Angelica, a friend in St Gemma, recently informed me of a special grace that was given to the late Archbishop Roberto Nogara + (1879-1940). The details of the story are related in the book "The Incredible Life Story of Sister Elena Aiello- The Calabrian Holy Nun" by Rt. Rev. Francesco Spadafora. Incidentally, Sr. Elena Aiello was just recently Beatified on September 14, 2011.
Archbishop Roberto Nogara was instrumental in the beatification of Gemma, and as we shall soon see, Gemma rewarded the good Archbishop with her heavenly presence in his last hours on earth. For it was that the two miracles which had been proposed, investigated, discussed and eventually approved for Gemma's beatification had been wrought by two individuals in the Cosenza Archdiocese, and Rev. Nogara as a well liked priest (and soon to be Archbishop) had enlisted his dynamic energy and fervor for the promotion of Gemma's cause.
And so it was that a little over a year after Gemma's beatification on May 14, 1933 that Rev Roberto Nogara was appointed Archbishop of Cosenza on August 27, 1934. The new Shepherd was welcomed with great enthusiasm and affection. In his "History of the Archdiocese of Cesenza" Father Russo writes as follows:
"Archbishop Nogara was a Shepherd solely devoted to the care of souls. The inscription on his coat of arms read: "Volentem duco, nolentem traho," which translated means: "The willing ones I lead, the reluctant I charm."
"Like St. Paul, he was a restless worker for the Kingdom of God and his only rest was to change from one activity to a different one. He spoke very quickly and, like St. Paul, he mentioned the Name of Jesus to no end in his sermons. He was decidedly upright to the point of looking rather stern and rigid; but he had a great heart, quite ready to grasp the situation, incapable of duplicity and most sympathetic for the needs of souls, of the clergy and of the times. In the course of pastoral visitations, quite a few times he had nothing to eat until he returned very tired to the Bishop's House late at night, because he didn't want to add a new burden to the meagre budget of some pastors. Oh, how many very useful and fine Parish Rectories he established in his Diocese!"
Mention should also be made that it is noted extensively in the book "The Incredible Life Story of Sister Elena Aiello- The Calabrian Holy Nun" that Archbishop Nogara was the great and faithful friend and supporter of Blessed Elena Aiello and her Institute of religious Sisters and their orphanage and ministry in the the care of orphans and needy children during that time period in Cosenza.
The last hours of a holy Archbishop- St. Gemma assists at his death
It came to pass that after some 5 years as Archbishop of Cosenza, His Excellency Roberto Nogara suddenly and unexpectedly fell ill. In his book on Sister (now Blessed) Elena Aiello, Rev. Spadafora quotes Father Vincezo Donnarumma who had recently become the Spiritual Director for Blessed Elena's Institute of religious Sisters. He states: "In September 1939, Sister Elena confided to me: 'About this time next year, His Excellency shall no longer be in Cosenza.'"
"I didn't question her any further, neither did I pay any attention to the meaning of those words. On one of my frequent visits to His Excellency, I related the Sister's remarks. In my excitement I had believed, that, since the Archbishop was Administrator of Reggio Calabria, he might be promoted to that Archdiocese, the more so, because up to that time he enjoyed perfect health."
"The following day, when I said that I had quoted her words to His Excellency as alluding to a promotion to Reggio Calabria, Sister Elena became visibly depressed; then in her usually simple way, she hinted that such was not the case. The first symptoms of a severe illness became apparent in November. His Excellency felt happy for having assisted in the Beatification of Gemma Galgani. The two miracles which had been discussed and approved for that occasion, had been wrought in the Cosenza Archdiocese, and he had enlisted his dynamic energy for the promotion of that cause. He was hoping that Gemma would cure him. However, Our Lord had disposed otherwise. An operation was needed, and by the time it was decided on, it was already too late and it was no longer possible. Sister Elena hastened to visit her great benefactor and friend the Archbishop as he, perfectly conscious, was awaiting the very end.
"She told me that as soon as she entered the room, she saw the Archbishop's sister, Mother Giulia, Superior of the Sister Adorers in Garda on one side of the bed and Gemma Galgani on the other side of the bed. Before expiring His Excellency told Mother Giulia that the only thing he would have very much desired was the approbation and juridical recognition of [Sr. Elena Aiello's] Institute."
Assisted by Gemma, Archbishop Nogara died on April 24th, 1940, just eight days prior to Gemma's canonisation on May 2, 1940! For surely it was God who arranged for him to have a much better view of Gemma's canonisation by joining all of the heavenly court on that joyful day with a blessed view from on-high to celebrate and honor the holy life of Gemma.
And so it was that Gemma showed her heavenly appreciation and thanksgiving to her benevolent friend who sought during his lifetime to have her raised to the altars as a Blessed, and just eight days after his death a Saint of the Catholic church. O blessed and peaceful death assisted in the last hours and moments by a great Saint in the service of the Heavenly King! If only we too could live our lives in such a manner so as to receive the heavenly assistance of the "Gem of Christ" in our last moments, that she, along with our guardian Angel might present us to Jesus, and plead our cause for forgiveness and mercy! May God grant us such a grace! Amen +
Blessed Elena Aiello sees Gemma in another vision
In Chapter 13 of "The Incredible Life Story of Sister Elena Aiello" we read of a vision of Jesus on the Cross, and present at the Crucifixion where the Blessed Virgin Mary, St Mary Magdalen and St Martha. Also present in the vision is St Gemma and a holy friend of Elena's named Vera (Vera had just recently died.) Describing this vision of March 24, 1938, Elena while in ecstasy and suffering the wounds of the stigmata stated:
"Oh! Let Mother (The Blessed Virgin Mary -ed.) shed Her tears in the very side and Heart of Jesus! The Heart of Jesus! Gemma Galgani and Vera are holding two lillies. Vera is now approaching me. She has been sent by God to help me bear all this pain; otherwise I would pass away. Mary Magdalen is at the foot of the Cross; Martha and the Angels are gathering the drops of Blood."
So we see that Gemma, who was so devoted to the Passion of Jesus, is shown as being spiritually present in this vision of Jesus Passion.
-St Gemma, pray for us!
“You shall see what I will do when I go to heaven. I will bring you with me at any cost”. -From a letter written by Gemma to her spiritual director, Ven. Father Germanus C.P.