Saint Gemma Galgani
Feast Day April 11
Gemma Umberta Pia Galgani was born on March 12, 1878, in the hamlet of Borgo
Nuovo. Gemma was the fifth of eight children born to Aurelia and Enrico
Galgani, a prosperous pharmacist. Soon after Gemma's birth, the family
relocated north from Borgo Nuovo to a large new home in the Tuscan city of
Lucca; a move undertaken to facilitate an improvement in the children's
education. Gemma was regarded as a highly intelligent child, and at a very
young age she developed a love for prayer. As a pupil at the school run by the
Sisters of St. Zita, Gemma was loved by her teachers and her fellow pupils. She
excelled in French, arithmetic and music. Although quiet and reserved, Gemma
always had a smile for everyone. And although she was a good student, she had
to quit school because of chronic ill health before completing the course of
study and was later refused entry to the Passionists to become a nun because of
her poor health and her visions. Throughout her life, Gemma was to be favored
with mystical experiences and special graces. These were often misunderstood,
causing ridicule. Gemma suffered these heartaches in reparation, remembering
that Our Lord Himself had been misunderstood and ridiculed, offering this
disappointment to God as a sacrifice.
further heartache, several members of the Galgani family died during this
period. Their firstborn child, Carlo, died at an early age. On September 17,
1885, Gemma's mother died of tuberculosis, which she had suffered for five
years. Gemma's beloved brother, Gino, died from tuberculosis while studying for
the priesthood. Her little sister, Giulia, also died at a young age.
age 20, Gemma returned home and almost immediately became very ill with spinal
meningitis. Throughout this illness, her one regret was causing extra work for the
relatives who took care of her. *Gemma prayed for help to the Venerable
Passionist, Gabriel Possenti of Our Lady of Sorrows (Gabriel was later
canonized). Through his intercession and that of Saint Marguerite Marie
Alacoque, Gemma was miraculously cured. *
had an immense love for the poor, and helped them in any way she could. After
her father's death, nineteen-year-old Gemma became mother to her seven brothers
and sisters. When some were old enough to share this responsibility, she lived
briefly with her married Aunt Carolina. At this time, two young men proposed
marriage to her. Gemma, however, declined these marriage proposals as she
desired silence and more than ever to pray and speak only to God.
June 8, 1899, Gemma had a physical warning that some unusual grace was to be
granted to her. She had pain in her hands, feet and heart, and blood was flowing
from these places. These were the marks of the stigmata. Each Thursday evening,
Gemma would fall into rapture and the marks would appear. The stigmata remained
until Friday afternoon or Saturday morning when the bleeding would stop, the
wounds would close, and only white marks would remain in place of the deep
stigmata would continue to appear until the last three years of her life when
her confessor forbade her to accept them because of her poor health. Through
her prayers, this phenomenon ceased, but the whitish marks remained on her skin
until her death.
the help of her confessor, Gemma went to live with a family named Giannini,
where she was allowed more freedom than at home for her spiritual life. She
had many ecstasies, and her words spoken during these raptures were recorded by
her confessor and a relative of her adoptive family. At the end of her
ecstasies, she returned to normal and went quietly and serenely about the
family life she was living. Gemma often saw her guardian angel with whom she
was on familiar terms. She often sent her guardian angel on errands, usually to
deliver a letter or oral message to her confessor in Rome.
was well-known in the vicinity of Lucca before her death, especially to those
in poverty. Opinions of her were divided. Some people admired her extraordinary
virtues and referred to her as The Virgin of Lucca out of pious respect
and admiration. Others mocked her. In light of the extraordinary events
surrounding her life, some skeptics thought she had a mental illness. During
the apostolic investigations into her life, however, all witnesses testified
there was no artfulness in Gemma's manner. Most of her severe penances and
sacrifices were hidden from nearly all who knew her.
January of 1903, Gemma was diagnosed with tuberculosis, and thus began a long
and often painful death. There were numerous extraordinary mystical phenomena
that occurred during her final illness. At the beginning of Holy Week 1903, her
health quickly deteriorated, and by Good Friday she was suffering tremendously.
Gemma died on April 11, 1903, Holy Saturday, in the company of the parish
priest. He said, "She died with a smile which remained upon her lips, so
that I could not convince myself that she was really dead." After a
thorough examination of her life by the Church, she was beatified in 1933 and
canonized on May 2, 1940, only thirty-seven years after her death. Gemma
predicted the Passionists would establish a monastery at Lucca; this came to
pass two years after her death.
St. Gemma's mortal remains are still treasured at the Passionist monastery in
Lucca, Italy. As one of the most popular saints of the Passionist Order,
devotion to St. Gemma Galgani is particularly strong both in Italy and Latin
America. She is a patron saint of students and of pharmacists.
my soul, bless Jesus. Never forget the many graces He has given thee. Love that
God who so loves thee. Lift thyself up to Him, who has lowered Himself for
thee; show thyself as He shows Himself with thee; be clean of heart, be pure.
Love thy Jesus, who has lifted thee out of so much misery. Love thy God, bless
thy Lord." ~ Saint Gemma Galgani
for this article was taken from Catholic Online, EWTN Library, Saints SQPN,