Proclaiming our salvation
Gaspar’s Early Life
Gaspar del Bufalo was born in Rome on the traditional feast of the Epiphany, January 6, 1786, and was given the names of the three kings from the East who visited the child, Jesus: Gaspar, Melchior, and Baltazar. His father, Antonio, was a servant in the Altieri Palace in the heart of the city. Across the street from the palace is the famous Church of the Gesù, the mother church of the Jesuits. The church holds a famous relic of St. Francis Xavier that would prove important in Gaspar’s early years. As an infant, Gaspar nearly lost his sight during a bout of small pox. His mother, Annunziata, invoked the intercession of St. Francis Xavier for a cure for Gaspar and this was granted. Thus began a lifelong affinity between Gaspar and his model missionary.
Early in his life, Gaspar showed a great concern for the poor and sick. He spent his summer vacations as a youth visiting hospitals and bringing meals to the hungry. When he was eighteen, Gaspar exhibited one of his greatest gifts: organizing for action on behalf of the ‘people on the fringe.’ Together with some of his classmates, Gaspar ministered to the marginalized: offering religious instruction to the peasants from rural areas who came to Rome to sell their hay; providing catechism for orphans and children of the poor; and setting up a night shelter for the homeless. This love for working for the marginalized would serve him later after his ordination on July 31, 1808.
At the invitation of Fr. Francesco Albertini, Gaspar preached at the founding of the Confraterity of the Most Precious Blood (later to be given the title Archconfraternity) on December 8, 1808. Fr. Albertini was a trusted and devoted friend and became Gaspar’s spiritual director for most of his life.
Gaspar’s Prison Experiences
In the spring of 1809, Napoleon suppressed the Papal States. Pope Pius VII was arrested and transported to Savona. On June 13, 1810, Gaspar was brought before the magistrate to take the oath of allegiance to the emperor but Gaspar told the magistrate, “I would rather die or suffer evil than to take such an oath. I cannot. I must not. I will not.”
For the courage of his conviction, Gaspar was sentenced to prison and exiled first to Imola, then Rocca di Lugo and Bologna. During this difficult time Gaspar spent hours in prayer and contemplation. Inspired by another priest-prisoner, Francesco Albertini, he came to hear a call from God to found a community dedicated to the Precious Blood.
Gaspar Founds the Missionaries of the Precious Blood
After the defeat of Napoleon in January 1814, Gaspar returned to Rome to begin his mission. Although he first wanted to join the Jesuits, Gaspar was convinced by Pope Pius VII instead to begin a massive effort of evangelization in Rome and the Papal States. In response to the Holy Father’s request, Gaspar drew upon the rich resources of two of his mentors, Frs. Albertini and Bonnani, to begin a society of apostolic life that today we know as the Missionaries of the Precious Blood. The congregation was founded at the Abbey of San Felice at Giano in the Umbrian Hills on August 15, 1815.
Gaspar and Sonnino
Gaspar’s small congregation was devoted to preaching the word of God, especially in parish missions held in isolated villages in the rural hills. Gaspar was a powerful preacher who inspired all who heard him. At the same time, he worked tirelessly to establish his congregation, encouraging his members, raising funds whenever possible, and fighting back opposition from others in the Church.
The power of Gaspar’s presence and preaching was found most dramatically in his work with the bandits who infested the hills between Rome and Naples.
Prayer to St. Gaspar for the Church
St. Gaspar, you loved the persecuted Church,
and in the name of God you accepted disgrace and exile.
We beg your intercession for the Church today.
Help us discern how we are to live
and promote the message of the Gospel.
United with you, may our hearts have compassion
for the poor, the oppressed, the abandoned.
Increase our love for the Blood of Christ,
so that we also may be prepared to risk our lives.
We thank God for your good works and example.
Give us strength in our weakness
so that we may grow stronger in our vocation
to the honor of God and the salvation of all. Amen.