All of the saints loved Jesus but each tends to demonstrate a certain aspect of—or devotion to—Jesus. One devotion you don’t hear too often is a devotion to the Precious Blood. But St. Gaspar del Bufalo sure was devoted! Here are some fascinating facts about this saint that will set your heart aflame for love of the Precious Blood.
St. Gaspar was born on the feast of the Epiphany
Because of this, his parents gave him the full name Gaspar Melchior Balthazar for the traditional names of each of the three Wise Men who went to adore the baby Jesus. Just like his namesakes, St. Gaspar devoted his entire life to adoring Christ.
He also had a special devotion to St. Francis Xavier
He lived across the street from the Church of the Gesù in Rome where a relic of St. Francis Xavier is prominently displayed. When he was very young, he had delicate health and was threatened with total loss of vision. His mother had him confirmed at a year and a half old and offered prayers to St. Francis Xavier for healing. Later, St. Gaspar would make the Apostle of India the patron of the community he founded.
He almost joined the Jesuits!
This isn’t surprising due to his devotion to St. Francis Xavier, but Pope Pius VII asked him to preach missions to the people of Rome to re-establish some religious discipline. St. Gaspar had been ordained a priest during the time of Napoleon’s rule but refused to take an oath of allegiance to him, so he was exiled to Northern Italy. When he returned to Rome in 1814 and began the work Pope Pius VII asked of him, he also gathered other diocesan priests to spread the preaching beyond Rome.
He founded the Missionaries of the Precious Blood in 1815
Their vision and goal was to establish missions, churches, and catechize the people in towns and provinces where bandits had taken over. St. Gaspar and his missionaries were very successful and one time, the saint, armed only with a crucifix, went into the mountains to preach to the bandits and was able to negotiate peace with them.
Pope Leo XII almost suspended St. Gaspar and his order
St. Gaspar and his congregation did face some ecclesiastical opposition. Part was due to their name, the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, which was considered unecclesiastical at the time and they were accused of disregarding canon law. Also, the cross and chain that members wore was considered untraditional.
Another part of the opposition was due to St. Gaspar speaking out more and more against the abuses in the Church at the time and the government of the Papal States. To smooth things over, St. Gaspar offered to step down as moderator of the community but after he and Pope Leo XII met, this was not needed and the community went on as before.
The audience with Leo XII was not only a personal triumph for the founder, but also a complete vindication of his congregation and its beloved title. After listening to Gaspar answer the charges against himself and his congregation and defend the title “Most Precious Blood,” Pope Leo XII asked to see the rule of the congregation.
“If, Your Holiness,” replied Gaspar, handing him the rule, “command me to close all the houses of the Institute, I am ready to obey.”
“And the missionaries,” said the Pope, “will they obey?”
“Holy Father, at a word from you all are willing to fall at your feet.”
The upshot of the whole audience was that Leo arose and embraced Gaspar, saying, “I understand why you have many enemies; but do not be alarmed; Leo XII is for you.” When Gaspar was gone, the Pope remarked, “Canon del Bufalo is an angel.”
His missionary efforts were considered extreme
His friend, Passionist priest and bishop, St. Vincent Strambi, described his preaching as a “spiritual earthquake.” St. Gaspar worked tirelessly for the Church and those alienated by society.
“We must let it be known how the Blood of Christ cleanses the souls and sanctifies them, particularly by means of the sacraments,” St. Gaspar said on more than one occasion.
He also said things like: “I exert you to speak less and pray more.” Or this one!: “We are living in times in which the divine Blood must cleanse the entire world.”
St. Gaspar was the first to really popularize devotion to the Precious Blood
St. Gaspar found a unifying theme throughout salvation history, that the Precious Blood always underlined man’s relationship with God. He said, “Other devotions which are products of various times have holy and praiseworthy beginnings, but they go back only so far; this devotion is so ancient that it goes back to the moment when Adam sinned, for which reason Jesus was called, ‘the Lamb who has been slain from the foundation of the world.'”
He also said, “Jesus has given us His Blood even to the last drop. What is there left to do? Jesus is a victim. Behold I am ready, O my God, to be a victim of love!”
At his time, many Catholics thought that the name of Jesus as the Precious Blood should be reserved for a sacred few and not “bandied about” on the lips of many, but St. Gaspar thought otherwise. “In every era the Lord has inspired certain devotions to stem the tide of iniquity. We also see that in times past the Church was attacked in this or that doctrine. Today the war is being waged against religion as such and against Christ Crucified. We need, therefore, to reemphasize the glories of the Cross and of our Crucified Redeemer, to reopen the fountains of mercy just when the devil would make us the victim of wrath. Now, more than ever, it is opportune to tell people at what price our souls were redeemed. We must let it be known how the Blood of Christ cleanses the souls and sanctifies them, particularly by means of the sacraments. We must arouse them from their insensibility by reminding them that his Blood is offered up every morning upon the altars and that instead of blasphemy and insult, we should give it adoration and praise,” he said.”
Though he was of frail health, St. Gaspar served the people during the cholera outbreak in Italy
He spent the summer of 1837 ministering to and tending the spiritual needs of those in Rome affected by the cholera epidemic. On December 28, he succumbed to his own failing health and died while ministering to others. St. Vincent Pallotti, his friend and founder of the Pallottines, assisted at his deathbed and his doctor described him as a “victim of charity” because of his tireless efforts to serve others up until the very end.
St. Gaspar was canonized in 1954 and his feast day is October 21. Because of his own devotion, a Litany of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ was written and all who pray it receive a partial indulgence. The litany can be found here.