Biography of St Gemma Galgani

BLESSED GEMMA GALGANI (1878-1903) Part 1 of 2 , by FATHER AMEDEO, C.P. , Translated from the Italian by FATHER OSMUND THORPE, C.P., 1935, Published by Burns, Oates, and Washbourne, London.



In obedience to the decrees of Urban VIII, and to the Apostolic Constitution ' Officiorum' of Leo XIII, we declare that we claim no authority for what is written in this book other than that which is purely human and historical.

[Webmasters note: Of all the books on St Gemma in english, this is the one that I personally most treasure, first and foremost because it is extremely well written, with lots of unique and original information on the holy life of Saint Gemma that is not availible in other books in english, but also because the english version of this book is so rare! After literally several years of searching on the world wide web for a copy of this book in English, I was finally able to acquire a copy from a used book dealer in Great Britain. And so, while this book is not that difficult to find in the original Italian, it is extremely rare in the english translation. Therefore given the original and unique information provided in this rare english translation, I felt it necessary to preserve this information on this website. I was deeply edified and inspired when I read this book, and I pray that those who read it may also be inspired and may be drawn ever deeper into the Heart of Jesus, through the intercession of Saint Gemma. -St Gemma, pray for us!]




A day of rejoicing occurred on March 12, 1878, in the home of the chemist of Camigliano, a smiling village at the foot of the blue Pizzorne near Lucca in Italy. Another child had come to gladden the hearts of Enrico Galgani and Aurelia Landi, who already had three children. Three more children were yet to bless their marriage, and therefore the child born in 1878 was to hold the middle place and to be as it were the heart of the family.

Because they considered their children to be the gifts of God, these virtuous parents rejoiced at every new birth. They had indeed every claim to be considered virtuous. Enrico on his mother's side was descended from the family of Blessed John Leonardi, and his character harmonized with the sanctity of .the stock from which he sprang. Aurelia, according to the witnesses whose evidence was taken during the processes for the Beatification of her daughter, was a model mother and a saintly woman. From among many depositions made concerning them, that of a priest, Francis Ghilardi, is very short and to the point: 'The Galgani family occupied a good position in society, bore an exemplary character, and was most exact in the fulfillment of its religious duties.' [All quotations unless otherwise stated are from the Summarium Proc, super virtutibus.]

The child was baptized the day after her birth by Don Peter Quilici, parish priest of Camigliano. There had been a disagreement in the family about the name she should be given. A paternal uncle, a captain of the army medical staff, wished her to be called Gemma. Her mother objected. The parish priest of Gragano, Don Olivo Dinelli, was asked to settle the question. Aurelia explained to him why she was reluctant to agree to her brother-in-law's suggestion. 'How can the child get to heaven,' she asked, 'if there is no saint of the name of Gemma?' 'But,' replied the priest, 'there are gems in heaven, and let . us hope that she may become a gem of Paradise.' So it was agreed to give the child the auspicious name of Gemma, to which were added Maria Umberta Pia.


A month after Gemma's birth the family moved to Lucca with a view to living there permanently. Guido, the eldest child, explained that his father made this change of residence in order that he might the better attend to the education and training of his children. The story of Gemma's first years is best told by her aunt, Elisa Galgani, who figured prominently in her life, and who became a most important witness during the processes for her Beatification :

‘Gemma passed her childhood and youth in her own home under the watchful eye of her parents. At three years of age Gemma, together with her sisters and her very young brothers, was sent to a private school conducted by some sisters named Vallini. No complaints were ever made regarding Gemma, and her parents were assured that she was good and obedient. There she learned to say her prayers and to do very simple knitting. She was removed- from this school after her mother's death when she was seven. At this time she was always obedient and respectful to everyone and was never wayward. She was plump and good-natured, so much so that she used to amuse my brother.

‘When she was about four she came to our home at Porcari for a few days to enjoy the country air. My mother, in whose room Gemma slept in a little bed by herself, found her there one day on her knees, with hands joined, before a picture of the Heart of Mary. She called my brother, the army doctor, saying: "Come and see how Gemma prays," and together they watched her. "What are you doing, Gemma?" asked my brother. Gemma answered: "Go away, please; I am saying the Hail Mary." As they retired my brother said: "If I had a camera I would have taken her photograph! "’

Gemma's mother said morning and evening prayers daily with her children, and also taught the older ones to make little meditations. On Sundays she took them to Mass and to the evening devotions in the parish church. The children also went with her to the catechetical instructions for adults but she did not allow them to attend the catechetical instruction for children, preferring to instruct them herself or to bring a teacher into the house for that purpose. One of these teachers, Isabella Bastiani, made the following deposition in the processes:

‘The Galgani’s wanted someone to look after the sick and take charge of the children. My stepmother, Maddalena, was chosen. In this way I came to know the family and Gemma. My stepmother asked me if I would undertake to teach the children their prayers and catechism. I then began to teach Gemma and her brother Tonino the catechism, after which I used to bring Gemma to the Church to visit the Blessed Sacrament and say the Rosary and the other prayers I knew . Nothing seemed as pleasing to Gemma as to go to the Church to say her prayers. She never grew tired. When she had said an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be to the Father in honour of her Angel Guardian, she used to turn to me and say, "To whom should I pray now?" If I told her a pious story she always wanted another one and said repeatedly, " Tell me more, tell me more." Although so very young, when she was in the Church she always remained kneeling with her hands joined, and she was quite recollected.'

The evidence of the Vallini sisters completes the picture of Gemma and her family, given by Elisa Galgani and Isabella Bastiani.

‘Our family had a villa and some property in the neighborhood of Porcari about six miles from Lucca, and in consequence we formed a close friendship with Carlo Galgani, the district doctor. On the Feast of St. Michael to whom our Church was dedicated, he and his wife and children used to dine with us, and we returned the visits. In the course of time Carlo Galgani's son, Enrico, came to live at Lucca, and knowing that we kept a school there, with his wife's consent willingly entrusted to us his five little children, the second of whom was Gemma, then not more than two years of age.' [Elisa Galgani said that Gemma was three years of age when she first went to school, and since she was usually most exact in her statement she is not likely to be wrong on this occasion.]

Even at this tender age Gemma had reached the use of reason and her intellect was prematurely developed. We could teach her prayers that lasted twenty-five minutes without her ever growing tired. At five she could read the Breviary like an experienced person. She was assiduous at her work and learned all that was taught to her. She was loved by all her companions for these good qualities. All the time she was with us, we had no occasion to punish her; a word of reproof was enough for the defects inseparable from her age. Her two brothers and two sisters were with her at school, but never once was she known to be angry with them. She allowed them to select the best fruit, and at dinner she was always contented, whatever she had, the smile that played on her lips being the only sign that she was pleased or displeased.'


If Gemma's good qualities were pleasing to all who knew her, they were certainly a source of great consolation to her parents. To her father she was , the light of his eyes.' He seemed unable to do without her, his first question on returning home always being: 'Where's Gemma?' He used to say that he had only two children, Gemma and Gino. Gino was two years older than Gemma and was her rival in virtue. Of him Gemma wrote in her Autobiography: 'I really loved him more than all the others, and we were always together. During the holidays we used to amuse ourselves by making little altars. . . .' [Autobiographia, p, 26]

Enrico Galgani's preference for his eldest daughter reminds one of the particular affection between St Therese of Lisieux and her father. Her clothes had to come from the best shops. She very frequently accompanied him and whenever they were in the city at the dinner hour, it was made evident that in his opinion the best hotel was her due.

This favoritism did not altogether please her: she seems to have recognized the friction and jealousy it might cause. 'Am I your only child? ' she asked her father one day. 'I love all the children,' he answered, 'but remember, you are my eldest daughter.' When he took her on his knees to caress her, she used to break away from him crying: , Papa, do not touch me.' 'But I am your father,' he would expostulate. ' Yes, Papa, but I do not want anyone to touch me.' Enrico, puzzled but not displeased, used to say: ' I wonder what will become of my Gemma! '

So great indeed was her objection to being touched in any way by anyone that she even preferred to wash herself rather than permit her Aunt Elisa to do so. Once, when she was only six or seven, a cousin who came on horseback to deliver a parcel at her home, paid dearly for trying to kiss her, as she ran to take the parcel from him. He held her outstretched hand and bent down to caress her, but she repulsed him so violently that he lost his balance and, falling off the horse, hurt himself. Gemma was punished for this conduct by having her hands tied behind her back for a whole day.

Her mother's love, though not less tender, was certainly more solid. She, too, preferred Gemma. Was she not the child of prayer-the fulfillment of a long desire to have a daughter? The knowledge that her health was being undermined by tuberculosis, and that her days were numbered, made Aurelia even more affectionate towards Gemma, who years later wrote in her Autobiography: ' I remember that when I was very small my mother often took me in her arms, and many times in doing so, she wept. "I prayed so long that Jesus might send me a daughter," she said to me. " He has consoled me, it is true, but too late. I am sick and I must die and leave you." , '

In the face of death Aurelia sought comfort in prayer and until the end did her utmost to fulfill her duties towards her children. When oppressed with fever, even when wearing plasters to relieve her cough, she rose very early to go to Holy Communion. Every Saturday she brought her children to the Church and prepared them there herself for the Sacrament of Penance. Their frequent presence in the Church was noticed by the Parish Priest, Don Raphael Cianetti, who afterwards described Gemma as ' a silent child whose demeanor edified all who saw her.'

Sometimes this holy woman, emulating the mother of St. Paul of the Cross, the Founder of the Passionists, would take her daughter on to her lap and pointing to the Crucifix would speak to her of the sufferings of Jesus. 'Look, Gemma, this good Jesus has died on the Cross for us !' It was a scene that must have filled the Angels with admiration. Gemma drank in eagerly the story of the Passion. Looking now at the Crucifix, now at her mother, she used to say: 'Tell me more, Mom, tell me more.' Often when Aurelia was busy in the house she felt her dress plucked and heard Gemma's pleading voice: 'Mom, speak to me for a little while about Jesus.'

But the disease that was consuming Aurelia was making implacable progress. The coming separation from her seven children who needed her so much, added to her sufferings. The thought of leaving Gemma pained her most of all. 'Gemma,' she said to her one day, ' if you were able, would you come with me to the place to which Jesus is calling me ? ' Where? ' asked Gemma. 'To Paradise with Jesus and the Angels.' This invitation filled Gemma with joy and an indefinable yearning. With an ingenuousness that was her constant characteristic she wrote sixteen years. later: 'I t was Mom who made me as a child long to go to Heaven. And now,' she added, alluding to a prohibition that she must not ask God to let her die, ' if I still desire Heaven and want to go there, there is almost an outcry.' So anxious indeed was the child Gemma to go to Heaven that she was loath to leave her mother's side lest she might flyaway without her.


But Aurelia could not take Gemma with her to Heaven, so she directed all her thoughts towards the child's spiritual future. To whom was she to entrust her soul? To the Holy Ghost, concluded Aurelia. At once she began to complete her religious instruction in preparation for the Sacrament of Confirmation, which Gemma received from Archbishop Nicholas Ghilardi, on May 26, 1885, in the Basilica of St. Michael in Foro.

At the end of the ceremony Gemma assisted at a Mass of Thanksgiving. The Holy Ghost Who had found her soul so well disposed for His gifts, willed to ask of this child of scarcely seven years the greatest sacrifice she could make. 'I was assisting as best I could,' wrote Gemma in her Autobiography, 'and praying for Mom, when on a sudden a voice in my heart said to me: "Are you willing to give me your mother?" "Yes," I replied," if you take me also!" "No," said the voice, " give me your mother of your own will. For the present you must remain with your father. I will take you to her in Heaven later." I had to say yes, and when the Mass was finished I ran home.'

This constitutes the first celestial conversation to occur in the life of Blessed Gemma Galgani. It is also the first in a long chain of sacrifices which God was to demand of this generous soul. Her life was to be a succession of pains and sufferings, which were to be for her the key that opened the treasures of God's grace.

Gemma arrived home to find her mother almost at the point of death, and on seeing her she burst into tears and wept unrestrainedly. She could not tear herself away from the bed. She had indeed made the sacrifice, but she could not help wishing to go to heaven with her.

The imminent danger of death passed, but only for a short time, and within four months Aurelia was dead. Gemma was not present at the end. The story of the last days is told in the processes by Elisa Galgani: 'Gemma had the misfortune to lose her mother when she was seven years of age. Although only a child she tried to assist her sick mother as best she could and did not want to be separated from her. Sometimes she would climb on to the bed and put her arms around her mother's neck and kiss her. The doctors often suggested that the children, especially Gemma, who was the eldest daughter and the most thoughtful and affectionate, should be kept away from the sick-room because the patient had tuberculosis. Gemma was, therefore, sent to St. Gennaro to stay with an uncle, Anthony Landi, who owned much property in that district. The place was not new to Gemma, for her mother used to spend a month there every year with her children.'

Gemma was at St. Gennaro for three months, according to her aunt Elena Landi, when her mother died on September 17, 1886, aged thirty-nine. Her five years of slow martyrdom had purified her soul and made it more worthy of Heaven.

Shortly before her death she said: 'I offer my life willingly to God that I may obtain the grace of having my eight children with me in Paradise.'

‘Gemma received the news of the death from her aunt at St. Gennaro with whom she was staying,' continues Elisa Galgani. 'Her only words then were: "Mom is in Heaven." Although she loved her mother deeply she did nor cry, but remained serene and calm, and submissive to God's will. Her first words to me on returning home from St. Gennaro were: " Why are you weeping? Mom is in Heaven and suffers no longer; oh, how much she suffered ! You must now try to regain your own health so that you can help us." ,


The loss of a mother is always a great calamity in a family, especially when all the children are still young. At Aurelia's death, the youngest child, Julia, was not yet three. What was Enrico Galgani to do? Already his sister Elisa was living with him while she recovered from the effects of an accident sustained at Lucca. So he decided to invite another sister, Elena, to look after his home and the children. As for Gemma, she had already chosen in place of her earthly mother, a heavenly one-Mary, the Mother of God.

