The incomparable St Gemma Galgani...The webmasters favorite Saint! The Saint that you cannot help but to admire and love the moment you begin to read her writings! Gemma's heart was all on fire with an extraordinary love of God, and she expressed this love so well in her writings and even more so in the words of her ecstasies which were frequently recorded. For example, with her heart burning with the love of God, Gemma said such things as:
"...... Oh love, oh infinite love! ... See: Your love, oh Lord, Your love penetrates even to my body, with too much fury. When, when will I unite with You, oh Lord, Who with such force of love keeps me in union here on earth? ... Do it, do it! ... Let me die, and die of love! .....What a beautiful death, oh Lord, to die a victim of love ......a victim for You! Calm down, calm down oh Jesus; if not, Your love will end up burning me to ashes! ... Oh love, oh infinite love! .....Oh love of my Jesus! ....Let Your love penetrate my all; from You I want nothing else. My God, my God, I love You!
Oh Jesus . . . oh Jesus . . . What are these strong attractions which unite me so powerfully to you? Is it Your heart which beats so near mine? . . . What power there is in Your heart! Explain it to me, Jesus. How is it that this poor soul does not escape from its prison to go to heaven and rejoice in Your Divine Presence? It can resist no longer . . . every morning I hear Your beloved voice . . . I taste such ineffable sweetness . . .
Jesus, You ask only love from me; and I, in order to love You, ask much love also, for I have not enough. See, Jesus, when, in the morning, I feel Your presence in Communion, I am conscious of myself no longer. And, Jesus, who would have thought that your heart would join its beatings to those of mine? Oh! Grant me the summit of happiness, grant me the consolation that I ask of You; repeat the sweet words which You said to me Sunday. When, Jesus, will You become my Heavenly Spouse?"
“You are on fire Oh Lord, and I burn. Oh pain, oh infinitely happy love! Oh sweet fire! Oh sweet flames! And would You wish my heart to become a flame? Oh, I have found the flame that destroys and reduces to ashes! Cease, cease, I cannot withdraw my heart from so much fire. What am I saying? No; rather come Jesus! I will open my heart to You; put Thy Divine fire into it. You are a flame, and let my heart be turned into a flame!....Come then, Oh Jesus! Your heart is a flame and you wish mine to be turned into a flame as well....Jesus, I feel I must die when you are throbbing so in my heart.”
This is just a little foretaste of the loving words of Saint Gemma to give an idea of the fervor that this Saint possessed. But there is much more to this Saint than fiery words of love. Firstly however, let me say that Gemma has made such an deep impression on me, that I spent a year building an extensive website devoted to her extraordinary life and writings. On the St Gemma website you will find her entire Autobiography, her entire Diary, and many of her Letters to her spiritual Director, along with many of her recorded Ecstasies. And because there is already so much information on the St Gemma Galgani website, there really is no need to duplicate it here.
So I think then, the purpose of this article should be to briefly highlight the life of this extraordinary Saint, pointing to the information that is already available on the St Gemma Galgani website.
A brief biography of the life of St Gemma
Gemma was born on March 12, 1878 in Camigliano, Italy, and soon after her birth her family moved to Lucca, Italy, where she remained the rest of her life. Her mother Aurelia, a holy woman, died when Gemma was only 8 years old. The loss of her mother at such a young age was a sword of suffering upon her little heart. Eleven years later, at age 19, she would lose also her father, leaving her and her brothers and sisters orphans. Not long after this, she became gravely ill with spinal meningitis, becoming bedridden and on the verge of death. It was at this point that began the extraordinary graces in her life.
The Passionist Venerable Gabriel Possenti (now a Saint) began appearing to her in a series of visions, encouraging her and helping her to make a Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in hopes for a cure. It was at this time that the attending Doctors resigned her to die. On March 3, 1899, Jesus appeared to Gemma and cured her on the last day of the Novena, which coincided with the First Friday of the month (which is devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus). It was at this time also that Gemma began receiving inner locutions (interior words) from Jesus, and she begins to see her guardian Angel who inspires and instructs her in the practice of virtues.
Gemma is given the Stigmata
A few months later, on the morning of June 8, 1899, Gemma is enlightened during Holy Communion that she would soon be receiving a great grace from Jesus. That evening, the Blessed Mother appeared to her, along with her guardian Angel. The Blessed Virgin told her:
"Jesus my Son loves you very much and He wishes to give you a grace. Do you know how to make yourself worthy of it?” In my misery I did not know what to answer. She continued “I will be your Mother. Will you be a true daughter?” She then spread her mantle and covered me with it. At that moment Jesus appeared with all His wounds open, but blood no longer came out of those wounds. Rather, flames of fire issued forth from them and in an instant these flames came to touch my hands, my feet and my heart. I felt as if I would die. I fell to the floor, but my Mother supported me, keeping me covered in her mantle. I had to remain several hours in that position. Finally she kissed me on my forehead, and all vanished, and I found myself kneeling on the floor. But I still felt an intense pain in my hands, feet and heart. I arose to go to bed, and I then noticed that blood was flowing from those parts where I felt pain. I covered them as well as I could, and then with the help of my angel, I was able to go to bed. These sufferings and pains, although they afflicted me, filled me with perfect peace. The next morning I was able to go to Communion only with great difficulty, and I put on a pair of gloves in order to hide my hands. I could hardly stand on my feet, and I thought I would die at any minute. The sufferings continued until 3pm on Friday afternoon, the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus."
