July 1 is the Feast of the Precious Blood of Jesus in the Passionist calendar. On this feast, I think of St. Vincent Strambi, an Italian Passionist who lived as the 19th succeeded the 18th century. Strambi had great devotion to the Precious Blood of Jesus and often preached about it.
He lived in a world convulsed by Napoleon’s dreams of world conquest. Some say over 4 million people, military and civilian, were killed in the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars that stretched on for decades afterwards. Napoleon, bent on victory, saw war and blood shed in mass warfare as the price of empire. Blood was expendable so his own dreams of conquest could be fulfilled.
Strambi, as a priest and bishop involved in his church and time saw the blood of human life as precious. It was being shed in a new crucifixion, not only in fierce battles raging through Europe, but in the suffering, sickness, and hunger that war brought with it. He saw it mingled with the blood that Jesus shed, a precious blood that God mourned and held holy. The Precious Blood gave him a way to appreciate the suffering he witnessed.
The Feast of the Precious Blood not only turns our eyes to the blood flowing from Jesus’ side as he died on the cross, but it calls us to count precious the blood shed in today’s wars, persecutions, capital punishment, and the sufferings of the poor.
Painters like Durer (above) pictured angels holding cups catching blood from Jesus’ wounds. Don’t let his blood fall to the ground unnoticed, he tells us. It’s precious. All human life is precious.