The Holy Shroud of Turin
The same goes for the Holy Shroud as for the Gospel. "Anything new?" I am asked. Well! I’ll tell you. "Every scribe become a disciple of the Kingdom of Heaven is like a householder who brings out from his storeroom new things as well as old", Our Lord said (Mt 13.52). And that is what we shall do in preparation for the exposition to take place in Turin from the 18th April to the 31st May 1998, the fifth centenary of the consecration of the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, and the first centenary of the exposition of 1898, during which the first photograph of the Holy Shroud was taken (28 May 1898).
The Relic at present rolled up in its silver reliquary and kept behind the high altar of the Duomo, is our treasure; all the more ours in that it is we, who for the last ten years, have prevented it from being thrown on the scrap heap. It is certain that had we not denounced the crime of the fraudulent "mediaeval dating" proclaimed by Cardinal Ballestrero on the 13th October 1988, no one would still be talking of this distinguished Relic today, except as some vile object, on display in the gallery of "famous hoaxes" in the British Museum.
But since it is the "mediaeval dating" that is a "hoax", the Holy Shroud is genuine. And at this good news, everything changes, everything is reborn. The Holy Shroud is truly, really, substantially the sheet in which Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus and Saint John shrouded the Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ on the evening of Good Friday. In his Gospel, Saint John relates how Saint Peter and he found this "Shroud" (soudarion), carefully rolled up, apart from the other funerary cloths, in the empty tomb, on Easter morning (Jn 20.6-7). They conserved it preciously and handed it down to us.
Since then, from age to age, down to our century, it has attracted crowds. The last time was in 1978, when three and a half million pilgrims filed past the Holy Relic unfolded full length and displayed above the high altar of Saint John the Baptist’s Cathedral, at Turin, during those blessed days of the pontificate of the holy Pope John-Paul I. That is what we shall see again next year, if God wills!
Why so much veneration? What attracts the crowds are the imprints left by the Body of Jesus on this linen cloth 4.36m long and 1.10m wide, imprints which are themselves marked with His precious Blood, shed for us during His sorrowful Passion.
The Church is like Saint Veronica: down the centuries for two thousand years, but more than ever now in our modern times "on the threshold of the third millennium", she lovingly keeps this cloth left to her by Jesus after having mysteriously imprinted it not only with the features of His Holy Face, but also with the image of His Body, naked, scourged, wounded all over with the sacred stigmata of His sorrowful Passion, so that in contemplating these images, this virginal Spouse, the Church, might be absorbed in the memory of her Saviour’s agony and might devote herself to loving and consoling Him for the many blasphemies and outrages that have reached their fill in these times of apostasy in which we are living, renewing the insults of His Passion.
In this spirit of reparation, soon after the Revolution and the Empire, the 19th century was the century par excellence of devotion to the Holy Face. And yet, before the exposition of 1898, it was not the Holy Shroud kept at Turin that was the object of this devotion, but the image honoured and then propagated by "the holy man of Tours", Monsieur Dupont, from 1851.
This image was a reproduction of the miraculous veil venerated in Rome under the name of "Veronica’s Veil" from time immemorial. This veil was the subject of miraculous manifestations in 1849, during the Pope’s exile at Gaeta. Monsieur Dupont had received two copies of this Veil from the Prioress of the Carmelites of Tours three years after the death of a sister of this community, Sister Marie de Saint-Pierre, from whom Our Lord Himself had asked for reparation in 1845, in these terms:
"The face of France has become hideous in the sight of My Father; it provokes Him to justice; offer Him, therefore, the Face of His Only Son in Whom He is well pleased, to draw His mercy down on France, without which she will be chastised. Here is France’s salvation, that is to say, in the Face of the Saviour."
After the death of Sister Marie de Saint-Pierre, "the holy man of Tours" became the messenger of this mystical message, by exhibiting the Roman Holy Face, the "Veil of Veronica" in his study, soon to be transformed into an oratory. Through anointings made with the oil from the lamp burning in its presence, the "Veil of Veronica" worked miracles; it attracted crowds of pilgrims, but above all, it raised up "Veronicas" in accordance with the desire expressed by Our Lord to Sister Marie de Saint-Pierre:
"I am looking for Veronicas to wipe and to honour my divine Face."
