St. Thérèse’s Devotion to the Holy Face: Lessons for Today’s World

New book calls for the revival of an ancient devotion to save humanity.

A new book by Father Lawrence Carney explores St. Thérèse of Lisieux's devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus.
A new book by Father Lawrence Carney explores St. Thérèse of Lisieux's devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus. (photo: Courtesy photo / Public Domain/Father Lawrence Carney)

Father Lawrence Carney was ordained for the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas, on May 26, 2007. He is a street preacher, parish missionary and retreat and conference director, as well as being the director of the League of St. Martin. After serving in the diocese for six years, he accepted the position as chaplain of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, in Gower, Missouri, in 2013. 

In June 2022, he published The Secret of the Holy Face: The Devotion Destined to Save Society (TAN Books). In this book, Father Carney reveals the essence and history of the Holy Face devotion, its apostles, and how this devotion will save the Church and society from their foes. He maintains that the timely message of the Holy Face devotion provides a catalyst for “a counter-revolution of reparation, reverence, and reversion.” 

Father Carney spoke with the Register via email on Sept. 24. 


How did you come upon this devotion, and why did it become so important to you? 

I was writing a newsletter for a small [religious] community, and I asked one of the nuns of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, “What should be my topic?” She is not an extern sister, so she is not free to speak throughout all the year, but since it was Christmas Day, she was allowed to speak with me. She said, “Write on the Holy Face of Jesus.” She speaks to me about three to seven sentences a year, so when she says something, I ponder it. 

A friend around that time sent me a book, The Holy Man of Tours, which is about Venerable Leo Dupont (1797-1876), a man who was devoted to the revelations of Sister Marie de St. Pierre (1816-1848) and the Holy Face. Then someone else sent me The Golden Arrow, which is about the revelations in regard to the Holy Face. I discovered that one of the patrons of this devotion is St. Martin of Tours, whose feast day happens to be Nov. 11, which is my birthday. I was so intrigued that I dove very deeply into these revelations two years before the lockdowns. I began preaching about devotion to the Holy Face, constantly leading devotions to it. God just lit a fire in my soul and gave me a consuming zeal to spread awareness to this wonderful, hidden secret. The best things of the Church usually start with contemplation, and a quiet nun led me to this devotion.


Why does it matter today? 

It matters today because it seems we had a dress rehearsal for world slavery over the past few years, with lockdowns and the closing of churches. God has every right to take away our religion: That is giving to God what is his due. The Catholic Church is the only thing keeping back the hand of justice from giving us what we deserve for blasphemy, idolatry and irreverence.  


How will this devotion save the world? 

[The world] rejects God as the authority and supplants it with evil leaders. But God is still in charge. He allows an evil for a greater good. In my observation, the evil that he is allowing is a revolution of evil: man taking over all leadership in the world. This [devotion] is the quickest and most effective way that he can bring about the greatest good: the triumph of the Immaculate Heart and the triumph of the Church, or the end of the world preparing the elect by much suffering. The secret of the Holy Face, as we know it from Sister Marie de St. Pierre, is that God has given us a blueprint, a system, to cross swords [with the forces of darkness by] enrolling in the Archconfraternity of the Holy Face and live out this mystical combat in our contemporary context. 


What has been the reaction to your book? 

Divine Providence is at play in how this book came about. TAN Books approached me about writing the book. I knew then that it was God’s plan that I wrote it, but everything I wrote was inspired by God. He knows best how to respond to the world conflict, as he is the one who has inflicted us with the curse of revolutionary men. I have told people that it is depressing watching the world disintegrate into such evil. Many ask me, “What can we do?” The answer is in this book: We need to become the best Catholics and Christians we can be, because, by enhancing in mystical combat, we beg God to fight this war for us.   


How is the League of St. Martin associated with this devotion? 

The League of St. Martin is a pious association of Catholics who pray for the spread of reparation, reverence and reversion. Members subscribe [to the league]: then some become defenders of his name; then a few move onto the next level, “archers” who come together once a month to pray the Rosary and three prayers from the “Manual of the Archconfraternity of the Holy Face.” Archers fulfill all six conditions of the archconfraternity by enrolling, wearing an effigy [of the Holy Face] promoting it, defending his name, praying every morning, “O Lord, show us Thy Face and we shall be saved,” and joining in the monthly meetings. 

Every year, we host a “Holy Face Conference” in Wichita, Kansas, with solemn high Masses and a “Procession in a Time of War,” carrying wooden carved statues of St. Martin of Tours and St. Louis, king of France. We also support priests of the Holy Face so they are empowered to preach and write books about the Holy Face. We also have sold about 4,000 “Manuals of the Archconfraternity of the Holy Face.”


Does St. Thérèse of Lisieux play a part in making this devotion better known today? 

Yes, St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face read the autobiography of Sister Marie de St. Pierre and adopted a fervent devotion to the Holy Face. Mother Agnes of Jesus, the future saint’s blood sister, testifying before the apostolic tribunal during the process of St. Thérèse’s canonization, under oath, said, “However tender was her devotion to the Child Jesus, it cannot be compared to the devotion which she had for the Holy Face.” One of the secrets of St. Thérèse’s heroic virtue is based on reading the heroic virtue of Sister Marie de St. Pierre. That book had such profound effect on St. Thérèse, [yet] the author, Sister Marie de St. Pierre, and her heroic virtue remains a secret. I think that her cause will someday be reintroduced.


Do you see any connection with the rediscovery of this devotion and face, in photographic negative, on the Shroud of Turin? 

Yes, the word “anthropocentrism” comes to mind, “regarding man as the central fact or final aim of the universe.” Heaven gave modern man [an image] of the centrality of God through rediscovery of the Shroud of Turin and the 6,000 certified miracles surrounding copies of the Veil of Veronica. In God’s humble way, he points out the error of modern man by redirecting us back to him, to his Holy Face!