In addition to the void left in the family by his wife's death, there was the void made in Enrico's heart by Gemma's absence. About Christmas time, therefore, he arranged for the homecoming of his children who for some months had been staying with various relatives. Gemma was to leave St. Gennaro. There were difficulties, however. She had grown into the hearts of her uncle and aunt, and they were reluctant to part with her. 'Gemma was always good and obedient to all,' said Elena Landi.

‘When her mother sickened, she asked me to take charge of this child, saying: "If there is no objection at your home, I should be very pleased if you would keep Gemma with you." One day the aunts and nephews came to say that since Gemma was the eldest daughter she should return home to her brothers and sisters, and that if I wanted one of the children I could have one of the younger girls. I loved Gemma so much that I did not wish to have anyone else in her place, and I became indignant. The poor child seeing me cry became upset, and said to me resignedly: "Oh Aunt, let me go to please them; I will come again soon." Hearing these words from a child of seven only made me more indignant. I cannot describe how displeased I was.'

But even before Elena and Elisa had set out to bring back Gemma from St. Gennaro, there was one who had been praying fervently for her return home. This was Gino. To Enrico, Gino and Gemma were one, and this was an added reason that made him determined that there should be no delay about Gemma's return. So at Christmas the members of the scattered family were once more reunited. But it was a sad Christmas. No one could fill their mother's place and she was missed at every turn. Everyone was sad except Gemma, who with a strength above her years encouraged them all. , Why should we weep? ' she said, ' Mom is in Heaven.'



After probably the saddest Christmas in his life, Enrico came to an important decision regarding Gemma, who since his wife's death had become doubly dear to him. Gemma had already left the infants' school kept by the sisters Vallini, and it was therefore necessary to send her to a more advanced school where her rare gifts of mind and heart might be cultivated to the best advantage. Like a good Catholic, Enrico could think of nothing better than to place her under the care of a very holy nun, Sister Elena Guerra, who had founded in Lucca a religious institute, the Oblates of the Holy Ghost, commonly called Zitine Sisters.

What, one conjectures, were the feelings of the holy foundress when she first came face to face with Gemma Galgani? Sometimes it happens that saintly souls when meeting on the pathway of life experience an unusual spiritual attraction for one another. When in 1907 Sister Elena Guerra heard that steps were being taken to have Gemma raised to the altars of the Church, she wrote: 'My poor heart rejoices in the knowledge that they are working for the glorification of my holy pupil, Gemma Galgani.' On her side Gemma, as it were in gratitude for the care bestowed upon her, seems to have obtained for this noble woman the grace of dying on Holy Saturday as the Easter bells were ringing out, on April 11, 1914 -the anniversary of her own death. Sister Elena is said to have influenced Leo XIII to issue his Encyclical on devotion to the Holy Ghost.

Gemma was delighted with her new school. ‘I began to go to the Nuns' school’ she wrote in her Autobiography, 'and I was in Heaven.' It could not have seemed otherwise to such a child. She lived in an atmosphere of piety, under the guidance of religious who were still filled with that fervour which characterizes, more particularly, the first members of a new religious Institute.


Gemma's longing for divine knowledge, already seen in her conversations with her mother, began to be manifested more clearly now. She asked Sister Catherine Vagliensi to tell her something about the sufferings of Christ in His Passion, and drank in every word so eagerly, and allowed herself to be so penetrated by the recital, that she became ill. , I told my mistress of my desire (of knowing Jesus Crucified),' wrote Gemma, ' and she began to tell me something every day, choosing an hour for the recital when the other children were in bed.

One evening she described the Crucifixion, the crowning with thorns, and all the other sufferings of Jesus so vividly, that the sorrow and compassion I felt brought on a high fever and I had to remain in bed the whole day after.'

Fortunately, when the processes for the Beatification were set on foot, Sister Julia Sestini, who on the death in 1888 of Sister Catherine Vagliensi, became Gemma's mistress and confidante, was still living, and able to make important depositions concerning her pupil. One incident she mentioned recalls something similar in the life of Blessed Bartolomea Capitanio, Foundress of the Sisters of Charity of Milan. One day a teacher in school asked Bartolomea and her companions which of them desired to be a saint. They answered with one voice: all wanted to be saints. Who would be a saint first? The teacher decided to solve the question by casting lots. . She procured as many straws of unequal length as there were pupils, and holding them in her hand declared that whoever drew the longest straw should be a saint first. Bartolomea drew the longest straw. She was so surprised that she at once ran to the Chapel to pray.' [Le Beata Bartolomea Capitanio, Fondatrice delle Suore de Carita, Venice, 1926, p. 27] Gemma did not run to the Chapel when in a similar way she drew the longest straw. According to Sister Julia Sestini, she danced with joy and cried out: ‘Yes! I will strive to be a saint.'

Another incident, related by Elisa Galgani, again reveals the innocence and artlessness of this singular child. One day when she came home from school she said to her aunt: 'The Superior, Sister Elena Guerra, said to me: "Gemma, Gemma, you have committed an act of pride to-day." Aunt, what are acts of pride? Explain to me what an act of pride means; I do not know this sin.' Her aunt suggested that she should ask the Mother Superior herself for a definition of an act of pride. She did so, and was greatly relieved to find that she had not committed it. She returned home. on the evening of that day very pleased and said: 'No, I have done nothing wrong, but I am glad also to know what this sin is.' Years later she wrote in her Autobiography: 'Yes, I did indeed commit this sin, but Jesus knows whether I recognized it or not. I often went to all the teachers, to all the pupils, to the Mother Superior, to ask pardon for this sin. In the evening and very often at night, I wept over it alone. Without being aware of it I fell into this sin many times a day.'


It will be interesting to know why this holy child was accused of pride. From what has been said, it is clear that she herself was often responsible and she knew it-for these accusations. She even admitted in her Autobiography that pride was the only defect of which she was accused and for which she was punished. 'The teacher,' she wrote, ' often called me a proud girl.'

According to Father Germanus, her first biographer-and everyone who knew her at this time agrees with him-Gemma was 'by nature vivacious. , Whoever watched her closely,' he says, ' could not but observe that she had a sanguine temperament and that her blood was easily fired. Only the violence she did to her natural bent prevented her from becoming what indeed some said she was, a little imp. Alert and perspicacious as she was, this inclination might easily have dominated her whole character. ' [“Life of Gemma Galgani”, by Father Germanus, C.P.] This may explain the almost contradictory depositions made concerning her at this period of her life. Sister Julia Sestini declared she had a lively disposition. Another witness said that she was accustomed to hold in check a rather spirited temperament. On the other hand, according to Don Andrew Bartoloni, she was of a quiet and calm disposition, and Sister Julia Sestini in another deposition says: 'She was so obedient that only a sign was necessary to recall her to her duty .... She was noted for her application to study and her assiduity at her work, and she obtained several prizes. . . . She was generally well liked by the children, and she knew how to keep silent.'

The truth is that Gemma was even now seriously endeavoring to correct her faults of character, and for this purpose was opposing her own will and nature. What was pleasing to her she refused, what she disliked she welcomed. Nevertheless, her first steps in the way of perfection were not accomplished with ease. Her demeanor suggested that she was watching over her conduct with effort and excessive attention, and this made her appear serious-minded, unsociable and too silent for her age. Her motives could not be known to all nor could they be always understood. That is why she was said to be unintelligent, blunt in speech, off-hand and even rude in manner. Some said she was proud and disdainful, others, more kind-hearted, that she was shy; a few declared that she was stupid. Compliments never came Gemma's way, at any time. She certainly never sought them. 'Oh!' she used to say, ' How can I please people? I am indeed stupid, and what does it matter if I am taken for what I am ?' When charged with being proud she answered: 'What is the meaning of pride? I never even think of it. I do not reply to questions because I do not know what to say. If I do answer, I am at a loss afterwards to know whether I answered right or wrong, and so I remain silent.'

As the years rolled by, however, Gemma made such progress in virtue that even before she left school she had acquired almost complete self-mastery. Whatever was artificial or forced in her manners or conduct disappeared, and virtue seemed to become a second nature.


Whatever the attitude of others, Sister Julia Sestini was Gemma's friend. But even Sister Julia often said: 'Gemma, Gemma, if I did not read you in your eyes, I would judge you as the others do.' She understood the soul-struggles of this holy girl and did her best to keep her on the right path. Her predecessor,. Sister Catherine Vagliensi, had often said to Gemma: 'Gemma, you belong to Jesus and you must give yourself entirely to Him. . . . He is pleased with you, but you are in need of great assistance from Him. Your greatest pleasure ought to be to meditate on His Sacred Passion and death.' So well did she know her pupil that Gemma wrote in her Autobiography: 'This good teacher had guessed what was in my mind.' Sister Julia Sestini's influence was not less efficacious. 'Under her direction,' wrote Gemma, ' I began to have a greater desire for prayer. Every evening after school, I went home and shut myself in a room where I recited the whole Rosary on my knees. Often at night, I got up for a quarter of an hour to recommend my poor soul to Jesus.'

It was also at this time that she began to long to practice penance, and this desire burst into flame whenever she meditated upon the Sacred Passion.

‘Every day,' she wrote, ' I had a part of the Passion explained to me. Often when reflecting on my sins and on my ingratitude towards Jesus we began to weep together. During these four years this good teacher also taught me to practice some little penance for love of Jesus. The first was to wear a cord around my waist . . . but so far as I was able I obtained permission from my confessor. Then she taught me to mortify my eyes and my tongue, and I succeeded in becoming better, but it was hard work.'

Her spirit of piety in these years was well remembered by Sister Julia Sestini :

'We were accustomed, especially during Lent, to explain the Passion of our Divine Lord. Gemma listened most attentively, and never grew tired of it. I have seen her weep sometimes. One day she and another child stood up, and Gemma asked: "What is the book out of which you read these things, because we should like to get one in order to study and meditate upon them better?" I advised the children to make five minutes' meditation in the morning, and to devote a few minutes every evening to an examination of conscience. I saw Gemma smile. When I questioned her I found that she had already the habit of making meditation and that she spent much more than five minutes at it.'

With a heart already so united to God, it is not surprising that Gemma was remarkable for the way in which she attended to the altars in the Chapel and classrooms, devoting her time to keeping them clean and becomingly decorated, nor is it surprising to know that she had no interest in the amusements which delight other children. 'She had no inclina-tion or desire for games,' said Sister Julia Sestini, , and when obedience compelled her to take part in school plays or concerts her demeanor was always edifying and serious. In the daily recreations she preferred to be alone or with the teacher. . . . When her companions invited her to accompany them I used to advise her to do so, saying: "Go along, Gemma, and don't be singular." Then she went gladly and quite willingly.'

Elisa Galgani's recollections of Gemma's piety at this time are more detailed:

‘She had a deep love for the Blessed Virgin and prayed to Her with great fervor and devotion, often repeating: "Holy Mary, make me a saint." She had also a very special devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Whom she ardently loved and to Whom she prayed

with extraordinary fervor. I remember that when she was a child at school, she used to pray for success in her examinations so that her father especially might be pleased. She not only prayed, but carried on her person little pictures of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Once I saw her dip her finger in the oil of the lamp that was burning before the Blessed Sacrament, then touch her tongue with it in order that she might be able to answer the examiners well .... She often read books about the Blessed Virgin, which were given to her by Monsignor Volpi or by the parish priest of St. Leonard's. Sometimes she read them aloud to her brothers and sisters and even to her aunts. Every day she said the Rosary with the family .... She made triduums or novenas for every feast of the Blessed Virgin and not only attended the special devotions held in Our Lady's honor during the months of May and October in the Church, but also repeated them at home with her brothers and sisters.'


Among the virtues that adorned Gemma's soul, the queen virtue shone conspicuously. And indeed charity or love for her neighbor for God's sake was one of her most outstanding characteristics even as a girl. Her brother Guido speaks of her' special charity towards the poor.' If she met a beggar on her way to or from school she would be sure to part with whatever money she had, and found more pleasure in its loss than she would have found in anything it could have purchased. It was this charity united to a profound humility which made Gemma keep silent under unmerited reproof, thus screening the actual offenders. 'Why don't you tell. your teacher and let her know that you are not guilty? ' said Sister Julia Sestini, who did not like to see her unjustly accused. 'Oh let the matter rest,' Gemma answered, ' it is better so.'

But already in these early years Gemma's zeal for the spiritual welfare of her neighbor was noticeable. She listened with particular interest when the Sister read to the pupils in school the Annals of the Foreign Missions.

‘Gemma was filled with a great desire for the universal reign of Christ,' deposed Sister Julia Sestini, ' and worked for the conversion of infidels not only by prayer, but also by contributing whatever money she had.' The pupils of the Sisters of St. Zita were all enrolled in the Associations called Propagation of the Faith and Holy Childhood, and Gemma paid her subscription regularly.

God was pleased with her zeal for the salvation of souls, and seems to have given proof of His pleasure on an occasion which was recalled by Sister Julia Sestini: 'It was during the Carnival,' she said, , and we were rehearsing for our Concert when the Mother Superior entered the Hall and asked for prayers for a dying man who had refused to receive the last Sacraments. We stopped the rehearsal and said some prayers. When they were over Gemma came up to me and whispered: "Our prayers are answered." That same evening I heard of the man's sincere conversion and that he had died with all the comforts of religion.'


Gemma was, as we have seen, her father's joy, and her return every . evening from school with a smile on her lips helped not a little to assuage the troubles of the day. He anticipated great things for her and watched with pleasure her progress not only in virtue, but also in her studies. Elisa Galgani had distinct recollections of Gemma at this time :

‘Once she had to confess to me that she had passed very well in all subjects in her class, and in French had secured very high marks. Some of her companions having failed were sad and sore about it. She said to me: "I am sorry that some of my companions did not pass. I should have liked all to pass, for then I should have been happier myself." She did not like amusements or games, not even those suited to her age, and did not play with dolls. I remember that on one occasion her father wanted her to go to hear the city band which was to play in the Piazza. "Gemma," he said, "take your sister this evening to hear the band." But she answered: "No, Daddy, let us go to the Walls; there we shall enjoy ourselves better." The people of Lucca being gathered round the band the path on top of the walls was deserted. They would also be able to go along in good time to the evening devotions in the parish church. Unlike other children Gemma never went alone into the City.'

