Union with God -Spirituality of St Gemma Galgani
By Glenn Dallaire
Saint Gemma writes- "Today I am no longer in myself. I am with my God; all for Him, and He all in me and for me, Jesus is with me, He is all mine. He is alone, alone, and I am alone to bless Him, alone to pay Him court. He dwells in the miserable cell of my heart and His Majesty disappears. We are alone, alone, and my heart beats continually with that of Jesus. Jesus forever! The Heart of Jesus and my heart are one and the same thing. A moment does not pass without my feeling His dear presence always manifesting Himself in the most loving way." And on another occasion- “Oh, what precious moments these are! It is a delight that can only be compared to the heavenly beatitude of the Angels and Saints. Yes, I am happy, because I feel my heart beat with Yours. I am happy because I possess Thee, oh Jesus. Oh Jesus, with what joy it fills me to know that I possess Thee! But, my God, if You deal so with us on earth, what must it be like in Heaven!"
St Gemma’s spiritual director, Venerable Father Germanus C.P. writes in his biography of St Gemma that she passed through all of the degrees or “stages” of the spiritual life, arriving at the final degree, which is the most exalted gift of perfect union- the mystical espousal of the soul with God. (cf- “The Life of St Gemma Galgani, Ch 22)
But how did she arrive there? Let us read the writings of St Gemma to discover for ourselves Gemma’s extraordinary spiritual life and how she was drawn to this intimate union and relationship with God.
Abandonment and confidence in God
"My heart is always united to Jesus, who more and more consumes me. Oh my most sweet Jesus, I would wish to be all dissolved in the midst of the flames of Your Love. Oh, how can I correspond, my God, since You have given me so much? Who will help me in this? To Your Mercy alone I owe the little love that there is in my poor heart for Thee."
"...Then, turning to Jesus, I asked Him whatever He had done to my poor heart that makes it quite impossible for me to restrain it. It always wants to go to Him and I cannot hold it back. Already, of its own accord, it has resolved not to belong to me -it has given itself to Jesus! And Jesus, with His loving and penetrating voice, said to me: "Because I am victorious."
-Oh, yes, I am happy to be overtaken by such infinite Goodness, by so much Love! Jesus now and forever!... Oh, the love of Jesus is irresistible! How is it possible not to love Him with all one's soul? How can one cease to long to be all absorbed in Him and consumed in the flames of His love?"
Concerning this, Father Germanus writes… "And it was precisely so: Jesus had conquered, and in order to glorify Himself in this, His beloved servant, after thoroughly purifying her for so many years and after having prepared her by such an abundance of grace in all the degrees of the Mystical Life, He willed to crown His work by the most exalted gift of perfect union- the mystical espousal of the soul with God."
The will and desire for God
In ecstasy Gemma says “Make haste, Jesus. Oh, do You not see how this heart longs for Thee? Oh, do You not see how it languishes? Does it not pain Thee, oh God, to see it thus languish in desire? Come! Come, Jesus, make haste, come near, let me hear Thy voice. Oh God, when shall my whole being be satiated with Thy Divine Light? Oh, when? Jesus, food of strong souls, strengthen me, purify me, make me divine. Great God, Jesus, help me. God begotten of God, come to my aid, I thirst for Thee, Jesus. Do You not see how I suffer every morning until I feed on Thee? [in Holy Communion –ed] Grant at least that, after having received You, I may remain satisfied. "
Frequent meditation on the Passion of Jesus
Gemma made a Holy Hour every Thursday evening, meditating on the Passion of Jesus and His sufferings in the garden of Gethsemane. It was by meditating on the sufferings of Jesus that her love and devotion for Him grew.
In her Autobiography she writes –“I continued to go to school every day but the desire to receive Jesus and to know more about his Passion increased, so much so that I succeeded in getting my teacher to explain it to me for an entire hour after every ten hours of work or study. I desired nothing else. Every day I worked or studied ten hours and spent an hour listening to the explanation of some point on the Passion. Many times as I thought of my sins and my ingratitude to Jesus, we began to weep together."
And thus with the Passion of Jesus frequently in her mind, she often felt great sorrow and repentance for her faults and sins.
Humility before God
Regarding her human weaknesses and frailties, Gemma writes -. "I would not willingly commit them," she stated "but I am so wicked. I am on the watch not to sin, but no matter how much I strive, I always relapse. The misfortune is that I am not aware of it when I fall, and I only come to see it afterwards. Otherwise Jesus knows that I would not offend Him."
