Saint Gemma on humility

“I am poor Gemma” –The humility of Saint Gemma Galgani

Source for this information is from the book “A Lover of the Cross –Saint Gemma Galgani" by MONASTERO-SANTUARIO di SANTA GEMMA -1940

Saint Augustine once wrote “Only through the degrees of humility can one reach heaven. God is infinitely perfect, and pride keeps us far from Him, but through humility we are able to approach Him.”

Gemma understood this and her sanctity is demonstrated not by the extraordinary gifts and graces that God generously bestowed on her, but by her heroic practice of virtues- and above all, the virtue of humility.

God chose Gemma as His spouse, uniting her to Him in a mystical and spiritual union and as the bonds between Him and Gemma grew stronger, He granted to her some of the greatest gifts that are rarely bestowed on an earthly creature. All these marvels were a wonder to those who saw them, but how many times Gemma begged God to withdraw them and to give them to some other soul who would know better how to repay them!

The fragrance of humility was ever radiating from her. “Oh Jesus” – she would say – “do not let me do things that are above me. I am good for nothing. I do not know how to return all these great graces you have given me. Seek someone else who will know how to do better than I.” And to her God replied: “You do what you can: I want to make use of you, because you are the poorest, the weakest of all creatures.”

Sometimes God, to whose presence not even Angels are pure, show­ed Himself to her in the brightness of His infinite light to humble her. “How is it that You show me Yourself? What a shame for me, Oh Jesus! And you want my soul? Take it, but hide it, so that nobody may see it!”
To her spiritual director she confided: “If you only saw how horrible my soul is! Jesus has made me see it... Oh, how much I ought to marvel at the infinite mercy of God! Yes, Jesus is indeed my Jesus! He is full of goodness to me, a miserable and most ungrateful sinner. He has wrought again the miracle of my conver­sion. Through the light that He has deigned to grant me, I have come to know of my baseness.”

Testimony of Euphemia Giannini (Venerable Mother Gemma Giannini)*
Gemma’s great friend, Euphemia Giannini, who later be­came a Passionist with the name of Mother Gemma says: “Fully gifted as she was, only a tiny bit of pride would have overthrown her great spiritual building. Yet, as if she had known nothing of all this, she always remained at her place, the last one, serene and tranquil. She did not perceive if people either loved her or bore her ill will; if they cared for her or not. Praise and blame left her indifferent. She had known the truth about herself, and she lived according to that truth, and was always very happy of her nothingness. She had learned to know the importance of this virtue and to love it, through a vision she had which she herself told me. Jesus showed her an immense plain cover­ed with trees, in the midst there was a square where a stately tree stood higher than the others, and He said: - These trees are virtues; the highest and stateliest one is humility.

It was this feel­ing of humility that once prompted her to tell my Aunt Cecilia: - "...You must think that you are doing for a poor man in the street what you are doing for me, otherwise you merit nothing."
The progress the holy girl made in such a fine virtue was wonderful The greater and dearer she became to the eyes of God, the humbler she tried to be with everybody, while endeavoring always to conceal herself. I who have known her in the familiar life, can say that she thought herself as a nothing, that she would always be employed in the humblest duties, and I remember that in the last days of her illness, to the nursing Sisters of St. Camillus who had asked her which was her preferred prayer, she answered with great feeling: - My Jesus, mercy! One could see the virtue of humility in her by her shy coun­tenance, her collected bearing, low voice, and by her every act or word, so that she was a model, an example and a school of humility for all of us at home”
*(Eufemia Giannini was Gemma’s favorite of the Giannini children and the confidant of many of her secrets. She was her devoted attendant during the time of Gemma’s last illness and she was present at her death. Eufemia would later become a Passionist nun, taking the name of “Gemma”, and in 1939 she founded the “Passionist Sisters of St Gemma Galgani”, and she became the Mother of the new Community. She died in 1971, and was officially declared “Venerable” by Pope Benedict XVI on March 15th, 2008. Thus, she is now officially “Venerable Gemma Giannini”-editor)

This feeling of her spiritual poverty made her ask the prayers of all her acquaintances. “Pray Jesus for me, and tell this also the others: it is a great cha­rity to pray for me”, And in another letter: “If you only knew that ways that Jesus seeks to mortify my pri­de. Oh how bad I am! If you only knew! Pray and make people pray to Jesus for me, so that in a short time He may help me to ma­ke amends for my many faults, and enlighten me that I may know the horrible darkness of my soul”.

