Gaspar del Bufalo was a newly ordained priest in 1808. On October 21 of that year, he was asked to preach at a special celebration. He was a promising young man, already the president of the Santa Galla Hospital, which was involved in caring for the sick and the poor of Rome, had been recognized as a great preacher before ordination, and was assigned to San Marco church where he had many duties. The celebration was the beginning of a new lay movement: the Archconfraternity of the Precious Blood. It was inspired by the pastor of San Niccolo in Carcere, Francesco Albertini, who had a relic of the Precious Blood and wanted to promote devotion to it.
Gaspar hadn’t thought much about the Precious Blood before that. His homily launched more than a new organization. For him, it was the beginning of a personal journey where he encountered and helped develop a new spirituality, a spirituality focused on reconciliation, justice for the poor, and a new way of living in Catholic community. Two years after this event, Gaspar del Bufalo and Francesco Albertini were sent into exile by Napoleon’s government of Italy for refusing to take a loyalty oath. During that exile Albertini gave his young colleague a course of directed reading, spiritual direction, and prayer which led Gaspar to start a new community a year after their liberation: the Missionaries of the Precious Blood.
It’s been said that the best way to learn about something is to try to teach it to another. I’ve found this true from my own experience, and I’m sure many of you have seen this happen as well. Looking at this story today, it’s good to remember how Gaspar was transformed by what he was called to preach about and what it might mean for us today. I’m sure he learned a lot about Precious Blood Spirituality as he formed and promoted his new community, and that comes through in his writings. As a Missionary of the Precious Blood, I’ve learned much in the past couple of years as I’ve tried to put together posts and videos to share Gaspar’s message. In a general sense, I think all of us are called to deepen our faith by sharing it with another. This kind of sharing isn’t a series of lectures or course of study, it’s about living our way into a new reality and being able to do it with others. It’s a challenge to live our faith more authentically, more deeply, more intentionally.
As I’ve seen it, the problem of passing on the faith in my lifetime has been a superficial example on our part, as well as an insistence on promoting principles we work against, sometimes without realizing it. As Pope Francis is showing us, as great Saints in the past have shown us, genuine faith is both the best way to live and the best means of evangelization. Gaspar made a choice to resist the French in faith, and by letting faith lead him, he was being loyal to his best self as well as to Christ and the Pope. When we can understand faith is not just what we believe, but who we are and how we live, then we will truly be part of something that is timeless and universal, and we will be working for what’s best for ourselves and for everyone. This is something we probably won’t truly learn until we try to share it.