December 28 – Ordered to swear allegiance to Napoleon, he replied “I cannot. I ought not. I will not!”

December 25, 2014

Bl. Gaspare del Bufalo

Founder of the Missionaries of the most Precious Blood (C.P.P.S.); born at Rome on the feast of the Epiphany, 1786; died 28 December, 1837.

St. Gaspare del BufaloHis parents were Antonio del Bufalo, chief cook of the princely family of Altieri, and his wife Annunziata Quartieroni. Because of his delicate health, his pious mother had him confirmed at the tender age of one and a half years (1787). As he was suffering from an incurable malady of the eyes, which threatened to leave him blind, prayers were offered to St. Francis Xavier for his recovery. In 1787, he was miraculously cured, wherefore he cherished in later life a special devotion to the great Apostle of India, and selected him as the special patron of the congregation which he founded. From his earliest years he had a great horror of even venial sins and showed deep piety, a spirit of mortification, remarkable control over his evil inclinations (especially his innate irascibility and strong self-will), and also heroic love for the poor and the miserable. Having entered the Collegium Romanum at the age of twelve he received in 1800 first tonsure, and one year later the four minor orders. As catechetical instructor at St. Mark’s, his zeal won for him the name “The Little Apostle of Rome”, and when but nineteen years old, he was appointed president of the newly instituted catechetical school of Santa Maria del Pianto.

St. Gaspare del BufaloAfter his ordination (31 July, 1808), he obtained a canonry at St. Mark’s, and soon instituted with Gaetano Bonani a nocturnal oratory. He assisted Francesco Albertini in founding the Archconfraternity of the Most Precious Blood, and worked with great zeal in the poorer districts of Rome, preaching frequently in the market-places. In 1810 he was summoned before General Miollis to swear allegiance to Napoleon. But neither threats nor promises could induce him to do so, because Pius VII had forbidden it. The words with which he announced his final decision have become famous: “Non posso, non debbo, non voglio” (I cannot, I ought not; I will not). In consequence he suffered banishment, and later on imprisonment in the foul dungeons of Imola and Rocca (1810-1814). After Napoleon’s fall he returned to Rome, intending to enter the re-established Jesuit Order. But obeying his spiritual adviser, Albertini, he founded a congregation of secular priests to give missions and spread devotion to the Most Precious Blood. Through Cardinal Cristaldi he obtained the pope’s sanction and, as a mother-house, the former convent of San Felice in Giano. Of this he took solemn possession, 11 August, 1815. The Bull of beatification says, “Through Umbria, Aemilia, Picenum, Tuscany, Campania, Samnium, in short all the provinces of Middle Italy he wandered, giving missions”. The very titles accorded to him by his contemporaries speak volumes: “II Santo”, “Apostle of Rome”, “Il martello dei Carbonari” (Hammer of Italian Freemasonry).

Stained glass window of St. Gaspar del Bufalo preaching a mission. Photo taken by Nheyob at St. Henry Catholic Church in St. Henry, Ohio.

Stained glass window of St. Gaspar del Bufalo preaching a mission. Photo taken by Nheyob at St. Henry Catholic Church in St. Henry, Ohio.

How arduous some of his missions were may be gleaned from the fact that he frequently preached five times daily, sometimes even oftener. At Sanseverino fifty priests were not sufficient to hear confessions after his sermons. Though idolized by the people, he was not without enemies. His activity in converting the “briganti”, who came in crowds and laid their guns at his feet after he had preached to them in their mountain hiding-places, excited the ire of the officials who profited from brigandage through bribes and in other ways. These enemies almost induced Leo XII to suspend del Bufalo. But after a personal conference, the pope dismissed him, remarking to his courtiers, “Del Bufalo is an angel”. His enemies next tried to remove him from his post by procuring his promotion as “internuncio to Brazil”. In vain, however, for his humility triumphed. A last attempt under Pius VIII (1830) met with temporary success. Del Bufalo was deprived of faculties for a short time, and his congregation threatened with extinction. But his wonderful humility again manifested itself, and, though himself misjudged and his life-work menaced by the very authority that should have supported him, he showed no signs of resentment, forgave his enenies, and excused his unmerited condemnation. The storm soon passed, Gaspare was restored to honour, and resumed his work with renewed zeal. In 1836 his strength began to fail. Although fatally ill, he hastened to Rome, where the cholera was raging, to administer to the spiritual wants of the plague-stricken. It proved too much for him, and he succumbed in the midst of his labours on 28 Dec., 1837. He was beatified by Pius X on 29 Aug., 1904.

Ulrich F. Mueller (Catholic Encyclopedia)



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