Feast of St. Gemma Galgani

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Acts 17:15; 22-18:1
John 16:12-15

To those acquainted with her story, probably the first thing that the mention of St. Gemma Galgani calls to mind is the extraordinary phenomena that marked her life.  She was cured of a debilitating illness through the intervention of then Blessed Gabriel Possenti, who frequently visited and talked with her in subsequent years.  So did her Guardian Angel, who, among other services, delivered her letters to her spiritual director, Fr. Germanus, CP.  The devil stole her diary; and when it reappeared in the place where Gemma had left it, it bore black smudge marks.  Most striking of all, from June 8, 1899 on she experienced the pains of Jesus’ Passion every Thursday and Friday.  Until, at the request of Fr. Germanus, she prayed that the phenomena cease, this included visible Stigmata.  Even after the wounds disappeared, however, Gemma underwent the weekly suffering with Jesus.

Undoubtedly, all the dramatic happenings attracted attention to Gemma.  For one thing, they prompted Father Germanus to ask her to write an autobiography. However, they did not constitute her sanctity.   In the process of canonization the Church expressed no opinion about their source or authenticity. If we put them aside, Gemma’s life, though marked by ill health and many losses, was not exceptional.   She was born in 1878 into a middle class Italian family.  She lost her mother when she was seven, and her father at nineteen.  The father’s death left the family impoverished. Some members emigrated to South America.  Gemma herself went to live with a family named Giannini, where she helped with household tasks.  She was 25 when she died of tuberculosis on April 25, 1903.

Gemma is a role model neither because of her achievements nor her exotic experiences, but because of the love that motivated her and transformed her body and soul into “imago Christi,” the image of Christ.  Gemma exemplifies the way of life Jesus has been speaking of in the Gospels of these last weeks of Easter.  She loved Him, kept his commandments, remained in Him.  She expressed the desire of her heart in these words:  “I wish, O Jesus, that my voice would reach to the ends of the earth to call all sinners into Thy heart.”

- Sister Mary O’Brien, C.P.

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