St Gemmas sensitivity to sin

The horse incident and Saint Gemma's sensitivity to sin
I recieved this observation in an email:

Glenn, The other day, someone was asking about the discrepancies between Gemma's autobiography and Fr. Germano's biography, pointing to the incident where her cousin riding on a horse fell off as a result of touching Gemma on the face. In Gemma's account of the incident, the cousin pinches her and she pushes him off the horse; in Fr. Germano's account, the cousin tenderly touches her face, and she jerks away with such rapidity that he is swept off the horse by an almost God-like force. Which account do you think is true, and why do you think there are these type of differences? God bless, (name withheld)

The difference in the horse incident:
One of the extraordinary things in Gemma's life was that God arranged that Father Germanus be her spiritual director. He was the Postulator General of the Passionists (Postulator General is of course the one in charge of the causes of Saints, in this case the Passionists) now, of all the Priests in Italy, God arranged it that he become her spiritual director. Not only was Father Germanus respected at the highest levels of the Vatican, even to the Pope, but he was also very knowledgeable in mystical Theology. Knowing of his reputation of holiness and knowledge in the mystical life, Gemma's ordinary confessor since childhood, Monsignor Giovanni Volpi, who at that time was the Auxiliary Bishop of Lucca, had decided to prevail upon the Superior General of the Passionists in Rome to order Father Germanus to come from Rome to Lucca to meet with Gemma and examine and evaluate her spiritual life and extraordinary charisms. Father Gemanus was a very busy preacher, archeologist, author and sought after spiritual director, and for his part he had no interest in meeting Gemma, but out of obedience to his Provincial he went and met Gemma on Sept 1, 1900.

The point of bringing forth all this information is this:
Having thus been a personal witness to the extraordinary holiness of Gemma, after Gemma's death, Father Germanus felt obligated to take up the cause for the possible canonisation of Gemma. Being the Passionists Postulator General for the causes of Saints, one can see how God, in His Providence, had arranged events accordingly beforehand. He began by gathering everything pertaining to her life. He personally interviewed family members and witnesses, gathered personal documents, and began recieving letters of miracles and cures attibuted to Gemma.

In 1907, when the preliminary Diocesan inquiries (Processi informativi) for Gemma's cause was opened in Lucca, Father Germanus was the official Postulator. Therefore, as the Promoter of her cause, he thus interviewed most of the members of Gemma's family, including her Aunts, Uncles and cousins along with childhood friends, her teachers and acquaintances. These interviews of her family and friends, along with later ones in the official canonisation process after Father Germanus' death, are where we get many details of Gemma's life. And therein lies the difference in the horse incident that you are referring to. I think we can be quite certain that Father Germanus' version came from the recollection of the cousin himself. It is really a case of the old saying "there are two sides to every story." Therefore, what we have in this case is Gemma's recollection in her Autobiography, and the recollection of her cousin as related in Father Germanus' biography.

Grave sins or human frailties?
Upon meeting Gemma, Father Germanus CP soon discovered, as we all do when we read her autobiography especially, but also her diary and letters, that Gemma had a heightened sense of sin, I would say "scrupulous", but not in a negative way. It was just that she was very aware and sensitive of her faults, especially her past weaknesses, and most especially the period of her life where she was somewhat "worldly" in her thoughts and outlook.

We can recall that she called her Autobiography "the notebook of my sins" and at the very beginning she tells Father Germanus (who ordered her to write it) "I think, dear Father, that when you read this and learn of all my sins you will be angry with me and will no longer want to be my Father. Still I hope that you will always be willing... So prepare yourself to learn of every kind of sin."

Concerning Gemma's human faults or frailties of which she calls her "horrible sins", we must remember that one of the interpretive keys to reading Saint Gemma is the horrible sins that she professes to have committed, were in fact very minor faults, and not willful grave sins. Having heard her general confession and other confessions on numerous occasions, Father Germanus is very clear about that point. A speck of dirt is very noticeable in a crystal clear vessel. Thus to Gemma her minor defects were very noticeable to her and bothered her greatly, and to her they appeared to be very grave sins, but in reality they were more attributable to human frailty and weakness than serious willful sin of a grave matter.

1 comment:

Sem. Juan Carlos Victorino said...

where can I request for a relic of St. Gemma Galgani?

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