Holy Face Part II: The beginning of the work of reparation

This is a series on the Holy Face.

Part I Prayers of the devotion, history and ecclesiastical approvals.
Part II Sr Marie of St Peter’s revelations, blasphemy, communism, revolution and reparation.
Part III The object of this reparation – the Holy face.
Part IV The relevance of the revelations to the universal Church.
Part V The Holy Face and the defeat of Communism.

Announcement of the Third Rosary Crusade against our current tyranny, in reparation to the Holy Face for blasphemy

“I have entered the arena to battle with the enemies of God… The following is the formula of my militant procedure:

“I begin my placing my soul in Our Lord’s hands, after which I beg Him to use my soul as He would a bow, urging Him to bend it so that the arrows would fly directly towards his enemies.

“After doing this I proceed to enter the battlefield, fortified with the Cross and the other instruments of Our Lord’s torture as my weapons of war, levelling their infinite conquering power against the military entrenchments of the enemy, in the way He taught me.”[1]

Sister Marie of St Peter (1816-1848)

The nun who was to utter these fearsome words, and to whom would be revealed one of the most combative devotions in the history of the Church, was born on 4 October 1816 – the feast of St Francis and the anniversary of the death of St Teresa of Avila – in Rennes, Brittany. On 11 November 1839 – the feast of St Martin of Tours – and after many years of preparation with a spiritual director, she left her home to enter the Carmelite convent at Tours.

Her purpose in God’s providential plan began to be made known to her shortly after her arrival at the Carmel of Tours. In the account of her life and revelations written at the command of her superior, she recalled:

“Our Lord now communicated Himself to me on this subject asking me to make a complete self-sacrifice to God for the accomplishment of His designs. This first call of Our Lord in which he asked me to offer myself in self-surrender, I still consider as the very basis and foundation of the Devotion of Reparation to His Holy Face, which he was later to reveal to me. However, before Our Lord spoke openly to me of the Holy Face devotion, which He was later to entrust to me, He first waited until my superiors, as it were, gave me their permission to make this act of self-sacrifice to God for the accomplishment of His designs.”[2]

Our Lord communicated to her his desire that she offer herself “entirely to Him to endure everything he might send for the accomplishment of His designs.”[3]

Having revealed her experience to the Prioress she was informed that she should not make such an act of self-oblation yet. It would be a number of years before she was finally given permission by her superiors:

“[I]t was only after I had obtained permission to make the Act of complete self-abandonment, that Our Lord communicated to me in its entirety the Work of Reparation through the devotion to His Holy Face”.[4]

In this second part of our Holy Face series we look in more detail at the origins of the devotion, the outlines of which we sketched in part I.

Profession of vows and an early revelation

Sister Marie of St Peter made her profession of vows on 8 June 1841. It seems from her autobiography that it was in 1843 that the first indication was given of her special role in combat against the forces of revolution:

“I think it was in 1843 that Our Lord told me to pray in a very special manner for Spain which was at that time ravaged by revolution. I have never before felt my soul so united to Our Lord as I did during this time, as I saw Him accomplishing something in me which I can neither explain or understand. It seemed to me that I heard Our Lord asking special graces for Spain from His Eternal Father, and in so pressing a manner, that I was very much astonished. It seemed to me, too, that He invited me to plead for this cause in His name.”[5]

The first revelation of the Devotion of Reparation – 26 August 1843

It was also in 1843 that Sister Marie was finally permitted to make, at least in part, the act of self-oblation. This was followed by the beginning of the revelation of the devotion of reparation of the Holy Face:

“Our Lord having purified by soul according to His designs, in spite of my unworthiness, communicated Himself to me on August 26, 1843, speaking to me for the first time about His great Work of Reparation for blasphemy, destined to redound to the glory of the Holy Name of God.”[6]

During a great storm she perceived the anger of God. Kneeling before Him, she “ceaselessly offered our Saviour, Jesus Christ, to His Eternal Father, for the expiation of my sins and for the needs of Holy Church.”

