Sunday, 17 November 2013


The woman in the Stations of the Cross named Veronica has entered into the imaginations of many Catholics. She is honored as a saint, but there is little historical evidence for her life outside of tradition. But, as she is an important personage on the Way of the Cross, her moment of charity deserves some attention.

Her name merely means vera icon (true image), which was the title given to the famous Image of Edessa, which some thought was her veil with the image of Christ, miraculously given when Veronica wiped His Face on the Via Dolorosa.  I am not so concerned about the historical basis or the myths, but with the name Veronica.

It strikes me today that we are all called to be true icons of Christ. An icon is, as we know, a window into heaven, painstakingly "written" after prayer and inspiration by the maker. The true icon is not a personal artistic statement of the painter, but a clear view into a spiritual reality. So, too, each Christian is called to become a clear, clean window into the Indwelling of the Trinity in the world.

That each one of us is called to be Christ in the world indicates that Veronica is not only a good name on which to meditate, but her action merits attention.

A lone woman, perhaps young, perhaps not, broke through the hostile crowd and the Roman guard to wipe the bloody, sweaty Face of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Veronica exhibited not only bravery, but compassion.

Her action took courage, as she could have been attacked by the crowd and even arrested. That she only saw a Man of Sorrow tells us that she had discernment to see beyond the desecrated visage, to the God.

Or did she? Is it not possible that Veronica merely responded as any truly holy person would do to come to the aid of another human who was suffering?

Did she know Christ was God, or did she see a man in pain, and respond accordingly?

The irony of life is that God is hidden in those who suffer. I know two people who have reached out to suffering persons and have experienced God in those encounters.

The Hidden God is our God. That Veronica responded to suffering demanded a response from God Himself-He gave her His Image.All of us who respond to grace have the imprint of God on our souls. We are given this as creations of God, born in His Image, but lacking the Likeness, as St. Bernard of Clairvaux reminds us, until baptism, as the likeness is grace.

We allow the Image of Christ, the Face of Christ to be seen in the world through our compassion and our acceptance of the suffering of others.

Veronica shared in the Passion of Christ. Her brief moment of love gave the world an icon,  a remembrance of the day we all were redeemed and adopted as sons and daughters of God-the day of the Passion.

Veronica may or may not have traveled as a missionary to France. Her image may or may not have gone to the Near East, and then to Europe, disappearing in the French Revolution. But, her story is our story.

Can one be a true image of Christ in the world?  Can one respond in courage and generosity as did Veronica?

There are legends that the great King Agbar of Edessa was converted by the Image on the veil of Veronica.

So, too, if one becomes a true icon of Christ in the world, one can bring others to Him through love.

Veronica is, therefore, the patron saint of every Christian.

UPDATE: I wrote this early this morning and then later, went to Mass at St. Mary's of the Lake at Mundelein. Father Barron chose in his sermon to speak of the Apocalypse as the "unveiling" of Christ in the glory of the Resurrection. Immediately, I thought back to this morning's meditation of mine on the veil of Veronica. Indeed, Christ revealed His Face to her and, in the end times, we shall see the coming of Christ in the fullness of His Kingship. But, of course, all kingdoms will be at an end.

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