Saint Gaspar Bertoni
by Fr John Bartunek, LC | Source: Caholic.net
Uncle Eddy's E-mails -- June 12
Saint Gaspar Bertoni,
priest, founder of
Congregation of the Sacred Stigmata
Our Lord Jesus Christ
(entered heaven this day in 1835)
You're beginning to sound like Chicken
Little. Every note you send me whines and bemoans the horrible condition of the church in your
diocese and the rampant ignorance of your fellow Catholics and the benighted incompetence of your
bishop... If I only had your letters to go by, I would have to conclude that God has utterly
abandoned that corner of the world. Luckily, I also have other things to go by, like Church
doctrine, like faith, like history, and like the example of today's saint.
He grew up in
northern Italy, near Verona, receiving a good education in the faith from his family and his local
pastors. When he received First Holy Communion, God granted him a special interior revelation that
his vocation was to be a priest. Unlike many of us, he was quick and docile in response to God's
invitation; he joined the seminary as soon as he could.
While he was still preparing for
ordination, Napoleon conquered northern Italy, occupied it, and even made his way south and
kidnapped the Pope. The military campaign around the Republic of Venice cut a wide swathe of misery
and destruction (as such campaigns tend to do), and Gaspar felt moved to start a Gospel Fraternity
for Hospitals to help tend the sick, the wounded, the homeless, and those suffering from the plague
(always a companion of war in those days).
After he was ordained, he served as chaplain,
confessor, and spiritual director to numerous clergy and religious, including two founders of
religious orders, and to his diocesan seminary. He was a popular preacher, and was always looking
for more projects to take on for the benefit of the Church and the poor. He organized free schools
for underprivileged youth, and in the aftermath of the Napoleonic fiasco, he founded his own
religious order, the Stigmatines, to serve as "apostolic missionaries for the assistance of
bishops", an idea that later received the stamp of approval from the Pope – St Gaspar wanted to
provide practical and substantial help for the bishops in rebuilding a church that war and
ideological oppression had severely undermined.
God granted him mystical graces in prayer.
After one ecstasy that occurred as he prayed in front of a crucifix, he suffered an attack of
"military fever" that brought him to death's door. He recovered, but for the remaining 41 years of
his life he was a physical wreck. Later, he developed a strange infection in his right leg that
eluded doctors even after 300 surgical interventions – he was sharing in his own body the sufferings
of his Savior. But such difficulties couldn't keep him from building the Kingdom, and while he lay
confined to bed he continued to serve as spiritual director for the members of his Institute, for
other clergy and laity, and for directors of various charitable institutions. Among his last words
were, 'I need to suffer,”' a clear sign that his life of self-denial and prayer had taught him the
greatest wisdom of all, the wisdom of the cross.
Sorry for rambling, but my point, I trust,
is clear. The Napoleonic era was, I daresay, equally if not more threatening for the Church than the
present evil. And God is not unaware of the threat. And just as he raised up saints like Gaspar to
defend his Kingdom in past times of crisis, he will raise up new saints to do so in our day.
Frankly, my precocious nephew, I have always thought you would be one of them, but don’t let that go
to your head – rather, let it throw you to your knees.
To read more about other Saints of the day, CLICK
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