Although Gemma did not enter for the public examinations, because it was not customary at the College, she did well at the examinations which were held by a visiting professor. According to her teacher, she attained a high degree of proficiency in literature, science and mathematics. But it was in the knowledge of her religion, the catechism, the Bible and ecclesiastical history, that she shone conspicuously. In a competition amongst the children of the city she won the gold medal for Christian Doctrine. This success elated her father, who thought of sending her later on to the University. But Gemma's answer to the suggestion was uncompromising: 'No, the University is not for me.'

Man proposes, but God disposes. God was preparing Gemma for another mission in life, and her thoughts were already turned away from this world. Sister Julia Sestini gives us a glimpse of Gemma's soul:

‘She used always to say that her hopes were in Jesus, and often repeated: "How dreary it is upon earth! " and raising her eyes to Heaven, " How pleasant to be up there !" She used to turn towards the Chapel where Jesus dwelt behind closed doors and say: "Faith breaks down all barriers and love stands chained to Jesus." When we suggested to the children on one occasion some act of mortification, advising them to practise these acts frequently, Gemma said: "What wealth! We can go to Heaven with overflowing riches!" She often said: " Gemma is good for nothing, but Gemma and Jesus can do all things!" It was thus she encouraged herself to overcome obstacles.'



The most important event which occurred while Gemma was at the College of the Zitine Sisters was her first Holy Communion, an event which had a profound influence upon her subsequent life. The desire to draw near to Jesus and receive Him in Holy Communion had very early inflamed her heart. The example of her mother, for whom the Eucharist was daily bread during her long sickness, certainly helped to intensify this desire, and we may be sure that in answer to the oft-repeated request: 'Talk to me about Jesus,' Aurelia poured into the heart and mind of her child her own ardent longings for the Divine Guest of the Altar.

That Gemma yearned to receive the Bread of Angels, we have the testimony of her aunt Elisa, who also deposed in the processes for the Beatification that the curate of St. Leonard's parish where the Galgani family lived, had said to Gemma: , You will receive Holy Communion when you are seven; you are too young now.' But her seventh birthday came without the fulfillment of this promise. There was then a universal prejudice against allowing young children to receive Holy Communion. If Gemma had lived a few years longer she would have seen a Pope, the saintly Pius X, open to innocent hearts the Tabernacles of the world, and would have grieved that she had been born too soon to be able to enjoy this privilege.

When, after her mother's death, Gemma was sent to the College of the Zitine Sisters, the desire of being united to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament grew more ardent. I t became her only thought, the one aspiration of her heart. She now said to her teachers at the College what she had already often said at home: 'Give me Jesus, and you will see how good I shall be. I shall be different; I shall not commit any more sins. Give Him to me; I long for Him so much that it is becoming unbearable.' But her age, according to the then prevailing custom, was against her. Besides, because of her delicate appearance she looked like a child, not of nine, but of six years, and all her tearful requests were in vain. In her humility, Gemma seems never to have realized why her repeated requests were refused, for in her Autobiography she attributes it to her sins: '. . . I early manifested the desire to receive Holy Communion, but I was found so bad and ignorant that they were afraid to allow me to do so. They began to instruct me and to give me good advice, but I always became worse.'

Finally, the spiritual director of the College, Mgr. John Volpi, was conquered by the child's insistence and decided to plead her cause with her father. Mgr. Volpi, who was Gemma's ordinary confessor until her death, and who was in 1897 consecrated Auxiliary Bishop to the Archbishop of Lucca, and later became Bishop of Arezzo, died in Rome, June 19, 1931, as titular Archbishop of Antioch in Pisidia. He was a man of outstanding piety and integrity, a father to the orphans and the poor. Leo XIII used to call him' the saint of Lucca.' Everywhere he went he left the imprint of his charity and indefatigable zeal. Before his death he gave a considerable sum of money as the first subscription towards the enlargement and beautifying of the Chapel of the Passionist Nuns, where Gemma's body now lies, and where he himself desired to be one day buried.

The argument used by Mgr. Volpi to overcome Enrico's reluctance was the most likely one to touch a father's heart. He pointed out to Enrico that he was in this dilemma, either he must give his permission or see his child die of sorrow. The permission was immediately granted.

Gemma's joy was unbounded, but in her Autobiography all she says is: 'I had only one desire, to make my first Communion soon, and it was known to be so strong that my request was very soon granted.'


Gemma, however, was not yet fully satisfied and began to think of the best way of preparing herself for this first meeting with Jesus in the sacrament of His love. Nothing seemed more appropriate than to spend the ten days usually devoted to spiritual exercises with the Sisters at the Convent. But how was she to obtain permission from her father, who did not like to be separated from her for even a few days? But there was one sure means of getting her own way with him, and she knew it-tears. So Enrico capitulated and even promised not to visit her or disturb her recollection in any way.

This settled, Gemma turned all her attention to preparing her soul for the coming of Jesus.

‘In the evening I received permission to go,' she wrote, ' and in the morning I went to the Convent. During this time I saw none of the family. But how happy I was; it was Heaven! '

Of those days it is better to let her speak for herself:

'I had scarcely reached the Convent and settled down before I ran to the Chapel to thank Jesus and ask Him to prepare me well to receive Him in Holy Communion. But I also had another desire. When I was very small Mom used to show me the Crucifix and tell me that Jesus had died on the Cross for mankind, and afterwards I heard the same from my teachers, but I never understood properly, and I would have liked to know perfectly the Life and Passion of Jesus.'

What a sublime aspiration for a young child, to know Jesus and Him crucified, to know Him in His Passion in order to know Him better in the Eucharist. Jesus in the Eucharist and Jesus on the Cross would be throughout her life the inseparable objects of her love. '0 Jesus,' she was later on heard to say in an ecstasy, ' You hear what the confessor asks me: What do you do when you are before Jesus ? If I am with Jesus Crucified, I suffer; if I am with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, I love.' For Gemma, to suffer and to love were the same thing. , Oh, yes, Jesus,' she said in ecstasy, ' whoever loves Thee truly, suffers willingly. . . . 0 Jesus, to love Thee and to suffer for Thee!' This was her heart's cry and her life's sole objective.

At this point in her Autobiography, Gemma describes the effects which the story of the Passion, as related by Sister Catherine Vagliensi, had upon her and the fever it brought on, and her father's displeasure when he knew she was sick.

Referring to these facts, Sister Gesualda in her Life of Gemma asks whether so deep an impression could be made upon a child by the mere description of the Passion, however vivid, and suggests that it was rather the result of the direct action of Jesus Who desired to prepare her for the gift He was later on to bestow upon her, that of participating in His Passion. 'Jesus filled her with a. love for His Passion,' she says, 'because the lively sorrow she would experience in meditating upon it would awaken in her an ardent desire to be associated with Him in His sufferings and to share in them, to give love for love.'

Gemma listened very attentively to the priest who gave the spiritual exercises to the children. One thing he said struck her particularly. It was a paraphrase of the words of the Gospel: 'Whoever eats the Flesh of Jesus shall live by His life.' 'These words,' she wrote, ' filled me with consolation, and I said to myself that when Jesus is with me I shall . live no longer, but Jesus will live in me. I was burning with desire for the moment to arrive when I could say: "Jesus lives in me." Consumed with desire I passed entire nights in meditating upon these words.'

To crown her days of preparation Gemma decided to make a general confession. She was only a child of nine years of age, most innocent, almost angelic, and yet she tells us that with the help of the Sisters she prepared herself for a general confession and completed it at a third visit to her confessor, Mgr. Volpi. One wonders what such an angel had to confess?


A truly happy day for Gemma was June 17, 1887, the Feast of the Sacred Heart.

She had jotted down on the previous evening, the resolutions she had made during the retreat: (1)' I will go to confession and Communion each time as if they were to be my last. (2) I will often visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, especially when I am in trouble. (3) I will prepare for every Feast of the Blessed Virgin by some mortification, and every evening I will ask the blessing of my heavenly Mother. (4) I desire to remain always in the presence of God. (5) Every time the clock strikes I will repeat three times, " My Jesus Mercy." She would have added more had she not been observed by a wise and prudent teacher who told her to be content with what she had already written.

She then wrote to her father :


The vigil of my first Holy Communion day has come, a day of unbounded happiness for me. I am writing to assure you of my affection, and to ask you to pray to Jesus for me that when He comes to me for the first time, He may find me well disposed to receive all the graces He has prepared for me. I ask your pardon for having been disobedient to you, and for all the trouble I have caused you, and I beg of you this evening to forget the past and to give me your blessing.

‘Your most affectionate daughter,


The long expected day at length arrived. Gemma thus wrote of it in her Autobiography:

‘Sunday morning came at last. I got up immediately and hastened to ,meet Jesus for the first time. All my longings were finally satisfied. I understood then for the first time the promise of Jesus: "He that eateth Me, the same also shall live by Me." I cannot express in words what passed between Jesus and me in that moment. Jesus made Himself felt, oh, so strongly, in my poor soul. I realized that the delights of. heaven are not the same as those of earth. I desired intensely to make that union with God continuous. I felt myself more and more detached from the earth and more and more disposed to recollection.'

It was related by one who had the happiness of making her first Holy Communion on the same day, that after receiving the Blessed Sacrament, Gemma said, pointing to her heart: 'I feel a fire here . . . I feel myself burning; do you feel like that?' Another witness deposes that Gemma made her first Holy Communion with such enthusiasm and devotion that she was unable to restrain her joy.

Two days later Gemma again received Holy Communion, this time in her own parish Church of St. Frediano.

Gemma never forgot the impressions of that happy day. I t can be said in fact that henceforward she lived only for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. For a few years she communicated once, and occasionally twice, a week, and on the other days satisfied her longings for union with Jesus by spiritual Communions, according to Sister Julia Sestini, always making more than the number suggested to the children.

The Feast of the Sacred Heart, which always reminded Gemma of her first meeting with Jesus, became her special day of devotion. Every year she used to unite herself with those who were making their first Communion, and make the spiritual exercises with them in spirit.

Fourteen years later, in 1901, when she wrote the following letter to her spiritual Director, the memory of that day was still very green :

‘I do not know, Father, whether you have heard that the Feast of the Sacred Heart is indeed my Feast day. Yesterday, Father, was a heavenly day; I was with Jesus all the time, I was happy with Jesus, I wept with Jesus. An interior recollection kept me more than usually united to my dear Jesus, but my happiness was even greater, when in the evening Jesus blessed me. I heard Him say these words:

"Dearest daughter, I am pleased with you to-day!" I answered: "0 Jesus, would that I could please Thee always." And I cried in the depths of my heart: "Oh chilling thoughts of the world, go far from me; I want to be always with Jesus, and with Jesus alone." Poor Jesus! He abases Himself to come and dwell in this vile body of mine. And when my dear Jesus lovingly says to me that all His joy is to be with me, I ask Him: "0 my Jesus, what is there in me to give Thee pleasure? You come to a soul that has a thousand times rebelled against Thee, that has in a thousand ways outraged and even dishonoured Thee! But Jesus, do You bear with me. The more I think, the more I realize that I can be happy only by casting myself upon Thine Infinite Mercy. 0 Jesus most merciful!" Father, where have my thoughts carried me to? To that beautiful day of my first Communion. Yesterday, the Feast of the Sacred Heart, I experienced once again the joy of that happy day . Yesterday, I again tasted the pleasures of Paradise. But what is the enjoyment of a day compared with the ages of eternity? I can say with truth that on that day of my first Communion my heart was most on fire with love for Jesus. How happy I was when with Jesus in my heart I could say: "0 my God, Thy Heart is like mine; what gives Thee pleasure, can make me happy also. What then am I in need of? Nothing.~' If I compare the peace of heart that was mine on the day of my first Communion with that which I experience now I find no difference .... '

Throughout the whole of her life she lived only for Holy Communion. '0 Jesus, what would I do if there was no Holy Communion? ' she said, 'if You were not there. . . . You, the object upon which my heart is set, how my love would languish away! If You wert in Heaven only, my heart, for certain, would go astray. But wonders Thy Mercy has worked! I will love Thee always. When the morning dawns, when the evening darkens into night, at every hour of the day, at every moment I will love Thee always, always, always! I will never leave Thee.' She told her spiritual director that if it were possible she would live in the Tabernacle. 'And if Jesus allowed me to enter the holy Tabernacle where His Body and Blood is present, would it not be like being in Paradise? '

Gemma did indeed understand in its fullness of meaning the promise of Jesus: 'He that eateth Me, the same also shall live by Me.' And she could repeat in all sincerity the words of St. Paul : ‘I live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me.'



When Gemma received the gold medal for Catechism from Archbishop Nicholas Ghilardi at his Palace in Lucca, she wore a specially-made frock and a necklace with a gold pendant, which her father had given her. She had also a gold watch, which, it seems, had once belonged to her mother; This is not certain, since Justina Giannini deposed in the processes that she had heard that Gemma had received as a present a gold watch from Countess Guinigi, who had been her sponsor at Confirmation, which, however, she had worn only once.

Although Gemma says in her Autobiography that she had looked forward to wearing these ornaments, so as to please her father and those at home, nevertheless on her return home as she was taking off the necklace, she saw her Angel Guardian looking severely at her. 'Remember,' he said, 'that the ornaments of a spouse of a Crucified King are thorns and the Cross.' Her Guardian then disappeared. This is the first mention of those angelical apparitions which are such a remarkable feature of her life.

The visit and the reproof of the Angel made a deep impression. She immediately gave the offending ornaments to her brothers. 'Out of love for Jesus and to please Him, I will never wear or even speak of such vanities.' This was the resolution she then made and we know from her own words how well she kept it: 'From that day forward,' she wrote, ' I have had nothing to do with them.'

