|The holy death of St Gemma Galgani, April 11, 1902|
"We have assisted a great number of people on their deathbeds but we have never seen anything like this." -A nursing Sister from the order of St Camillus de Lellis.
Medical opinion was divided about St Gemma’s case, some holding it to be certainly tuberculosis, others after microsopic analysis that it was a new and mysterious disease, but all were agreed as to the possible danger of infection and the necessity of isolating the sick girl from the family.
It sometimes happened that she was left the whole night entirely alone, just when she had the greatest need of assistance; but she neither complained nor gave any sign of being troubled at it. In order to prevent this, the Sisters of St Camillo De Lellis were called in, the very community which at one time Gemma had thought of joining. Her consolation during the long sleepless nights was prayer. "Let us pray, sister, let us pray. Do not let us think of anything but Jesus only." And when she could not pray with her lips, she prayed with her heart, as she had been taught to do by Mgr Volpi: "I do exactly as he told me to do." Gemma stated.
But great as were the physical sufferings of Gemma, they were as nothing compared with those inflicted on her by the Devil. Thus does Father Germano describe what she suffered during the last few months of her life:
The religious Sister who was nursing her, said that she could not believe souls in Purgatory could possibly suffer more than Gemma during the last month of her life.
Yet in the midst of all her anguish Gemma continued to speak to Jesus as she had done in her days of joy and consolation: "Where are you, Jesus? " she would exclaim after each of these fierce conflicts with the Fiend of Hell.
One day, hearing Gemma speaking thus, the nursing sister said to her: "If Jesus left you to choose, what would you choose? --To go at once to heaven and escape all this suffering, or to remain here and suffer since that would be for His greater glory?" And Gemma instantly replied: "It is better to suffer than to go to heaven, when it means suffering for Jesus and giving glory to Him."
She showed the greatest gratitude towards the sisters who were nursing her. One day, hearing her earthly "Mamma", Cecilia Giannini say to the Superior: "I certainly shall not fail to reward you for all you are doing." Gemma suddenly exclaimed: "No, no, I shall see to the sisters with Jesus."
The Devil was not satisfied in tormenting her soul but assailed her body also. Her incapacity to retain food had diminished somewhat, so they began to give her a little nourishment. But no sooner had they brought it than the Devil caused the food to appear as if covered with loathsome insects, and they had to take it away. Horrible animals of hideous shapes came into her bed and crept over her body, so that the poor girl could get no relief. On more than one occasion, full of terror, she called the sister and said she felt a serpent coiling itself around her from head to foot, and striving to crush her in its coils.
And then she turned to the Blessed Virgin: "Oh Mamma, I am in the hands of the Devil, who torments me and strives to drag me from Jesus. No, no, no, do not abandon me, Mamma. I will be good. Pray for me. I am alone at night, terrified, oppressed, and as it were bound in all the powers of my soul, with all my bodily senses helpless. Jesus my life, Jesus, all for Jesus! Jesus only! "
'If I am for you (Jesus said to me this morning), who can overcome you? And why daughter, why instead of being downcast do you not increase in confidence? Daughter, humble yourself under my Potent Hand. Be assured that your prayer never comes up before me without obtaining some grace, and. although it may be inspired by little love, I increase it so that it reaches me, even though at first to you it appears to have been without fruit.'
And then He said to me:
There is a P.S. from Gemma addressed to Father Germano: "Implore Jesus to take me with Him to heaven. I can no longer stay in the world. I am in my aunt's house, but I am contented and tranquil."
And the Sister remarked that as she said this, her whole face became transfigured.
Jesus granted her desire to the full, for she died on His own great Feast Day, Holy Saturday, for it was just as the bells had rung out their joyous peal in honour of the Saviour's Resurrection that Gemma's soul released from the body of this death sped from the shadow of earth to the splendid glory of heaven, there to keep the heavenly Easter which shall never pass away.
And raising her eyes to a picture of the Madonna on the wall, she added: "My Mother...I commend my soul to You. Tell Jesus to be merciful towards me." She kissed the crucifix, placed it on her breast with her hands crossed over it, and with eyes closed remained motionless.
Visit the Gift Store for many St Gemma related religious items
Sometimes dear Father (Father Germano -editor) I tremble and turn bright red when I think of how impure I am when I recieve Jesus in Communion, Who is the essence of purity. And it is surely because of this impurity that beside the fire of Jesus I am colder and colder. But Jesus, my dear Jesus, loves me even this way, and continuously lets Himself be felt in my soul. I have only one good thing, dear Father, and it is good intentions. At least I think I have these. And, since Jesus tells me that this greatly helps one who is weak and poor like I am, so I hope these good intentions at least will be pleasing to One who is strong and great like Jesus" -St Gemma Galgani