Shroud puts focus on Christ’s death, resurrection

Shroud of Turin expert’s observations point to Holy Week observance


CLICK HERE to watch the livestream video of Fr. Dalton’s presentation in Jefferson City.

CLICK HERE to watch the livestream video of Fr. Dalton’s presentation in Columbia.

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Much in the way sunlight passes through a windowpane, life rushes back into the body of a man who was tortured and executed three days before.

The sealed tomb fills with energy as the Son of God returns from the dead and is raised to new life, leaving behind an indelible record.

“I know that some people speak of the Shroud as a miracle, and maybe it is,” said Father Andrew Dalton of the Legionaries of Christ, a world-renowned and highly respected authority on the Shroud of Turin.

“But to me, the miracle is the Resurrection,” he stated. “What we see on the Shroud is the natural effect of that supernatural event.”

The Shroud of Turin is widely believed to be the cloth in which Jesus was buried after his violent death.

It bears blood stains consistent with Biblical accounts of his scourging, crowning with thorns, crucifixion and burial, and when photographed presents the haunting image of a man’s face and body.

“Jesus’s cadaver rose miraculously, and the natural effect of that phenomenon is what bears its trace on the Shroud,” said Fr. Dalton, who teaches Biblical theology of the passion of the Christ at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome.

He sat down for an extensive interview while visiting this diocese in January to give lectures in Jefferson City and Columbia.

He believes the Shroud of Turin is one of the most effective tools for evangelization in the Christian arsenal.

“Ours is to heed Jesus’s Great Commission: ‘Make disciples, baptize them, teach them what I taught you, and know that I am with you always,’” the priest noted.

“The Shroud offers us a great opportunity to do that,” he said.

He’s convinced that the most convincing of all signs and wonders is when Christ moves the human heart.

“There is no greater healing than to bring someone out of the darkness and into the dominion of the beloved Son,” the priest stated. “In fact, I would gladly trade 1,000 physical healings for the changing of one human heart.”

He said the Shroud helps bring conversion to many hearts by addressing Jesus’s passion, death and resurrection head-on.

“I think it really pulls on people’s heartstrings,” the priest stated. “We were made to have a face-to-face encounter with God, and this is a little, earthly picture of that encounter.

“When we stand and behold the face, I feel it’s a little beckoning from God himself, saying, ‘Look at me. Come and see,’” he said.

Source of blessings

Fr. Dalton noted that the Shroud taps into people’s innate curiosity about science, nature and the world around them, along with their thirst for things that are transcendent.

“There’s a physicality about the resurrected body,” the priest stated. “He who went to the cross is now glorified. And what does he do when he appears to the Apostles? He shows them his wounded hands and side and says, ‘Peace be with you.’

“He’s saying, ‘It’s me! Not a phantom or a ghost!’” the priest proclaimed. “That which lives will indeed be glorified forever! That which is broken will be restored!”

As physical evidence of that restoration, the Shroud presents a mirror of the Gospel, which is sacrificial love beyond all fathoming.

“This is the whole story,” said Fr. Dalton. “Everything depends on it and is downstream from it. Everything else is scaffolded on this revelation.”

Jesus said, “Take up your cross each day and follow me,” (Luke 9:23) meaning that his cross and passion are inextricably woven into the life of his followers.

“The Paschal Mystery — Jesus’s passion, death and resurrection — is the source and summit of Christian life,” said Fr. Dalton. “If you look at the Gospels themselves, they are Passion narratives with long introductions.”

Pope Benedict XVI stated, “Don’t be afraid of the cross. It’s the source of every blessing.”

The wounded Christ, clearly depicted on the Shroud, invites the faithful to claim his wounds, as well as their own, as a conduit of grace.

“They are precisely where his grace flows into us,” said Fr. Dalton.

Jesus, upon his death on the cross, descended into the netherworld, filling it with light and hope.

“When light shines in darkness, the darkness is dispelled,” the priest noted. “There’s no fight there.”

So it is when Christ freely lays down his life and takes it back up.

“He’s showing himself as being utterly of a higher order,” Fr. Dalton pointed out. “There’s simply no competition. He says to Satan, ‘Concentrate all your strength on me. I’ll take the blow. I’ll receive all you show me.’

“And then he says, ‘That’s it? Is that all you got?’”

In truth, God has already definitively won the battle.

“The only question is: Are we remaining in Christ?” said Fr. Dalton. “Christ, the head, is already seated in glory. If we’re members of his body, if we remain with him, we are coheirs.”

Unmistakably authentic

Fr. Dalton referred to how historians look for “documents and monuments” to mark events in history.