Gemma Galgani, the chosen bride of Christ, was to appear before the eyes of her heavenly Spouse, richly and splendidly arrayed in the precious ornaments mentioned by the Angel. Even at the time of the angelic visit, towards the end of 1893, the shadow of the Cross had appeared in her path, and thorns had torn her heart.


But it must not be thought that Gemma's life was full of that sweetness and peace of mind which she experienced on the day of her first Holy Communion; such is not the lot of those who follow the Crucified. Very soon the Divine Spouse of souls pressed to her lips that chalice of bitterness and sorrow which in her short life she drank to the very dregs. Her trial at this time was a deep dejection of mind, which she felt all the more because until now she had lived entirely and only for her heavenly Spouse. If all earthly helps and consolations were taken away, she would have accounted it as nothing, as will be seen from the following pages. But to feel no longer the presence of Jesus, to be as it were almost abandoned by Him, this was a torment too hard to bear. Those hours of desolation are terrible to souls on fire with love for God, and this trial is for them a decisive experience. If they struggle and conquer and persevere in their love, the way of great and rapid strides towards perfection and union with God is opened to them; if they give up the struggle and lay down their arms, they take a path that leads away from God, perhaps to eternal ruin.

Though Gemma came out of this trial victorious, it was only after a long and painful struggle. Instead of having consolation and pleasure in serving God, and ease in the practice of virtue, she now experienced repugnance for prayer and every exercise of piety, and weariness and sadness. Jesus seemed far away and unreal. She wept and cried out in her anguish, but her tears were in vain. Yet she persevered. The more God seemed to fly from her, the more earnestly did she seek Him.

During the whole course of this trial, which lasted a year, Gemma, although her heart was heavy, faithfully followed the path of duty. Nevertheless, she found in herself only faults. and failings. She believed she was giving scandal to everybody and often asked pardon for this with great humility. She even wanted to make another general confession, but her confessor prudently withheld his consent. 'I tried to make another general confession,' she wrote in her Autobiography, 'but I was refused permission. I confessed to Jesus, however, and He filled me with such great sorrow that I even feel it still. I asked the teachers to forgive me for all the annoyance I caused them. But this change in me did not please my father or my brothers. I was often reproved by one of my brothers for getting up early to go to Mass. Jesus, however, from then on helped me more than ever. At that time, owing to the death of my grandfather and an uncle, two of my father's sisters came to live with us.'

Gemma, in the above passage, reveals another source of sorrow and another temptation, which might have led a soulless strong than hers to become somewhat relaxed in the practice of piety. Her family did not understand her ever-growing desire for greater union with God, or her manner of life which was becoming every day secluded. Even her father, who was as we have seen a truly pious man, sided with the rest of the family in reproving her. They disapproved of her going to church both morning and evening, and wished her to lead what they considered an ordinary life to amuse herself, wear more fashionable clothes and to go out and about more often. It must have been a hard struggle for Gemma, but she persevered in her resolutions in the face of all opposition. To reward her fidelity God dispelled the darkness that had enveloped her and her soul, which emerged from the trial purified and strengthened. At length the attitude of her family changed and she was able to pursue in peace her pious practices.


A long-desired opportunity to make closed retreat was offered to Gemma at this time, when the Zitine Sisters announced that a course of spiritual exercises was to be given at the College. She participated in them with zest. 'It seemed impossible,' she wrote, ' that I should ever again be able to concentrate my mind upon Jesus. . . . I well understood that Jesus gave me this opportunity in order that I might know myself better and become purified and more pleasing to Him.'

In her Autobiography she gives the notes she took at this Retreat: they are headed thus: 'A Retreat made in the year 189 I in which Gemma must change and give herself entirely to Jesus.' Then she continues:

'. . . I remember that the priest said: "Let us keep in mind that we are nothing and that God is all. God is our Creator; all that we have and are comes from Him." A few days later the preacher gave a meditation on sin, and then it was that I understood how worthy of being despised by all I was, because I was so full of sin and so ungrateful to God. During the meditation on Hell I realized how much I had merited it, and I made this resolution: I will make acts of contrition during the day, especially when I have committed some fault. . . . Finally during the last days of the Retreat we considered the examples of meekness, obedience and patience left to us by Jesus and as a result I made the following resolutions : (1) To make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament every day and to speak to Jesus more with the heart than with the tongue. (2) I will try as much as possible to speak of heavenly rather than of indifferent things.'


The graces which Gemma received at this Retreat prepared her for another trial-another precious ornament with which to make herself more pleasing to her Crucified Master. This trial took the form of the early death of her brother Gino. He had also given himself entirely to God and had received Minor Orders in the Seminary of St. Michael in Foro, where he had been for some years, when God marked him as an acceptable victim and took him to Heaven.

Gino's death was preceded by a long sickness, in which he was nursed with the most loving care by Gemma. Despising the danger of infection Gino was attacked by the same disease that killed his mother-she attended him night and day until his death in September, 1894. Her grief was so great that she became seriously ill herself and for several months came very near to death. Her father was broken-hearted. First the death of his wife, then the death of Gino had overwhelmed him with sorrow, but he could not bear the loss of Gemma.

‘I cannot describe the care everyone took of me,' wrote Gemma, ' especially my father. I often saw him weep, and heard him ask Jesus to let him die instead of me.' It seems that his prayer was answered, for he died within three years, after three months of intense pain, whereas Gemma was completely restored to health.

At this point in her life we are confronted with several discrepancies in the accounts given by her biographers and the witnesses in the Processes for her Beatification. The former state that after the sickness just mentioned, Gemma left school for good, and that shortly afterwards she was taken ill with the decay, or caries, of a bone in her foot. On the other hand, Sister Julia Sestini declared that Gemma suffered from this complaint while she was still at College, and Elisa Galgani agrees with this opinion. This is the account Elisa Galgani gave in the processes :

‘Gemma got ill with a bad foot. There had been a swelling on the instep, and she would have said nothing about it, if a bench had not fallen on it when she was at school with the Zitine Sisters. This accident, however, burst the tumour and she was then compelled to tell her father about it. He at once summoned a doctor who said that an immediate operation was necessary. in order to clean the wound and scrape the bone. Gemma accepted this illness and the accompanying pain with great patience and resignation, so much so that when I said to her: "You have suffered a great deal, Gemma?" she just answered with a smile. She suffered so much indeed that I could not bring myself to watch her being operated upon. My sister Elena, however, and my nephew Guido, who remained to see the operation, said that at no time did she make any complaint. When the operation was over one of the doctors, named Gianni, said to Gemma :

"Well done, Gemma: You have been very brave!" And she smiled again.'

Sister Julia Sestini remembered that when Gemma was sick all the children prayed for her, and that when she was better she came to the school to thank everybody. She even kissed her teacher. 'This was in May, I believe,' continued Sister Julia.

‘When her foot was bad she suffered much, but she was calm and resigned. She had on her bed several objects of devotion, among them a Crucifix which she kissed frequently.'

From this time Gemma's path in life ran through thorny places. The further she proceeded along the road that leads to perfection, the sharper grew the thorns, so as to make her in the end the living image of her Crucified Redeemer.


The kiss Gemma gave to Sister Julia Sestini was the final expression of her gratitude . for the care bestowed upon her at the school where her soul had made such progress in virtue. Her sickness had so weakened her that the doctor advised her father to take her away from the College. She was, also, inclined to study too assiduously and frequently such remarks as these were addressed to her: 'Why so much study! Don't you know enough already?' Her father and friends, although proud of her scholastic attainments and the prizes she won, were more anxious that her health should be completely restored, and therefore welcomed the doctor's suggestion.

Gemma obeyed and settled down to the daily round in the home where she always gave 'an example of humility and patience.' According to her brother Guido, she was always meek and submissive, the peacemaker in all their childish quarrels, , the bearer of the olive branch.' Her Aunt Elisa reports how willingly she performed her domestic duties and that she directed her attention especially towards helping her younger brothers and sisters in every possible way, and in teaching them their prayers. 'Her example not only encouraged her brothers and sisters, but was the admiration of us, her aunts, and of her father.'

Alessandrina Maggi, a domestic servant of Gemma's uncles at Camaiore, made the following deposition :

‘I know that when at her father's wish she left school and remained at home, she carried out her duties to the admiration of all, and was occupied more with her brothers' and sisters' education than with material cares. I remember that sometimes she had to suffer much from one of her sisters. She never, however, was wanting in charity, nor became impatient with her .... Gemma always liked to say the morning and evening prayers with her brothers and sisters. She used to take the younger ones to Church, where every evening she taught them to say the Rosary and other family prayers.'

Guido also remembered that Gemma used to teach catechism not only to the children at home, but also to the children of the neighbourhood, and that she used to sew and embroider articles for the Church. She greatly venerated whatever pertained even indirectly to the Mass. On one occasion she made a piece of point lace to decorate an altar cloth for the private chapel of Mgr . Volpi.


It was not always easy for Gemma to be the bearer of the olive branch. In her home, as in every other home, the various members of the family did not always see eye to eye. One of the members of the household, irritated by the piety of Gemma and her aunts, shrugging the shoulders, used to say: ‘You are hypocrites!' Others, among them one of her sisters, disliked Gemma's ways and let her know it. To all offensive remarks, however, she replied patiently and sweetly. Years later when the sister in question asked forgiveness for her unkindness, Gemma bade her forget it and think rather of being good and of not offending God.

It should be remembered that when these things were happening Enrico was either dead or was already in the grip of the terrible disease-cancer of the throat-that caused his death. Otherwise no one would have dared to treat his favorite daughter so unkindly.

Two episodes in particular caused her virtues to shine forth conspicuously, and these virtues, which were the fruit of self-sacrifice, are eminently imitable. For it must not be forgotten that, according to the witnesses in the processes, Gemma had a lively and impulsive disposition, and only appeared outwardly calm and self-possessed because of her virtue and strength of will. The first episode is thus related in the Processes :

‘One of her brothers wished to attend the theatre one evening but had not enough money. Gemma tried to dissuade him from going and to put the matter out of his head. This upset him and matters were not improved by Gemma saying smilingly: "It's not worth getting upset about." His vexation then reached such a pitch that he gave her a blow in the eye that left a mark .... The next day, when asked what had happened to her, she answered with wonderful reticence: "I richly deserved it.".

The second episode was related by her Aunt Elisa:

‘In her dealings with her brothers and sisters she was always humble, even though, as the eldest daughter, she could have insisted upon her authority being respected. One day she reproved one of her sisters for standing at the window, and tried to induce her to come away, saying: "Our brothers do not like it, and besides, it is not the proper thing for us to do." Her sister turned round and becoming violently angry, caught Gemma by the hair. The noise quickly brought my sister Elena to the scene. When Elena reproached Gemma's sister with her want of self-control and with the evil she had done, Gemma, even in these circumstances, calm and collected, intervened by saying: " Aunt, it's all right, there is nothing to worry about." Afterwards she asked us not to speak of the incident to her brother Guido, who would certainly have punished the culprit.'

In spite of her dislike of amusements Gemma knew how to adapt herself occasionally to the wishes of her brothers. Once Mgr. Volpi persuaded her to go with them and her little sisters, accompanied by an aunt, to see a children's play in which her brother Anthony was taking part. As a rule, however, she not only abstained from such amusements, but even induced others not to attend them. At home she sometimes took part with her brothers and sisters in some game or other, but it was only out of politeness.


Gemma's charity, which indeed made her the angel of her home, was not restricted to her family. She practiced this virtue over a wide field according to the circumstances in which she found herself. She wrote in her Autobiography:

‘Every time I went out I used to ask father for money, and if, as sometimes happened, he refused I would take bread and flour and other things. And God arranged that I should often meet poor people, every time I left the house. To the poor who. came to the door I gave clothes and whatever else I had. Then my confessor forbade me to do this, and I did not do it any more, and by this Jesus worked in me a new conversion. F or since my father no longer gave me money and I could not take anything from the house, when I went out and the poor came to me, I had nothing to give them. This was a great sorrow and always made me weep, that in the end I only left the house when it was absolutely necessary to do so.'

Elisa Galgani had some interesting things to say about this aspect of Gemma's life:

‘She often visited the sick in the Hospital, to whom she brought a little money or something else, and whom she comforted especially by speaking of God. She also overflowed with charity for the poor and used every means in her power to help them. Sometimes she would take something from the house to take to an old man who lived at the corner of our street. At that time we ourselves were in reduced circumstances, so that I felt compelled to tell her : " There will be nothing left for our own supper." Gemma used to answer: "Providence will give us plenty." And indeed, several times things were brought to us to give to the sick or the poor. She also used to work for the poor, made them stockings and mended for them. Naturally she could not spend much money upon these charities, but she was large-hearted and longed for opportunities to work for her neighbour.'

Besides the old man already mentioned, there was a young country girl to whom Gemma gave a frock, and another person for whom she procured some Marsala wine when he was sick. These acts of charity made her Aunt Elisa uneasy, and she told Gemma that if she continued to be so liberal she would leave nothing for herself. Gemma replied calmly that one frock was all she needed.


