Thursday, March 3, 2011

Paul Badde and the Face of God

Today I want to write about a remarkable German journalist, Paul Badde, and recommend to you what I consider to be a couple of really good books. Badde is an editor and correspondent for a major German daily newspaper, Die Welt. He has covered many important events and seen many things, and he carries the difficulties and struggles and concerns of today's world around in his heart. He is also a man of faith--a faith which grows significantly through two careful investigations of images of Mary and Jesus. He does not have a natural "pietistic" disposition, nor is he inclined to be taken in by every mysterious phenomenon that comes along. But his remarkable journeys are led by two things. One thing that draws him on are the facts, the scientific studies and the history, which he researches thoroughly. The other thing is beauty--Badde makes the very basic point that these images of Mary and Jesus ought to be objects of fascination to the world even if they are just human productions. Why is the world not interested in these artistic wonders? But in fact, they are something more.

First, there is Badde's unique and terrific book Maria of Guadalupe: Shaper of History, Shaper of Hearts. I should say that it was Badde who first inspired me to think of Guadalupe as a kind of "icon in reverse," i.e. a window where Mary, from heaven, looks at us. I went back to my prior blog entry about my own new book project and decided to insert an * with an acknowledgment and a link to this book.

I love the way he just takes you with him on his adventures through different places and lets you discover things along with him. I love the way he weaves all the current problems and past history of times and places into his growing awareness of the presence of Jesus and Mary everywhere. I think his emphasis on the importance of beauty and "images" for our time is very insightful. I have said much about Our Lady of Guadalupe in this blog and will continue to do so, as well as in my own forthcoming book. Badde's book on Guadalupe is deeply moving, and definitely worth reading.

The second and more recent book that I want to draw people's attention to is Badde’s splendid investigation/memoir called The Face of God: The Rediscovery of the True Face of Jesus. This book just came out recently in English by Ignatius Press, and a colleague was kind enough to send it to me as a Christmas present. I recently finished reading it and IT KNOCKED MY SOCKS OFF!

While stationed in Rome as correspondent for Die Welt, Badde learns of an obscure shrine nestled in the Apennines in a little town called Manoppello. There they claim to have a miraculous image of the face of Christ. There are a small group of scholars and others, however, who think it is something much more, and Badde becomes a combination of detective and fascinated pilgrim as he investigates whether this image may be the true "Veronica's Veil" as depicted in the Middle Ages. He follows the trail even further, and proposes (with some interesting evidence) that this is in fact the "other cloth" that was in the tomb along with the shroud, "the handkerchief which had been about his head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded in a place by itself" (John 20:7). It is a compelling presentation of a tremendous hypothesis.

I came away from the book thinking that there were still some dots that needed to be connected in order to make his case. But I also felt that, at least for me, it was enough to know that there was this marvelous, inexplicable image of the face of Our Lord--wherever it came from--that I pray I will someday have a chance to see with my own eyes. I won't get into all the scientific details of the investigation that show it is definitely an icon "not made by hands"--I don't want to spoil the story. This book, folks, is a must read.

Whatever one thinks of the case he makes for the image, the book draws loving attention to the beauty of the Face of Jesus, how important it is--especially in our time--to contemplate the Face of Jesus, to let him look at us and change us by His loving countenance. Again it is the "image" that cuts through the murk of so much confusing and misleading discourse about Christianity and begins to heal the heart, and open us up to the simplicity of the Gospel.

That is why you should read this book. It will remind you of your need for the Face of Jesus. Here is the link. Buy it: