An eyewitness account of St Gemma's ecstasies, stigmata and mystical wounds

A priests eyewitness account of St Gemma Galgani’s ecstasies, stigmata, and other mystical graces

Taken from the rare first edition of Venerable Father Germanus’ book  “Life of Gemma Galgani” published in 1913 (just 10 years after Gemma’s holy death) wherein contains at the end of the book an "Appendix of Dissertations" written by Father Germanus Ruoppolo C.P. (Gemma’s spiritual director) that was not in many subsequent editions. In it Father Germanus gives his eyewitness testimony concerning Gemmas ecstasies, stigmata and other parts of her mystical life, some of which is published below—Glenn Dallaire, webmaster

Gemma's ecstasies
"Gemma’s raptures, ecstasies, and visions were always so calm, so spontaneous, so modest and so edifying, and were consistent in all their [exterior] particulars. On the first intimation from within of what was coming, she immediately withdrew and hastened to hide herself in her own room from the gaze of others. There, kneeling down without any support, she betook herself to prayer, and within a few moments became insensible to all of her surroundings and impressions without changing position, so that in order to ascertain that she was in ecstasy it was necessary to draw near and move her. Her members were insensible to every touch or stimulus; but they were not stiff nor trembling, and could be moved in every way just as those of one who is asleep. At the same she she remained kneeling upright, not leaning to one side or the other, and needing no support from others. And as she entered into that state so she came also came out of it in the same way,  without any effort or weariness, without yawning or stretching her arms, without any oppression or dizziness, even without the feeling one experiences on being aroused from sleep. An angelic smile was all that characterized her passage from ecstasy to her normal state, and she returned immediately to her ordinary domestic occupations.

"Sometimes she was suddenly rapt in God while she sat at meals with the others, or while engaged in conversation, or at her table writing letters, and on returning to herself she lowered her eyes without showing the least confusion, and with perfect naturalness she would resume eating, writing or talking…. As the dear child was when she went into ecstasy, so she came out of it; as the first time when she was eighteen years of age, so, in like manner, the last when she was twenty-five. Fair and ruddy in face, slight in figure, self-possessed, joyous and vivacious, never sad or melancholy, always serene and perfectly even-tempered and clear of mind; such were her constant qualities. And although her thoughts and affections were always fixed on God, she was able nevertheless to attend with the greatest punctuality to everything that was given her in charge. At any time in the day, if someone came to speak to her, even while rapt in exalted prayer, she immediately raised her eyes to see who it was, and her first reply was always an angelic smile. She came out of ecstasy quite spontaneously, like one who, having finished reading some book, or reciting some prayer, goes with the same readiness as before to take up her accustomed occupations; so true is this that those who had not seen her previously could not tell that she had just come out of an ecstasy.

"And during the time of her ecstasies, there was no sign of suffocation [or significant change in breathing], no convulsions, flushing or rush of blood. The only ­extraordinary thing was the intense palpitations of her heart, which was so strong that, if that beating against her ribs was not miraculous in its origin, it would have taken away her life. But what do we see? The ecstasy is no sooner ended than her heart is once again calm, the ribs which were bent outwards to make room [for her enlarged heart], as I shall have to explain later, returns immediately to their natural position without leaving her any remnant of pain or weariness.

Gemma’s enlarged, inflamed heart and outward pressed ribs
"What shall I say now of the extraordinary phenomena of Gemma's heart? Speaking strictly and pathologically, what occurred with Gemma in ecstasy was not a palpitation, an acceleration of the action of systole and diastole; but rather it was a expansion of the organ, which, finding the space allowed it by nature too narrow, beat against the walls of the cavity in its effort to find more space. And these strokes were so violent that , when one pressed against the part with closed fist, the hand and arm were pushed back, no matter what force was employed to resist the impulse.