During the convent’s evening prayers, she begged Him to explain why she was felt His anger so strongly. Our Lord spoke the following words to her:

“My daughter, I have heard your sighs and your groans, and I have also witnessed your ardent desire to glorify Me, which desire does not spring from yourself, for it is I Who have given it birth in your soul.

“My Name is everywhere blasphemed! There are even children who blaspheme!”[7]

Our Lord then showed her the wounds caused to His Divine Heart by blasphemy and dictated to her one of the core prayers of the Holy Face devotion, known as the “Golden Arrow”:

“May the most holy, most sacred, most adorable, most incomprehensible and unutterable Name of God be always praised, blessed, loved, adored and glorified in heaven, on earth and in the hells, by all creatures of God and by the Sacred Heart of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Amen.”[8]

After revealing the prayer, Our Lord told Sister Marie:

“Be careful to utilise this grace because I shall demand an account of it from you.”[9]

And at that moment she saw torrents of graces flowing from the Sacred Heart, wounded by the “Golden Arrow”, and working the conversion of sinners.

Our Lord made Sister Marie to understand that “Satan would do all in his power to crush and annihilate this work but that all his efforts would prove in vain.”[10]

Doubt and vindication

Sister Marie gave an account of her revelation to the superior of the convent, who took away her written account and specifically forbade her from praying the prayers of reparation requested by Our Lord. Sister Marie humbly submitted to this command, which she later wrote in her autobiography caused her great suffering because of her burning desire to make reparation just as Our Lord had commanded her.

Divine Providence however swiftly intervened. On an unspecified day, presumably in September 1843, while Sister Marie was manifesting her interior sufferings to her superior, a pamphlet fell out of a book that the latter was holding. It was a pamphlet, printed in 1819, calling for reparation to be made in France for blasphemy. The content was strikingly similar to the revelations to Sister Marie. The superior wrote immediately to the author, who was by then the Bishop of Luçon in the Vendée. A remarkable story emerged. He had written the pamphlet at the request of a Carmelite nun, of a convent in Poitiers, who was devoted to reparation. This nun had died on 31 July 1843. One week later, on 8 August 1843, Pope Gregory XVI issued a brief authorising the establishment of a confraternity of reparation in Rome, under the patronage of St Louis, King of France. In response to this brief a layman in Tours – Leo Dupont – had organised a novena to St Louis culminating on his feast, 25 August 1843. It was on the day after its conclusion, that the first revelation of “the work of reparation” was given to Sister Marie of St Peter of the Carmel of Tours.

Sister Marie later recalled:

“All these strokes of Providence gathered together tended to enlighten my worthy superiors as to the operations of God in my soul. In consequence of this I was now permitted to occupy myself with this Work of Reparation according to the inspirations which our Lord would give me.”[11]

The authenticity of the revelation was further strengthened by Our Lord’s command, given to Sister Marie on the feast of St Michael, that all the nuns of the convent pray a novena composed of the “Golden Arrow”, and other prayers he had inspired her to compose, for the recovery of the health of the superior of the Convent. He informed Sister Marie that it was his divine will that the devotion be spread and that the Reverend Mother must circulate the prayers of reparation. He promised that if the novena be said, she would be healed. 

To avoid revealing her identity her confessor allowed the nuns the impression that he was the author of the prayers. The Reverend Mother recovered from her illness and Sister Marie’s superiors gained renewed confidence in the authenticity of the revelations.

A further revelation – 3 November 1843

On the First Friday of November 1843, during Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, our Lord said to Sister Marie:

“Since the Community prays for the fulfilment of the designs of My Sacred Heart, it is only right that it should have the honour of giving birth to this new devotion, the Work of Reparation.”