Writing to Father Germanus she states “But can it be true, that Jesus is content with my soul? Oh, how often I blush and tremble at seeing myself so unclean in His presence! I have turned away when He called me. Oh, Father, do ask Jesus often to have mercy on my soul! Implore Him to pardon my sins. Tell Him that a thousand pains of body and soul will seem to me nothing if only I can make atonement for my faults. Oh my God, the chastisement will never be as terrible as I deserve. Punish me as Thou will, but take off the weight of so many sins, for this weight oppresses and crushes me. Woe to me if for one instant I were to lose sight of my faults and my iniquities! Oh, what disgust I feel for myself! Jesus dishonored by me! The goodwill that I seem to have is my only comfort in the midst of so many miseries."
Elsewhere she writes- “Oh, I can bear it no longer. No, I cannot bear to think that Jesus, in all the splendors of His most loving heart, and in His wonderful expressions of Paternal love, should thus manifest Himself to His lowest creature.”
Learning how to sacrifice and suffer out of love for God
Gemma writes "This evening at last, after six days of absence of Jesus, since it was Thursday, I began my hour of prayer, thinking of Jesus on the Cross. Then it happened. I found myself with Him suffering and I felt a great desire to suffer and asked Jesus to give me this grace"
Another time she writes- "Will I ever really love Jesus? I have a strong desire to love Him, yes, I would like to languish with love for Him, but ... Many times I have asked Jesus to teach me the true way to love Him and Jesus seems to show His open wounds to me and He says to me: "Look, my daughter, see how much I have suffered. See this cross, these nails, these thorns? They are all the work of love. Look at me and learn how to love." Sometimes He says to me: "Look, my daughter, the best gift that I can give to a soul that is very dear to me is to send it suffering."
"...You wish, oh Jesus, that I renounce all my human and earthly desires. Since You desire it, from this moment I make the sacrifice of all my selfish desires."
"...I will run to Jesus; I will love Him with all the strength of my weak heart. I will love Him with sacrifice. I will love Him even by giving to Him my blood and my life."
Union through Holy Communion
In ecstacy Gemma says "...Jesus, You ask only love from me; and I, in order to love You, ask much love also, for I have not enough. See, Jesus, when in the morning I feel Your presence in Communion, I am conscious of myself no longer. And, Jesus, who would have thought that your heart would join its beatings to those of mine? Oh! Grant me the summit of happiness, grant me the consolation that I ask of You; repeat the sweet words which You said to me Sunday. When, Jesus, will You become my Heavenly Spouse? "
"What would become of me if I did not dedicate all my affections to the Sacred Host? Oh yes, I know it Lord; that in order to make me deserve paradise in heaven, You give me Communion here on earth!"
In another letter to her spiritual director she writes: “Having been to Holy Communion, I felt Jesus coming, and do you know how I felt Him? At first, when I had just received Him into my heart, He began to make it beat, oh so violently, that I thought it would leap out of my breast! Then He asked me if I truly loved Him. I answered ‘Yes and do You love me?’ I said. Then Jesus caressed me and kissed me and I remained as if reduced to ashes in His presence.”
Ultimately, it is love that unites God to His creatures
In ecstacy Gemma says "Oh Love, Infinite Love! See your Love, oh Lord, it penetrates into my very body ... When shall I unite myself to You Who on earth can operate such a union of Love? I can stand it no longer, I am weakening! May I die, and may I die of love. What a beautiful death, oh Lord, victim of Your love, victim for You! "
"… My Jesus ... Yes, this Jesus, Who holds me so strongly captive of His love, this Jesus is mine, He is my affectionate Lord . . . This Jesus Who loves me and Who sympathizes with my miseries."
".......Love, Jesus, is that not the best reward of all your generosities? And then, too, I love you. Yet, it is not for your benefits alone, but because you are my Jesus. I love You because You are the sole object worthy of my love. I love You because You are Goodness itself. I love You because You have promised, You have sworn never to abandon me ... I love You, oh Lord, for an infinity of reasons. "
There we have in part, some of the ways that God united with Gemma, and Gemma with God.
"Oh Jesus . . . oh Jesus . . . What are these strong attractions which unite me so powerfully to you? Is it Your heart which beats so near mine? . . . What power there is in Your heart" -Saint Gemma Galgani