Mix 1 part beauty with 1 part supernatural, add some intense suffering along with special ecstasies and you have an almost unbelievable story of love and learning that is the life of St. Gemma.
Saint Gemma Galgani was born on the 12th of March, 1878, at Camigliano, a small village near Lucca, Italy. For Gemma, suffering came very early in life when at the age of seven, her mother died. Thereafter, she suffered every kind of family grief and domestic misfortune. In the midst of dire poverty, Gemma endured a long and terrible debilitating spinal illness from which she was miraculously cured through the heavenly intercession of the Passionist, Saint Gabriel Possenti, who had died some 30 years before Gemma’s birth, and of whom Gemma was very devoted to. St Gabriel had appeared to Gemma in a vision, and encouraged her to make a Novena (nine days of prayer) to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, through the intercession of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (the Saint known for spreading devotion to Jesus Sacred Heart). St Gabriel subsequently appeared to her each evening and said the Novena prayers along with her. On the ninth and final day, which providentially was the annual Feast day of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Jesus Himself appeared to Gemma in a vision and cured her of her spinal illness.
After her miraculous cure, Gemma ardently desired to enter the cloister among the Passionist Nuns, but our Lord had chosen for her another way of life. Jesus wanted Gemma to remain a layperson, living in the world amongst her family and friends, while at the same time He was calling her to suffer as a victim soul for the conversion of sinners.
Meditating and living out the Passion of Christ was the secret of Gemma’s sanctity and her inspiration.
Jesus Passion appeared outwardly in her virginal body when Jesus appeared to her in a vision, and gave her the wounds of the stigmata in her hands, feet and side. Thus, Gemma began suffering in union with Jesus for the conversion of people who were far from God. In this union with Jesus Crucified, she was a victim of love and sorrow, burning with zeal for the conversion of sinners.
Gemma was also given visions of her guardian Angel, who directed her along the path of practicing virtue and holiness. He corrected her of her faults and taught her to love Jesus and Mary with all of her heart. Gemma’s father died when Gemma was age 20, and his long illness completely exhausted all of the financial resources of her family. After her father’s death, a devout family named Giannini took Gemma in and cared for her. At this point, Gemma was so poor that she didn’t even have money for stamps, so her guardian Angel would take the letters that she wrote to her spiritual director, Venerable Father Germanus Ruoppolo C.P., and deliver them to his office in Rome, some 200 miles away. These angelic letter deliveries occurred many times, much to the astonishment of Fr. Germanus who would find these letters of Gemma unstamped, miraculously appearing on his desk.
Gemma had a most extraordinary love for Jesus; her heart was all on fire with the love of Jesus and she expressed her love for Him so well in her writings. For Gemma is a very “lovable” Saint, and those who begin reading her life and writings (diary, autobiography, letters etc) soon become enraptured and are greatly inspired by this “Gem of Jesus”, and many have found her to be a very powerful and devoted friend and heavenly advocate, most especially for those who suffer from physical illness and pain.
After suffering during all of Lent 1903, Good Friday came, and like most Fridays throughout the year, Gemma was suffering very intensely the Passion in a mystical union with Jesus. Most of the day she was drawn into ecstasy, being given visions of Jesus Passion and death on the Cross, and suffering with Him for the conversion of souls. Gemma died the next day, Holy Saturday, ApriI 11, 1903. She was 25 years old. In 1940, Pope Pius XII raised Gemma to the honors of the altar, officially honoring her as a Saint of the Catholic Church. On that day, he declared her to be a powerful advocate with God and a model of a lay person living the Christian virtues to a heroic degree. Saint Gemma’s feast day is celebrated on the anniversary of her holy death, April 11.
St Gemma’s complete Diary, Autobiography, and many of the letters she wrote can be read for free on the St. Gemma Galgani website, www.stgemmagalgani.com
By Glenn Dallaire