After Holy Communion she was told:

“My daughter, in placing obstacles to My plans over your soul, you have offended Me more and grieved My Heart more deeply that all your Sisters put together. I am not mentioning your frailty on this point in order to worry you. Trust Me, for I will forget all your faults if you will but lovingly, and with zeal, work for the interests of My glory, overcoming all obstacles. The two reasons why I desire to make use of you are, first, because you are so puny, and second, because you offered yourself to Me for the accomplishment of My plans. This offering has won My Heart. Be humble and simple and make known your littleness for that will only serve to advance My interests”.

And he promised:

“Daughter, be consoled, for these Prayers of Reparation shall be printed and circulated!”[12]

Two days later Lord commanded Sister Marie of St Peter to request of her superior that a novena of be said on reparation for the sins of blasphemy committed in France.

The Chaplet of Reparation – approximately 10 November 1843

Around 10 November 1843, Our Lord inspired the composition of the chaplet of reparation, which is now central to the Holy Face devotions. Sister Marie records:

“Our Lord inspired me at this time to compose certain prayers of reparation in the form of a Chaplet… This Chaplet is made up of thirty-three small beads, on which is recited thirty-three times the prayer, ‘Arise, O Lord, and let Your enemies be scattered, and let those that hate You flee before Your face” and also six large beads on which are recited the ejaculation, ‘My Jesus, mercy’, followed by the doxology, ‘Glory be to the Father, etc.’”[13]

Shortly afterward Our Lord promised her the triumph of the “work of reparation”:

“I give you My Name to be your light in the darkness and your strength in battle. Satan will do all in his power to crush this Work at its roots. But I assure you that the Holy Name of God will triumph, and it will be the Holy Angels who will gain victory in the conflict.”[14]

On the eve of the renewal of her profession, 20 November 1843, Our Lord requested that she make a further act of self-oblation. The act of self-oblation as it had been permitted by her superiors on the Feast of the Annunciation 1843 had not been entirely in accordance with his request. Sister Marie would eventually receive permission to make this full act of self-oblation on Christmas Day 1843.

Further revelation on the nature of the work of reparation – Feast of St John of the Cross, 24 November 1843

Immediately after receiving Holy Communion on the Feast of St John of the Cross, Sister Marie received the following revelation from Our Lord:

“Until now I have shown you only in part the plans of My Heart but today I want to reveal them to you in all their fullness.

“The whole earth is covered with crimes and the violation of the first three of the Ten Commandments of God has aroused the anger of My Father. The crimes that fill up the cup of wickedness are blasphemies against God’s Holy Name and the profanation of Sundays. These sins have reached to the very throne of Almighty God, and they have provoked his wrath which is about to strike everywhere unless His Justice be appeased. Never before have these crimes reached such a peak.

“I desire, and this most urgently, that there be formed to honour of the name of My Father an Association, properly approved and well-organised. Your superiors have good reasons to take only such steps in this devotion which are well founded, for otherwise My designs would not be fulfilled.”

Further revelations of his intentions for her and her superiors followed. Sister Marie writes:

“While this was taking place, I felt my soul entirely lost in God, and simultaneously I was overcome by awe as our Lord made me realise the meaning of the words spoken to Abraham, that if there could be found at least ten just souls, God would spare the guilty cities for the sake of those ten just. It also seemed to me that for the sake of those who would practice Reparation for the sins committed against the majesty of God, His justice would be appeased, and He would grant mercy to the guilty.”[15]

Warnings of God’s punishment of blasphemy

However, in the absence of repentance, there is only punishment. On the vigil of the Immaculate Conception, 7 December 1843, Our Lord promised to punish France for sins of blasphemy unless public reparation were made. Sister Marie summarises the revelation as follows:

“He said He was incensed with anger against our nation, and that He has sworn in His wrath to avenge Himself, if Reparation to the honour of His Divine Father were not made for all the blasphemies of which the people are guilty, making me hear that He could no longer remain among me who, like vipers, were tearing at the entrails of His mercy. He said that as for the contempt shown to Himself, He would still endure it patiently, but that He was roused to anger by the outrages committed against His Eternal Father. He then declared that His Mercy was on the verge of giving way to His Justice, and that His wrath would overflow with a fury such as had never yet been heard of before.”[16]

In a later revelation (March 1844) Our Lord would also speak of the enormity of the sin of blasphemy:

“You cannot comprehend the malice and abomination of this sin. If My Justice were not restrained by My Mercy, indeed, it would instantly crush the guilty. In fact, all creatures, even those that are inanimate, would avenge this outrage against their Creator’s majesty, but I have an eternity in which to punish the guilty.”

