Solemnity of Saint Gaspar

By the V. Rev. Jeffrey Kirch, C.PP.S.

One of the joys of living in Rome was exploring the hundreds of churches in the city. Some are gigantic architectural wonders like Saint Peter’s and others are smaller, less ornate, and less well known. Yet each is remarkable in its own way. Tucked back off of the Via del Corso, the main street of Rome, is a small church that is easily missed as you walk by. It’s the Oratory of St. Francis Xavier, popularly known as Caravita. It’s a very simple church. Nothing too fancy. On the wall, about half way up to the ceiling, is a small door that leads to a little platform. Visitors often wonder what the platform is for. Without microphones and speakers, the preacher needed to get high above the congregation so that everyone could hear the message.

Each Sunday I walked into Caravita I would look up to that small pulpit and wonder what St. Gaspar preached about. He lived around the corner and was engaged in ministry in this little church. He was well known as a preacher throughout Rome and I could just imagine people filling this small church, standing room only, and listening as he proclaimed the Good News.

Our readings today give us a clue to the content of the Good News. Throughout salvation history, the Good News has remained constant. The good news that the Prophet Isaiah proclaimed can be found in the first reading. Isaiah proclaims that “all the ends of the earth will behold the salvation of our God.”  God’s love knows no bounds. That was the same message Gaspar proclaimed to the banditi in Sonnino.

There is Good News in the letter to the Hebrews as well. We have been consecrated by the Blood of Christ. We have become God’s people, bonded in covenant, in the Precious Blood. Gaspar proclaimed this same message to itinerate farmers and poor peddlers in the Campo Vaccino and Piazza Montanara. Though overlooked and ignored by the rich and powerful, their lives have dignity.

Finally, the Gospel of Luke speaks of the Good News in a clear and powerful way. Liberty to captives, sight to the blind, and freedom to the oppressed. These are all signs of God’s power and love. But the real Good News comes at the end when Jesus proclaims, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” The Good News is that today, Jesus, the Son of God, is here in our midst and his love has transformed the world. That is the message of Saint Gaspar proclaimed from the tiny platform in the Caravita church. That is our same message today. How will you proclaim that message?

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The V. Rev. Jeffrey Kirch, C.PP.S., is the provincial director of the Cincinnati Province. Previously, he served as the secretary general of the worldwide Congregation and was also in ministry at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., of which he is an alumnus.

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