In the year 1885, we find recorded in the register of the confraternity set up by the Bishop of Tours, the names of the entire Guérin family of Lisieux, then of Monsieur Martin and of his daughters, the last of whom, Thérèse, was twelve years old. She entered Carmel at the age of fifteen, under the name of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus. She was, therefore, already a member of the Confraternity of the Holy Face. What a touching encounter!
On the 10th January 1889, the day of her clothing, Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus ended a note to Sister Martha with a new signature: "Sister Thérèse de l’Enfant-Jésus et de la Sainte-Face". As our Father showed us in his retreat on "Thérèse of the Child Jesus, miniature of the Immaculate", there is a mystery here, a prophetic foretelling of the great trial which is to befall her a month later, on the 12th February: the mental illness of "our dear Father drinking of the bitterest and most humiliating chalice of all". Then, through her tears, Thérèse learns to "recognise", in the facial features of her humiliated father, those of the suffering Servant foretold by the Prophet Isaiah in chapter 53.
Monsignor Guy Gaucher, the penetrating commentator on Saint Thérèse, quite rightly remarks that to reduce her to "no more than a symbol of childhood" leads to a misunderstanding of her essential message, which is profoundly evangelical:
"To mutilate her name is to mutilate her message, not to say her life. She could rightly be called Saint Thérèse of the Holy Face, based on the testimony of Mother Agnes: ‘Devotion to the Holy Face was the Servant of God’s special attraction’."
Guy Gaucher rightly remarks that "the word ‘devotion’ to the Holy Face suggests some optional pious practice, left to the freedom of each individual". But it is an error, which Thérèse herself will correct, in order to clarify that for her it is not just a devotion, but the ground of all her piety:
"These words from Isaiah: ‘Who has believed our report ?... There is no beauty in him, nor comeliness... etc.’ form the basis of my devotion to the Holy Face, or rather, the foundation of all my piety. I too would desire to be without beauty, alone to tread the grape in the wine press, unknown to any creature..."
"We touch the heart of her life, as that of the Gospel", adds Guy Gaucher, who then goes on to show how Sister Thérèse of the Holy Face lived her "Passion" through closely espousing the Passion of Jesus: "On the 5th August 1897, the eve of the Transfiguration, the Holy Face from the choir of the Carmelites was installed in the infirmary to the great joy of Thérèse: ‘Oh! how that Holy Face has done me so much good in my life!’ All night long she looks at it."
This loving contemplation leads her to a constant configuration with her Beloved, right up to the hour of her agony, endured on the 30th September, in imitation of the agony of Jesus, "with no added consolation". At 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the monastery bell rang, as it rang every day, to recall the death of Christ. When "with her arms outstretched in the form of a cross, leaning on her two sisters, she is seen in her agony gasping for breath, it is the vision of the Crucified that makes its mark on the witnesses". At this point, Guy Gaucher notes: "Doctor Barbet’s work on crucifixion has shown that the crucified victim dies of suffocation, the lungs being congested", as she too died.
You will recall that the object of Doctor Barbet’s work was the Holy Shroud or, "more accurately", it was to make an experimental verification. It is not without importance to specify this point since it is a major fact governing all the historical events down to our day, to this present year 1997, the centenary year of the death from love of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face (30 September 1897).
Everything happens, in fact, as though from her dies natalis, from the day of her birth into Heaven, she were concerned to engrave this Holy Face in the hearts of all men, if possible. "In fact, it was in October 1897", Father Piat notes, "that the King of Italy, the owner of this precious treasure, was presented with a request for the Holy Shroud to be exhibited. The royal authorisation bears the date of the 10th November 1897. Is this manifestation of the portrait of Jesus so soon after the death of Thérèse no more than a coincidence?"
One is all the more inclined to see not a coincidence but the hand of Thérèse in these events, for the Holy Shroud and herself, "the greatest saint in modern times" according to the judgement of Saint Pius X, are going to travel together in the ascent towards glory. L’Histoire d’une âme was given the imprimatur on the 7th March 1898, and the first edition was dated the 30th September. Between the two: an exhibition of sacred art opens in Turin on the 1st May 1898...
THE CARMELITE AND THE POPE
Pilgrims crossed the city in serried ranks, beneath the pastoral staff of their bishops, often come from very far away to contemplate and venerate the Holy Shroud exhibited on the altar of the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist. Indifferent to the sarcasm of the anticlerical, positivist and scientist press, who denigrated this crude "painting" of no aesthetic value, their zeal received its reward, in the form of a "divine surprise" comparable to the miracle worked in answer to Veronica’s tender compassion, according to the sixth station of our Way of the Cross: the photographic negative of the venerable Relic clearly and unequivocally revealed a perfect positive image. The portrait of a man stood out clearly (lumineux) against the background of the now dark cloth. Wonderful fulfilment of the words of Thérèse to Céline: "Yes, the face of Jesus is luminous." And not only His Face, but His whole Body covered with blood and wounds: "Was it not before the wounds of Jesus, on seeing His divine Blood flowing, that the thirst for souls entered my heart?"
