Saturday, October 21, 2006
St. Gaspar del Bufalo
From The Church's Most Powerful Novenas:
Antonio and Annunziata Del Bufalo named their child after one of the three magi when he was born on the Feast of the Epiphany in 1786 in Rome, Italy. Yet when at the age of two young Gaspar was threatened with blindness due to a serious eye ailment it was to St. Francis Xavier (whose partial relics were contained in the nearby Gesu (Jesus) Church) that they turned—and were heard as Gaspar was healed.
Early in Gaspar's life he showed himself to be a great friend of the poor and the sick. He would teach the catechism to orphans and bring meals to the hospitalized as well as setting up a shelter for those who had no place to sleep at night. At the same time he was pursuing the priesthood in Rome to which he was ordained in1808.
A year after Gaspar's ordination the French Emperor Napoleon took over the Papal States and imprisoned the Pope. The clergy were ordered to take an oath of loyalty to the emperor and when Gaspar came before the magistrate and was given the oath he replied, "I would rather die, or suffer evil than to take such an oath. I cannot, I ought not. I will not." He was sent to Piacenza, in exile and during this time he became gravely ill and received the Last Rites from his friend Monsignor Albertini.
Monsignor Albertini encouraged his friend that he was sure this could not be the end for Gaspar for some years earlier a saintly nun Maria Agnese had told him that he would meet a young priest with whom he would form a close friendship during a time of oppression by the Church's enemies. She had said, "He will distinguish himself by a special devotion to St. Francis Xavier. He will become an apostlic missionary and will found a new congregation of missionary priests under the invocation of the Divine Blood who purpose shall be to reform customs, to save souls, to foster decorum among the secular clergy, to arouse the people back from their apathy and lack of faith, bringing them back to love of the Crucifix." Monsignor Albertini told Gaspar that God had much for him to do and so he would.
In 1811 after refusing the loyalty oath a second time he was imprisoned for the next four years until Rome was liberated from Napoleon's rule. In 1814 Pope Pius VII granted Gaspar a church and convent that had been abandoned by another religious order as a place where he could house a new congregation that would bear the name of Most Precious Blood of Christ. On August 15, 1815 the first house of this new congregation opened with four members.
The congregation founded by Gaspar was to be a charitable fraternity of priests who would take no vows but dedicate themselves to preaching missions and spreading devotion the Most Precious Blood of Jesus. He wrote to a priest friend at the time, "Those who do evangelical work, do so by ensuring that the Blood of Jesus is used to save souls, and they must do this continuously, asking that sinners be forgiven."
Gaspar went about preaching missions to the most obstinate groups. One time when a dying man, a sinner refused to convert—Gaspar began to scourge himself until the dying man came to his senses and died with his faith intact. Sent by the pope to preach to the most difficult souls, essentially gansters some of who intended to kill the priest, miracles were worked where the knife of a would be attacker fell out of the hand, a bullet intended for Gaspar fell harmlessly at his feet—while those who set out to persecute ended being captured by the Lord. Such was the power of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus and his apostle.
Gaspar suffered throughout his life. Some of this suffering came from the Church he loved and obeyed. He died in 1837. He was canonized a saint by Pope Pius XII in 1954.
Blessed Pope John XXIII, himself a great modern apostle of devotion to the precious blood added the phrase "Blessed be his most precious blood" to the Divine Praises commonly recited at the conclusion of Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament. In an Apostolic Letter on promoting the devotion of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus entitled Inde a Primis he shared that he had been a devotee of this devotion begun by St. Gaspar since his infancy and encouraged others to promote this devotion by using a litany developed by the Congregation of Rites at the time. He wrote in his Apostolic Letter that devotion to the Most Precious Blood owed its modern diffusion to St. Gaspar del Bufalo.