Shrouds and Face Cloths
On the trip to Europe last month, we were able to celebrate Mass in the Cathedral in Turin, Italy. The cathedral of Turin isn’t the most remarkable building architecturally, however it contains unique treasures. One of these treasures is the remains of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati who died on July 4, 1925 at 24 years old. He was an incredible Catholic man, whom I would encourage anyone to learn about, especially young adults.
The other treasure of the Turin Cathedral is the Shroud of Turin. Unfortunately, the shroud is only displayed on rare occasions, so we were not able to view the shroud. We were able to pray before a climate-controlled, bulletproof, flame-retardant box, which contains the shroud.
The shroud of Turin is the cloth which Jesus Christ was wrapped in when he was taken down from the Cross. There is some skepticism about the veracity of the cloth, however modern science has studied the cloth and discovered that the shroud is a scientific oddity for many reasons. If you are curious about the science behind the shroud, I suggest watching an interview with Fr. Robert Spitzer on YouTube. It is fascinating. It is entitled, “The TRUTH About the Shroud of Turin w/Fr. Robert Spitzer – Chris Stefanick Show.”
The Shroud is important for many reasons, one of which is that the shroud provides us with an image of the face of Jesus Christ. One of the revolutions of Christianity is that God became one of us in Jesus Christ. God has a face. In Jesus, God can look at us. We can see His facial expressions and know that we are loved. The shroud shows the Holy Face of Jesus.
There are two other icons of the face of Jesus promoted by the Church. One is the veil of Veronica (pictured on the front of the bulletin) and the other is the face cloth from Jesus’ burial garments. The Gospel according to John describes this cloth: “When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place” (20:6-7).
The Church has venerated these two face cloths for centuries. One is contained in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican and the other is the Holy Cloth of Manoppello, Italy. Scholars disagree about these two veils. Both claim to be the Veil of Veronica, however one could easily be the face cloth from the empty tomb. Feel free to do your own research about these two images. People have very strong opinions about which image is actually the veil of Veronica – consider yourself warned.
Regardless, these images are important for the Feast Day of St. Veronica next week. Jesus Christ entrusted St. Veronica with the image of His very face. God has a face that we can seek. Once we have gazed upon the face of Jesus Christ, we are invited to be His face to the world.
Happy Feast day of St. Veronica.
Sincerely in Christ,
Fr. Sean Wilson