Saint Gemma Galgani

Extraordinary 20th century mystic and stigmatic.
by Glenn Dallaire | Source:

Saint Gemma Galgani was the first canonized Saint to live in the twentieth century. She was born in Camigliano, Italy on March 12, 1878. One month after her birth, her family moved to Lucca, Italy, where she lived the remainder of her life.

Gemma received one of her first interior locutions at the age of seven, a few months before her Mother died, preparing her for the painful loss of her mother.  Thus, God began preparing Gemma at a young age for her mission later in life. As her adolescent years progressed, Gemma became ill with one ailment, then another. She had severe gangrene in one foot, which required a painful operation. Later, she was diagnosed with spinal meningitis, which eventually left her completely bedridden. Then came the death of her father, and later the loss of her favorite brother, Gino. Through loss of loved ones and bodily sufferings, God was drawing Gemma ever closer to Himself, and at the same time preparing her for her mission.

Miraculous cure

In 1898, as her illness progressed, an intense period of mystical graces began. She began seeing her guardian Angel, who would often instruct and encourage her in the ways of virtue and holiness. On March 3, 1899, after many months of suffering, Gemma was miraculously cured of  spinal meningitis through the intercession of Venerable Brother Gabriel Possenti C.P. (now a Saint), who appeared to her successively each night, and encouraged her and prayed with her as she made a nine day Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Jesus appeared to her in a vision on the last day of the Novena, and she was miraculously cured.

Soul victim

Soon after her miraculous cure, she began having ecstatic visions of Jesus, Mary and occasionally Brother Gabriel, along with the almost continuous presence of her guardian Angel, who would instruct her, and at times admonish her in her faults and omissions. On June 8th, 1899, the Vigil of the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Gemma, along with her guardian Angel. The Blessed Virgin said to 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.” Taken from The Autobiography of Saint Gemma Galgani.

Thus began her mission as a soul victim for the conversion of sinners, which would continue for the rest of her life. Jesus at times would appear to her and would mystically place the crown of thorns on her head. At other times she would receive scourgings, which would appear suddenly all over her body, sometimes to the bone, to the amazement and concern of those who were close to her. Yet, amidst all these sufferings she radiated a love and joy which was beyond description. 

During this period she met her spiritual director, Venerable Father Germanus Ruoppolo C.P. who later wrote a detailed biography of her life. In it, he describes some miraculous conversions that took place through Gemma’s direct intercession. One in particular happened in the first few hours after he met Gemma for the first time. Gemma, in an ecstasy, was beseeching Jesus to convert a notorious sinner in Gemma’s hometown of Lucca. Although Father Germanus could only hear Gemma’s side of the conversation, one could determine quite well the details of the conversation between her and Jesus. In the end, with the help of the Blessed Mother, Gemma prevailed upon the heart of Jesus and the grace was given. But what was the surprise of Father Germanus when the sinner himself knocked at the door a few minutes later asking to see “the Priest that was staying there!” With tears of repentance, the sinner then begged Father Germanus to hear his confession, and with deep contrition proceeded to confess a multitude of sins in front of the stunned and somewhat bewildered Priest. Thus from their first meeting, God sought to prove the authenticity of the graces that he was showering upon His servant, Gemma. 

A heart on fire with the love of God

Far from being gloomy amidst such extraordinary sufferings, Gemma’s entire self it seemed, radiated with a love beyond measure. Her heart, which could not contain the increasing love of Jesus who dwelt within, pushed outward two ribs in a sharp angle away from her heart, as was later verified at her death. Remarkable also was the burning sensations she felt at times throughout her body, but especially in her heart. She would discreetly tell Father Germanus of this fire which burned and at the same time enraptured her. He would later testify in his biography that on numerous occasions he had witnessed the entire bed shaking exceedingly at the pulsations of Gemma’s heart, while she remained calm and at peace, and also on one occasion when he ordered Gemma’s temperature be taken, the mercury shot to the top of the thermometer, unable to register the intense heat burning within the servant of God. 

All on fire with the love of God she was overheard in ecstasy to exclaim such beautiful expressions of love, such as -- “Fire! Fire in my heart! This morning it is burning......Dear Jesus, I love you so much! I shall endeavor always to love You; I shall live to love You; I shall die to love You!....Give me wings oh Jesus, so I can fly to Your throne!” ".....Can You see that as soon as the day breaks I think of You? As evening comes, I am near You.....I am near You at every moment.......I love You, Jesus....” “...Oh Jesus, why am I not burned up with love for you? Why is it that my heart is not consumed with Loves flame? Why is it that my love does not correspond to yours? Oh Jesus, how much time I have lost! How many years I could have loved you, and did not do so! But your bounty makes me hope that I may make up for lost time. Why did you suffer for me, dear Jesus? For love! The nails...the crown...the cross...all for love of me! For You, I sacrifice everything willingly.”

Heroic death

Gemma fell gravely ill with tuberculosis beginning in September, 1902. At first, she was able to leave her bed for a short time to attend Mass and receive Holy Communion. But eventually as her illness progressed, she was compelled to offer to God this sacrifice of total confinement, amidst ever increasing pain and suffering. During her long illness, Gemma continually offered her sufferings to God for the conversion of sinners. At the beginning on Holy Week, 1903 an intense period of suffering began. Father Gemanus writes “The cruel malady had run its course. Gemma had nothing more left than a breath of life. Her whole body was in agony, the pallor of death was depicted in her countenance, and she was stretched motionless on her bed in an aspect so pitiable, that one saw in her an image of Jesus expiring on the Cross. Four of five days before she died, she became so heavy that three strong workmen could scarcely lift her, although she was reduced to skin and bones, and so slight in figure that a child might have moved her. One of the Nursing Sisters assigned to her from the order of St. Camillus de Lellis said "We have cared for a great many sick people, but we have never seen anything like this.” She suffered intensely on Good Friday, in union with Jesus on the Cross.

At about 12:30pm on Holy Saturday, she raised her feeble voice and said "Now it is indeed true that nothing more remains to me, Jesus. I recommend my poor soul to Thee...Jesus!" These were Gemma last words. She died on the Vigil of Easter, Holy Saturday, April 11th, 1903. The inscription 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"

On the Net
For more information, the author has a website devoted to St Gemma Galgani located here:

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