"Meanwhile, the Ecstatic remained, seated on her chair, lying on her bed, standing, or kneeling, without giving any sign of inconvenience or other indication of the presence of these violent movements. Her bed and seat shook under her. I, myself, witnessed this while she remained immovable and in an absolutely normal state. And what is still more wonderful, she did not give the least indication of distress or oppression, not even by the quickening of her pulse. She continued to speak with God, as was usual in her ecstasy, and that without any difficulty or sign of fatigue, but with a firm and' strong voice, and her words were all words of fire. Nor could it be otherwise, for that heart not only beat, but was on fire like a burning coal, so that it was impossible Ito put one's hand on that part without feeling it burn. Sometimes, also, that heat was so excessive that it caused a large external wound over the region of the heart, as if it had been the effect of a red­-hot iron plate applied to the skin. This wound healed when the ecstasy ceased, but the mark of it remained for weeks. And after all, this agony of her heart on fire that would have forced the most robust and brave into writhings of torture, was not able to draw from Gemma the least exclamation, or make her wince in the least. She told me that, while that fire martyrised her senses, it made the sweetness of Paradise descend into her soul; and, wishing that others as well should taste it, she made anxious signs with her hands to those round her to draw near to the fire that caused it.

"I have said that her heart beat strongly in order to make room, and it was so in reality. "Jesus is too great," she said in ecstasy, "and my heart is too small to contain Him. Then let this heart be dilated, let it grow large that Jesus may dwell there at His ease."

"And that heart in fact was dilated, and so struck at her ribs on that side that it raised and bent three of them in a most wonderful manner. This marvel remained and could be seen in the blessed child for a considerable time. [As her spiritual director] I would not consent to doctors being called to examine it, as any ordinary person could verify the abnormal state of such a well-known part of the body, and distinguish between a bone displaced and enormously curved, from any other excrescence in that part. The persistence, however, of this wonder only happened once. On the other occasions, the raising of the ribs ceased at once with the ecstasy. The same may be said of the excessive beating of the heart, which stopped immediately and returned to its natural state. And, if, as very frequently happened, after a short interval the ecstasy returned, then at once the heart began again to beat and the ribs to rise. This was so manifest that, by keeping one's hand over the heart, one could tell at once, without looking at her face, that the holy child had returned into ecstasy.

Venerable Fr. Germanus Ruoppolo C.P.  -The author of this text
The Stigmata of St Gemma
"And now, what shall be said of the other ­things that, in addition to her ecstasies were manifested ­in this favored child, in particular that of the Stigmata?....
The stigmata appeared as lacerations of the capillary vessels and tissues…so as to form large, deep wounds on both sides of each hand, and on each foot, [and on certain occasions one would see] a piece of flesh in the shape of the head of a large nail appear in the middle of the palms of both hands.
In order to be accurate, I wish to mention here, as I said before, when treating of this particular, that this last phenomenon [of a fleshy nail head] was only observed a few times, and only in the palms of the hands, never on the feet; and that also occasionally the stigmata bled without any laceration of the surface. The fleshy nail-heads, however, showed themselves, though seldom, and the deep wounds were the more usual state of Gemma Galgani's stigmata. I say, the more usual state was in the shape of a half-moon, large, deep, and open, how would it be possible to make this by tearing with one's nails? And how could the punctures of the crown of thorns be made by scratching? They may say this could be done with a pin; but the prick of a pin cannot cause streams of blood in this part of the body. Even Doctors who wish to draw blood from the head are obliged to use a pneumatic syringe.
The wounds healed the next day and formed a slight crust, just as happens with all ordinary lacerations of the skin; this happened in less than an hour, leaving only a whitish mark the size of the wound on the skin; and this trace remained to testify to the miracle, even after it had ceased to be renewed, and could be seen on her body after death.

"This stigmatized Servant of God was always burning with the fire of Divine Love, and this Love went on increasing in proportion to the lights she received from God in her sublime contemplation's; and at the end of her life this came to such a point as to cause her heart to burst. Yet, in spite of all that, the stigmata not only did NOT increase in frequency and intensity, but they ceased altogether, [contrary to conventional human wisdom and expectations].

