At the Heart of Precious Blood Spirituality
By Fr. David Kelly, C.PP.S.
To be honest, I went to Brunnerdale High School Seminary and eventually was professed as a member of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, not because I had some deep attraction to St. Gaspar or the spirituality of the Precious Blood, but because my uncle, John Byrne, was a C.PP.S. priest and my childhood parish, St. Joseph in Wapakoneta, Ohio, was staffed by C.PP.S.’ers—priests, brothers and sisters. So the spirituality that inspired Gaspar and so many others came to me through the work I have been blessed to do.
I have been ordained for over 30 years and have grown to not only embrace the spirituality of the Precious Blood, but be sustained by it. As I strive to be a faithful witness, I am strengthened by a spirituality that allows us to see beyond the suffering and death. The cup and the cross are more than images; they become a place of refuge and comfort.
I remember one weekend in Chicago when the death toll was particularly severe. The shootings from Friday night to Sunday morning numbered 41. A six‐year‐old was killed while playing on the front porch of her home. A block from our Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation Center, a young man was shot and left in critical condition The airways were filled with outrage at so much violence; the police promised a sure and decisive response. Young people were targeted as out of control. Political and religious leaders and community organizers sought to add their voice to the plethora of ideas and suggestions.
In the wake of violence, communities continue to go about daily living. Experience has told them that the outrage will quiet until the next high profile killing. They will seek ways to protect their children as best they can with the little they have. Their voice is rarely heard. Calls for better schools and more mental health centers to help combat the ever‐rising stress and strain experienced by children and families will be “voiced‐over ” by the call for budget cuts and reduced spending.
Max is a young man who frequently visited our center, and had benefited so much from his time there that I invited him and his best friend, David, to accompany me when I gave a talk at the Archdiocesan Catechetical Conference in a Chicago suburb. Then David was shot and killed in our neighborhood. Max sat with me and told me that David’s death gave him nightmares, prompting blackouts and outbursts of anger. With tears in his eyes, he told me he felt lost. For many, including Max, it is not the singular act of violence, but the continual and prolonged violence that is so damaging. The trauma that is the result of so much violence has a devastating impact on youth, families, and the community.
Those of us who are caregivers are not exempt from the strain and stress of so much violence. I struggle with how to respond when a 14‐year‐old kills another 14‐year‐old. I recoil at the easy answers to such a complex problem. Better policing certainly is a part of the necessary response, but it alone is not the answer. The answer lies in the very ethos of the community. We need to change the very culture of how we see one another. We cannot continue to try to punish our way out of the violence. We have to create communities of hope where we recognize that our lives are intertwined with one another and that what affects one affects us all.
This ethos—the interconnectedness of all—is at the heart of the spirituality that calls us to be ambassadors of reconciliation. It seems to me that at the very core—the very essence—of who we are, has to be the willingness to enter into the tension and messiness of life and witness to the power of God’s love to transform. I have to believe that is our ministry—walking faithfully into the muddled mess of life and giving witness to the transforming power of the Blood of Christ.
I am reminded of the prayers we have said for years calling us to respond to the “ever‐changing times.” If there was ever a time in which the spirituality of the Precious Blood and the call to the ministry of reconciliation was needed, it is today. We are living in a time, both in the world and in the Church, that cries out for the work of healing and reconciliation. In these ever‐changing times we must lift the cross high—a cross not of condemnation but of hope. And it is not just for others to see, but for us who live the call to be ministers of reconciliation.