Today, April 11th is the feast of a Saint dear to my heart: Gemma Galgani.
First, I’ll share a 10-minute video that gives a brief biography.
Be sure to watch to the end because the priest gives a blessing with a first class relic!
Then, I’ll share why I decided to write about her.
Why This Saint?
During my reversion to the Catholic Faith, I heard about St. Gemma Galgani.
I also discovered her Autobiography and Diary.
I was deeply inspired by St. Gemma and her writing.
Even though she died over one hundred years earlier, I could feel her presence.
I wanted her to become my friend and teach me how to grow closer to Jesus.
If you’re interested in this book, there are three ways to access it:
The devil stole the original book and burned it, but it was saved!
Gemma’s spiritual director, Fr. Germanus C.P., exorcised the devil and saved her writings from being destroyed.
The original handwritten Autobiography is on display at Saints John and Paul Basilica in Rome. Gemma’s elegant handwriting is still legible. (See below)
While reading the Autobiography, I was inspired by St. Gemma’s heroic suffering.
She suffered emotionally, spiritually and physically.
Gemma lost both parents at a young age.
She was misunderstood by her family and friends. She was mocked for her piety and mystical spiritual life.
She experienced many physical conditions during her youth.
She injured her foot and had surgery without anesthesia (by choice).
Gemma was later diagnosed with spinal tuberculosis, or spinal meningitis. She was near death and miraculously healed through the intercession of St. Gabriel Possenti — who wasn’t canonized at the time of the healing.
Even though she felt called to a religious vocation, Gemma was denied from entering religious life because ecclesiastical authority didn’t believe in her miraculous and complete healing.
The devil tormented Gemma spiritually and physically.
He tried (in vain) to tempt her to commit sins of impurity. He also beat her because of the many souls she saved through her suffering.
Gemma received the stigmata, the wounds of Christ, at age 21.
Gemma seemed to pass through every phase of the Passion and bore in her body all the marks of Christ’s physical sufferings.
She experienced the wounds in her hands, feet, and side as well as the punctures of the crown of thorns, the marks of the scourging, and the wound on the shoulder caused by the weight of the Cross. All caused the most excruciating pain.
Every week, the stigmata lasted from 11pm Thursday until 3pm Friday.
During the last nine months of her life, Gemma suffered tremendously in every way possible.
She became mysteriously ill and couldn’t be helped by doctors. She experienced spiritual desolation and couldn’t feel God’s presence. She was removed from her remaining family and friends for fear of contagion.
However, she never complained or resisted the suffering.
St. Gemma was a victim soul.
A person specially chosen by God to suffer more than most people during life, and who generously accepts the suffering in union with the Savior and after the example of Christ’s own Passion and Death. The motive of a victim soul is a great love of God and the desire to make reparation for the sins of mankind.(Fr. John Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary)
Gemma was specifically called to suffer tremendously and her mission was different than most.
However, all Christians are called to offer their suffering — large or small — in union with Christ for the salvation of souls.
We can learn a great deal from St. Gemma’s heroic suffering, including: resignation to God’s Will, humility, purity, patience, courage, and perseverance.
As we begin Holy Week, let us look to her as a model for entering into the Lord’s Passion and uniting our sufferings with His.
Facts and Legacy
- Born: March 12, 1878
- Mystical Experiences Began: 1898
- Miraculous Cure: March 3, 1899 – First Friday (Sacred Heart)
- Stigmata Received: June 8, 1899 – Vigil of the Sacred Heart Solemnity
- Died: April 11, 1903 – Holy Saturday
- Age at Death: 25
- Beatified: May 14, 1933
- Canonized: May 2, 1940
- Patron of: loss of parents, pharmacists, students, those suffering from back injury/back pain, those suffering from headaches/migraines, those struggling with temptations of impurity, and those seeking purity of heart
- Feast Day: April 11th, or May 16th for the Passionist Congregation
- Other Names: Daughter of Passion, Flower of Lucca, Gem of Christ, Passion Flower
- One of the sisters clothed Gemma’s body in the habit of the Passionists when she died, the order she desired to enter.
- Her body now rests on the altar of the Passionist Nuns Convent in Lucca, Italy. She prophesied the creation of this sanctuary shortly before her death.
- Gemma means “precious stone” in Italian.
Saint Gemma Galgani, pray for us!