Gemma was the first girl born to devout parents near Lucca in Tuscany.
As a child she also adopted the devout faith that her beloved mother had imparted to her but, unfortunately the girl lost her mother when she was only eight years old. After her mother’s passing, Gemma’s father sent her to a Catholic boarding school in which her faith grew stronger. She even called the experience there, “Paradise.”
When she was 19 years old, Gemma also lost her father leaving her an orphan and destitute. In time she fell into a serious illness which caused a spinal curvature and even paralyzed her. At that time there was no cure for her condition and, hoping for a miracle, one of the sisters gave Gemma a novena card along with the story of the life of the young Passionist, Gabriel Possenti.
On her deathbed, Gemma fervently prayed to him. During the prayers of the Novena, Gabriel appeared to Gemma. In promising her that she would wear the same habit he did, Gabriel told her that she would be blessed with a cure and that a special grace was being prepared for her.
A cure did come to Gemma in March of 1899. Later that same year, while praying and contemplating Jesus’ suffering, the Blessed Mother appeared to Gemma and spoke of the grace she was to receive.
Suddenly, Jesus also appeared with all his wounds open. From those wounds rather than blood, there were flames of fire. Gemma later said, “In an instant these flames came to touch my hands, my feet and my heart. I felt as if I were dying and should have fallen to the ground had not my mother held me up, while all the time I remained beneath her mantle. I had to remain several hours in that position. Finally, she kissed my forehead, all vanished, and I found myself kneeling. But I still felt great pain in my hands, feet, and heart. I rose to go to bed and became aware that blood was flowing from those parts where I felt pain. I covered them as well as I could, and then helped by my Angel, I was able to go to bed.”
Over the course of the rest of her life several people witness the recurring phenomenon of the stigmata on Gemma. Gemma was counselled by Father Germano Ruoppolo, postulator general of the Passionists, who recognized her great gift. He promised her that she would one day become a Passionist Nun, but because of her ill health that never came to be. It is said that the Lord told Gemma that a convent would come to Lucca through the work of her spiritual father, Father Germano.
On Holy Saturday, April 11, 1903, Gemma was called to be with God. One of the sisters clothed her body in the habit of the Passionists, the order to which she had aspired. So, though she never became a Passionist Nun in the true sense, she at least bore their clothing when passing into the arms of the Lord.
On Oct. 3, 1905, Father Germano obtained a letter of authorization from Pope Pius X for the foundation of the convent in Lucca. In 1906 Euphemia Gianini entered, taking the name Gemma Magdalena. How proud Gemma would have been! The convent grew and flourished.
Pope Pius XII canonized Gemma Galgani in 1940. Her body is buried in the chapel of the new convent at Lucca.
Adapted by A.J. Valentini from: St. Gemma Galgani. (n.d.). The Passionists of Holy Cross Province. Retrieved April 5, 2021, from https://passionist.org/saint-gemma-galgani/