Leo Dupont was a French Aristocrat, born on Jan. 24, 1797. He grew up in the French colony of Martinique. His mother, Marie Louise, had a tremendous influence on his moral upbringing. When he embarked on an ocean voyage to Paris to begin law school, his mother told him, “You and God, Leo, and the priest in the confessional are the three most important factors in life for you.” Shortly after becoming a lawyer, Leo Dupont wanted to become a priest. Because of a childhood injury that left him with a maimed thumb, Leo was ineligible to enter the priesthood. While that was devastating to him at the time, God had reserved for Leo Dupont a special mission. It was a mission that required the devotion of heart found in priests, but also required the freedom of expression not available to those in a consecrated religious order.
Leo Dupont eventually married Caroline d’Andiffredi, and together they had one daughter, Henriette. Unfortunately, both Caroline and Henriette died at early ages.
While in mainland France, Dupont befriended, and eventually became the benefactor of, the Carmelites in Tours. In fact, due to the strictly cloistered nature of the sisters, Mr. Dupont handled their business affairs in secular society. This is how Mr. Dupont became acquainted with the revelations of Jesus to Sr. Mary of St. Peter. This included the Work of Reparation and involved devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus.
Because Jesus revealed to Sr. Mary of St. Peter that He desired this Work of Reparation be spread through written media, Leo Dupont helped publish and disseminate a tract called an Abridgement of Facts, which briefly outlined the Work of Reparation. Initially, the local Archbishop of Tours allowed 50 copies of the tract to be distributed. However, in the unstable political climate of the day, the Abridgement of Facts disgruntled certain French politicians, and the Archbishop of Tours subsequently suppressed all the writings of Sr. Mary of St. Peter.
Meanwhile, in Rome, terrorism forced Pope Pius IX to flee to Gaeta. While in exile, Pope Pius IX called for three days of prayer to invoke God’s mercy. On the third day, Jan. 6, 1849, the Veil of Veronica was brought out for public veneration. The features of the veil (which were faded and hidden behind a second protective silk veil), became miraculously visible to all who were present. The features became distinct and life-like, and a soft light emanated from the veil. The bells of St. Peter were rung, and the faithful gathered to bear witness to the miracle. Because photography had not been invented yet, artists were called in to reproduce the image. These reproductions of His Holy Face were then spread throughout Europe. It was a common practice to have the reproductions touched to Veronica’s Veil, Longinus’ Spear, and a portion of the True Cross.
Eventually, the Prioress of the Carmel of Tours received a few copies of His Holy Face. She gave Leo Dupont two of the images. One was hung in his drawing room, and an oil lamp was placed before it. On the morning of Holy Saturday, an acquaintance visited Leo Dupont regarding a business matter. He noticed she was rubbing her eyes, and she related to him the considerable pain her eyes caused her. He invited her to pray before the Holy Face image as he drew up the necessary paperwork for their transaction. He then joined her in prayer and suggested she use the oil from the lamp as a salve for her eyes. He explained that the oil had no curative powers, but oil from a lamp in Rome had been used to cure diseases solely through the expression of faith that the infirm made in using it. Leo’s guest obliged, and she was immediately healed of all eye pain. This was the first of thousands of miracles obtained through reverence to the Holy Face.
For the next thirty years, Leo Dupont welcomed all the pilgrims who came to his house to venerate His Holy Face and to seek a favor from Our Lord. He prayed with visitors and shared in their veneration. He kept records of all the miracles that occurred. He was kept busy with correspondence, and obliged all those seeking oil from the lamp that burned before His Holy Face. It should be noted that during this thirty year period, the writings of Sr. Mary of St. Peter, and the Work of Reparation revealed therein, were under suppression. Leo Dupont kept the Work of Reparation, and veneration of His Holy Face, actively going, as the devotion of a private citizen in the parlor of his home. He patiently waited, through three successive Archbishops, for the suppression to be lifted. The Archbishop of Tours needed to request a papal brief to ensure the Work of Reparation would endure throughout the future of the Church.
Shortly before his death on Mar. 18, 1876, Leo Dupont did see the suppression lifted. In 1874, the new Archbishop of Tours, Charles-Théodore Colet, came to visit Leo Dupont. Over time, as a result of that visit, Archbishop Colet gave orders to bring out all the documents concerning the life and revelations of Sr. Mary of St. Peter. Before formally requesting a Papal Brief, Archbishop Colet elicited the support and devotion for His Holy Face from around the world. This universal response, along with the thousands of miracles effected in Leo Dupont’s parlor, helped solidify the decision of Pope Leo XIII to approve devotion to the Holy Face with a Papal Brief in 1885.
After his death, Leo Dupont’s house was purchased by the Archdiocese of Tours and turned into an Oratory of the Holy Face. Archbishop Colet approved an order of priests to oversee the chapel and attend to its administration. The order was canonically erected in 1876 as the Priests of the Holy Face. The Holy See declared Leo Dupont Venerable, and his feast day is December 1st.