In a tiny church right in the center of Rome, a stone’s throw from one of the city’s most famous tourist attractions, is the tomb of Saint Gaspare del Bufalo. If you judge him by his portraits, he looks like a fussy, delicate sort of person. But paintings are deceptive, because this man was tough, and led an extraordinary life which merits a closer look.
Gaspare was a Roman, born in the late 1700’s, and he lived during a time of violent upheaval on the Italian peninsula. Revolutionary uprisings were rampant, assisted by finances and weaponry provided by secret societies seeking to overthrow the Church in general, and the Papal States in particular. Much of Italy was being terrorized by out-of-control gangs of bandits, known as briganti.
Although he had recently been ordained a priest, and should have been able to look forward to a more peaceful sort of work, Gaspare tackled this problem head-on. Incredibly, he went into the mountainous regions where the bandits were hiding out, armed only with a crucifix … and he converted them. Repenting of their crimes, the briganti handed over their weapons to Father Gaspare. This priest was a one-man army, who won battles without fighting a shot!
Gaspare founded a religious institute known as the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, which still exists today. Their mission was to go into the streets and preach Jesus Crucified to the Italian people, focusing on the priceless merits of the Precious Blood of Christ, which was shed for our redemption.
Sadly, St. Gaspare isn’t well known, probably because he didn’t travel far outside of central Italy. His work was concentrated on the Italian people, who were being pressured by secular forces to abandon their faith and take up the cause of socialism, which was one of the hallmarks of the Italian revolutionary movement. Gaspare basically worked himself to death, giving missions, tending to the sick, and constantly preaching about the Precious Blood. He died at the age of 51.
Today, his tomb is visited by a surprising number of Romans, who leave petitions at his feet. (As you can see in the picture, someone recently tucked a photo of a family member in his arms, too.) The Missionaries of the Precious Blood who serve the church where Saint Gaspare is buried still preach about the priceless merits of Our Lord’s Precious Blood; and since July is traditionally the month which the Church dedicates to the Precious Blood of Christ, it’s a particularly opportune time to pay San Gaspare a visit.