by Frank Niemas, Orlando, Florida Precious Blood Companion
On Saturday, January 11, 2014, the Lake Mary and Orlando, Florida Companions gathered for our Day of Reflection. We were joined by Fr. David Matz, interim director of Companions, and Fr. Jerry Stack. Father Jerry lead us into a reflection on “From Confraternity to Companions: Saint Gaspar’s Charism and Lay Spirituality,” the theme of the 2013 Companion Retreat. Our environment helped us to be open to sharing on this day. The busyness of the holidays was over (even though some of us still had decorations to put away!). The weather was sunny and in the 80s, a great respite from the cold winter weather, especially for our northern visitors. And we felt the bonds of friendship between the Companions and the C.PP.S. community, personified by Frs. David and Jerry. Our gathering place, a pavilion at a local park, reinforced our feeling that “Surely, the Presence of the Lord is in this Place.”
We opened with Morning Prayer. The reading from the Acts of the Apostles brought to mind the spirit of optimism many of us feel by the words and deeds of Pope Francis: “When Peter entered, Cornelius met
him and, falling at his feet, paid him homage. Peter, however, raised him up saying ‘Get up. I myself am also a human being.’”
Fr. Jerry began by pointing out that St. Gaspar sought out the laity to help him on his mission. He empowered them, for he wished for “a thousand tongues to move hearts to the blood of Christ.” St. Gaspar’s charism and spirituality were and are reflected in Precious Blood spirituality. Spirituality and charism are linked, but not the same. Charism is a gift or gifts given to us to be used for Jesus. Gaspar’s spirituality and charism had many sources: his holy and devout parents; his showmanship (from his father); other priests, especially Fr. Francesco Albertini; and St. Francis DeSales.
Gaspar’s focus was on preaching missions from town to town. The end of the mission in a particular town did not mean the end of the work of moving people to the blood of Jesus. He urged the establishment of lay groups (sodalities) to continue the work of the missionaries. Gaspar’s work was necessary in his time because of the turmoil and uncertainty of his day and the need for renewal. As we reflect on our own times, we too face turmoil, uncertainty, change, and the need for healing of wounds.
We spent some time discussing questions from the retreat and shared our thoughts and feelings. A number of Companions had reactions to the day’s discussion:
- I thank Father Stack for sharing “the beginnings” of this very special Precious Blood spirituality with our Companions gathering. It was and is very inspirational and educational to know the history of the founding of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood by St. Gaspar. (Jim Densmore)
- To spend some time with St. Gaspar is of great value, sort of like reading Scripture, you see something new each time. (Joyce DeCristoforo)
- What I loved was the reflection, that was part of morning prayer, the ever enlarging circles of concern, moving out to the universe, those who have died and those we have issues with, God’s covenant of love. Really beautiful, so inclusive and very “Gaspar.” (Joyce DeCristoforo)
- After spending the day with Fr. Dave, Fr. Jerry and all the Companions, I realized that I have missed being more of a part of this special group. I hope to (after April) get more involved in the monthly gatherings, which inspire me and keep me “grounded” and help me to step “out of the box” I often put myself in. (Sue Densmore)
- My observation that I gained from the Day of Reflection was the refreshing joy, love, enthusiasm, and future outlook that Fr. David Matz brought to our day with Orlando and Lake Mary Companions. (Don Abate)
- Father Jerry’s presentation helped me realize St. Gaspar was an ordinary human being who did extraordinary things. (Bill Sullivan)
- The fact that the diocesan priests joined Gaspar (who also was a diocesan priest) in promoting Precious Blood spirituality, and that the Archconfraternity of Precious Blood Priests wasn’t instituted until 1902 was interesting and new to me. (Ann Sullivan)