July 1 is the Feast of the Precious Blood of Jesus in the Passionist calendar. It was a feast dear to St. Vincent Strambi, an Italian Passionist who lived in the 19th century as Europe was convulsed by Napoleon’s dreams of world conquest. Over 4 million people, military and civilian, were killed in the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars that stretched out for decades afterwards. Bent on victory, Napoleon saw war and the blood shed in mass warfare as the price of empire.
Strambi had great devotion to the Precious Blood of Jesus and often preached about it. He saw the blood shed by soldiers in fierce battles raging through Europe and by those suffering in “collateral damage” as a new crucifixion. Their blood mingled with the blood of Jesus, a precious blood that God mourned and judged holy.
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.