St. Gemma

In the words of our Founder, Fr. Grittani, “This guardian angel of our Opera will be honoured by us with a triduum ... St. Gemma, the dear Saint who lived orphaned and poor, from heaven make all the blessings of God descend on the Work.” (Fr. Ambrogio Grittani Am. 6, 05.07.1944).

Gemma was not a person of half measures; she loved God with all of her being. Her heart was all on fire with the love of Jesus, and Jesus was everything to her. So, let us learn from Gemma to “love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind and with all our strength”.

Gemma, the Virgin of the 19th Century, was born in Borgonuovo di Camigliano (Lucca, Italy) on 12 March 1878, to Doctor Enrico Galgani, a pharmacist of the town. She became an orphan at an early age, almost abandoned into a truly life of destitute and misery. Fragile and very sick, Gemma was reduced to skeleton and people thought she was at the end of her life. But as fate would have it, at the surprise of everybody, she was miraculously cured. The people of that city began to call her, “Little girl of grace.” Soon or later, they discovered that the bruised black spots in her body and tainted coloured cloths and high-necked attire she always wears, were to hide the marks of stigmatic of the Passion in her body. These stigmatic marks in her body, often come with great pain of suffering, soaked with blood, every week, on Friday vigil.

Received as a ‘daughter’ in the house of a devout and often agitated person, Matteo Giannini (a Knight), she lived a life of seclusion, between home and church. But the striking manifestations of her life of holiness had started to spread beyond the confines of their middle-class home. She found herself performing conversions, predicting future events, and often fall into ecstasy. During prayer, she sweats blood on her body; this is in addition to signs of the open wounds and scourge seen in her body. In fact, the scientists invited to examine her, could not hide their embarrassment, since they could not explain the origin of such an extraordinary phenomenon. In the end, her spiritual directors, could not discern or come to conclusion on how to judge such an extraordinary girl, thus suspecting her of mystification, hysteria, suggesting she provides some proofs, to prove her obedience.

However, Gemma Galgani, in the midst of these her physical suffering and moral proves, did not say anything, or rather, she responded always with the word, “yes.” She never asked for anything, but only pleading with Jesus, to send her more pain: “More pain, more pain, always more pain.” And for others, she would ask for conversion and salvation.

It was on Holy Saturday, in the year 1903, Gemma Galgani died at the age of 25, devoured by pain and suffering; asking, till the end of her life, for more pain.

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