The everyday life of St Gemma

A glimpse into the daily life of Saint Gemma
Venerable Eufemia Giannini (Mother Gemma Euphemia Giannini)
Thanks to a recent translation of a couple of documents written by St Gemma's close friend, Venerable Eufemia Giannini, we can now get a closer peek into Gemma's daily life and personality. For those who are not familiar with the name,  Eufemia Giannini was third eldest of the Gianinni girls (the family that Gemma stayed with in the last 3 years of her life) and was a close spiritual friend and confidant of Gemma. Her and Gemma were about 5 and 1/2 years apart in age.

Gemma and Euphemia loved each other tenderly and were united in a special spiritual bond that lasted long after Gemma's holy death in 1903--for on her deathbed Gemma had said to Euphemia that "she would take her place on Calvary”. And it was less than 3 years later on January 8, 1906 that Euphemia entered the new Passionist monastery in Lucca--the very one in which Gemma herself worked,  prayed and suffered so hard to establish--and which has since become the Monastery of Saint Gemma.  On March 25 of that same year (1906) Euphemia took upon herself the religious habit, and took the name of Gemma Maddalena -Gemma, the name of the holy friend who showed her how to love Jesus with all her heart. And the next year on April 11, 1907, the anniversary of the holy death of St Gemma, Euphemia, now named Gemma Magdalene in religion, made her religious profession as a cloistered Passionist within the very monastery that Gemma herself worked and prayed so hard to establish.  After a long life as a nun and later a foundress of a religious Community, Euphemia Giannini passed from this life to eternal life on August 26, 1971, and in recognition of a lifetime of heroic virtues was declared "Venerable" by by Pope Benedict XVI on March 15th, 2008. Those interested can read more about the life and holy friendship of Venerable Eufemia Giannini and St Gemma here.

During her holy lifetime, Eufemia often spoke of her holy friendship with Gemma, and fortunately some of these conversations were written down, and have just recently been translated into english.
So without further ado, we present some of these translated statements from Ven. Euphemia Giannini below:

Concerning the daily life and personality traits of Gemma Eufemia states:
"Gemma was always very docile and obedient; she was simple and she never behaved with prim manners or formalities and we never noticed the least hint of falsehood in her. She did not seem to care whether she was believed or not; she replied with a «yes» or a «no» and did not normally seek to go into explanations. She was always good and kind to everybody but without ceremony. Sometimes, in­deed, she didn't know even seem to know how to say «thanks». However it was Jesus who took care of doing that. She never took part in the talks we had at table about fa­mily affairs. At most, she exchanged a few words with the younger children--Dina, Prisca, Guglielma and Mary, who sat near her at the end of the rectan­gular table."

On another occasion Eufemia adds:
"Gemma was always very natu­ral, simple and honest without and flashiness in whatever she did; she was very serious and reserved but good and kind to everybody. She talked very little but she was not cold or withdrawn. She was kind with eve­rybody and everything and she never showed a disapproval or aversion for any time of work. She always see­ked the worst jobs and the lowest position in the family. She took care of sewing, setting the table and keeping eve­rybody's stockings  in order.

"She seldom talked about herself and would not normally have long conversations with us because she did not want to act in any way as a teacher or a spiritual person. At our house Gemma cooperated with our two maid-servants in the everyday housework, just as all we children did, because our mother wanted us to do so. However Gemma was not a maid-servant of ours, as someone has written. She lived with us like a dear sister of our's, she was considered a member of our family. She kindly took care of us and without showyness"
Eufemia goes on with her testimony as follows:
"In the morning, before going to Church, Gemma rarely talked. After coming back from Mass, she had breakfast, then helped in tiding up the bedrooms and the kitchen. Afterwards she normally sat in the work-room and knitted. It was often at this time that she then thought again of holy Communion and as she thanked Jesus she would then fall into the deep inner concentra­tion that came before her ecstasies. Then, since she knew what was about to happen, she would retire to her bedroom, as she thought that nobody would look at her there.

However, we grown-ups (normally Eufemia and Cecilia) would soon follow after her and enter her room and then we would call her. If she didn't answer, we got near her and often found her already in an ecstasy. Other times we saw her sitting on her bed or chair, or leaning against our aunt's bed and speaking to Je­sus, the Guardian Angel or the Virgin Mary with clasped hands and closed eyes. Then we seized a pencil and any piece of paper within reach and wrote down what she was saying. When she remained si­lent for a bit we immediately went away. Therefore, when she re­covered consciousness, she found herself alone and she thought that nobody had noticed what had hap­pened. She never realized that we were present".

The reader of these lines might now wonder what Gemma's ecstasies were like. And so it is that this last statement of Eufemia leads us perfectly into a ecstasy of St Gemma that was recorded by Eufemia and Cecilia Gianini, and just recently translated especially for this website by a friend in St. Gemma named Angelo (and at this point I would like to sincerely thank Angelo for his excellent translation work provided below.) This hopefully will give the reader a certain sense of what Gemma's ecstasies were like.

Saint Gemma in ecstasy
Tuesday, 5 September 1899
"You are the only love of all creatures. You, Jesus...are the flame of my heart. My
Jesus I want to love you with my whole soul...all the Saints of Heaven, all of you,
loan me your hearts.

Jesus, oh Jesus, will I be worthy to be faithful to you, to give you my whole heart? I will give
it to you but You must give me a big heart to give. Even if I had many hearts, Jesus, and big, big ones, I would want to love only you...And you love me very much. I would want to love you so
much Jesus. But who reduced you to this state? Who has killed you?

Yes, send me sufferings, so I can be sure that I will know how to love you. Place a drop of your blood upon my heart; Then you will see that I love you very much because of your love; and then Jesus, you must make me read in your heart the ... (here, Gemma stopped speaking, however because of what she said in an ecstasy shortly after this one, it is believed that Gemma is wanting to know from Jesus more about the state of a certain sinner that she was praying for.)

Love has really killed you! Jesus, let me also die of love... Life is a torment: there is not a person in the world who can console my affections except for you.

The thorns, the nails, all are operations of love. If this how to love? ... Jesus I have learned. I will sacrifice all for you, but I will remain faithful.

What a beautiful gift you have shown to me Jesus! ... Enough, Jesus, I have seen you (on the Cross -editor). It is the gift you prepare for your souls. I take it gladly, Jesus. May your will be done, and not mine!"

And so it was that the "Gem of Christ" lived by all appearances on the outside a very simple, humble, reserved and quiet life, yet interiorly she was all on fire with the love of Jesus and the love of souls.
-St Gemma, pray for us!

2 comments:

Bichon maltais said...

She has lived a great life.I really loved what you write about her.

Stephen Browning said...

Praised be Jesus Christ for the Gift of Saint Gemma
Galgani to Holy Mother Church!

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