It is fourteen feet long and three-and-a-half-feet wide and obviously very old. The cloth is linen, hand-woven in what is known in the textile trade as a three-to-one herringbone twill. Experts say that this technique is over two millennia old, and used by weavers even before the time of Christ. The cloth has been around since the late 14th century, that much is certain. Under any circumstances, its antiquity alone would, therefor, be of historical interest. But its age, though a matter of bitter dispute, is not what makes it unique. It is, instead, the image that seems to float on its surface — the image of a crucified man — that has intrigued the world for hundreds of years. For centuries it has been one of Christianity’s most puzzling artifacts. In this century it has been pored over by experts of all stripes, from historians to physicists and NASA space scientists. In recent years, thanks to some dubious carbon-14-dating tests, the Shroud of Turin has been dismissed by many as a masterful fraud, created by some twisted genius in the 14th century. But new dating tests have challenged the validity of the original examinations, and Shroud experts known as sindonologists, continue to insist that it cannot be a forgery — that it was simply impossible for anyone to have been pulled off such a technologically sophisticated fraud in the 14th century, or even this one, for that matter.
TURIN, ITALY — 1898
It is the image of a man, both front and rear. The head on the frontal image abuts the head on the dorsal side, indicating that the cloth on which it appears had been draped over the entire body, starting at the back of the heels, over the top of the skull, and back down to the tips of the toes.
The eyes appear to be open, and staring straight ahead. The face is serenely majestic. The body is lean, the hands crossed with long, graceful fingers. The entire body, front and rear, bears shocking evidence of having been subjected to horrendous torture prior to death and having been enshrouded in the cloth.
It is May, 1898. For three days now the cloth and the faint image it bears have been displayed inside a wooden frame suspended before the great altar at Turin’s Cathedral. It is the first time the public has been allowed to view it in 30 years. From dawn to dusk , from the 25th of the month to the 28th, huge throngs of people have filed past it reverently, their eyes filled with awe at what most believe is the image of Jesus Christ imprinted on His burial shroud.
Now the final night of the exposition has arrived, and the crowds are gone. The massive Cathedral doors have been closed and only one man, a middle-aged Italian lawyer and amateur photographer of note, remains behind. He is there to make a second
attempt to capture the blurred image on his photographic plates.
Earlier, on the 25th, he made a similar attempt to photograph the relic and its image, but the effort had failed for a myriad of technical reasons.
This will be his last chance. When he has finished exposing the cloth to his camera’s lens, it will be removed from its frame, rolled up like a scroll, placed in an elaborate series of containers, and returned to its resting place atop the baroque, black marble altar in the Royal Chapel of the Savoy family, its nominal owners and Italy’s monarchs. It will not be seen again for years to come.
Secondo Pia. the photographer, mounts the elevated platform he erected in the sanctuary, and focuses his camera on the cloth. At 11:00 p.m. he begins to make the first of the two exposures.
For 14 minutes the lens shutter remains open. Then Pia closes it and removes the heavy glass plate negative from the back of the camera. He puts a new plate in its place and repeats the process. This time the exposure will last a full 20 minutes.
It is near midnight when he finishes.
Pia has set up a make-shift darkroom in the Cathedral sacristy, but he decides that he would rather work in his own, which is located in his apartment, a mere five minute’s carriage ride away.
A few minutes after midnight, Pia is in his darkroom, anxiously scanning one of the glass plates which now lies in a developing solution of iron oxalate. His hands are
trembling; later he will describe his mood as one of “trepidation.” His attempts have been the first ever to photograph the cloth and its mysterious image and, he knows that given the rarity of its public exposure, it will most certainly be his last.
Slowly he sees the first dim outlines begin to form on the plate. The seconds tick by. The image seems to be growing stronger; more well-defined. Pia holds his breath as the image comes slowly into even sharper focus and then his eyes bulge when he realizes that the plate is starting to reveal a clarity far more intense than the wispy image on the cloth he had photographed.
He reaches into the tray and picks up the plate. His hands are shaking so badly he nearly lets it slip from his grasp and go crashing to the floor. He tightens his grip, lifts it slowly and holds it up in front of a small red bulb.
Until the day he dies he will never forget that moment.
