I wrote before about St. Gabriel Possenti, but only as an aside in a reflection about one of my favorite Saints, St. Gemma Galgani. They never met each other in this earthly life (St. Gabriel died from an illness 10-15 years before St. Gemma's birth), but there is still a beautiful love story to be told.
They both loved the Passionist spirituality - St. Gabriel was a Passionist seminarian, and St. Gemma desired to become a Passionist nun even though her health prohibited her from doing so. Most importantly, St. Gemma called upon the intercession of St. Gabriel when she was sick, and God healed her. Saint Gemma wrote about her illness:
One evening, more disturbed than usual I complained to Jesus saying that I would not pray any more if He would not cure me, and I asked Him why He made me so ill. My Angel replied to me: "If Jesus afflicts you in the body, He does it to purify your spirit. Be good." Oh how many times in my long illness He let me hear consoling words in my heart! But I never took account of them.
Soon after this realization, her devotion to her spiritual brother, St. Gabriel, commenced. She had never heard of the young man before (He was "Venerable" at the time), and it took a while before her devotion to him grew:
One day a lady, who used to come to visit me brought a book to read, "The Life of the Venerable Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother.” Almost with contempt I took it and put it under my pillow; I begged the lady to commend me to him, but I gave him no more thought. The family, however, began to say three Paters, Aves, and Glorias to him.
One afternoon a terrible temptation came to me. I said to myself that I was weary and that lying in bed had become intolerable.... I ran in spirit to the Venerable Gabriel and said to him, vehemently, "Save my soul first and then my body." Nevertheless the demon continued with more violent assaults. A thousand evil thoughts flashed through my mind. Again I had recourse to the Venerable Gabriel; and this time I conquered. I regained control of myself; I made the sign of the cross and in a quarter of an hour, I began to unite myself to my God whom I had treated so disrespectfully. I remember now that very evening I began to read the "Life" of Brother Gabriel which the lady had left me. I read it many times. I could not read it often enough. I admired greatly his virtues and determined to follow his example.
From the day that my new protector, Venerable Gabriel, had saved my soul, I began to have a particular devotion to him. In the night I could not sleep if I did not have his picture under my pillow, and I began at last to see him near me, that is, Father, I seemed to feel his presence. In every bad deed I was about to do I turned to Brother Gabriel in spirit and he restrained me. I did not fail to pray to him every day with these words: "Save my soul, then my body."
"Save my soul, then my body" - what a great meditation for all who are sick, for we know that the salvation of our soul matters more than anything. This became the "battle cry" of Saint Gemma when she was in pain, begging Saint Gabriel to intercede and "save her soul, then her body."
Saint Gemma continues her story, telling of how she got so close to Saint Gabriel that she had visions of him:
Then came the day when the woman took back the Life of Venerable Gabriel. In taking it from under my pillow and giving it to the lady, I could not refrain from crying. She, seeing how much it grieved me to give it up, promised to return it after she had obtained permission of the one from whom she had borrowed it. She returned after a few days but she did not bring the book. This made me very unhappy. But that Saint of God wanted at once to recompense me for my disappointment and at night in a dream he appeared to me clothed in the garb of the Passionists.
I was slow then in recognizing who he was. I remained in silence before him. He asked me why I had wept on being deprived of his Life? I did not know what to answer but he said to me, "You see how much I am pleased with your disappointment, so much pleased that I have come myself to see you. Are you glad to see me?" I did not reply. He then caressed me many times and repeated, "Be good, because I will come back to see you." He permitted me to kiss his habit and his rosary and then he went away.
I found myself that evening perfectly calm. When night came I slept. All at once I saw again at the foot of my bed my Protector. He said to me, "Gemma, make willingly the vow to become a religious." "Why?" I asked. And he replied, giving me a kiss upon my forehead. "My sister," he said, looking at me and smiling. I understood nothing of all this. To thank him, I kissed his habit. He took the woolen heart badge that every Passionist wears on his breast and let me kiss it. Then he placed it on the sheet above my breast, and repeated "My sister!" and vanished. Upon the sheet in the morning, however, I found nothing. I received Holy Communion, and I made the promise that he asked.
The two continued a spiritual relationship, and she often had visions of St. Gabriel. He continued to guide her in her spiritual life.
St. Gemma is an outstanding example of how to deal with suffering, and is a wonderful patroness for all of the sick. As she commented in 1902: "When I shrink from suffering, Jesus reproves me and tells me that He did not refuse to suffer. Then I say 'Jesus, Your will and not mine'. At last I am convinced that only God can make me happy, and in Him I have placed all my hope!"