Love for God was the inspiring motive behind Gemma's charity towards her neighbor. 'Her life was a continual prayer,' said Father Gentile Pardini, a Franciscan who knew her very well and who often heard her confession. 'For her the Crucifix was a book.' According to another witness Gemma's thoughts were always centered upon God. Every day she made a meditation upon one of the mysteries of Faith, most often upon the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ. She was sometimes seen seated in an arm-chair rapt in profound recollection as she looked at a picture of Our Lady of Sorrows which she held in her hand. When she was ill in bed her Aunt Elisa was sometimes astonished to hear her say' incomprehensible things.' Does this refer to ecstasies which later on became so numerous? It would seem so, if one takes into account what Gemma wrote about herself at this time. 'I began to feel another desire, a longing to love Jesus Crucified with all my heart, and to be able to help Him in His sufferings.' This desire eventually became so intense that one day on fixing her attention upon an image of the Crucified, she fell unconscious to the ground. When she recovered, her father reproved her for remaining indoors so much. There were two mornings when she could not go to Mass, and she told her father: ' I suffer when I am not near Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.' Hearing which her father became still more uneasy. She said that she then locked herself in her room and gave vent to her feelings, for the first time with Jesus alone. 'I want to follow Thee whatever the cost in suffering-to follow Thee fervently. No, Jesus, I shall no longer displease Thee by serving Thee in a lukewarm way as I have done until now .... '

This outpouring of her heart to God resulted in the following resolutions: 'Greater fervour in prayer; more frequent reception of Holy Communion; Jesus, I want to suffer, to suffer so much for Thee; prayers will be always on my lips.' And indeed occasions of suffering were not wanting. Her crucified Master bestowed these precious gifts so bountifully upon her that she could write: ' I can say with truth that since the death of mother I have not passed a day without suffering something, however little, for Jesus.'

Gemma's devotion towards Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament was even at this time remarkable. Elisa Galgani deposed:

‘Once when she was ill in bed with fever I told her that to get up too soon would make her worse. "How can I live without Jesus?" she replied. " When I have Jesus I have everything." When I had left the room she arose and went to receive Communion, in her house slippers. Afterwards I told her that I would ask Mgr. Volpi to forbid her to go. "Obedience is a holy thing," she answered, and the following morning she did not go. She made her preparation and thanksgiving for Holy Communion with great devotion, and when, owing to sickness, she was unable to make her thanksgiving in the Church she completed it at home. Sometimes after receiving Communion she went into ecstasy, or so it appeared to me.'

How great was her fervour and how deep the impression she made on those who saw her receive Holy Communion may be learned from the deposition of a convert from Protestantism, Miss Ethel Rose, a woman of great faith and piety and of an heroic spirit of charity.

‘One day I saw her in the Church of St. Michael and I was most edified at the way she received Holy Communion. I had come to go to confession to Monsignor Volpi and was waiting in the Church until my turn came, there being several persons before me. In the meantime a priest came to give Holy Communion and among those who received was a young girl who impressed me very much, not only by her modesty and recollection, but also by the extreme pallor of her face. She attracted my attention and aroused my interest so much that I watched her for about a quarter of an hour. I saw how she received Jesus and how having received Him her face flushed with burning love as she knelt in profound recollection with hands joined before her breast, her fingers entwined and her head slightly bowed. She seemed a statue.'

To complete this picture of Gemma's fervor and piety at this period of her life, a few details out of the many given in the Processes for the Beatification follow. One witness speaks of her devotion to the Blessed Virgin, and remembered that she was accustomed to say: 'The Lord indeed has taken away my mother, but He has left us the Blessed Virgin.' The Blessed Virgin was often the subject of her meditations. She made novenas in preparation for her Feasts and loved to attend sermons in her honor. Another witness spoke of Gemma's love for the saints, especially for St. Anthony of Padua, because, she said, he was the friend of God. She liked to have pictures of the saints to distribute, so as to spread devotion to them. Elisa Galgani said about this aspect of her life :

'No matter where Gemma was she was always praying and meditating, whether it was in Church or at home, or in bed. Sometimes she used books to help her to meditate. She often said : " Mental prayer is better than vocal prayer." And I remember that during the long winter evenings she and her sister Julia used to stop their work in turns in order to read passages from the lives of the saints. Sometimes she commented upon the reading. "See how the saints practiced penance. We must try to imitate them." And when I objected: "But they were saints!" she answered, "And we can be saints also." So that I can say that Gemma prayed without ceasing, and preached to us all, not only by example, but also by word.'

Yes, she preached. In the house she would not tolerate a doubtful book or paper. And she also knew how to console and comfort her brothers and sisters in their troubles, so that it was commonly said: ' There's no one like Gemma.'

But from Gemma's deep spirit of piety there were other fruits besides those which have been mentioned. When she was at the College 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: , Really, I am very ignorant.'

Another incident illustrates her angelic purity.

While her father was still living, a chemist's assistant had the audacity to address improper words to her and make improper suggestions. She was horrified and took to flight immediately, leaving the vile tempter very much confused.

Once she greatly surprised her aunt by asking her to take her to a milliner's shop. Her aunt did so, wondering all the while what was going to happen. When they reached the shop, Gemma asked for a hat with a wide rim that turned down over her face -so that no one could see her face when she was out. The store owner remarked that a hat like that was not in fashion, and that it did not suit a girl who was as good-looking as she was. Gemma, however, replied: 'Make it as I ask, because I want it like that.' The reasons for this choice will be seen in the pages that follow.



The years 1896 and 1897 were years of anxiety and sorrow for the Galgani family. At this time Enrico Galgani's affairs were no longer flourishing. The long sickness of his wife and of his son Gino, added to the sickness of his sister Elisa and of Gemma, exhausted his resources and he was compelled to sell not only his country house but even his home in Lucca. So dire did things become in the end that he was unable to pay Gemma's school fees and had to keep her at home. 'Gemma once told me,' deposed Sister Julia Sestini, 'that she could no longer pay the monthly pension, and I therefore spoke to the Superior about it, and she allowed her to come to the College as usual.'

But the hardest blow the family received was given by Enrico Galgani himself, unintentionally of course. He was a very charitable man, simple and incapable of deceiving anyone. His one fault was that he could not believe that anyone would deceive him. In this world there are only too many who live in bad faith and who have no scruple about the means they employ to attain their own ends. When some bills of exchange fell due, the ruin of the family was complete. All he possessed was seized. Only his religion and the prayers of his holy daughter Gemma sustained him in this trial.

However, his affliction was so great that his health gave way and he never recovered. He developed a cancer in the throat and was in great pain. (Gemma looked after him with all the affection of a daughter,' said Elisa Galgani, ( and made certain that he received the Last Sacraments in good time, and had all the comforts and blessings of the Church.' Although Gemma, like all the family, had much to endure during these sorrowful days, she was always resigned to the dispositions of Providence. She herself confessed that when she saw everyone around her cast down, especially after the loss of their property, she used to go to her room, feeling herself unable to take part in such exhibitions of hopeless sorrow. On the contrary, she was inclined to be pleased that God had treated her family in that way, and thanked Him for His Goodness. Such sentiments could be felt only by one whose life was animated by the liveliest faith.

It was indeed her lively faith that sustained Gemma. This is seen in her Autobiography, where she declares in her humility that this perfect resignation to the Divine Will arose from her insensibility and hardness of heart.

‘I alone was without heart and indifferent in the midst of all this sorrow. The thing that saddened the others most was that, added to the illness of my father, we were deprived of all means of support. I understood one morning the greatness of the sacrifice that Jesus was asking. I wept a great deal, but He made Himself felt so much in my soul in those days of sorrow, and my father was so resigned to die, that I was strong enough to bear this heavy misfortune calmly." [Autobiographia, pp. 35, 36]


On November II, 1897, Enrico Galgani died in his fifty-seventh year. A cousin of Gemma's, Luigi Bartelloni, remembered the sorrowful scene well :

‘It is impossible to describe the scene that met our eyes when we reached the house, the prospect of their father's death had so cast down all the members of the family. Gemma was not weeping; rather she seemed petrified. This is not hearsay, for I saw it with my own eyes. We found the father in a comatose state. But as soon as Gemma had recovered from the first shock, she helped her brothers with all the sorrowful arrangements which have to be made in such circumstances . . . and she gave an example of resignation, fortitude and forethought, especially to her younger brothers and her elderly aunts.'

Gemma was not present when her father died and it was the family doctor, Del Prete, who brought her the news. Calling her aside he said he had something to tell her. (How is father?' she asked. 'He is gone to Heaven,' was the answer. Then from her heart a cry burst forth-a cry long withheld, but which was henceforth to be always uppermost: 'Now it is time for me to be a nun.' But strong as was her will-power, nature must have its tribute also. She fainted. When she recovered she reproached herself for having allowed herself to weep, because tears are unworthy of a spouse of Jesus Crucified. She wrote afterwards in her Autobiography:

‘The day father died Jesus forbade me to give way to cries and useless tears, and I passed the day in prayer, being very resigned to the will of God Who had then become my earthly Father as well as my heavenly Father.' [Autobiographia, PP' 35, 36]

Elisa Galgani deposed in the Processes for the Beatification :

‘Gemma felt the death of her father very much and wept a great deal, but she resigned herself to God's will ... and began at once to help the soul of her poor father with prayers and Communion. The morning after his death she would have liked to go to Church to receive Communion, but I said that we should receive together after the body had been removed from the house. She acquiesced in this arrangement and on the following day went to Communion, and thus began a practice she continued ever afterwards.'


But all the details have not yet been disclosed of what happened around the deathbed of that honest and upright man, while his seven children looked on helplessly, stunned by the blow they had received. It seems impossible that men should be so cruel, or that greed for money should so deaden the most elementary feelings of compassion.

Scarcely had the news of Enrico Galgani's death got abroad when his creditors arranged with the authorities to send police and bailiffs to close his shop and seize all his furniture. They went further. They searched the children's pockets and made them hand over every penny they had. Gemma mentioned this herself: 'They put their hands in my pocket and took the five or six soldi I had.' Cecilia Giannini, Gemma's adopted mother, who will be frequently met with in these pages, said:

‘Gemma knew the name of the man who had put his hand in her pocket but she would never tell me his name. I found it out later on, and I know that he died in the hospital. Nor did she ever speak of the other creditors.'


Thus the Galgani family was in the literal sense of the word thrown out on the roadside, with nothing left except their tears. To crown their misfortune their aunts, who had signed over their property to their brother, also lost all they possessed. This family of nine was therefore reduced to absolute poverty. The sad story is told by two witnesses. Cecilia Giannini deposed:

‘The family was ruined and at times reduced to such straits that it was necessary to solicit help from others ... to beg. Elisa Galgani told me that it was she who went out to try and get something for a family that was dying of hunger, and how she met a man who gave her a franc with which she bought a loaf of bread and a few things to bring home. During the months in which Gemma came to us and returned home in the evening, she used not to stay for dinner, because we dined late, and I usually accompanied her home after Benediction. Once I said to her: " You won't be offended if I buy you a couple of eggs ? You can eat them when you get home." She answered that she certainly would not be offended, so I bought them and gave them to her. I afterwards learned that she had used them to make an omelette on which the family dined. But she told me this only when I insisted, and on condition that I would not divulge it. Having thus come to know of their poverty, I used to give things to the aunts, who willingly accepted what I gave. When about to set out to accompany Gemma home in the evening, I sometimes said to her: "Do you want anything? Have you something to eat when you get home?" And sometimes she would say: "Let me have a little wine and that will do for my supper." And that was all she wanted; she used to say even that it was too much. When she reached home she would say that she had already had her supper.'

Justina Giannini on her side deposed that the Galgani family was so badly off that often they had nothing to eat, and that it was said that collections were made throughout the city for these poor people who had once known ease and comfort, and who in consequence were ashamed to beg and thus make their poverty known.

According to Elisa Galgani this state of affairs lasted a long time. 'We had nothing. The Court and the creditors took all. In the beginning we depended upon the charity of the good, but afterwards Guido got a position as chemist at the City Hospital.' Gemma, however, was not appalled by the poverty to which she and her family were reduced, because she considered poverty and the sorrows of life as precious gifts from God-as an ignored inheritance reserved by Him for the elect.

‘This is the state of life God desired for us,' she often said to the family, and was content thus to fulfil the will of God. 'And not only did she love to be poor,' continued her aunt, ' but she encouraged us to love it also. And at this time we were in want even of necessaries!' According to her own account she tried to bear the heaviest burdens that arose from this state of affairs and to alleviate the sufferings which the others endured as a result of their poverty. 'No matter how small it was,' said Elisa Galgani, ' Gemma always reserved the smallest portion for herself.' And another witness declared that she ate very little in order to have more to give to her brothers.

Gemma knew how to inspire others with her own confidence in God. A domestic servant from her uncle's home at Camaiore, deposed:

‘In these sad circumstances Gemma found a means of exciting even myself to have confidence in the Providence of God. She used to say to me: "Say the Rosary of five decades with these words: 'Providence of God, have mercy on me.' When you have said that ten times, add: 'Providence of God, You have provided for me,' or, 'Providence of God, You will provide.' "

Gemma also expressed the same sentiments to her Aunt Elisa, ' Have patience, have patience, God will provide.' And God always did provide.



In order to relieve the distress of the family, at least partially, Gemma's uncle and aunt who lived at Camaiore decided to take her to live with them. She was their favorite niece. For seven or eight years Gemma had been accustomed to spend a few months every year at Camaiore with the Lencioni family, who now did their best to make her forget her recent sorrow by surrounding her with every possible care. Elisa Galgani has left us an account of this visit :

‘After the death of her father, her uncle and aunt invited her to go to Camaiore so as to distract her mind and to restore her health. These our relatives were very good to the family and affectionate towards all, but especially towards Gemma. Besides they were rich and wanted Gemma to make her permanent home with them. One day her uncle said to her: "If you will remain with us I shall leave you as much money as I shall leave my other niece who lives with us." To which Gemma demurred: "Oh no! I am going to be a nun. However, if you will give me something for a dowry I shall be very grateful."’

Her cousin Luigi Bartelloni gave the following evidence concerning her conduct during her stay at Camaiore:

‘Every morning Gemma went with my sister Rosa to hear Mass and receive Holy Communion. Afterwards they attended to their household duties and served in the drapery shop with my uncle until about twelve o'clock. which was dinner time. After dinner, at about half-past twelve, they visited the Church called Badia, where they remained in prayer until a quarter to two. They then returned to the shop until about six, when they again went to pay a visit to the Blessed Sacrament. After the evening meal the family recited the Rosary and other prayers together and then passed about a half an hour in conversation before all retired to their rooms, and this was done with a method and a precision proper to my Uncle Dominic's home.

