St. Gaspar Bertoni

St. Gasper was born in Verona, Italy in 1777. He was baptized the day after. It is known that he was from an affluent family, and that his family’s faith-life was also quite notable.Gasper was an only child as his baby sister passed away. He had the benefit of an excellent education both at home and at St. Sebastian’s school which was run by Jesuits. From the grace of his first Holy Communion at age 11, Gaspar Bertoni was called to a life of mystical union. His vocation to the priesthood matured, and at 18, he entered the seminary. In frequenting the theological course as an extern student, he found in his professor of moral theology, Fr. Nicholas Galvani, an excellent spiritual director.He was known to have helped the sick and hurt during the invasion of French armies in 1796, the beginning of a 20 year period of upheaval during which he tended to those in need. He took over the spiritual direction of a community founded then by St. Magdalena of Canossa at St. Joseph’s Convent (May 1808).On November 4, 1816, with two companions, he moved into a small house, adjacent to a suppressed Church, that bore the title of “the Sacred Stigmata of St. Francis (from this, the name of his community was eventually adapted; in this small church, he also worked to spread the devotion to the Passion and the wounds of Christ). In a very unostentatious manner, the new community opened a tuition-free school, offering this and other gratuitous services to the Church and society. The men lived together a common life of strict observance and penance. An intense life of contemplation was joined to a broad apostolate, including the Christian education of the youth, the formation of the clergy and missionary preaching, in perfect availability to the requests of the bishop.Right after an ecstasy that he experienced praying before a Crucifix (on May 30, 1812), he suffered a first attack of “miliary fever” that brought him to the very threshold of death. Almost miraculously, he did recover but for the rest of his 41 years of life he remained in poor health, all this while giving a wonderful example of patience and heroic confident abandonment to God.Even from his sick-bed, suffering indescribable discomfort, he became the “angel of counsel” for countless persons who sought him out.His Congregation of the Sacred Stigmata of Our Lord Jesus Christ, enriched by so many sufferings, gradually spread beyond Verona, to other cities in Italy, and then to the United States, to Brazil (where it presently has 6 Bishops), to Chile, to the Philippines and to mission territories: South Africa, the Ivory Coast, Tanzania, Thailand.