The van bringing my possessions to Hesperia was packed so tightly, that the movers said it would be impossible for anything to break. I brought everything but the dust that had accumulated during forty years of living in my prior home. My decision to relocate was made impulsively, the house sold in a week, and I was teaching up until the day of the move. I did not have time to prioritize my possessions. So, I brought it all, anticipating that I would have the time to go through things systematically after the move.

Perhaps the size of the load and/or the rudeness of the movers were atypical. They made unkind comments as they packed the truck, like: "This is unreal" and "I think we need another truck on standby if we can't get everything into this one." Irrespective of their insolence, their assurance that things could not break turned out to be overly optimistic.

The most treasured possession damaged in the move was a piece of artwork that had been in the family for generations. It's a signed picture taken by a New York photographer of a woman and baby posed as Madonna and Child. This piece had hung in a recessed cove above the mantle at my prior residence. I looked forward to choosing a place for it in my new home so I could continue to enjoy it.

I spent days on the internet searching for someone who might be able to restore the plaster cast frame of the picture of my lady. Frank van Dongen responded to my e-mail and invited me to bring the piece to his studio The Harlequin Gallery. Mr. van Dongen enjoyed working on the frame and his considerable talents miraculously resulted in a beautiful restoration. He invited me bring my lady back to his studio so he could instruct me on how to preserve it. Last month, on my annual trek to his Sierra Madre Studio, the focus of our discussion was not centered on my lady.

Mr. van Dongen had just completed restoration of an authenticated holy relic. It is a painting of "The Holy Face of Jesus" that had been hidden for decades in the storeroom of Carmelite nuns in Peru until it was rediscovered in 1923 when an earthquake wrecked the convent. The canvas was not damaged but the oils in the painting needed to be cleaned. The before-and-after photos are impressive and Frank showed me that covering half the face of Jesus showed a man in sorrow but covering the other half of the face showed a man in contemplation. The story behind the painting is even more interesting.

During the eighth century a veil reported to have wiped the face of Jesus was brought to Rome. The owner of the veil was a woman named Veronica. A faint image of a suffering man is seen on Veronica's veil and the veil is reported to have caused miracles including Emperor Tiberius' cure from leprosy.

In 1849, when riots erupted over Europe threatening the Papal States, Pope Pius IX, in an attempt to restore peace, ordered that Veronica's Veil be displayed to the public between Christmas and Epiphany. Another miracle occurred. The image of the suffering man on the veil glowed, and for a period of three hours believers saw the image becoming clearer.

Then someone made the oil painting replicating the image on Veronica's veil. The artist's name is unknown. He is though to have been a Spaniard working in Rome in 1849. As a last gesture of his dedication the artist touched his finished canvas to the Veil of Veronica in Saint Peter's Basilica, thus making the painting a third class relic.

The painting was brought to the Americas by Cardinal Juan Benlloch y Vivo who was the Archbishop of Burgos, Spain. In November 1923 the painting was brought to Lima and given to the Carmelite nuns as a gift from Pope Pius XI. From there it found its way to the Sierra Madre studio where Mr. van Dongen, with the assistance of Evelyn Zumaya, added their artistic talents and devotion to the story of the miracle and once again everyone can see the image clearly.