|Monastery-Sanctuary of St Gemma in Lucca, Italy|
A friend in St Gemma named Michael along with his wife Sue kindly sent me an email with a description of some of the highlights of their recent pilgrimage to Lucca and the places of St Gemma. Thankfully, they also included some excellent photos taken during the trip, a few of which I will include with their letter.
And, after their letter I will include also a recent photo that I received of a picture of Mary with the Child Jesus that Gemma looked and prayed to in the last moments of her life.
I would like to sincerely thank Michael and Sue for sharing the story and photos of their pilgrimage. May Saint Gemma be always very close to them, and may she lead them ever closer to Jesus.
I have contacted you a couple times in the past for holy cards. You may have heard some of what I have to tell you, but not most of it.
I’m a 41 year old husband and father. I work for two Catholic parishes in catechesis. As you can see, I have a strong devotion to St. Gemma and I love your website. All the contents of this envelope I made myself through Vistaprint and their frequent offers to print things for free or at deep discounts. I use them to promote her devotion and your website.
My devotion started slowly about 15 or so years ago, because of my mother. In 1979 her first grandchild, Molly, was almost two years old. When Molly tried to say “Grandma” it came out “Gemma” -Well… it stuck. Molly and all 19 grandchildren and one great grandchild (Molly’s first) that followed over the next 29 years all called my mom “Gemma.” I know my mom liked it a lot, partially because she was taught by a Sister Gemma when she was a little girl.
|St Gemma's Autobiography that the devil tried to burn|
April 7, 2007 was Holy Saturday. My mom had been suffering from a number of ailments, including heart trouble. She was on several medications. My father suffered from Parkinson’s and dementia. Since neither could take care of the other, we had aides staying overnight at their house. We could not find an aide for Saturday night, so my mom gave me a little money to stay over on Saturday nights (It was very nice of her, since there is not much money in working for the church). That night my mom went to the Easter Vigil with my dad and sister Mary Jo (I have three sisters and two brothers. I’m the youngest). I met them back at the house when Mass was over, about 10:30 pm. My mom was sitting at the kitchen counter, looking rather spectacular in her Easter best, enjoying some Polish sausage. My sister commented that the Mass was so long. My mom, however, said it didn’t seem long at all and that she really enjoyed it. Not ones to move along very quickly, my parents eventually settled down to bed around 1:00 am.
|St Gemma's dress and mantle|
Around 9:20 my sister Suzy called me. She said that Dad had called and said he could not wake my mom up and that she was going over to check on things. A few more frantic phone calls latter, from my sister and the aide, and I was over at the house. My mother had passed away in her sleep. She was 75 years old.
This is when I began to look more closely into St. Gemma. One of the first things I discovered was that she is the patron saint of pharmacists. I thought this was rather funny, considering how my mom subsidized the local pharmacist rather nicely with all the medication she had been taking over the last 15 years of her life. This was quickly trumped when I discovered that St. Gemma died on Holy Saturday. Wow! My mom died Easter morning. It was a really awesome sign. The second day of the wake was on April 11th, St. Gemma’s Feast Day as you well know.
I then began to read and learn more about her, but things really started happening on November 10, 2011. My wife and I were leading a pilgrimage to Rome with our friend Brian as our tour guide. On this sunny November day we took a day trip to Lucca to visit St. Gemma. I was excited, but had no idea what to expect. We arrived by train late in the morning and began the walk around the outside wall of Lucca to St. Gemma’s Monastery. When we arrived we were greeted by a huge picture of St. Gemma on the front of the church. A close up of her looking up in prayer. Once inside we were drawn immediately to her tomb. I knelt down and touched my rosary to the glass that guarded her statue. We could see the stains on her eyes that we later learned were from tears of blood.
He then began to lead us down the street, around a corner, and down another street toward the town. I said to my wife, Sue, that I didn’t want to leave yet. I wanted to go into the shop. Sue, whose knowledge of Spanish helps her understand bits of Italian, told me that she thinks he wants to take us to Gemma’s house. “So, that’s what the key was for,” I thought. I quickly shut up.
As we walked through the beautiful town of Lucca, the man spoke in Italian to Brian and he translated as best he could these amazing stories about St. Gemma that the man was telling him. A walk that should have taken 20 minutes took 45 as we stopped frequently so the man could explain with his hands (Italians… you know). We learned about her guardian angel delivering letters, how she was averse to being hugged or kissed, about her talks with Jesus and her sufferings.
At last we arrived at the Galgani’s apartment. We went upstairs and the man showed us the different relics that adorned the rooms of the home turned museum. The second to last room we entered simply had a crucifix and a large closed triptych. He opened the triptych to reveal and marvelous icon of St. Gemma receiving the stigmata from Jesus, with Mary and her guardian angel at her side. He then revealed to us that we were standing on the floor where this miraculous event took place. The three of us fell to our knees in thanksgiving. Brian and Sue wept.
About halfway back to the church we parted ways with Giovanni. The three of us decided to tour Lucca before we returned to the gift shop. However, when I did it had closed early. The next day I returned to visit. I just had to get some St. Gemma sacramentals. It was great.
About a month and a half ago one of the pilgrims we were with gave me a first class relic of St. Maria Goretti and St. Gemma he had acquired from a Passionist priest he knows in Rome. You know how much it means to have them.
One of the items I got from Vistaprint is a car magnet. It has the picture of her with her hair down, the quote that begins, “When I shrink from suffering…” and your website. One day a man with a noticeable limp saw it and waited for me to come out of the grocery store so he could ask me about St. Gemma. I gave him one of the cards and just told him I had a devotion to her and had the magnet on my car to tell people about her. He was so happy about it and said it was no coincidence that he saw it at a time in his life when he needed to. St. Gemma was hard at work and still is. Thank God!
Signed, Michael (last name withheld -editor)
"Then turning to the picture of the Blessed Mother on the wall she [Gemma] said:
"My Mother, I commend my soul to you. Tell Jesus to be merciful to me."
And at the moment of our deaths, may St Gemma tell Jesus to be merciful to us....-St Gemma, pray for us!