‘I have been referring until now to Gemma's external life. What I can say about her interior life is little, but it manifests her sanctity. First of all she fulfilled with exactness, generosity and delicacy all her duties, not only towards her uncle and aunt and cousins, but also towards the domestic, Alessandrina Valsuani, and all others. Serving in the shop with her uncle and her cousin, as I have said, she had plenty of opportunity for gossiping, but she avoided the temptation by retiring to one of the upper rooms. Towards all she showed charity, respect, tolerance and politeness. Sometimes she acted as peacemaker, especially between my uncle and Alessandrina Valsuani ... whom she often assisted in her duties. I believe, nay, I am certain that Gemma and my sister were often so recollected in prayer when in the shop that my uncle had to reprove them. Gemma used to try very hard to reconcile my father and grandmother, whom worldly interests had estranged. '

The picture is so well drawn, and therefore we could not refrain from giving Bartelloni's evidence in its entirety, so that the reader might miss none of the perfume of Gemma's charity in her dealings with her neighbor. Further details from the recollections of other witnesses in the Processes bring into clearer light her conduct during this short interlude in her short life.

Alessandrina Valsuani when called upon to give evidence still retained the sweet impressions which Gemma's attitude had left with her. ' Poor Gemma! ' she said. 'Many times after I had shown her some kindness or other she said to me: "If I cannot reward you in this life for all you have done for me I shall reward you when I am dead." And indeed I feel that Gemma has kept her promise and thought of me. . . . She ate very little and never made any complaint or remarked upon the food that was provided, so much so that her aunt sometimes looked after Gemma's food herself, in the hope of inducing her to eat or drink a little more. . . . Gemma was equally indifferent to what was pleasing or displeasing to her; she never asked for anything, or desired that we should make any effort in regard to her nourishment.'

According to her cousin Luigi Bartelloni, Gemma and his sister spent nearly the whole of every Sunday and feast day in prayer in the Church. He never once heard her speak of frivolous things. , In a word,' he concluded, ' Gemma possessed and practiced all the virtues in an extraordinary manner -a heroic manner. It can be said that there was something divine about her.'


Very different is the account of herself which Gemma gives in her Autobiography which-it must not be forgotten--she intended to be what she called 'the book of her sins.' 'My aunt had another niece staying with her,' she wrote, ' and we became friends. In getting into mischief we were equally proficient. Our aunt told us to go out alone together, and I see clearly now that if Jesus had not had pity on my weakness, I should have fallen into grave sins, for the love of the world was slowly taking possession of my heart.' But who was this niece with whom Gemma declared herself to have been a competitor in mischief? Why did she speak so severely about herself?

The young girl mentioned by Gemma was the sister of Luigi Bartelloni whose evidence has been given above. Certainly from what he reported it would be very difficult to see anything wrong in their conduct. We know, however, that the saints are severe judges of themselves and their actions.

Rosa Bartelloni was an angelic creature, of the same age as Gemma and like her in many respects. When Gemma died, Rosa wept indeed, but also rejoiced because--she said--she knew her heart's friend was in Heaven and would think of her. She herself was always in delicate health and died a holy death in 1918.

Luigi and Rosa were the grandchildren of Dominic Lencioni whose daughter their father had married. On her death, however, their father married Carola Galgani, Enrico Galgani's sister.

A few more details will be added so as to understand more clearly the severity of Gemma's self judgment. Gemma had always edified the Camaiore household by her many virtues, and her return each year was keenly anticipated. Her stay there is well remembered even to-day. 'Nearly every morning she could be seen praying in an attitude of the greatest recollection, yet without affectation. The way she was dressed, almost like a nun, attracted one's attention. Besides the Collegiata, she used also to attend the Badia where her confessor, Canon Dominic Masini, was stationed, being then in charge of that venerable Sanctuary. . . . There are many who remember finding Gemma Galgani kneeling before the altar of the Pieta, and leaving her there. Sandrina Maggi, then Valsuani, formerly a domestic servant at the Lencioni home, and one who was in Gemma's confidence, declared that Gemma often told her that when kneeling before the Pieta she experienced a great and almost irresistible feeling of love for the Passion of Jesus Christ and the sorrows of His holy Mother, along with a feeling of distaste for everything life offered to youth, and that before that image she had sworn to give herself entirely and forever to God ....

'Sandrina Maggi maintained relations with Gemma until her death, and she records with emotion her beautiful gifts of mind and heart, in particular her desire to help the needy. . . . One evening when passing along the Vado road, they met an old woman who asked an alms of them, saying that she was suffering from the cold because she was insufficiently clad. As it happened that very morning Gemma had finished renovating a heavy under-skirt which her aunt had given her. Seeing a sheltered doorway, she entered it and taking off the under-skirt gave it to the old woman, saying: " Pray for me that the Lord may set me on fire with His love." She was clever at everything a woman should know how to do. Sandrina Maggi possessed a well worked out design for a coverlet Gemma had made, which was exhibited when her evidence was taken during the Processes for the Beatification.' [Versa it Santuario, a monthly magazine, published at Camaiore, 1930]


After her father's death, however, Gemma disliked living at Camaiore. The crosses received again and again from the hand of God had more and more detached her heart from the world, and had filled her with an indescribable longing to raise herself as far above earth as she could and to unite herself with God. She did not feel at home in a drapery shop, notwithstanding the affection and piety of her relatives. So she spent the greater part of the day away from the shop. Furthermore, she was in a sad state of spiritual aridity, and felt in great need of Monsignor Volpi's help. But he was far away in Lucca. What was she to do -go back home?

Gemma was neither tall nor thin-according to Sister Gesualda who knew her -but good-looking, attractive, with fine features, big, luminous eyes, an enchanting smile, and a sweet expression. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that several. men should fall in love with her. Already at Lucca, when she was about sixteen years of age, when her father was still alive, she was sought after officially by a young cavalry lieutenant. Elisa Galgani tells the story:

‘I used to accompany Gemma to the College of the Zitine Sisters. One day Gemma said to me: "Come with me always to the gate, because there "-she pointed to a corner of the street- "that silly fellow awaits my coming and stares at me." One day when I was taking Gemma for a walk, I was stopped by a lieutenant whom I recognized as the man whom she had called a" silly fellow." He said: " Signora, I wish to speak to you." "Speak," I answered, " what do you want?" "I should like to become betrothed to that young girl who is standing by. Please, I am serious. Is she your daughter?" To which I replied: "She is still but a child, and besides she does not want to be married." The lieutenant stood frowning for a while and then exclaimed: " I am very sorry. She appears to be such a good girl. And I am a respectable young man and come from a good family. If you want to know about me I will tell you who I am and about my family, and where we live." But Gemma came up to me hastily and said: "Let us go, let us go home." We went, as usual, to a church to visit the Blessed Sacrament, and say our prayers. I noticed that for some time the lieutenant followed Gemma. He contented himself, however, with passing the house and looking up at the windows, at which no one appeared. When these things were known Gemma used to say to me: "I don't want any men around." ,

At Camaiore young man of distinguished family fell in love with Gemma, and came with his father to interview her uncle. This turn of events appeared to be a providential means of retrieving the fortunes of her family. But Gemma already had given her life to her Crucified Savior, and her desires were not those of earth. It is easy to imagine the efforts that were made to change Gemma's mind, but none of them succeeded in altering her determination to give no love a place in her heart save the love of Jesus.

There was another young man from Camaiore-a chemist-who wanted to marry Gemma. Let Alessandrina Valsuani, a witness well known to the reader, tell this incident in her own words :

‘ . . . This man went so far as to ask me to tell Gemma that he loved her. When I scornfully refused to do that.: he had the effrontery to write a letter to her and to make me be the bearer of it. Gemma, with an expression of disgust and disapproval, said: " Look at that foolish fellow! Wait a moment, I will write a few words to him and you can take the letter to him." But when I refused to take it she thought for a moment and then said : " I shall go myself," and she tore up the letter. And, indeed, Gemma went with me to the garden of a man named Ghivizzona, whose house was near to the chemist's shop and to our house. I told Ghivizzona that Gemma wished to speak to a young man from the chemist's and that she would be obliged if he would allow them to meet in his garden in his presence. Then leaving Gemma and Ghivizzona together, I went to the chemist's to tell the young man. " Gemma wants to speak to you," I said, " and she is with Ghivizzona in his garden waiting for you. Go, she expects you." He went at once and found Gemma where I said. I was not present at the meeting because I went to tell her aunt what had happened. But I had hardly done this when I returned to Ghivizzona's garden. Gemma was already on her way home. The young man had returned to the shop. As soon as she saw me (Ghivizzona was still with her) Gemma exclaimed: "You will see whether I shall be left alone. Do you know what I said to him? I told him not to think of me, not even to look at me, because I belong to Jesus, and that all my thoughts and affections were for Him alone." And indeed the young man, although I believe he continued to think of her, manifested his regard for her.'


All these happenings saddened Gemma and made her long for the poverty of her own home where at least she would be free from such importunities. But it was not going to be easy to find an excuse to return home. The affection her uncle and aunt bore her was one of the chief difficulties. Therefore with lively faith she began to beg of God-as sometimes in the early centuries of the Church the virgins and martyrs begged of God-to come to her aid and to free her, even at the cost of her health, from the dangers which threatened her. And God heard her prayer. She was struck down with a serious illness. ‘All of a sudden,' she tells us, ' I began to suffer from curvature of the spine and to experience violent pains in my back." [Autobiographia, p. 37]

To Gemma this seemed a suitable opportunity for suggesting to her relatives the advisability of returning home to her own family. She had made up her mind to do so . and nothing could turn her from her decision. All were sorrow stricken, and even her Uncle Dominic, reputed to be an unemotional man, shed tears, but they had to yield to her wishes.

So Gemma returned to Lucca, where her illness, far from being cured, grew steadily worse owing to the privations necessarily imposed by the poverty of her family.


Elisa Galgani was very surprised at Gemma's return to Lucca; not that she was not glad to see her, but the poverty of the home was so great! Furthermore, she did not appear to be in good health. Elisa Galgani therefore could not refrain from putting a leading question. , Oh! Why have you come back, Gemma? Perhaps they did not treat you well ?' 'Yes, I was treated well and I am well, but you know, there were persons there who wanted to marry me. But... I want to belong entirely to Jesus.'

‘At home Gemma once more began her daily round of household duties and her practices of piety. But the illness that showed itself at Camaiore continued its implacable course. The pains in her back became so severe and the spinal curvature so marked that she was compelled to make her sufferings known to her aunt. The evil,· however, had made great progress before she spoke about it. Elisa Galgani decided that a doctor should be summoned, but she hesitated somewhat because of Gemma's modesty. As a child Gemma had been struck by the words of St. Paul, the Apostle: ' Your bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost.' Ever since that time she had guarded her body with the utmost jealousy. She did not allow herself even now to look so as to find out what might be the cause of her present suffering. No wonder her aunt hesitated to send for a doctor. Gemma experienced a feeling of extreme repugnance at the very idea. She mentions these details herself in her Autobiography:

‘Already for a long time I had felt pain in that part, but I did not want to touch it or look at it, because when I was a little child I had heard in a sermon that our bodies were the temples of the Holy Ghost. These words impressed me, and so far as I have been able I have carefully guarded my body. What agony I suffered when I had to submit to a medical examination. Every time I heard the doctor coming I used to cry. [Autobiographia, pp. 38-39]

But Gemma's condition was growing worse. She was now subject to violent headaches. She became deaf. Her hair fell out, and her members became paralyzed. The doctor was sent for. Elisa Galgani made good use of the authority she had over Gemma, for she knew that her desire to be obedient was the only means of overcoming her repugnance to seeing a doctor.

At his first examination, the doctor-his name was Del Prete-found that Gemma had an advanced abscess in the lumbar region, which seemed to communicate with the spine. To make sure he decided upon a consultation, and the result was a verdict that she was suffering from tuberculosis of the spine -a serious disease and very difficult to cure.

The first abscess was followed by another. It was lanced again and again and medicated glycerine injected into it. When Gemma heard that among other remedies the doctor intended to try the cauterizing iron, she asked him smilingly as if the question referred to some other person: 'Doctor, are you going to do the cauterizing ?' During that operation the patient, as is easy to understand, suffers a great deal, but on the testimony of the doctors Gemma never uttered a word, and bore the pain calmly and almost with indifference.

These remedies made her no better, and she passed her days and nights lying in the same position, unless someone helped her to change it. And in this state she remained for a year. After the operation referred to above she had to wear an iron corset, which had to be ordered from a man in Pisa named Redini, who came on purpose to Lucca to fit it on. I t was very heavy and uncomfortable according to Elisa Galgani-and Gemma, who wore it day and night with only her hands free, was as it were crucified.

The financial state of the family had not improved during this time. Far from becoming better, things had come to such a pass that it was impossible to find a person who was willing to lend them anything. To find money to provide the remedies prescribed for Gemma was not the greatest hardship, however. Gemma's known virtue brought to her bedside a number of visitors who liked to be edified by the sight of her patient endurance of such terrible sufferings. But no one was allowed to know the extent of the family's poverty. Gemma did not speak of it because, loving to suffer, she did not wish to be deprived of this means of making herself more like her crucified Spouse. The others did not speak of it because the memory of the ease and comfort they had once enjoyed filled them with an extreme repugnance to make known their present misery.


Even in her poverty Gemma found a means of giving alms. The following is an account of her charity given by Elisa Galgani :

‘She was always praying for sinners, and often said to me : " You ought to pray for them also, because if you save a soul you will go to heaven." My nephew Anthony who used to be at the Giannini Pharmacy found out that the water woman who brought water to our house was living in sin with a certain man. He therefore wanted to dismiss her there and then, but spoke of the matter only to Gemma and me. " Let me speak to her," Gemma said .. "Why send her away without giving her time to reflect? Jesus did not send Mary Magdalen away, but received her kindly." Her brother said: "Do as you like." The next day the water carrier came and Gemma spoke to her kindly about the evil life she was leading. The woman admitted the evil, but said that she was living with him because he paid the rent. Gemma answered: "If that is the reason, I shall pay the rent myself, provided you leave that man, and that you go to confession to the Father Prior of St. Peter's here in Lucca and return to the friendship of God." The woman did as she had promised and never ceased to thank Gemma for the grace she was the means of obtaining for her. She used to say : "She is a saint .... I used to think it was impossible to forsake the life of sin into which I had fallen." True to her word Gemma as long as she lived paid the woman's rent from the little money she received every month from her aunt at Camaiore. She never lost sight of her and saw to it that she was given a cup of coffee every morning.'