How distressed she was when others asked her prayers! “Oh Jesus” she exclaimed in an ecstasy – “if people knew me, they would not come and ask for my prayers”. To her "adop­tive" mother and friend,Cecilia Giannini, she wrote: “I was so astonished that you asked me to pray for that lady. If you did not know me you might be excused; but you know me well enough! I say no more…What can you expect to obtain through a sinful soul that is full of defects and that is so little, if at all concerned about Jesus? And yet I obey, but do not trust me, for I am good for no­thing.”

Even when Jesus was concealed to her and she keenly suffered for His absence, she never com­plained, so steadily convinced she was not to be worthy of the heavenly comforts, thinking to have deserved God's forsaking. With trembling hand she wrote to her director: "My Jesus at last has got tired of my coldness. Poor Jesus! He is quite right!” And when she was harassed by the devil, she humbled herself deeply, thinking she had ex­cited the divine justice to punish her because of some hidden faults of hers. In short, everything was a reason to humble her. Gemma saw herself as a “nothing” before God, and with this humble thought always present before her she would often sign her letters “La Povera Gemma” [“I am poor Gemma”]

In his book "The Life of St Gemma Galgani" Venerable Father Germanus writes-

"On one occasion I reproved and mortified her, and at the same time admonished her to be on her guard, lest she be taken unawares by pride. I also let her imagine that I had noticed some secret germ of this vice in her heart. Observe the terms in which she answered me:
'I have read your letter. Oh my God, have mercy on me! It is true, too true, that pride is in me. Listen, Father. I no sooner read that word pride than the devil seized on it in order to drive me almost to despair. I had already passed a very bad hour, and at last, driven to extremes, I ran to the crucifix and, prostrate on my face, asked pardon many times and implored of Him to let me die there and then at His feet. But this was not granted me. A few moments later tranquility and peace suddenly returned. Poor Jesus! Oh, how often do I not cause Thee pain! Where am I going to end if I continue in this way? But no! I won't be so any more, and I ask your pardon, Father. Don't be angry with me: You shall see; I won't do the same thing again. Your letter said what was true, and I thank you for it on my knees. But why let me trouble you so? Don't you know that I have a thick head and little intelligence? Then for­give me, and I will never again displease you. What pain I must have given Jesus by these proud thoughts!'
Not even she could tell what those thoughts were, but simply she believed what her director had said. Then she continued:
'Father, ask Jesus to forgive me in pity for my poor soul. Instead of being always good, I have managed to get filled with malice and iniquity and pride. Yet Jesus has given me the grace to acknowledge this wicked sin, and now He enables me to correct it. [Then she further adds,] I tremble; I fear that Jesus will punish me because I have offended Him and displeased you. Do you know the punishment I fear, -­and I shall deserve it- to be condemned not to love my Jesus any more. No, no! Let Jesus punish me in any other way that He chooses, but not this. Father, if you still find pride in me, don't delay; put an end to me; do all that is possible, but take the pride quickly from me.'
In one of her letters she wrote- "Gemma alone can do nothing. But together Gemma and Jesus can do all things!"

In her youth when she was at the school of the Zitine Sisters, she became proficient at painting, some of her water-colors being so good that they were judged worthy of public exhibition. Because of this her Aunt Elisa tried to persuade her to paint a picture so as to let her father see how capable she was. But she could not be induced to do so, and she gave this as her reason: 'No, because it might afterwards be hung in the drawing-room, and everyone would see what Gemma has done. That is vanity and I do not want it. Besides, you praised me the other day for a trifle I did for you, and I did not like it because I do not wish to be praised.' On another occasion her aunt asked her to give French lessons, but the only answer she received was: 'Truly, I am very ignorant.'

See also this article for more on the humility of Saint Gemma:

“How is it that God who is so great and so worthy of being loved should be offended by me? And who am I to dare so much? ...My poor Jesus!” –St Gemma Galgani

No comments: