by Fr. Keith Branson, C.PP.S., Publications Editor
If Don Francesco Albertini were alive today, he’d probably drive us crazy. Almost no one would understand his lack of ego. He wasn’t a great preacher; he was someone who worked behind the scenes and focused on post-graduate studies for young priests—whom he hosted at his rooms regularly for theological discussion. His charity work was amazing: he was deeply involved in the Santa Galla hospital before Gaspar was, and he gave away almost everything he had and received during his life to those he felt more deserving. Reading Gaspar’s writings on Humility can be unsettling at times; Francesco Albertini goes much farther. Until he became a bishop, he owned one set of clothes that he washed nightly, which meant during his imprisonment his personal hygiene was incredible. It was almost impossible for him to criticize others, and treated his fellow exiles that called him “Canon Pig” with great kindness. Like most great saints, he would have been institutionalized as insane if he lived today.
Albertini was the man with the vision. He saw the needs of the time deeply, and devoted his effort to treating them via Christian charity. He recognized Gaspar as a great preacher early on, recruiting him to preach the service establishing the Archconfraternity of the Precious Blood (which Albertini started) in 1808 as a newly ordained priest, and leading his formation in Precious Blood spirituality throughout their exile and imprisonment. He wrote the Seven Offerings and other prayers for the new community as medicine for his times, and also wrote poetry. His last assignment was to shepherd a diocese at the border of the Papal States, which included a small town named Sonnino, that was in dire straights and needed a man of extraordinary holiness to guide them. Tragically, his last mission was barely underway when he died.
The Hidden Father is an excellent read, and if you haven’t read it already, I warmly recommend it for your Lenten study. Integrating Albertini into our spiritual life is like trying to integrate someone like Mother Theresa: someone very alien to this self-absorbed and self-promoting culture. Albertini gives us an example of Humility that can be as strong a call to conversion as Pope Francis’ humility is today, and reminds us that emptying ourselves provides a compelling witness to the Cry of the Blood seeking healing for the world.