Jesus also suffered outside the gate,
to consecrate the people by his own blood.
Let us then go to him outside the camp,
bearing the reproach that he bore.
Hebrews 13, 12-13
Dear Members, Companions, Volunteers, and Friends,
After Father Tom Albers’ funeral earlier this month, I brought back some of his books for our new library at Precious Blood Renewal Center. In one of these books, The Passion and the Cross by Father Ronald Rolheiser, there is a story about a woman who “admitted that she couldn’t really explain what the cross of Jesus meant to her but said that she had a sense of its meaning.” Father Rolheiser recounts how when this woman was a young girl, her mother was murdered. “When she saw the blood-soaked mattress and her mother’s bloody handprint on the wall, she, right inside the horror and pain of the moment, knew in her gut, without being able to put words to it, that there was a deep and sacred connection between her mother’s story (and her blood on that mattress) and Jesus’s story (and his blood on the cross).”
We celebrate the feast of our founder, St. Gaspar, in a year when we have once again witnessed so much bloodshed, so much death because of violence, so much loss due to fires and floods, hurricanes and horrors that terrorize the soul, and so much hurt and suffering caused by the scandal of sexual abuse and abuse of power in the church. The Letter to the Hebrews reminds us that “Jesus also suffered outside the gate, to consecrate the people by his own blood. Let us then go to him outside the camp, bearing the reproach that he bore.”
As people who claim the spirituality of the blood of Christ poured out on the cross, our founder’s feast invites reflection on our desire to stand with the victims of violence in our world. Are we willing to go “outside the gates” where the blood-stained cross stands and to be brave and bold enough in our commitment and our cause to be an inclusive and compassionate communion created and sustained by the blood of Christ?
“Sometimes the heart intuits where the head needs to go,” Father Rolheiser writes. For people sent by the blood, we belong “outside the camp.” But we can’t go there unless, like the woman in Rolheiser’s story, we have made this sacred connection: “In her deepest center she intuited the connection between her mother’s blood and Jesus’s blood,” Rolheiser writes, “even though she couldn’t articulate that connection in words. In street parlance, ‘she got it,’ without precisely understanding it.”
Like St. Gaspar, Precious Blood people seek to live a spirituality of reconciliation. One of the stories from our founder’s life that continues to inspire is about Sonnino where bandits were terrorizing the people. The town was going to be destroyed by the government, but Gaspar knew there had to be another way. Gaspar proposed a process of evangelization instead of destruction. Gaspar’s mission was deceptively simple. It was a ministry of presence. The missionaries moved to the places where violence reigned and established “safe houses.” In these safe houses, renewal and reconciliation were rooted in the ministry of the Word.
Gaspar confronted the reality of violence by being in solidarity with the victims. But he also recognized in those who perpetrated the violence the image of God that had become so damaged and demeaned by desperation, poverty, and hunger. Armed only with the cross, Gaspar sought to be a blood-stained bridge of hope and reconciliation. As we celebrate his feast, I offer this prayer as we seek to stand in the chasms today and find the courage to go outside the camp:
God of all Creation,
we give you thanks for the prophetic and saving action of your Son,
Jesus Christ, in whose blood we are brought close to your heart.
Your servant, Gaspar del Bufalo,
allowed the Word of peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation
to become a living fire, imprisoned in his bones,
causing his blood to boil until the soil on which he stood
was saturated with the blood of Christ.
Your Spirit penetrated Gaspar’s heart
and gave him the courage to go outside the gate,
to stand at the foot of the cross.
Your Spirit ignited within him
a desire to speak the truth
and to bring your love, justice, and mercy
to the very ends of the earth.
As Gaspar fearlessly proclaimed your Word
and passionately gave witness to its saving power,
give us the courage to go outside the camp
as we seek to live Your inclusive covenant of love.
Please join us this week for three special celebrations to mark our identity as Precious Blood people. This Sunday, October 21, at 4:00 PM, we will gather at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Saint Joseph, Missouri, to celebrate the Feast of St. Gaspar. On Tuesday, October 23, at 6:00 PM, we will gather at St. James Church in Liberty, Missouri to celebrate the life of our brother and former provincial, Father Tom Albers. And next Sunday, October 28, at 4:00 PM, we will come together to dedicate our new sacred space at Precious Blood Renewal Center in Liberty, Missouri.
As always, if we cannot meet each other in person at these celebrations, may we meet in prayer.
Joe Nassal, C.PP.S.