Thursday, February 4, 2010

St. Veronica (1st century AD to 1st century AD)

One of my biggest regrets of my three visits to St. Peter's in Vatican City is not that I had permission for an audience with the Pope and overslept that day (I still have the ticket dated Nov. 6, 1991) but rather that a legendary relic is housed there and had I known I would have happily arranged one of my vacations during Holy Week which is the only time (excuse the pun) that it is unveiled.
The story of St. Veronica, who was born and died in the 1st century AD, is one that has fascinated me since I first participated in the Stations of the Cross. Whether it was on a Friday during Lent or a visit to LaSalette in Attleboro, Mass. where the suggested way to do it was outdoors climbing up steps on your knees (and when I was with my grandmother Isabel and Great Aunt Vera, it took much longer), I always knew what would happen at the sixth Station of the Cross. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.
"We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you. Because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world."
St. Veronica was a woman from Jerusalem who wiped the face of Jesus on his way to Calvary. She gave him her veil and he accepted. When he handed it back to her, the imprint of his face was on it.
This is such a lovely story (or should I say legend) yet there is no mention of Veronica in the Gospel and no historical evidence to support that she existed. It is said that the veil was taken from the Holy Land to cure Emperor Tiberius of illness, then it went to Rome in the 8th century, and, finally, to St. Peter's in 1297 where it remains to this day.
If you ever have the chance to go, surrounding the baldacchino in St. Peter's are four great piers. I had the honor of seeing the statue of St. Veronica but I had no idea that the veil is kept in its podium.

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