Details of the Stigmata of St Gemma can be read here.
It was at this point that Gemma began suffering as a victim soul for the conversion of sinners. She continued this extraordinary mission until the end of her life. At times Accompanying the Stigmata were also the Crown of Thorns and also the Scourging which is well documented by her Spiritual Director, Venerable Father Germanus C.P.
Ecstasies of love
Along with suffering in union with Jesus for the conversion of souls, she was also drawn into the most remarkable and sublime ecstasies where she conversed and often pleaded with Jesus for sinners, for the souls in Purgatory, for love and for mercy upon humanity, always telling Jesus of her love for Him, and offering herself as a holocost and victim to obtain these graces.
The Holy Death of Saint Gemma
After a selfless life of love given to God for the conversion of sinners, so dear to His Sacred Heart, Gemma died a most holy death on the afternoon of Holy Saturday, the Vigil of Easter, wherein we celebrate the Resurrection of our Blessed Lord.
In September 1902, Gemma became severely ill with Tuberculosis. By that time the fever of disease had begun to consume the innocent victim of divine Justice. Early in September she became very sick and vomited blood in quantities. One who watched by her bed wrote to her Director: "She is reduced to skin and bones; she suffers excruciating pains. One cannot bear the torment of not knowing what to do to relieve her. Gemma feels great need of you. Come quickly and tell us what to do."
"On receiving other pressing requests," he wrote, "I determined to go and reached Lucca in the month of October. The poor child showed the greatest joy when she was told that I had come, and wished to get up to welcome me. Imagine my grief at finding her in such a state, added to my fear that God this time would act indeed. I blessed her and bade her go back to bed; then sitting by her side I said: 'Well Gemma, what are we to do?'
'Go to Jesus, Father,' she answered, in a tone of inexpressible joy.
'But really?' I added.
'Yes, Father, this time Jesus has told me clearly, so clearly. To Heaven, my Father, to Jesus, with Jesus in Heaven!'
'But,' I rejoined, 'our sins, how are we to atone for them? You would make it an easy
And she answered, 'Jesus has thought of that. He will let me suffer so much in the short time I have to live, that, sanctifying my poor pains by the merits of His Passion, He will be satisfied an will take me with Him to Paradise.'
'But,' I said, 'I do not wish you to die yet.'
And she, in her spirited way, replied- 'And should Jesus wish it, what then?'
She then gave him all the particulars of her death and burial with the calmness of one discussing an ordinary affair. In the Confession she made that evening, she accused herself of the sins of her whole life with such compunction that he could not restrain his tears at seeing such lively sentiments of sorrow in one who had never stained the spotless robe of baptismal innocence by a deliberate sin. In the morning dressed as a bride with a white veil on her head she received Holy Viaticum, "looking," says Father Germano, "like an Angel in adoration before the Majesty of God." Afterwards she said to him: "If you wish, Father, you can leave, as I shall not die now. This illness will certainly finish me, but not yet; at least, that is what Jesus has told me."
Thus the months dragged on with Gemma living in the closest union of love and suffering with Jesus Crucified. Through the offering of her sufferings in union with Jesus, the Victim Soul was obtaining countless graces each day for the conversion of sinners. Holy Week arrived and now the victim of Jesus was to be made conformable to His Death. On Good Friday, April 10, 1903 she said to Cecilia Giannini who was attending her: "Don't leave me until I am nailed to the Cross. I must be crucified with Jesus. He has said to me that His children must be crucified." She then went into ecstasy and gradually extending her arms, she remained in that posture for about three hours - an image of Jesus dying on the Cross. All that day and night her agony continued.
On the morning of Holy Saturday, April 11, 1903, at about 8:00am she received Viaticum and the Last Anointing. At around 1:30pm, with the crucifix in her hands she said: "Jesus, now it is indeed true that nothing remains for me. If it be Thy will, take me." Glancing at the picture of Mary, she added: "My Mother, I recommend myself to You. Ask Jesus to have mercy on me." Then, in a feeble voice: "Jesus, I commend to You this poor soul of mine. Jesus." These were her last words. She kissed the crucifix, placed it over her heart, folded her hands over it, and closed her eyes. Then, after a few moments, she turned her head on the pillow and ceased to breathe, and thus her holy soul took flight to be forever united with the God whom she loved with all the strength of her heart.
The priest who was reading the last prayers of the Church never knew the moment of her passing. "I have assisted many sick people," he said, "but I never knew one to die in that way, without a tear or a sigh. She died with a smile and the smile remained on her lips so that I could hardly convince myself that she was really dead."
And one of the Nursing Sisters from the order of St Camillis de Lellis who was caring for Gemma in her last days attested: "We have cared for a great many sick people, but we have never seen anything like this."
The inscription placed on her tomb read:
"Gemma Galgani of Lucca, a most innocent virgin, while in her 25th year, consumed rather by the fire of Divine Love than by the violence of disease, flew into the arms of her Heavenly Spouse on Holy Saturday, the eleventh of April, 1903. Peace be to Thee, O sweet soul, in company with the Angels"
~St Gemma, pray for us!
For more information on St Gemma, see the St Gemma Galgani website.
"Two sentiments were born in my heart the very first time that I felt and saw Jesus dripping in blood. The first one was to love Him , and to love Him to the point of sacrifice....the other thing that was borne in my heart after seeing Jesus was a great desire to suffer something for Him, seeing how much He had suffered for me!.." -St Gemma Galgani