Today the Church honors St. Gaspar del Bufalo, our founder. St. Gaspar was born in Rome on January 6, 1786, on the feast of the Epiphany. His parents named him after the magi: Gaspar Melchior Balthazar del Bufalo, quite a mouthful for a newborn.
From early on, St. Gaspar devoted himself to ministry to the poor and forsaken of Rome. He dedicated his life to God and was ordained a priest in 1808 at the age of 22. He founded the Missionaries of the Precious Blood in 1815 and with the grace of God grew his young Congregation into a band of preachers who, after drawing strength and renewal from their shared life together in the Congregation’s mission houses, passionately preached missions in towns throughout Italy. They carried the message of God’s redeeming love, available to all through the Precious Blood of Jesus, before them like a flag.
Before he was a founder, St. Gaspar was a priest. What does it mean to be a priest? One answer is offered by a fellow Missionary of the Precious Blood, Fr. Ken Schroeder, C.PP.S., who was born on October 21, St. Gaspar’s feast day.
Fr. Ken was called upon to preach the homily at the funeral of his friend, Fr. Gene Schnipke, C.PP.S., when Fr. Gene died unexpectedly in March.
“A priest’s life can be measured in terms of his practical achievements, but it is the hidden work with individuals that cannot be measured or calculated,” Fr. Ken said in his homily. “A priest is first a man of God. St. Paul is his letter to the Hebrews captures the role of a priest standing before God on behalf of his brethren: “Every high priest has been taken out of mankind and is appointed to act for men in their relations with God” (Romans 5: 1). A priest is set apart – his ordination, his embracing of celibacy, his devotion to his prayer life, his faithful celebration of Mass. All express this particular ‘being set apart.’
“In the end, a priest is the instrument of the action of God, particularly in the sacraments. A priest carries the burdens and struggles of his people and intercedes before God on their behalf.”
On St. Gaspar’s feast day, we celebrate his life of ministry, and the ministry of all Missionaries of the Precious Blood, priests and religious brothers. St. Gaspar was truly “set apart,” as Fr. Ken described it, but so are we all, set apart by God with all our gifts and our flaws, to help each other along the way back to the God who created us.