In Roman Catholic churches, there is a series of fourteen images hanging on the walls, either as paintings or wooden or stone relief carvings, usually spaced apart between the church’s windows. These “stations of the cross” allegedly depict scenes from the “passion” of Jesus; i.e., events He endured on the day of His crucifixion. It was once a very popular Catholic “devotion” to “pray the stations of the cross,” which entailed walking to each station inside the church and praying the prescribed rote prayer. This devotion was especially popular during Lent and still has its devotees. Oftentimes, a priest will lead a group in praying the stations, which usually takes around thirty to forty-five minutes. The Roman church teaches that those who pray all fourteen stations in succession will receive a “plenary” indulgence. A plenary indulgence is the alleged removal of all temporal punishment that remains after confession that must otherwise be expiated in purgatory.
Nine of the stations of the cross depict Biblical content, but stations 3, 4, 6, 7, and 9 commemorate events not mentioned in the Bible:
- Jesus is condemned to death.
- Jesus is given His cross.
- Jesus falls down for the first time.
- Jesus meets His mother Mary.
- Simon of Cyrene is forced to carry the cross.
- Veronica wipes blood off of Jesus’ face.
- Jesus falls down for the second time.
- Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem.
- Jesus falls down for the third time.
- Jesus is stripped of His clothing.
- Jesus is nailed to the cross.
- Jesus dies on the cross.
- Jesus’ body is removed from the cross.
- Jesus’ body is placed in the tomb.
For today, let’s focus on station number six; “Veronica wipes blood off of Jesus’ face.” There is no mention in the Gospel accounts of a woman wiping Jesus’ face as He carried His cross from Jerusalem to Calvary/Golgotha. This was an extra-Biblical tradition that grew in popularity over the centuries.
“According to Church tradition, Veronica was moved with sympathy when she saw Jesus carrying his cross to Golgotha and gave him her veil that he might wipe his forehead. Jesus accepted the offering, held it to his face, and then handed it back to her—the image of his face miraculously impressed upon it. This piece of cloth became known as the Veil of Veronica.” – from Wikipedia.
This mythical Veronica was eventually canonized as a saint in 1885. Several Catholic churches claimed to possess the original Veil of Veronica. One such veil was displayed at the first St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. References are made to the faux veil relic located at St. Peter’s in historical documents beginning in 1199. Some Catholic writers claim that the relic was either destroyed or stolen during the Sack of Rome in 1527, however, a cloth purported to be the Veil of Veronica is displayed every year at St. Peter’s during Lent although the faux image of Jesus’ face is no longer distinguishable.
Let’s dig a little bit deeper into this Veil of Veronica tradition. Upon closer examination, we find that the name, “Veronica,” is actually derived from the Latin words, verum (true) and icon (image). Veronica means “true image.” Get it? What we have here is the alleged “true image” of Jesus’ face on a cloth eventually being adopted as the name of the anonymous woman of Jerusalem who allegedly wiped Jesus’ face! There was no saint “Veronica”! Yes, it’s all a sham legitimized under the cloak of Catholic tradition.
This baseless myth of the Veil of Veronica is just one of thousands of examples of how Catholicism became wrapped around the axle with its innumerable traditions and fables, yet misses the simple Good News! of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.