The devotion to el Divino Rostro de Jesus, the Holy Face of Jesus, may be traced back to the A.D. when a woman using her veil wiped the year 33 Face of Jesus who was carrying His cross on His way to Calvary. Sweat and Blood from the Face of Jesus stained the veil. From these stains, an image of the Face of Jesus had formed or could be traced. A precious relic indeed of the Sweat and Blood of Christ.
The woman, in great probability according to the Ambrosian Missal, was the same woman who was cured of her 12-year ailment of hemorrhage by touching the cloak of Jesus as mentioned by St. Luke in his Gospel.
She was later identified as Veronica. One of the meanings of the name, of which many are critical about, was that on her veil was formed a true or honest image of the Face of Jesus. "True or honest image" in Latin is "vera icon". Hence, "Veronica."
Her name, handed down from generations, became immortalized when the event was made the 6th Station of the Via Crucis, a devotion formalized by St. Francis of Assisi to commemorate the passion and death of Jesus. Because of her holy encounter with Jesus, the woman was venerated and included in the canon of saints as Saint Veronica.
The extant veil is kept intact at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Every 5th Sunday of Lent, the Relic of the Holy Face of Jesus as impressed on the Veil of Veronica is brought out in a procession at St. Peter's Basilica and a Canon of the Basilica blesses the people with the Relic.
Osa de la Vega
In the beginning of the 17th century, a priest named Juan Matilla, who lived in the town of Belmonte near Osa de la Vega in Spain, received from Rome a replica of the Holy Face with an added St. Veronica holding the veil on which the Holy Face was impressed. Before his death. E Matilla entrusted his cherished and revered treasure to his relative, Isabel del Corral y Matilla, who was married to Geronimo de la Torre who lived in Osa de la Vega.
On Holy Thursday, March 24, 1644, as Isabel entered the room of their house where the Holy Face was kept, she was dazzled by a bright light and upon inspection, she saw that it came from the picture of the Holy Face. Upon further examination, she saw that there were sweats of blood and water. Tears of blood flowed from the eyes too.
"Santo Rostro de Jesus" as the image was called, became the center of devotion and the Titular of the town of Osa de la Vega. The Feast Day is celebrated every 2nd Sunday of September.
When Spain was ravaged by the cholera pandemic in the 1800's, the people of Osa de la Vega sought recourse to the Holy Face. True enough, their petition for deliverance from the deadly disease was miraculously answered.
Bishop Casimiro P. Herrero &
Fr. Pedro de la Torre y del Pozo
On August 28, 1882, it was officially declared that the worldwide cholera pandemic had reached the city of Nueva Cáceres, now Naga City. The entire population of the city was in indescribable panic.
People who knew of the devotion to the Holy Face and how it delivered Osa de la Vega from cholera beseeched F. Pedro de la Torre, a native and former Parish Priest of Osa de la Vega and then Provisor and Vicar General of the diocese. to bring his personal Cuadro of the Divino Rostro painted in oil to the Cathedral beside the Statue of the Lady of Peñafrancia for joint public veneration and petition for help in the eradication of the cholera pandemic. Then Bishop of Nueva Caceres Casimiro P. Herrero (1880-1886) had previously ordered that the Lady of Peñafrancia be brought to the Cathedral. F. De la Torre gladly acceded to the request and so on the 3rd day of September, the images of the Divino Rostro and the Lady of Peñafrancia were both carried in a procession around the plaza of the Cathedral and later emplaced at the Altar of the same Cathedral.
Casualties continued to increase. A devotee proposed that the priests should make a written vow, offering that if the cholera disappeared or at least the number of victims decreased before the Feast Day of the Divino Rostro which was the 10th of September that year, the priests themselves would carry the palanquin of the Divino Rostro in a procession.
At 9 o'clock in the evening of that terrible day of September 5, 1882 when 154 deaths were recorded. F. Fermin Deza, the Parish Priest of the Cathedral, while two priests were reciting the "Miserere, placed the written vow of the priests before the Divino Rostro.
Miracle of miracles! The following day there was an extraordinary decrease in the number of cholera victims When the 10th of September came, they were able to solemnly celebrate the Feast Day thanking God for their deliverance from the cholera pandemic.
On the tercéra dia, the priests led by Bishop Herrero who was at the front arms of the Andas, carried the Divino Rostro in a procession, crying out and praying for the health of all the faithful in the Diocese.
On September 28th of that same year, the Divino Rostro joined the Lady of Peñafrancia when she was brought back to her sanctuary on a fluvial procession. The vessel where both sacred images were borne was christened "Osa de la Vega".