“Regarding Jesus’s death and resurrection, we have the documents,” said Fr. Dalton. “We have Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. We also have Josephus and Tacitus and others.

“And we have monuments!” he stated. “Namely, archaeological objects such as the Shroud of Turin and the Sudarium of Oviedo” — the latter being the cloth that covered Jesus’s face while he was taken down from the cross.

These objects are consistent with Scriptural accounts of Jesus’s passion and death.

“Not only are they compatible with the Biblical narrative, but they’re mutually illuminating — the artifact on one hand and the narrative on the other hand, both shedding light on each other,” he said.

These artifacts invite people specializing in every discipline imaginable — from archaeology to botany to chemistry to photography — to investigate and believe.

“No matter your career or discipline, you can find something that pertains to the Shroud,” said Fr. Dalton. “Christ took on our humanity and shared our nature, and we know that nature because we live it.”

Every attempt to reproduce the Shroud by any naturalistic means has failed.

“We can’t do it in a lab, especially not at the micro level,” Fr. Dalton noted.

Every detail — from the shape of the body and the ratios of one limb to the other, to the blood flows, to the folding of the thumbs from damage to the nerves in the hands — is captured with medical precision.

In-depth studies of the Shroud in the 1970s ruled out the presence of varnish, pigments, brush strokes, directionality or any trace whatsoever of human artwork.

Nor was the image produced by heat or by any type of photography, which wasn’t invented until the 19th century.

“All who set out to debunk the Shroud’s authenticity — it’s like Good Friday all over again, the enemy’s plot is a flop!” said Fr. Dalton.

There are multiple hypotheses for how the Shroud came into being, but none can be scientifically proven.

“That’s where Christians need to step up and say, ‘What if it was not created by naturalistic means? What if it’s the natural result of a supernatural occurrence?’” he said.

No greater love

The message of the Shroud of Turin is the same as that of the Gospel narratives of Jesus’s life, death and resurrection: God’s unfathomable love.

“Jesus shows divine love in ways that we simply cannot doubt,” said Fr. Dalton. “It is in deed and in truth that he loves us, and when you look at the cross, when you’re looking at his image in the Shroud, you’re seeing him say, ‘I love you.’”

The priest pointed out that Jesus was not a victim of human beings — as Jesus himself told Pontius Pilate (John 19:11) — but of divine love. And every detail in the Biblical narratives of the Passion reveals some aspect of that love.

“It would be too easy to glance over the details of the Passion,” said Fr. Dalton. “But the Shroud forces you to pause on it.”

The cross was the means by which Jesus, who had emptied himself of glory in becoming human, returned to his glorified state at the right hand of the Father.

In order to follow Christ, people must take up their own crosses in the form of the trials they face each day.

“Jesus tells us, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life,’” Fr. Dalton noted. “Can we expect any other pathway than the one he showed us?”

Learning about and venerating the Shroud inevitably leads to a deeper understanding of the mission Jesus came to fulfill.

“This historical document we possess is not magic, it’s not a vending machine,” Fr. Dalton insisted. “It is something that draws us squarely before the mysteries of Christ in order for us to pray. And as we pray, we’re changed.

“Beholding and contemplating the image of Christ causes transformation to come within us,” the priest noted. “In that way, the Shroud is just the doorbell. It says, ‘Come in.’”

As in a mirror

Fr. Dalton visits parishes throughout the world to give presentations on the Shroud of Turin.

He encourages dioceses and Catholic institutes of higher learning to obtain a high-resolution digital image of the Shroud for study and contemplation.

He said the Shroud offers an astounding opportunity and a credible means of sharing the Gospel with people who do not yet believe.

“When I’m preaching at Mass, if I go over 10 minutes, I see people looking at their watches,” he noted. “But with the Shroud, two hours isn’t enough. People are standing in line afterward, wanting to find out more.”

The Shroud resonates with people’s curiosity and desire for truth.

“Our faith is not about fairy tales or fables but an event in history that actually took place,” said Fr. Dalton. “We celebrate the Incarnation — that the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

“We also celebrate that he did that in order to accomplish a saving sacrifice,” the priest continued. “Namely, the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes grew up and was one day wrapped in a winding sheet and placed in a tomb.

“From that place, he’s reborn into glory. That’s a picture of what we all must also do. We die with him in order to rise with him.”

Fr. Dalton likened the Shroud to the mirror image St. Paul wrote of in his famous “Love is patient, love is kind” passage in 1 Corinthians 13.

“It’s a mirror-life image of something that lies directly beyond the veil,” said Fr. Dalton. “We hope and wait for the day when we see him as he is. But for the time being, we have this insight into what he was.”