The repercussions were immense. Thérèse’s uncle, Isidore Guérin, brought to the Carmel of Lisieux a copy of Paul Vignon’s first work, Le Linceul du Christ, as soon as it appeared in 1902. His niece Céline, in religion Sister Geneviève, the artist of the Martin family, had entered Carmel in September 1894, after the death of her father, taking her camera and easel with her. Three years later, in the autumn of 1905, Father Prévost, the postulator of Thérèse’s cause, received in Rome, from the Lisieux Cannel, a monochrome image of the Holy Face, which Sister Geneviève had executed in grisaille from photographic plates of the Holy Shroud, lovingly scrutinised and understood down to the least detail.
Father Prévost had it sent to Pius X, and the holy Pope returned this precious image with these words written below:
"To all those who meditate on the Passion before this image, we grant each time, in addition to the apostolic blessing, all the indulgences formerly conceded by the Sovereign Pontiffs to the chaplet of the Five Wounds."
Why the "Five Wounds"? Because they are the source of the Precious Blood which stains this Shroud, and is therefore the object of our veneration. In anticipation of Barbet’s first scientific work, Les Cinq Plaies du Christ, which will appear thirty years later (1933), the favour granted by Saint Pius X saw the Holy Face enthroned in every Christian family throughout the world, at the same time as the image of Thérèse herself, whom he desired to see rapidly canonised: "Bisogna far presto questo Processo (this cause is a matter of urgency)", he said to Mgr de Teil. He attached a three hundred day indulgence to a prayer to the Holy Face composed by the holy Carmelite, now inseparable from the image painted by her sister (13 February 1906).
In order to respond to the holy Pope’s desire, we are going to meditate on the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ by examining the Holy Shroud through some admirable unpublished photographs, the reproduction rights of which are strictly reserved to ourselves. This special number is offered as an exposition of the Holy Shroud in preparation for that of next year.
In no case should it be used to contest the authenticity of the Holy Shroud. The Blood stains alone are sufficient to make us see and understand what He suffered in His Body, and to guess the rest: what He endured in His Soul, in His pierced Heart, during this sorrowful Passion. "Our only thought is to pay the homage due to this Shroud touched by Jesus and which we touch, sprinkled with His Blood and left imprinted with His bodily form and His Holy Face, so that we might believe in Him, and so seeing Him, touching Him and venerating Him we might adore Him. This Shroud is a continuous link, a direct bond between Him, in His sacred humanity, and us 20th century faithful and multitudes of men of good will who are awaiting just such a sign in order to believe in Him, adore Him and love Him."
As Doctor Lavoie said: "If we had no more than these blood stains, we would have to conclude that they result from a body wrapped in this Cloth after enduring the torture of Roman crucifixion." Everyone is in agreement with that, even those who hold to the "mediaeval dating". They are obliged to, since the Cloth is stained with blood, real human blood! Even though they may then maintain that the victim was a man from the Middle Ages! Or that it is "pig’s blood", as Professor Hall declared, in his odious language...
This is why we must again go over the proof of this fraud perpetrated under the patronage of the British Museum in 1988, by taking our inquiry to the very end this time. As director of the Oxford laboratory, this same Professor Hall was one of the principal perpetrators of this fraud. Everything has been said since 1991, and we have received not the slightest refutation. For anyone who requests it, we hold available our special number, which has not aged, as well as the video recording where you can hear the contradictory statements of the scientists responsible for this gigantic machination. It has to be heard to be believed! But once you have heard it with your own ears, there can be no further doubts about the crime committed.
We can then, by way of conclusion, return to our contemplation of this Body, which left, in addition to traces of His precious Blood, an imprint, which the scientists, with common accord, admit themselves incapable of explaining. This scientific enigma will bring us back to the mystery of the extraordinary circumstances of the glorious Resurrection of this Body, an historical event which can be truly dated to the 9th April of the year 30 of our era.
Abbé Georges de Nantes
Brother Bruno Bonnet-Eymard