Archconfraternity for the entire world. Saint Therese of Lisieux and her family were members of this Archconfraternity of the Holy Face. She was so faithful to this devotion that she took as her religious name, "St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face."

A Short History of the Devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus St. Therese holding an image of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, both of which she took for her religious name.

1958: On April 17th, 1958, His Holiness Pope Pius XII approved the observance of a Feast of the Holy Face of Jesus on Shrove Tuesday (the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday).

THE HOLY FACE AND THE SHROUD OF TURIN

In addition to Veronica's veil, the Shroud of Turin (believed to be the burial cloth of Christ) is an image associated with the Holy Face devotion. You can read more about the Shroud of Turin and the face of Jesus here.

Despite being one of the most scientifically studied objects, the Shroud still perplexes the scientific community.  You can view a detailed digital image of the Shroud, see its history, and take tours on the fascinating Shroud App.

Shroud of Turin

See below a video clip of the powerful scene from the movie The Passion of the Christ where Veronica offers her veil to wipe the blood and sweat from the holy face of Jesus.

Each of us has the opportunity to practice and spread the ancient devotion to the Holy Face, just like the individuals mentioned above.  If you have a devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus, please comment below and share with our readers what this devotion has done for your spiritual life.

Veronicas Veil and the Holy Face of Jesus Devotion

This article has been updated and was originally published in February 2014. © The Catholic Company. All rights reserved.

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Commentary by

Laura Jean Rabiipour Laura Jean Rabiipour

Laura Jean is a cradle Catholic who grew up in the frozen tundra of Minneapolis, MN. Searching for warmer weather she flew south and attended Belmont Abbey College. There, she cultivated a deeper love for Our Mother Mary, southern life, and a boy named Nicholas who will soon be her husband. She was instructed by her loving folks to grow her faith and when possible to share it, a mission she is now working to accomplish at The Catholic Company.

Read More from Laura Jean Rabiipour