Gemma Galgani (March 12th, 1878 – April 11th, 1903)
An Italian mystic, Gemma Galgani has been called the “Daughter of Passion” because of her profound imitation of the Passion of Christ. Her mother died of tuberculosis when she was an infant, and when her father died some years later she became the mother and provider for her siblings.
Gemma would experience ecstatic visions throughout her life and first exhibited signs of the stigmata on June 8th, 1899, at the age of twenty-one. Describing these events she wrote,
“Jesus appeared with his wounds all open; blood was not flowing from them, but flames of fire which in one moment came and touched my hands, feet and heart. I felt I was dying, and should have fallen down but for my Mother (Blessed Virgin Mary) who supported me and kept me under her mantle.”
Galgani was well known, especially to those in poverty, although opinions of her were divided. Some respected and admired her extraordinary virtues while others mocked her, including her younger sister who made fun of Gemma during her ecstatic experiences.
Within the Church’s hierarchy too some treated her with disdain and were sceptical of her mystical gifts. Her spiritual director, the Reverend Ruoppolo, was initially reserved, but upon examination became convinced as the authenticity of her mystical life. After her death, he wrote a detailed biography of her life and was responsible for gathering all her writings, including her diary, autobiography, and letters.
Gemma was diagnosed with tuberculosis in early 1903, and her long and painful decline was accompanied by several mystical phenomena. At the beginning of Holy Week that year, her health rapidly deteriorated, and by Good Friday her suffering became acute and it was clear she would die soon. On April 11th, Holy Saturday, Gemma Galagani finally passed away.
Beautified on May 14th, 1933 and canonized on May 2, 1940, few Catholic saints have had sainthood conferred on them as quickly. Galgani’s relics are housed at the Passionist monastery in Lucca, Italy.
As one of the most popular saints of the Passionist Order, Gemma Galgani knows particular devotion in Italy and Latin America. She is a patron saint of students (due to her thirst for knowledge before having to drop out of school) and pharmacists – after the profession of her parents.