St. Gemma Galgani (1878-1903) was a beautiful Italian laywoman who was born near Lucca, lived in obscurity, died at only 25, and yet has become known the world over and is fondly called "The Gem of Christ." Orphaned at seven, she had nonetheless been well schooled in spirituality by her holy mother, and from that early foundation in the Faith, she quickly rose to the highest stages of sanctity and is considered by authorities on spirituality to have advanced through all nine of the classic stages of growth in holiness-which the author briefly but beautifully describes.
Written by her spiritual director shortly after her death, The Life of St. Gemma Galgani is the primary source of information about this holy girl-of whom a great deal is known, because of her own writings and because her director wrote this present biography from first-hand knowledge about her. A mystic, stigmatist, visionary, ecstatic, victim soul, discerner of spirits, seer of hidden things, prophetess, spouse of Christ, zealot for souls, devotee of the Poor Souls in Purgatory, St. Gemma Galgani seemed to possess every hallmark of sanctity-and that to a marked degree.
Ever humble, quiet and dignified, she detested "singularity" and contented herself with attending church only twice a day-in the morning, when she heard two Masses and received Holy Communion, and in the evening for Vespers. Outside of her family circle, no one realized she was extraordinary. But the family members with whom she lived knew, for they had all witnessed her frequent ecstasies, sufferings of the Passion of Our Lord, unusual mystical phenomena, and being incessantly harassed by the devil, right up to the end of her life. Though she kept her eyes downcast most of the time, St. Gemma was exquisite to behold, and others often found it hard to look her directly in the eye and yet withstand her gaze. Frequently, the Blessed Mother or Our Lord would appear to her, and she saw and conversed almost continuously with her Guardian Angel. Her spiritual director was convinced she had never committed a mortal sin or even a purposeful venial sin. In fact, she was so sensitive to sin that she would sweat blood on hearing God blasphemed. Her heart during ecstasy would often palpitate so greatly that it would rock her bed or chair, though she herself remained tranquil in mien. Three of her ribs were "bent" at right angles because of the exuberance of her heart during these ecstasies. And at death her heart was discovered to be greatly enlarged.
Those who knew her thought she was "an angel in human flesh," and the mistress of the home where she lived-the mother of eleven young children-claimed, "I never knew of the least trouble arising in our family on her account," and "I never noticed in her the least defect." St. Gemma was totally detached from earthly things, and kept her mind and heart focused on God-to do Him service in any way she could. "With her, faith seemed no longer to be faith, but evidence." When she was in ecstasy, "one could not look at her. She did not seem to be a mortal." And Our Lord Himself gave her Communion three different times.
Toward the end of her life she had wanted to become a Passionist nun, but the convent would not accept her; so she commented that though they would not have her in life, they would in death, and this prediction came true, for the Passionists possess her relics and consider her as one of their own.
This book contains much, much more than all the above, and it will give everyone confidence that he or she too can attain to high sanctity, even if living as a lay person in the world. Indeed, the reader will be profoundly impressed by this Life, because, in sum, it is hard to imagine a more perfect life or one more simply and completely consecrated to Christ than that of "The Virgin of Lucca," "The Gem of Christ," St. Gemma Galgani. Paperback, 349 pages.
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