He spoke also of the power of reparation and the merit to be gained by those who make it:

“Oh, if you only knew what great merit you acquire by saying even once, ‘Admirable is the Name of God’ in the spirit of reparation for blasphemy.”[17]

In response to Sister Marie asking whether France could be spared he answered:

“Yes, I will grant it pardon once more, but mark my word, once! And since this crime of blasphemy extends over the whole nation, and since it is public, I demand that Reparation be extended to all the cities of the nation, and that it be public. Woe to those cities that will not make this Reparation.”[18]

Thus, we see Our Lord confirming through private revelation the teaching of His Church, that men must “recognize, both in private and in public life, that Christ is King”.[19]

The patrons of the “work of reparation”

On Candlemas, 2 February 1844, after receiving Holy Communion, Sister Marie was informed by Our Lord that He desired the Confraternity of Reparation to be placed under the patronage of St Michael, St Martin of Tours and St Louis.

He revealed further details about the structure he desired for the Confraternity of Reparation and the rule of prayer that was to be followed. He instructed that members should pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary and one Glory Be every day, along with the Golden Arrow prayer. On Sundays and feast days all the prayers of reparation ought to be said.

Urgent calls for reparation

Later that same month, Our Lord demanded that urgent reparation be made, and explained that only reparation could disarm justice. 

It seems that it was in response to this revelation that Sister Marie of St Peter sought an audience with the Archbishop of Tours. 

In her autobiography – written for a superior who already knew most of the facts – Sister Marie does not always give the dates of key events, or narrate everything in chronological order. Therefore, the sequence of events is not always clear. However, she relates an important interview with the Archbishop of Tours, in which he accepted the authenticity of her revelations:

“Having the goodness to come to me, he consoled me and gave me some wise counsels, assuring me that I was not labouring under any illusion concerning the revelations which I had received. He also told me that he recognised in my communications the seal of God, and that the lights with which I had been favoured bore no stamp of deception.

“This verdict of the Archbishop was like a balm poured upon my soul, bringing me great relief. For until now, my confessor would not pronounce anything definite on the revelations I received regarding the Work of Reparation. He remained ever reticent, telling me that it belonged to the first superior in the diocese, namely, the Archbishop, who would be enlightened by the Holy Ghost, to pronounce a true judgment, and that therefore I must wait until I hear his decision. […]

“I always had more confidence in the words of my superiors than in any interior words which I thought I heard spoken by our Lord, since in these we may be mistaken, whereas faith never makes us err. And the Saviour in speaking of superiors said: ‘He who hears you, hears me.’ We cannot, therefore, be mistaken in hearing them. These words of the holy Gospel have always impressed me and I have engraved them in my heart. Putting these words into practice, I received great graces coming to me through the medium of those who had charge of guiding my soul.”[20]

On 15 March 1844 the Archbishop of Tours ordered certain prayers of reparation revealed to or composed by Sister Marie to be printed. Initially 25,000 pamphlets were be printed, and the “work of reparation” began to spread.

The establishment of the Confraternity would however be much delayed, much to Sister Marie’s pain.

Preparation for the next stage of the revelations

In November 1844, after Sister Marie suffered a period of “dryness, darkness and temptations”, throughout which she had continued to faithfully recite the prayers of reparation, Our Lord spoke to her again of the enormity of the crime of blasphemy:

“Our Divine Lord now made known to me that blasphemers offend Him in a heart-rending manner, and that it was necessary to pray unceasingly to God for the favour of obtaining the establishment of the Work of Reparation. To incline God to grant this grace, we must offer to the Eternal Father the merits of our Lord and all His ardent desires to glorify the Name of His Father which always burned in His Heart while He lived on earth.