The names of only a few of those who visited Gemma during her illness will be mentioned. Sister Mary Angela Ghiselli, of the Nursing Sisters of St. Camillus, deposed that in the midst of all her sufferings Gemma never uttered a word of complaint, but was always the same, patient, silent and good. Palmira Valentini is another whose name will be met with frequently in these pages. She has left us an account of how she first came to visit Gemma during this illness. , Victoria Mallegni spoke to me about her,' she explained. 'I went without any introduction to see her in her home in the Via del Biscione. She welcomed me kindly, and asked me if I went to Holy Communion every day. When I answered yes, she gave me a smile of pleasure and praise.' When Gemma was restored to health, she returned these numerous visits to Palmira Valentini, who has declared that when Gemma came to her house, she felt she was unworthy of having such a visitor.

Another who helped Gemma by her visits was Signora Martinucci. She it was who, with the intention of encouraging her to pray for a cure, lent her the Life of St. Gabriel, the Passionist-at that time not yet beatified-who was filling the world with the fame of the miracles worked at his tomb. The book belonged to Cecilia Giannini, who later on was to play such an important part in the life of Gemma, although as yet she did not know her. This is Cecilia Giannini's account of how the book came into Gemma's hands-until this time Gemma had not even heard of St. Gabriel.

'In the beginning I was acquainted with neither Gemma nor her family, though I often heard a certain chemist named Galgani spoken of. The first time I heard the family mentioned was when Gemma was sick and her aunts sent to me to ask for a relic of St. Gabriel who was then only Venerable. I did not know the aunts to speak to then, but I sent the relic and some pictures of the saint. I had lent the Life of St. Gabriel to Signora Martinucci, who is now dead, and she sent to ask me if she might lend it to a sick girl who was very anxious to have it. I agreed and she kept it for some months. When it was not returned I asked Signora Martinucci to get it for me. I found out afterwards that Gemma felt the parting with it so much that she wept.'

Another visitor who saw Gemma frequently was her former school teacher, Sister Julia Sestini. She deposed in the Processes:

‘At the unveiling of the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, about 1899, I met Gemma's aunt, who told me that she was ill and that she would like to see me. I asked permission of the Superior and then I went to see her on Thursday and Sunday during the walk hour. We made triduums and novenas together, but she used to say to me that it didn't matter whether she got better or not, provided Jesus was pleased. It was at this time that I gave her a little blessed Crucifix, and she afterwards told me that she had received signal graces through it. The last novena we made was to the Sacred Heart and to Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque.'

The name of St. Margaret Mary was as new to the servant of God as that of St. Gabriel. Her confessor, Monsignor Volpi, who was at this time spiritual director to the Visitation Nuns at Lucca, had spoken about her, and so had Don Andrew Bartoloni, the parish priest of St. Frediano's, who came frequently to visit her and to bring her Holy Communion. The latter deposed:

‘Every Saturday I brought her Holy Communion. She used to go to confession to Monsignor Volpi, who is my cousin. She was attacked by a disease which some said was spinal; others said it was paralysis, others Pott's disease. I could not say exactly. It was for the fifteen Saturdays called the Saturdays of Pompeii that I brought her Holy Communion. I brought her Holy Communion on a few other occasions, for she was ill for many months. On one occasion when I visited her I had just returned from France, where I had said Mass at Paray-le-Monial. She seemed very interested in the Sanctuary there and asked me about the devotion to Blessed Margaret Mary which was practiced there.'

And while Don Andrew Bartoloni was answering Gemma's questions, on his side he received, in compensation, great edification. He tells us this himself:

'Through her illness she was, as it were, rigid. She could raise only her head and shoulders a little. She used to say to me: " See, I am crucified; I cannot move." But nevertheless she never uttered a word of complaint. She was always jovial, smiling and peaceful. I t seemed to me that she had a most extraordinary resignation. She had her Rosary or a holy picture always in her hand or under her pillow. Even the family seemed peaceful, because Gemma was so calm. Sometimes when I was leaving the house, they said to me: " Isn't Gemma very resigned? "


Before continuing Gemma's story, it is necessary to go back a little in order to follow the different phases of her illness. She suffered a great deal not only from the actual pains of her disease, but also from the straitened circumstances of the family. Sometimes she thought she detected a certain weariness in the general demeanor of those about her. , Even Aunt Elisa,' she said, ' appears to care for me no longer, but it is the will of God.' Her Divine Spouse, however, Who desired to make His chosen one a woman truly strong, reproved her for these outbursts. This is how Gemma referred to it :

'One morning after I had received Holy Communion at home, I was particularly conscious of the presence of Jesus within me. He reproved me severely, saying that I was a weak soul. "It is your wicked self-love "-He said -" that is the cause of your being annoyed when you cannot do what others can do, and the cause of your feeling confused when you have to accept -the help of others. If you were dead to yourself you would not be so upset." [Autobiographia, pgs 41-42]

From that day Gemma in the midst of her sufferings lived in entire abandonment to the will of God.

The biography of St. Gabriel which Signora Martinucci lent to Gemma did not at once excite her to direct any devotion to him. She took the book, put it under her pillow, and thought very little about it, even though she knew that her family were praying to him for a cure. But one day she was more than usually depressed, a profound melancholy having taken possession of her. The enemy of souls who had provoked this tempest filled her mind with wicked suggestions : ' If you will only listen to me, I shall free you from all your pains, cure you and make you happy.' At the height of the struggle when, according to herself, she was almost on the point of yielding, realizing who the tempter was she remembered St. Gabriel and the power he had with God. She invoked his aid, crying out: 'The soul first and then the body !' The Devil did not give in, but made another furious assault. Gemma, making the Sign of the Cross, again invoked St. Gabriel, and immediately a deep calm inundated her soul.

It was now that Gemma, after thus experiencing the efficacy of St. Gabriel's intercession, remembered his biography. She began to read it with the greatest enthusiasm. The following is her own account:

‘I remember that I began to read the Life of Confrater Gabriel that same evening. I read it many times. I never grew tried of reading it and of admiring his virtues .... From the day on which my new protector had saved my soul, I began to have a special devotion to him. I could not go to sleep unless I had a picture of him under my pillow, and from that time I began to see him near me. I cannot explain what I mean here; I felt his presence; at all times, in every action, Confrater Gabriel came to my mind.' [Autobiographia, p. 44]

Soon, however, she had to return the biography to Signora Martinucci, but in parting with it, she wept. But St. Gabriel, to compensate and comfort her on the loss of the book, appeared to her. This is how she describes the incident:

‘But that Saint of God wished to reward the little sacrifice I made, and in a dream that night he appeared to me all clothed in white, but I did not recognize him. Noticing that I did not know him, he opened his white robe, and allowed me to see his Passionist habit. Then I soon recognized him. I remained silent before him. He asked me why I had wept when I had to give up his Life. I did not know what to answer, but he said to me: "Be good, and I shall come back to see you." [Autobiographia, pp. 45-46]

So under the auspices of St. Gabriel began the great and extraordinary favors that were to mark the rest of Gemma's life--ecstasies, visions, raptures, apparitions of angels; saints, the Blessed Virgin, and even of Christ Himself.

On the vigil of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, 1898, she had as usual a visit from the Barbantine Sisters, who brought with them a postulant who was too young to receive the habit. Upon seeing her Gemma experienced an unusual emotion. Never before had she felt like that, and she took it as an inspiration from Heaven, and made up her mind that if she was cured she would imitate her. Gemma spoke of this intention to Sister Leonilda, the Mistress of Novices, . who made her a promise that she would be clothed in the habit at the same time as the young postulant. When Monsignor Volpi came that same day to hear her confession, she told him of her decision. He not only approved of it, but allowed her to do what she had long desired, to make a perpetual vow of virginity. It is impossible to describe the joy that filled her soul upon receiving this permission. Hitherto she had indeed lived only for Jesus, but now she would be bound to Him by new ties--by ties that would never be broken. She had reached the pinnacle of her desire.

A sweet calm overflowed her soul, and as she thought of the following morning when with Jesus in her heart she would take the longed-for vow, she felt a strange sense of well-being stealing over her limbs, and then before her, she saw St. Gabriel. 'Gemma,' he said, 'take of your own free-will a vow to become a religious, but add nothing further.'

Gemma did not understand what these words meant, and asked why her vow was to be thus limited. The Saint did not reply except to say: , Sorella mia' (my sister). 'I did not understand all this, but to thank him I kissed his habit." [Autobiographia, pp. 48, 49]

Thereupon St. Gabriel gave her the sign of the Passion which Passionists wear upon their habits. 'And again,' continues Gemma, ' he called me " Sorella mia " and then disappeared.' On the following morning after Holy Communion she pronounced her vows. That day was for her a heavenly feast.


A little less than a month later, however, Gemma's health had shown no improvement. The doctors tried a new operation and applied the cauterizing iron to twelve places along her spine. The heroic girl, more solicitous for the preservation of her modesty than for the restoration of her bodily health, underwent this operation without the aid of a general anesthetic. This happened on January 4, 1899. On January 28, another complication set in to aggravate the condition of the poor sufferer. A tumour on her head caused violent spasmodic pains. The doctors again met in consultation, but on account of her extreme weakness, decided that nothing could be done for her and that she was doomed.

Nothing remained for Gemma now except to wait for death in the midst of her sufferings. On February 2 she received the Viaticum. 'I went to confession,' she said, ' and then waited for the moment when I should be united with Jesus. 'But how slow it was! The doctors, believing that I could no longer hear, said among themselves that I could not survive midnight." [Autobiographia, pp. 48, 49] The doctors were wrong and the malady pursued its relentless course.

On February 19 Monsignor Volpi visited her, and suggested that she should make a novena to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. Gemma was not enthusiastic. She would have longed to be cured had not her soul been so filled with desire for union with God. As she had already said, it did not matter whether she was cured or not provided Gad was pleased. But in obedience to her confessor, she began the novena. She forgot all about it the next day, and then began over again, only to forget it in the same way.


After the second breaking - of the novena, she began for the third time on February 23. This is her own account of what happened:

‘On the 23rd I began for the third time, that is I intended to begin it, but it was now only a few minutes to midnight, and I heard the sound of a Rosary and I felt a hand placed on my forehead. A voice then began to say the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be to the Father, nine times. I hardly knew what to say I was so weak with pain. The same voice that had said the Our Father, asked me: "Do you wish to be cured ?" "It is all the same to me," I replied. "Yes," he continued, " you will be cured. Pray with faith to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Every evening until the end of the novena I shall come and we shall pray together to the Sacred Heart." "And what about Blessed Margaret Mary?" I asked. " Add the Glory be to the Father three times in her honour."

‘This I did for nine evenings in succession.

The same person (it was St. Gabriel) came every evening and placed his hand on my forehead as before. We recited together the Our Father to the Sacred Heart, and then he made me add the Glory be to the Father in honor of Blessed Margaret Mary. . . . The novena was to end on the first Friday of March. I sent for the priest the evening before and went to confession. Early the following morning I received Holy Communion. 0 what happy moments I spent with Jesus! He said to me: "Gemma, do you wish to be cured ?" I was so overcome with emotion that I could not speak. . . . Poor Jesus! The grace was granted; I was cured. . . . That morning I wept with Jesus, and Jesus, always good, always tender, was saying: "I shall always be with you, my daughter. I am thy father," and, pointing to Mary the Mother of Sorrows, " she will be your mother. A father's help will never be wanting to whoever puts himself in My hands. Although I have taken away from you every support and consolation on earth, nothing will ever be wanting to you." [Autobiographia, pp. 50-52]

Gemma was indeed cured. 'Two hours later I got up,' she tells us. 'All at home were weeping for joy. I was pleased, not because I had regained my health, but because Jesus had chosen me for His daughter. And, indeed, before leaving me that morning He had said very clearly to my heart:

"To the grace I have given you this morning others greater will be added." ,

Elisa Galgani deposed that after receiving Holy Communion, Gemma asked for her clothes in order to get dressed. But her aunt was afraid to do her bidding, believing her to be delirious. It was her little sister Julia who finally gave them to her.

Sister Julia Sestini had also suggested that Gemma ought to make a novena, and she advised that it should be made to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. The following is what she deposed in the Processes:

'I said to her: "Gemma, I know that a miracle by Blessed Margaret is needed for her canonization. Let her perform one for you and they will make her a saint." We agreed that this novena should end on the first Friday of March. The prayers were only a few Our Fathers. I brought her the Manual of our holy foundress. It was entitled" Preghiamo " and contained the Holy Hour, which I made Gemma promise to practise every first Thursday of the month. The novena began on Thursday, and I went to visit her on the following Sunday. " Do you know with whom I am making the novena? " she asked me. "With your aunts or your sisters," I replied. Smilingly she answered: "No," adding: "With little Confrater Gabriel who comes to help me to say the Our Fathers." To which I replied: "Isn't the Lord good to send His saints just as He sends our guardian angels to us?"

