Gemma Galgani was born on March 12, 1878, in a small Italian town near Lucca.
At a very young age, Gemma developed a love for prayer. She made her First Communion on June 17, 1887. As a pupil at the school run by the Sisters of St. Zita, Gemma was loved by her teachers and her fellow pupils. Although quiet and reserved, she always had a smile for everyone. Although a good student, she had to quit school due to chronic ill health before completing the course of study.
Throughout her life, Gemma was to be favored with many mystical experiences and special graces. These were often misunderstood by others, causing ridicule. Gemma suffered these heartaches in reparation, remembering that Our LordHimself had been misunderstood and ridiculed.
Gemma had an immense love for the poor, and helped them in any way she could. After her father's death, the nineteen year old Gemma became the mother of her seven brothers and sisters. When some were old enough to share this responsibility, she lived briefly with a married aunt. At this time, two young men proposed marriage to her. Gemma however, wanted silence and retirement, and more that ever, she desired to pray and speak only to God.
Gemma returned home and almost immediately became very ill with meningitis. Throughout this illness, her one regret was the trouble she caused her relatives who took care of her. Feeling herself tempted by the devil, Gemma prayed for help to the Venerable Passionist, Gabriel Possenti. (Gabriel was later canonized) Through his intercession, Gemma was miraculously cured.
Gemma wished to become a nun, but her poor health prevented her from being accepted. She offered this disappointment to God as a sacrifice.
Gemma predicted that the Passionists would establish a monastery at Lucca; this came to pass two years after her death. Today, Gemma's mortal remains are still treasured at the Passionist monastery in Lucca.
On June 8, 1899, Gemma had an interior warning that some unusual grace was to be granted to her. She had pain in her hands, feet and heart and blood was coming from the places where she had pain. 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 gashes. Gemma's stigmata would continue to appear until the last three years of her life, when her confessor forbade her to accept them. Through her prayers, this phenomenon ceased, but the whitish marks remained on her skin until her death.
Through 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 ecstacies and her words spoken during these raptures, were recorded by her confessor and a relative of her adoptive family. At the end of her ecstacies, she returned to normal and went quietly and serenely about the family life. 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.
During the apostolic investigations into her life, all witnesses testified that there was no artfulness in Gemma's manner. Most of her severe penances and sacrifices were hidden from most who knew her.
In January of 1903, Gemma was diagnosed as having tuberculosis. She died quietly in the company of the parish priest, on April 11 at age twenty-five. He said, "She died with a smile which remained upon her lips, so that I could not convince myself that she was really dead." She was beatified in 1933 and canonized on May 2, 1940, only thirty-seven years after her death.
July 19th to 23rd 1900
Thursday, July 19
This evening at last, after six days of absence of Jesus, since it was Thursday, I began my hour of prayer, thinking of Jesus on the Cross. Then it happened. I found myself with Him suffering and I felt a great desire to suffer and asked Jesus to give me this grace. He granted it; He approached me, took from His head the crown of thorns and placed it upon mine, and then went aside. I looked at Him silently for I was thinking; Perhaps He did not love me anymore, because He had not pressed the crown down hard upon my head as He had done at other times. Jesus understood and pressed it upon my temples. They were painful but happy moments. I then spent an hour with Jesus. I should have liked to continue with Him thus all night, but Jesus loves obedience very much; He Himself always submits to obedience, so when the hour was up He left me. Generally Jesus took the crown off when He was leaving; this time, however, He left it until about four o’clock the following afternoon.
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Friday, July 20
By four o’clock today I was tired of suffering. I presently found myself with Jesus, Who came beside me and was not sad as on the previous night; He caressed me and lifted the crown from my head. I then felt less pain; but when He put it upon His own head I felt no pain at all. My strength returned and I felt even better than before I began to suffer.
We talked of many things and during our conversation I asked Him not to make me confess to Father Vallini, because I did not like to. Jesus seemed disappointed, and told me that I should go at once. I promised I would. He showed His heart to me and said “I love you greatly because you are like me.” “In what way, Jesus?” I asked, “because I seem so unlike you.” “In accepting humiliations,” He replied. Then there returned to me a vision of my past life. I saw my pride. It was always one of my greatest defects. When I was little, wherever I went I always heard it said that I was very proud. But what means Jesus has used to humiliate me, especially during this past yearl At last I understand what God was doing with me. May Jesus be always thanked. Then iny God added that with time He would make a saint of me. Of this last I will say no more for that is impossible to happen to me. He told me of something to say to the confessor and blessed me. I knew Jesus would be away from me for some days. But how good He is! Scarcely had He gone when my Angel Guardian appeared, who with his continual charity, vigilance, and patience assists me. Oh Jesus, I have promised always to obey you. I affirm it anew.
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Saturday, July 21
My dearest Mother of Sorrows came to pay me a little visit as she is accustomed to on Saturday.
She seemed very unhappy and looked as if she had been weeping. Then she smiled, saying to me:
“Gemma, do you wish to repose on my breast?” I approached her and knelt; she raised me, kissed me on the forehead and disappeared.
This evening, after confessing to Father Vallini, I felt suddenly agitated and disturbed; it was a sign that the devil was near. Later, internally and also externally, I was all in a tempest; I should have preferred to go to bed and sleep rather than to pray, but no, I began to say three invocations, which I usually say every evening to the Sacred Heart of Mary. The enemy, who had been hidden for some hours, appeared in the form of a very small man, but so horrible that I was almost overcome with fear.
Continuing to pray, all at once I began to feel many blows on the shoulder which continued for about half an hour. Then my Angel Guardian came and asked me what the matter was; I begged him to stay with me all night, and he said to me, “But I must sleep.” “No,” I replied, “Angels of Jesus do not sleep.” “Nevertheless,” he replied, smiling, “I ought to rest. Where shall you put me?” I begged him to remain near me.
I went to bed; after that he seemed to spread his wings and come over my head. In the morning he was still there.
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Sunday, July 22
The devil, in the form of a great black dog, put his paws upon my shoulders,
making every bone in my body ache. At times I believed that he would mangle me; then one time, when I was taking holy water, he twisted my arm so cruelly that I fell to the earth in great pain.
After a while I remembered that I had around my neck the relic of the Holy Cross. Making the Sign of the Cross, I became calm. Jesus let me see Himself, but only for a short time, and He strengthened me anew to suffer and struggle.
At dinner time, there had come to me an evil thought which my Angel understood and he said to me; “Daughter, do you wish me to go away?” I was ashamed. These words I heard very distinctly and I did not know whether or not others also heard him.
While in church yesterday, he reprimanded me, saying: “The glory of Jesus and the place where you are, merit another kind of conduct,” because at that time I had raised my eyes to look at two children, to see how they were dressed.
Last night, while in bed, He reproved me again, saying, that instead of progressing in his teachings I was becoming constantly worse and continually slackening in well-doing.
I am always conscious when these things happen to me. It seems to me that no matter what I do, I do not succeed in preparing myself for the visit of the Mother of Sorrows or Brother Gabriel.
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Monday, July 23