“Our Lord then made me hear that mankind is unable to comprehend how enormous is the insult offered to God by blasphemy, and He explained that these sinners pierce His Heart and make of Him a second Lazarus, covered with sores.

“He further told me that I, as it were, bandaged these divine sores and consoled Him in a singular manner by using my tongue to daily glorify the Holy Name of God, scorned and blasphemed by sinners, whenever I performed this exercise without seeking any gratifying consolations.” 

He urged her to:

“Use every available means in your power to bring about the establishment of the Work of Reparation. For this purpose I give you all My merits that through them you may obtain this favour from My Father. Ask for this great grace in My Name, and it will be granted to you.”[21]

In response to his urgent request Sister Marie presented a signed declaration to her superiors, copying out her revelations and pledging to swear an oath to their truth if necessary. The text of this declaration is, it seems, the source of the texts of the revelations recounted above.

Between November 1844 and June 1844, Sister Marie received little communication from God regarding the work. Then, on 17 June, Our Lord instructed her to seek a new audience with the Archbishop of Tours to request furtherance of the Work of Reparation.

The archbishop met with her and repeated his conviction that her revelations were genuine:

“‘My child’, the Archbishop answered, ‘I desire with all my heart to establish the Work and to give it all the public endorsement which it deserves. But this is a difficult matter. If only you knew, as I do, the obstacles! We already have much trouble trying to make people walk in the ordinary ways of piety, and what would they say were I to suggest something additional? Might this not only provoke some to blaspheme anew? Present our difficulties to God, pray very much for me, and ask God to give you new revelations on the subject. If God grants you more communications make them known to me.”[22]

Sister Marie faithfully prayed for an answer to the Archbishop of Tour’s request, and it came in a most remarkable way: the revelation that Our Lord wished mankind’s much deserved punishments to be averted by devotion to His Holy Face. 

This new phase of the revelations will be the subject of the next part of this series.

This is a series on the Holy Face.

Part I Prayers of the devotion, history and ecclesiastical approvals.
Part II Sr Marie of St Peter’s revelations, blasphemy, communism, revolution and reparation.
Part III The object of this reparation – the Holy face.
Part IV The relevance of the revelations to the universal Church.
Part V The Holy Face and the defeat of Communism.

Announcement of the Third Rosary Crusade against our current tyranny, in reparation to the Holy Face for blasphemy

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[1] The Autobiography and Revelations of Sister Mary of St. Peter on Devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus, ed. Dorothy Scallan, trans. Fr Emeric Scallan S.D.B, (New York, 1954), p206-7.

[2] Autobiography and Revelations, p49. 

[3] Autobiography and Revelations, p50.

[4] Autobiography and Revelations, p51.

[5] Autobiography and Revelations, p71.

[6] Autobiography and Revelations, p77.

[7] Autobiography and Revelations, p112-13.

[8] In her biography Sister Marie notes that by the use of the plural “hells”, our Lord wished to indicate both Purgatory and Hell.

[9] Autobiography and Revelations, p114.

[10] Autobiography and Revelations, p115.

[11] Autobiography and Revelations, p82.

[12] Autobiography and Revelations, p119-21.

[13] Autobiography and Revelations, p124.

[14] Autobiography and Revelations, p125.

[15] Autobiography and Revelations, p130.

[16] Autobiography and Revelations, p131.

[17] Autobiography and Revelations, p141-42.

[18] Autobiography and Revelations, p132

[19] Pope Pius XI, Quas Primas, 1.

[20] Autobiography and Revelations, p98-99.

[21] Autobiography and Revelations, p148.

[22] Autobiography and Revelations, p149-50.

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