The Crown of Thorns
"The punctures of the crown of thorns, like those of Louise Lateau, were so small that it was difficult to discern them with the naked eye, the more so, because they were mostly hidden under-the hair; but blood came from them copiously. I myself can attest this as, having caused her forehead and head to be washed during her ecstasy, I at once saw the punctures, previously impercep­tible, re-open, and fresh red blood ooze out, flowing rapidly down her cheeks and wetting her clothes.

The stigmata of St Gemma
The Wounds of the Scorging
"Besides the above-mentioned five wounds on the hands, feet, and side, and the punctures of the Crown of Thorns on her head, Gemma had also the wounds of the scourging on her back, arms, and legs; the wound from the Cross on her left shoulder; and those of the falls on the way to Calvary on both knees. All were large and deep, and some nearly reached the bone. The former were in the shape of great furrows, livid around the edges, and bleeding. The others were like those that we see represented by painters and sculptors at the present day. Witnesses who were allowed to observe attentively this innocent creature placed by God in such a heart-rending condition stated that one could barely form a just idea of what they saw by looking at the great Crucifix in the house, before which Gemma used to pray; and that Crucifix is wounded so as to move to deepest compassion. The first time that the painful phenomenon became known, the pious benefactress in whose house Gemma lived [Ms.Cecilia Giannini], not knowing what to think of it, wished to try and cure one of the wounds by bandaging it, etc. The result was that the next day all the others were perfectly healed and covered with the usual crust, while that one only remained open and went through the ordinary course before it closed and healed, not without causing the poor child much suffer­ing. Now, let our disbelieving Professors explain these most singular facts by their miserable theories of hypnotism, imagination, and religious preoccupation.

The Sweating of Blood
"Moreover, there were the sweat of blood and the shedding tears of blood. These are singular phenomena of which Christ Our Lord gave us the first example. We know from the Gospel that in the Garden of Gethsemane, in the excess of His sorrow, He sweated blood from His whole body so profusely that it flowed down and bathed the ground; and some of the contem­plative Saints tell us that on the Cross He wept for our sins tears of blood. Gemma's sweat of blood was also copious and from her whole body. But this happened out of the ecstasy and was generally caused by her horror of sin, sometimes only when the utterance of a blas­phemy caught her ear, as she passed in the street. I am not aware that such a thing ever happened before to anyone else, not even at the suggestion of the most potent hypnotists of our day. All that has been said of the sweat of blood applies with much greater force to the copious flow of blood from her eyes.

"In the eyes there are no blood-vessels of importance, except those of the third membrane that surrounds them, commonly called the "coraide ," and those of the corona, known as the ciliate process. As the blood flows into these membranes, the first phenomenon to show itself is the inflammation which causes the whole eye to become red. The same may be said, if the blood is squeezed from the capillaries of the other parts near the eye; but this blood of the capillaries, as well as that of the membranes, never bursts the vessels, so as to flow forth in streams. Hence, no other way remains of explaining this phenomenon naturally, except that of the vessels from the head. But then, by what force of nature could that blood be expelled in such a way as to flow in abundance from the eyes? I know of none. Hypnotists will probably point out many; but only in theory; since, up to the present date, they have not succeeded in drawing blood from the head of any of their victims, and in making it pour from the eyes through an impression of terrible grief, or otherwise. 

Then as regards the inflammation just mentioned, no sign of it was ever seen in Gemma's eyes, either before, after, or during the phenomenon. The blood ran from those innocent eyes, not in drops but, as I have said, in streams, saturating her garments, while some yet remained coagulated in the hollows round the eyes and had to be removed in morsels. Notwithstanding all this, the eyeballs and the adjacent membranes remained unhurt, and it sufficed to wipe the parts with a damp cloth to see them appear in their most perfect natural state."
In the end, what was the purpose and reason for all this suffering given to Gemma?  It was for the salvation of souls. For it was while in ecstasy that Jesus Himself told her:
“My child, I have need of victims; strong victims, in order to appease the just anger of my Divine Father. I need souls who, by their sufferings, trials and sacrifices, make amends for sinners and for their ingratitude...."
And for her part Gemma lovingly accepted the will of God for her to suffer as a victim soul for the conversion of sinners, an she often renewed her wish to Jesus in words and in writing, for example she once stated: “...Therefore Jesus do not abandon poor sinners. I am ready to do something. You died on the Cross , make me die also on the cross. They [sinners] are all your children... do not abandon them. Jesus, I want to save them all... am I not the one that must suffer for them? Therefore cast Your anger at me. You have so many sinners, but You have so few victims." 
-St Gemma Galgani, pray for us!