In the years to come, his eyes will fill with tears whenever he tries to talk about his next few moments alone in that silent darkroom. He is never able to describe fully the emotions he felt at that crowning moment of his long life. Words were simply not adequate to convey what he experienced as he stared at the plate and saw what his camera had captured. He is simply dumbfounded and it is minutes before he even begins to grasp what happened. The image has incredible clarity; it is as clear as any positive photograph he has ever seen.
Slowly the idea begins to form in his mind. If the image is indeed a positive one, and its stunning clarity argues persuasively that if this is indeed the case, then the only rational conclusion he can reach is that the cloth itself is a photographic negative.
Negative Image Postitive image
There is, he realizes, no other rational explanation for this phenomenon.
Secundo Pia has unlocked a secret hidden within the folds of the clothfor almost 19 centuries. In so doing he has uncovered for all the world to see, a mystery which will boggle the minds of scientists and scholars for the next century.Gradually, men of science historians, clerics, art experts and a host of others whose lives are spent in the exploration of nature’s most arcane puzzles, will study the cloth and many will come away with some stunning new discovery about the story it has to tell mankind.
The story of the cloth, Sancta Sindone, spans almost two millennia of human history.
It is as dramatic a story as has ever been told. It has been called the Fifth Gospel of Jesus Christ, a fitting description. For if it is indeed what it surely appears to be, the burial shroud of Jesus Christ, it has a message for mankind not yet fully deciphered.
CHAPTER TWO LIREY, FRANCE, CIRCA 1353-89 AD
One of the most misunderstood teachings of the Church, and maybe one that is least reflected on, is the teaching on purgatory. To understand and embrace this teaching does not require deep, exhausting theological study. A short and simple explanation of its meaning should wash away the distortions that cause so many people to doubt or neglect it.
God’s Mercy does not overlook imperfections and sin, it removes them and repairs the damage… and we are called to participate in His Mercy. The Merciful Father welcomed home the Prodigal Son, his sins forgiven. This is usually seen in relation to our conversion, repentance and forgiveness received on earth in this life. But, we can also see elements that can point to purgatory. Consider the son’s anguished journey home, arising and traveling a great distance from that “far country”. Seen in the context of the next life, there is not necessarily an immediate admittance to the Beatific Vision. A painful journey, or cleansing, may still be in our future. The Father waits with open arms, but we must still travel to him. The son was forgiven from the moment He sought forgiveness, but the journey home was not yet complete.
“I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God almighty and the Lamb. The city had no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gave it light, and its lamp was the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and to it the kings of the earth will bring their treasure. During the day its gates will never be shut, and there will be no night there. The treasure and wealth of the nations will be brought there, but nothing unclean will enter it, nor any (one) who does abominable things or tells lies. Only those will enter whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:22-27).
Excerpts from an interview with Ralph Woodrow by Catholic Answers.
A Protestant pastor tells This Rock how he got involved in the issue and how his understanding of the issue has changed.
There are many points of agreement between Protestants and Catholics; there are also many points of disagreement. In this article, I want to present an honest, unbiased evaluation, separate from any other doctrinal considerations.
As a young preacher, I was introduced to The Two Babylons, a book written over a century earlier by Rev. Alexander Hislop, which claimed that the religion of ancient Babylon, under the leadership of Nimrod and his wife Semiramis, was disguised with Christian-sounding names and became what is known today as the Catholic Church.
Years ago, someone handed me a copy of the “Knights of Columbus Oath,” which was circulated at the time John F. Kennedy was running for president. This oath—supposedly taken by Catholic men—required relentless war (secretly or openly) against Protestants and Masons: to exterminate them from the face of the earth; to hang, strangle, waste, burn, boil, and bury alive these infamous heretics; to rip up the stomachs and wombs of their women and crush their infants’ heads against the walls.
Most copies of the oath—such as the one I was handed—had no return address, which should have raised suspicion. It did for me. Still, some believed it must be factual because it said, “Copied from the Congressional Record, Feb. 15, 1913.” They failed to question why it was printed in the Congressional Record.
In 1912 a magazine called The Menace printed the bogus oath, supposing it to be authentic, but later admitted that there was no evidence it was. Meanwhile, Eugene Bonniwell, a Catholic, lost an election for Congress. He thought the circulation of the “oath” may have been partly responsible. When the elections committee made their report, the oath was used as an exhibit and condemned as spurious. That is how it came to be printed in the Congressional Record.