For several years now I have been writing articles on Precious Blood Saints for Precious Blood Family. One year they asked me to compose these along the lines of the saints referred to in St. Gaspar's 1827 Te Deum-like litany found in the letter to Fr. Santelli. So the next six articles posted here will be from that series:
Here is the first one:
The Noble Fellowship of Prophets Praise You
The Precious Blood Family of Saints
by Fr. Jeffrey Keyes, C.PP.S.
The “Te Deum” is an ancient hymn of praise for Sundays and solemnities. This series of reflections on the Precious Blood Family of Saints will follow St. Gaspar’s litany of praise for the glories of the Precious Blood which seems to follow the outline of the “Te Deum.”
Gaspar teaches us: “Through suffering, develop love for Jesus Christ, which is an extension of perfection beyond the courage that joins us to the cross. One begins with the courage to suffer, one continues on then to the joy of love and one takes delight in its precious qualities... Finally, our glory lies in the suffering endured in behalf of our most tender devotion... Glory “in Prophetis” who announced its glories and triumphs.”(1)
Glory in the Prophets
Isaiah was the greatest of the prophets. Little is known of his life. He was probably born around 760 B.C. The first we hear of him was when he was called to the prophetic office in the year that King Uzziah died around 742 B.C. (2) What we do know is what he said and how he inserted himself into the life and politics of his time. He was active in Jerusalem during a critical time in Israel’s history. He was a prophet who called for total faithfulness to Holy One of Israel and confidence in God’s strength in a time when the nation was tempted by useless alliances with pagan nations. He wasn’t known to mince words. “When you spread oust your hands, I close my eyes to you; though you pray the more, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood! Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good.” (3)
Jeremiah was born about 650 B.C. of a priestly family from the little village of Anathoth, near Jerusalem. While still very young he was called to his task in the thirteenth year of King Josiah (628), whose reform, begun with enthusiasm and hope, ended with his death on the battlefield of Megiddo.(4) The call of Jeremiah should be familiar to us as it is the first reading each year on the feast of St. Gaspar. “I am too young” (5) is not to be on the lips of the prophet, whoever he or she may be. Youth apparently did not prevent Gaspar from beginning his ministry either. The prophet Jeremiah heartily supported the reform of the pious King Josiah, which began in 629 B.C. After the death of Josiah the old idolatry returned. Jeremiah opposed it with all his strength. Arrest, imprisonment, and public disgrace were his lot. Jeremiah saw in the nation’s impenitence the sealing of its doom.
Parallels can be drawn with the life of Gaspar who steadfast refusal to take the oath of loyalty to Napoleon landed him in ever worsening jails. Gaspar’s intervention on behalf of the people of Sonnino is reminiscent of this kind of prophetic action undertaken by Jeremiah.
The profile of a Missionary of the Precious Blood established by an international gathering of Formation directors in Giano calls all of us “to be prophetic: to resist deceit, injustice, and whatever is contrary to God’s reign.”(6) We pray over each of the baptized, “As Christ was anointed priest, prophet and king, so may you live always as members of his body, sharing everlasting life.” (7) It is more than just believing, we are called to live as members of this family of prophets. As we see in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and others, prophets are often called to actions rather than words.
As Gaspar was sent to renew priests and people, we see the witness of all the ancient prophets sent to speak to kings as we are sent to speak to our own culture and our own time.
The prophetic ministry puts us, not in a place of judgment, but places us alongside God who desires repentance, a change of heart; he has no desire to punish. Old Testament prophets reflect a communal sense of life and moral living and responsibility that we need to hear, even if we are a community living in the midst of a culture that we do not have much to say about. An interesting thing about John the Baptist and Jesus is that they are prophets sent when the people do not govern themselves, but still are called to live morally in the midst of a culture with much different values.
The “Te Deum” calls us to lift up our voices in praise of the glories of the Precious Blood. “Come then, Lord, and help your people, bought with the price of your own blood.” 8 We begin our praises with the noble fellowship of prophets who began this proclamation. Remembering our own call to be prophetic, we have the intercession of St. Gaspar and all the Holy Prophets who have gone before us.
1 In a letter to Fr. Santarelli in May of 1827, St. Gaspar gives a summary of the Month of the Divine Blood. In the final section, reflecting on the glory of the believer united with God, Gaspar erupts into a Te Deum-type litany.
2 cf Isaiah 6:1
3 Isaiah 1:15-17
4 cf Jeremiah 1:4-9
5 Jeremiah 1:6-7
6 Profile of a Missionary of the Precious Blood, July 8, 1999
7 Baptismal Rite
8 Te Deum