The Communion of Saints--St Padre Pio's devotion to St. Gemma Galgani (Part 1 of 2)
While Padre Pio's writings were being recently scrutinised in preparation for his canonisation on June 16, 2002, there came forth some accusations of plagiarism against the would be Saint. In May 2003, the Roman Jesuit magazine "La Civilta Cattolica" defended Padre Pio.
Below is an article from Jesuit USA news
Was Padre Pio a plagiarist? An influential Jesuit magazine in Rome has defended the Italian saint and mystic Padre Pio da Pietrelcina against charges of plagiarism. The Capuchin stigmatic was declared a saint in June last year.
The mid-May (2003) article in "La Civilta Cattolica", subtitled 'Plagiarism or identification?' looked at 10 letters Padre Pio wrote to his spiritual directors in 1911-13. The letters contain sections copied exactly or only slightly changed from published letters and texts written by St Gemma Galgani (1879-1903), a mystic and stigmatic who was miraculously cured of her spinal tuberculosis. The letters were written by St Gemma between 1899 and 1902.
According to "La Civilta Cattolica", the choice of St Gemma's writing indicated 'that he wanted to identify himself with a precise model of holiness which was in harmony with his own and was marked by an expressive simplicity which he felt he was lacking at that dark phase of his life.'
As with Padre Pio, the process leading to St Gemma's canonisation was interrupted by doubts over the more unusual phenomena associated with her spiritual life.
The 'unexpected phenomenon of a saint who explains the state of his own soul to his spiritual directors by copying sections of letters' written by another saint deserves investigation, the magazine said. It admitted that he never attributed the sections he quoted from her letters.
'Having overcome the initial understandable reaction of surprise and perplexity, the phenomenon of copying a few letters enters within the realistic boundaries of the humanity of saints,' it concluded.
So, let us look a little further into this association between St Pio and St Gemma;
Saint Gemma Galgani and St. (Padre) Pio were contemporaries, both living in Italy. Saint Gemma (born 1878) was only 9 years older than Saint Pio (born 1887). The similarities in their spiritual and mystical lives is extraordinary. Gemma was seven years old when she began her mystical experiences with the first inner locutions that later culminates in 1899 with visions of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, her guardian angel. She is also given extraodinary physical graces and sufferings including the sweating of blood, the crown of thorns and the stigmata. Her mission was to suffer in union with Jesus for the conversion of sinners.
Beginning around the age five, Francesco Forgione (St. Pio) feels a strong desire to become a Franciscan religious and begins experiencing mystical visions and graces not long after entering the Franciscan order at the age of 15, and like Gemma, he was also called to suffer in union with Jesus for the conversion of sinners and he was likewise given visions of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary and his guardian angel. And also like Gemma, he was tempted and had to fight with the demons on numerous occasions, and he also lived with the painful experience of the stigmata, firstly invisible, for about eight years, and then visible and permanent for the rest of his life. Both St. Gemma and St Pio descibed a burning fire in their chest, from inside their heart, which they described as the fire of the love of God, that literally felt as if it would consume them and at times they felt as if they were about to incinerate into flames.
Thus, St. Pio finds himself in the same exceptional mystical experience as was Saint Gemma before her death (Gemma died on April 11, 1903); The similarities between his supernatural experiences and Gemma’s experiences makes him feel that Gemma can help him with the spiritual and mystical graces and sufferings that he too has been given, and he therefore he chooses her as model and an advocate. He finds in her writings a soul-mate and it has been discovered that in many of his own letters there are exact phrases and expressions of Saint Gemma, taken from her letters, diary and writings. (See article above--editor)
A further confirmation of this is in a letter from Padre Pio to his spiritual director, Padre Benedict, dated May 2, 1912. He writes: "...Moreover I am asking you for charity: I would like to read the booklet "Letters and Ecstasies of the Servant of God, Gemma Galgani", as well as the other one of the same servant of God, "The Holy hour". I am sure that you will agree and meet my desire. Bless me. Padre Pio."
Soon afterwards Padre Pio suggested to his spiritual daughters: "I am reading the 'Letters and the Ecstasies of Gemma Galgani', and in it she says that she was 'suffering before Jesus Crucified, in the sacrament of Jesus love' " (Epist. II, 31.1; 40 , 6), These words of St Gemma obviously inspired in Padre Pio a greater love and devotion to Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.
It is also known that Saint Pio recommended to several of his spiritual sons a devotion to Saint Gemma whom he called the "great saint", and that when he talked about her he was at times moved to tears, and he invited his devout friends and visitors to get to know this beloved soul. At times Padre Pio would send pilgrims coming from Tuscany and surrounding areas to Lucca. He would say "Why are you coming to me for graces? Go to Lucca which is nearer to you, because you have there St Gemma who is a great saint."
And so, in St. Pio and in St. Gemma we have another wonderful example of the Communion of Saints.
~Saint Gemma Galgani and Saint Pio, pray for us!
Part 2 of this article continues with details of the spiritual friendship between St Pio and St. Gemma, and especially highlights St Pio's devotion to Gemma -Click here.
(The details of Padre Pio's devotion to St. Gemma Galgani can be found in the book "Nella comunione dei santi. Santa Gemma Galgani a San Pio da Pietrelcina" by Luca Lucchini. There is a photo of this book at the top of this article. Currently this book is only availible in Italian. -Glenn Dallaire
Also, those interested in making a prayer novena to Saint Padre Pio seeking his holy intercession can click here for the Novena to St Padre Pio.