In great gratitude to the Divino Rostro and recognizing the requests of the devotees, F. De la Torre, although he found it difficult to part with his prized possession but conscious that the devotion was going to spread, gladly acceded and donated his Cuadro of the Divino Rostro to the Sanctuary of the Lady of Peñafrancia. He placed it at the Gospel side of the chapel with its own altar named "Altar del Santo Rostro de Osa de la Vega".
Bishop Herrero later decreed that from that year onward the Divino Rostro shall always be carried with the Lady of Peñafrancia in the Traslación and Fluvial Processions, and an integral part of the Celebration of her Fiesta in Naga.
A hundred years later, on May 22, 1982, the image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia and the "Cuadro" of the Divino Rostro were transferred to a new sanctuary, later elevated to a Basilica Minore in 1985, during its solemn consecration and dedication. Following tradition, the Divino Rostro was placed at the Gospel side of the retablo. Thereafter, a Novena in honor of the Divino Rostro was prayed every Friday just before the morning Mass.
Sadly, however, the silver frame of the Divino Rostro donated by Dña. Fabiana Arejola that replaced its old wooden frame was earlier stolen in 1976.
Also, during the 2008 Traslación the frame of the Divino Rostro was ruined by the unruly crowd. This desecration of the image led Archbishop Leonardo Legaspi to order that for the Fluvial Procession then, the Divino Rostro was to be borne from the Cathedral to Tabuco Pier on a truck covered with plywood. This then led to a review of the conduct of the processions, especially in light of the 300th year anniversary of the Peñafrancia devotion in 2010.
In preparation for this historic tercentenary milestone, Archbishop Legaspi decreed certain reforms in 2009, thus:
First, the Old Shrine and Parish of our Lady of Peñafrancia shall take care of the Divino Rostro Novenario and Feast Day. And as the cradle of both devotions, the annual Traslación shall start out from the Plaza de Covarrubias of the Old Shrine;
Second, on the eve of the Divino Rostro Novenario after the closing Mass for their annual Peñafrancia recollection, the Archbishop and the priests of the Archdiocese shall carry the Divino Rostro from the Basilica to the Old Shrine through a solemn procession reminiscent of the vow of the priests in 1882 when they brought the Divino Rostro in a procession in thanksgiving for deliverance from the cholera pandemic then;
Third, the Divino Rostro Association (DIVOSTRA) shall be organized to ensure the preservation, growth and spread of the Divino Rostro devotion.
Furthermore, in July of 2009, Archbishop Legaspi commissioned Carlos Mendoza, Sr. of MAS Steel Fabricator, Magarao, Camarines Sur, to make a towering spherical stainless steel Andas for the Divino Rostro. The priests of the Archdiocese, upon the Archbishop's invitation, all contributed without hesitation for the cost of fabrication. Mr. Mendoza, for his part, waived his professional fee as a gesture of filial devotion to the Divino Rostro.
The Peñafrancia Tercentenary Celebration in 2010 turned out to be a huge success. It further boosted the Divino Rostro devotion. And after years of being sidelined as it were by the preeminence of the Peñafrancia Solemnity, devotees began seeing greater meaning and giving more time and attention to the Divino Rostro. To cement such resurgence during that year, Archbishop Legaspi purposefully created a new parish dedicated to the Divino Rostro in Bahi, Garchitorena, on April 26, 2010.
A decade on year 2020 we are faced with a pandemic reminiscent of the cholera pandemic of 1882, which led to the birth of the Divino Rostro Devotion in Naga City. For sure with stronger faith and hope in our Lord, we were blessed with deliverance from the the COVID-19 pandemic.
Just as St. Veronica gave a brief respite to the suffering Jesus, our devotion to the Divino Rostro assures us that Jesus i with us in all our pain and suffering. Indeed, by his Cross, we shall be saved and blessed even more abundantly.
This year 2021, a very momentous occasion for United Bicolandia Los Angeles as we lead the Inauguration of the Divino Rostro Devotion in Los Angeles alongside the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Sta. Monica. A reunion of a mother, our Ina and her Son, the Divino Rostro.
Looking forward, the year 2033 will be the 2000th year of the worldwide devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus. And the year after, 2034, will be the 600th year of the devotion to our Lady of Peñafrancia commemorating the finding of the image of the Blessed Mother at Peña de Francia by Simon Vela on May 19, 1434.
With these two great devotions, we are truly blessed with special fountains of God's immeasurable graces. In our daily battle against the pandemic of pandemics, the "Sin Pandemic" that has plagued humanity since Adam and Eve, these centuries-old devotions fortify us so that the redemption won for us by Jesus Christ will never be for naught. They should enrich our lives in the service of the Church and our people for God's greater glory, and thus merit for us the Kingdom of God in eternal bliss and happiness.