The humility of St Gemma Galgani

St Gemma's profound humility

Humility is a common thread that unites all the Saints. When the creature searches herself and contemplates the vast gulf between herself and the Creator, she then takes the first steps in humility. At a young age Gemma realized that God is everything, and that she was truly nothing without Him. Therefore, seeing herself as a “nothing” before God, Gemma was attracted to things that would humble her.

Once, while Gemma was relating to her spiritual director, Father Germanus CP, a grace that Jesus had given her, he decided to test her humility, so he replied to her “Now why would Jesus want to dirty Himself with the cesspit that is Gemma?” Gemma replied with a great smile, and was filled with a great joy, as though she had found in those words what she had been seeking for a long time, namely the best phrase that she could apply to herself."

Loving always what would humble her, she would often thereafter repeat the phrase. In fact, once while seeing Jesus in an ecstasy, she was recorded as saying “Dear Jesus! Why do you wish to dirty yourself with the cesspit that is Gemma?” And another time when her guardian Angel appeared to her she exclaimed "Don't soil your hands, I beg of you, in this cesspit"

"La Povera Gemma"
Seeing herself as a nothing before her infinite God, Gemma would often sign her letters- “La Povera Gemma” (“I am poor Gemma” –editor). In her humility, she thought herself and her prayers as nothing before God, and she would often plead in her letters to Father Germanus and others to “please pray for poor Gemma” or “remember to pray hard for poor Gemma”.

St Gemma's writing -La Povera Gemma

In her autobiography (which she was ordered to write by her spiritual director) one notices that she seems to exaggerate greatly the severity of her sins. In fact she called her autobiography "the notebook of my sins”. Once again, it is humility that brings out this trait in Saint Gemma. Seeing the infinite perfections and goodness of God, she thus saw her minor faults as “horrible sins”. Knowing the great mercy of God however, she went to Confession at least once a week, thereby strengthening and fortifying herself with the sanctifying grace and forgiveness received in the Sacrament of Confession.

In his book "The Life of Saint Gemma Galgani" regarding Gemma's humility, Father Germanus states "I made humility the test of her spirit from the moment I was called on to examine it. Many persons, even her extraordinary Confessor, manifested hesitation on witnessing such extraordinary things in Gemma.....they said 'can all this, so rarely found even among the greatest Saints of the Church, be from God?' My answer was, 'This is certainly from God, if it is accompanied by humility.'

"She never boasted or made a display of her talents or gifts; quite the reverse. No one could equal her in her modesty and her efforts to hide herself from the eyes of others. 'For charity's sake Father' she once wrote to me, 'do not speak of me to others, and if you do, tell them what I am in reality.' She would also write of herself 'what is to be done, Father, with this worthless being?'

"Great was her embarrassment when others turned to her for help in their great needs, and this was often because of the high opinion in which she was held by many. To a confidential friend she wrote once-
'Listen, I was greatly astonished that you in your letter have asked me to pray for that Lady. If you did not know me, then you could be excused, but now that you know me well enough! I say no more. What can you expect to obtain through a sinful soul, full of defects, that is so little if at all, concerned for Jesus? Nevertheless, I will obey you, but don't rely upon me because I am good for nothing.'

"Once, when asked by a Priest for her prayers, Gemma replied 'I will pray, be assured of that. But, you know well that my poor prayers are weak and without force, and Jesus Who has gone to hide will not hear them.' (Referring to the times when Jesus withdrew His sensible presence from her, in order to better purify her, Gemma would say 'Jesus has gone to hide' -editor)

Father Gemanus continues "....I remember once, while I was at the house (Giannini home where Gemma resided -editor) an eminent Prelate was announced as wishing to meet Gemma. She, not being able to escape upon being called, seized a house cat that was near and appearing to be greatly delighted by it, and fondling the animal quite childishly (a thing, be it noted, that she had never previously done) she presented herself before the Prelate. Her artifice succeeded, and he, shrugging his shoulders, showed his displeasure. Then Gemma, full of joy at having obtained her desire, sped away with the cat in her arms."

"On her deathbed, being asked by one of the nursing Sisters in attendance what virtue was the most important and dearest to God, Gemma answered 'humility; humility is the foundation of all the others.' "

For more information on the humility of St Gemma see:


Michele said...

her humility is a good lesson for us all.

Glenn Dallaire said...

Yes, probaly one of the greatest virtues we can learn from the Saints is humility. Thanks Marilena for your comment!
May God bless you and yours,

Staying in Balance said...

Truly the mark of a saint!

Anonymous said...

Thank you God for giving us St. Gemma. I was so touched whenever I read this blog. It gives me the desire to get closer and closer to God.

Glenn Dallaire said...

Dear Anonymous,
I am glad to hear that you are inspired by the articles.

May God bless you and yours!
St Gemma, pray for us!
Glenn Dallaire

Elaine Rutax said...

Lord, thank You for the grace that is St. Gemma. Only this Monday I asked of You to teach me genuine humility, truly Your providence is grace and ever-bountiful.