Gaspare was such a sickly child that his mother had him confirmed at the age of one and a half. Prayers were offered to St. Francis Xavier for his recovery from an incurable malady of the eyes, which threatened to leave him blind.
In 1787, he was miraculously cured. Later in life he held a special devotion to that great Apostle of India, and selected him as the special patron of the congregation which he founded.
Gaspare entered the Collegium Romanum at the age of 12 and received his first tonsure in 1800. One year later he received the four minor orders. As catechetical instructor at St. Mark’s, his zeal won for him the name “The Little Apostle of Rome,” and at only 19 years old, he was appointed president of the newly instituted catechetical school of Santa Maria del Pianto.
After his ordination on July 31, 1808, he obtained a canonry at St. Mark’s, and soon instituted with Gaetano Bonani a nocturnal oratory. He assisted Francesco Albertini in founding the Archconfraternity of the Most Precious Blood, and worked enthusiastically in the poorer districts of Rome, preaching frequently in the market-places.
In 1810 he was summoned before General Miollis to swear allegiance to Napoleon. But neither threats nor promises could induce him to do so, because Pius VII had forbidden it. The words with which he announced his final decision have become famous: “Non posso, non debbo, non voglio” (I cannot, I ought not; I will not). As a consequence, he suffered banishment, and later on imprisonment in the foul dungeons of Imola and Rocca (1810-1814). After Napoleon’s fall he returned to Rome, intending to enter the re-established Jesuit Order. But obeying his spiritual adviser, Albertini, he founded a congregation of secular priests to give missions and spread devotion to the Most Precious Blood.
Del Bufalo became a popular and well-traveled missionary throughout central Italy, sometimes preaching up to five times a day. At Sanseverino, 50 priests were not sufficient to hear confessions after his sermons. Though idolized by the people, he was not without enemies.
His activity in converting the “briganti” (brigands), who came in crowds and laid their guns at his feet after he had preached to them in their mountain hiding-places, excited the ire of the officials who profited from them through bribes and in other ways. These enemies almost induced Leo XII to suspend del Bufalo. But after a personal conference, the pope dismissed him, remarking to his courtiers, “Del Bufalo is an angel.”
His enemies next tried to remove him from his post by procuring his promotion as “internuncio to Brazil,” but del Bufalo’s humility triumphed. A last attempt under Pius VIII (1830) met with temporary success. Del Bufalo was deprived of faculties for a short time, and his congregation threatened with extinction. But his wonderful humility again manifested itself, and, though himself misjudged and his life-work menaced by the very authority that should have supported him, he showed no signs of resentment, forgave his enemies, and excused his unmerited condemnation. The storm soon passed, Gaspare was restored to honor, and resumed his work with renewed zeal.
In 1836 his strength began to fail. Although fatally ill, he went to Rome, where there was cholera epidemic, to administer to the plague stricken. It proved too much for him, and he succumbed in the midst of his mission on Dec. 28, 1837. He was beatified by Pius X on Aug. 29, 1904. He was canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1954.
Adapted by A.J. Valentino