"She bore in her flesh the wounds of Christ" -Pope Pius XI

 "Among these Divine favors [that Gemma received] was the very special one of manifesting in her virginal flesh the living image of Christ and mysteriously sharing in the various sufferings of His passion." -Pope Pius XII [From Pope Pius XII Decretal Letter "Sanctitudinis Culmen" ("The high point of sanctity") given for Gemma's canonisation] 


George said...

Lord have mercy.

George said...

Saint Gemma is an seraphic saint. As her writings and biograhy are an insight into her life, it is a great spiritual insight that is of immense value to quicken our spirits.....teaching by insight. I would urge those that truly seek to get closer to the Lord and prepare for that divine moment the body ceases, to read all they can of Holy Gemma

Glenn Dallaire said...

Thanks George for the wonderful comment. May Jesus bless you and your loved ones,
Glenn Dallaire

Anonymous said...

May 4, 2016

I had the occasion in 2014 to make a pilgrimage to Santa Gemma's house and shrine in Lucca. I can assure ALL who read this, that Gemma is very Real and very Active even this very Moment, in interceding for us poor Sinners. I myself am not one to seek 'signs & wonders'... but some years ago I came upon Mr. Dallaire's website and found myself completely absorbed in reading Every possible tidbit of information about the lovely Santa Gemma. And SO inspired was I to learn about her, I ended up making a special trip to Lucca just to offer some prayers to God through her.

At the conclusion of my visit in Lucca, I was praying near her tomb in the church when I heard a small inner ''voice'' in a calm female voice. It was Gemma, and she told me something of my future. All I can say now is, she is Everything that has been written about her. She is the Real deal. And it is because of her that I continue to perservere in Faith and Hope in Christ the Lord.

Read and Believe! That's all I can say. Read about Gemma, Pray, and Keep Believing. Because it's ALL Real, every bit of it. The Faith... is Real.

Thank you for maintaining this website.

And Thank You Santa Gemma... for everything.

Grazie por Tutti

- RT

Glenn Dallaire said...

Dear RT,
Thanks so much for sharing here a bit of your spiritual journey and the graces that you have received through the intercession of St Gemma--I sincerely appreciate it.

It is really wonderful to read how our heavenly friend Gemma has obtained from God many blessings and graces in your life--May God be blessed in everything as we give sincere and heartfelt thanksgiving to Him for the heavenly help of all His servants, most especially St Gemma!

Union in the Hearts of Jesus and Mary,
Glenn Dallaire

Willow said...

I am so awed by Gemma's story! I can so identify with her love of Jesus. His love for us is an individual and precious love and He seemed to love her much. He loves us as much as we accept Him. Sometimes the love of and for Christ is so intense that it can become physically painful. How wonderful is the love of our Savior. She was an amazing woman who was loved by Him.

Unknown said...

In looking at the photo of the holy card of St. Gemma's spiritual director, Fr. Germano (Germanus), I see that his full name in religion was "Father Germanus of St. Stanislaus." And St. Gemma died on April 11, which is the feast of St. Stanislaus! Isn't that fascinating? I would be interested in hearing what the connection was with Father Germanus and the Polish bishop and martyr.

St. Stanislaus and St. Gemma, pray for us!

- Julie

Glenn Dallaire said...

Very interesting observation Julie--I never took note of that! Thanks for sharing it!
Glenn Dallaire

Patrick elam said...

Thank you GemmašŸ’“ For touching my heart and my soul.i gave the gold ring that I treasure From my mom to the pooršŸ’“ thank you..

Unknown said...

She is indeed a fascinating and Holy person.Sperson.St.Gemma,please pray for us!0

Unknown said...

Sperson doesn't belong