‘She spoke so calmly and simply that I could not doubt then and I do not doubt now that she was in her normal state of mind, and that she was telling the truth. This conversation between Gemma and myself was short, for the other Sister was talking with Gemma's aunt at the time. I visited her again on the following Thursday, the eighth day of the novena, when she again stated that Confrater Gabriel had been with her during all the novena helping her to say the prayers. And I remember with certainty that she told me in these very words that " Jesus also made His presence felt." She was nevertheless always calm and serene. "Who knows what will happen to-morrow? " she said to me. And in this way one may say she allowed to appear her certain conviction of her cure. She was so certain about it that I said: "If anything does happen to-morrow tell them to call me !" The next day I received a message from our Mother Foundress: "Have you heard? Gemma is cured and wants to see you. You may go after schoo1." So after four o'clock I went. Her aunts told me that Gemma had been up, but that for safety's sake they had made her go back to bed. Gemma got up and sitting on the bed embraced me, saying: " Jesus has granted the grace." Then in a low voice she told me of the promise she had made to make the Holy Hour every Thursday, explaining that she had made it the evening before when Jesus had caused a feeling of emotion in her heart.'

This long deposition has been set down in its entirety because it mentions Gemma's great devotion to the Holy Hour, during the practice of which she was to receive extraordinary favors from God, as will presently be seen.

The cure that was in everyone's opinion instantaneous and complete, was preceded and accompanied by heavenly communications. For instance, Letizia Bertuccelli, formerly a servant in the Galgani home, spent a night near Gemma in order to assist the aunts in taking care of her. In her evidence Letizia stated that on the night the miracle happened, she saw Gemma's room filled with an unusual bright light, so bright indeed that she ran to call the aunts that they might see it also. On the same occasion she heard Gemma talking with a person she could not see. The following are the words she heard: 'If you are cured will you become a nun ?-Yes, indeed, but now that my parents are dead, I am in want of everything that is necessary .-That does not matter, because the Lord will provide. And if it should happen that you cannot be a nun or that the nuns should decline to have you, I shall find persons who will take care of you, and who will give you all that will be necessary.' These words have been italicized because they seem to be a prophecy of what did actually happen to Gemma.

Letizia Bertuccelli came to see Gemma the following day and meeting on the stairs a number of people who were going up and down, she asked if Gemma was dead, but received no answer. When she entered the room and saw the crumpled bed, she began to think that Gemma was indeed dead and burst out crying. But Gemma, who had been sitting in a corner of the room, came over to her and said that thanks to the Blessed Virgin she was alive. Then she continued: 'You were very much afraid yesterday evening! But until I am professed you will say nothing to anyone about what you saw.' That day, however, was never to arrive.

Gemma's miraculous cure was soon known throughout Lucca, and for a while everyone was talking about it. For many years she was known as 'la ragazzina della grazia '-the little girl who received the heavenly favour; by all but a few she was called by that name. Even the doctors who had given her up were astonished when they heard that she was out of danger and that she was perfectly restored to health. One of them wished to test the reality of the cure himself and visited her. 'How are you, Gemma? ' he asked. 'So you don't need me any more.' When Gemma replied that that was so, he went away and never returned.

Another of the doctors was astonished when he heard the news from Elisa Galgani. It was Doctor Tommasi who had operated on Gemma the day before the cure, and diagnosed the latest complication as 'A purulent condition of the ear, with acute inflammation affecting the mastoid gland, and with perforation and inflammation of the membrane of the middle ear.' When he saw Gemma on the evening following the miracle, and verified the complete nature of the cure, he said nothing except these words: 'Pray for me, Gemma.' And he, too, went away and never came back.

Six days after her cure Gemma wrote to tell a relative of the grace she had obtained: 'Let whoever read these lines know that I have been granted the cure of my soul and body, not through my own merits, but through the prayers of so many good people who have had pity on me. I could not have obtained anything….'

Holy and precious humility! how pleasing both to God and men.


Having been cured in such an extraordinary way from a disease that would certainly have caused her death, Gemma henceforth considered that her life was not her own, but belonged to God -to Jesus, towards whom all her aspirations were now directed. For her a new life was opening-a life more angelical than human. Our minds must be raised high above the earth in order to follow with the eyes of Faith the heavenly flights of her soul. Nearer and nearer she approached the eternal Sun of Justice, allowing nothing to distract her attention or delay her progress, until she should reach her goal and blissfully lose herself in God.

Gemma's first thought upon regaining her health was to consecrate herself to God in the religious state. She spoke to her family about it and received no opposition, although maybe they thought that in view of her past illness, it might not be easy to carry out her intention.

It was of course natural that Gemma should desire to become a religious. Nevertheless her vocation seemed rapt in mystery. The question on which she had to make up her mind was what order she should select.

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a Visitation nun, had had an important part in her cure, and it seemed to Gemma that out of gratitude she to embrace the kind of life the Saint had followed. For the same reason Monsignor Volpi urged her to take this step. It would appear that Heaven was leading her towards the Convent of the Visitation.

On the day of her cure, before she got up, a voice had said to her: 'Renew all the promises you have made, and add that in the month consecrated to Him you will also consecrate yourself entirely to Him.' In an account written six days after her cure, she confessed: 'I should like to flyaway immediately to where Blessed Margaret Mary wishes me to be. a how badly off are those who live in the world! From the moment I left my bed I have experienced an aversion for everything-· an aversion I cannot explain.' Whilst she was thus feeling a distaste for everything that did not concern God, she also had an immense hunger for Him, that is, for Holy Communion-a hunger she thought she could never appease except in the religious state.

On March 10, therefore, Gemma went to the Visitation Convent to thank her heavenly benefactress, and to ask her-these .are her own words that everything might be arranged for the best, that is, as she explained, that she might be able to shut herself within the walls of that Convent. Because it seemed so long to wait until June, the nuns promised that they would take her in the month of May, and that in June, if she so desired and if she had a true vocation, they would receive her into the Convent for good.


The long days from March to the beginning of May passed, and finally Gemma found herself within the Convent. To compensate her for the pain of that time of waiting, God had showered upon her an abundance of heavenly graces. On Holy Thursday she wished to make the Holy Hour that had recently been taught to her by Sister Julia Sestini. Making the Holy Hour for the first time in good health, she wished to prepare for it by a general confession of her whole life. The following is her own description of what took place on that occasion:

‘I began therefore to make the Holy Hour for the first time out of bed, but I felt such an intense sorrow for my sins that I spent days of continual martyrdom. In the midst of this sorrow, however, I had one consolation, one source of relief, namely, tears. I passed the whole hour praying and weeping. Being extremely tired I sat down, the feeling of sorrow continuing. A few moments later I felt my whole being wrapped in recollection. Then, all of a sudden, I began to lose the use of my senses. I tried with all my strength to get up to lock the door of my room. Where was I? I found myself there and then before Jesus Crucified. Blood was flowing from all His wounds. I lowered my eyes immediately, and feeling very much disturbed I made the Sign of the Cross. Great peace of mind followed, but I continued to experience intense sorrow for my sins. Lacking courage I did not raise my eyes to look at Jesus. I bent down with my forehead upon the ground, and remained in that position for several hours. . . . Then I recovered, but from that time I began to have a great horror for sin, and this is the biggest grace that Jesus has granted me. The Wounds of Jesus remained so that I have never since then forgotten them.’ [Autobiographia, pp. 56, 57, 58]

Such was the impression that Jesus, covered with blood, made upon her that she determined to Him with all her heart, no matter what the cost. At the same time there arose in her heart the desire, to suffer for Him Who had suffered so much for her. And Gemma's resolutions were no mere idle words.

On the following day, Good Friday, Gemma, after spending the whole day, no doubt, in union with Jesus in His Passion, wished to take part in the devotions of the Three Hours Agony, but being unable to obtain permission, she decided to go through the devotions privately in her own room.

She herself tells us what happened in that short space of time:

‘It was the first time, and the first Friday that Jesus made Himself felt so strongly in my soul. Although I had not received Holy Communion-because it was impossible-from the hands of a priest, Jesus Himself came to me and communicated Himself to me. So intimate was this union that I remained lost in amazement. Oh how forcibly did Jesus speak to my soul! [Autobiographia, p. 60]

In the days before Gemma's entry into the Convent, Jesus often spoke to her. According to her own words ' Jesus in His infinite goodness was not ashamed to humble Himself'2 and become her teacher. And what were the teachings of this sublime Master? One April evening when Gemma was alone in her room Jesus Crucified appeared and pointing to His open Wounds, said: 'Look, My daughter, and learn how to love! This Cross, these thorns, these nails, these bruises, these scars, these wounds, this blood-these are the effects of an infinite love! See to what extent I have loved thee! Do You really desire to love Me? Learn how to suffer first-suffering will teach thee how to love.' [Autobiographia, p. 65]

At this awful sight Gemma swooned, but there was then enkindled in her heart a burning fire of love that would never be extinguished.


At last the long expected day arrived. On May 1, at three o'clock in the afternoon, Gemma entered the Convent. To her it seemed like going to Heaven. A course of spiritual exercises was being given at the time, and Gemma, in order to take part in them with great recollection, told her family that she did not wish to be visited.

To tell the truth, if Gemma was ardently desirous of becoming a Visitandine, the nuns on their side were just as anxious to have her among them. They had heard about her virtues, and they knew that she had been miraculously cured through the intercession of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. In the hope that this miracle would hasten the canonization of their Sister, they looked forward to hearing from Gemma's own lips an account of her cure .. To facilitate her entrance into their order they were willing to dispense with the usual dowry, being satisfied with the great fund of virtue with which her soul was endowed.

At the Convent Gemma was treated with every care, one might say with veneration. Exceptions to the general rule were made for her. She had not to attend the exercises of the retreat like the other externs, but was allowed to follow the regular observance of the Community. Even the Superior displayed her esteem and made Gemma sit beside her in the refectory, and during the day often called her aside to speak to her.

During all this time the Lord was pouring His grace and consolation more abundantly in Gemma's heart. 'Jesus in spite of my misery,' she wrote:

‘I consoled me and made Himself continually felt within my soul.'

But Gemma was not altogether satisfied. The life of the Visitation nuns, she felt, was not for her. She had need of a more austere mode of life. But where would she go? Would she not have to return to the world in order to find another religious order more in keeping with her desires-to the world that was now so far away? And then to what order? She was in a religious house now, at any rate, and that was better than going back into the world. However God had not destined her to become a Visitandine. And He would bring about the accomplishment of His designs in her regard.

At Gemma's request the nuns approached Archbishop Ghilardi for permission to accept her-a permission he did not wish to grant. He hesitated because of her delicate health. The only favour he would grant was that she might stay in the convent until May 21 in order to be present at the profession of several novices. Gemma, however, was not told of this decision until the very last moment. She was so impressed by the ceremony that forgetful of herself she continued her prayers until the afternoon, when nature got the upper hand and she felt she was going to faint. The nuns, upset over their forgetfulness, tried immediately to make reparation for their neglect.

The Superior then called Gemma and with regret told her of the Archbishop's decision. Gemma felt it very much. In an instant all her hopes were dashed to the ground. But she was as usual resigned, knowing that God would manifest His will. I At five o'clock in the evening of May 21, 1899, I had to leave,' she wrote in her Autobiography. 'Weeping I asked the blessing of the Mother Superior and said good-bye to the nuns. My God, what sorrow '

To alleviate Gemma's sorrow somewhat, the nuns held out the hope that she would later on be accepted. She was therefore constantly at the convent to inquire whether the Archbishop had yet given the desired consent. She still remembered, no doubt, that her Divine Master had told her that she was to lead a more austere life. But she was so anxious to leave the world that she felt compelled to go every day to the convent. But instead of diminishing, difficulties increased. The question of a dowry now arose, but what dowry could a family reduced to such poverty provide? Her aunt at Camaiore had bought all that was necessary for her entrance into the convent, but Gemma never needed the clothes, which were given to her sister Angiolina, much against Gemma's will, as she wanted them to be given to the poor. But this outfit was not a dowry. In the end it appeared this talk of a dowry was only an excuse for not telling her the whole truth, which was that she could not be received unless four doctors certified her to be in perfect health. The poor girl endeavoured to procure these certificates but without success. She obtained one, at a time when it was too late to be of use: it bore the date of December 27, 1899. It was with the idea, it seems, of entering another order, the Mantellates, that she secured this certificate, but it did not help her. In the end Gemma began to realize the meaning of all these difficulties, these demands, these evasions. She begged light from God and understood that her vocation did not lie in that direction.

But what was the reason of it all? Writing some years later to her director, Father Germanus, she said:

‘Already for several years I had been conscious of a desire to be a religious, but I spoke to no one about it, except my confessor and the family. All were satisfied. So on May 11, I went to make a retreat and after eighteen days the matter was settled. It was arranged that I was to enter for good in June. I was very happy. Yet when I was told that I could come, I experienced a strange inner conviction that all my efforts to enter would be of no avail. I also often heard a voice whispering: " You shall not enter there." I did not mention these things to my confessor because I wanted to enter a convent so that I could devote myself entirely to God. And I knew that all Rules were good. But when the time came for entering, the confessor of the convent opposed my entrance and nothing could move him from his decision.' [Lettere ed estasi, p. 40.]

The confessor that opposed Gemma's entrance acted at the instigation and on the suggestion of the doctor, who said that her mother had died of tuberculosis. The Lord was leading Gemma along another path. His ways are not our ways!



When Gemma realized that the doors of the Visitation Convent at Lucca were definitely closed against her, she felt like one who had been shipwrecked and who was on the point of reaching the shore, only to be dashed back again into the open sea. Once more she was amongst the things she imagined she had said good-bye to for ever. How would she be able to adapt herself again to home life? However, the will of God which she always sought to know and to follow sustained her in this circumstance. God would certainly make known what He desired of her, but in the meantime she would return to her family and apply herself earnestly to the faithful fulfilment of her duties.

At home Gemma continued to follow the mode of life which was interrupted by those twenty days with the same zeal in the practice of the domestic virtues and in the exercise of piety. Her fervor was remarkable. One witness states that people who saw her so often in the church could not help admiring her demeanor and her devotion, and said one to another: What a saint she will yet be.

On festival days after Mass and Holy Communion Gemma was accustomed to go with her sister Angiolina (who now held in her affections the place once occupied by Gino) to the cemetery in order to pray at the grave of her parents and to take part in the services for the dead that were held there. Sometimes it happened that the gates were locked, and then she and her sister prayed until they were opened. A charitable woman who had seen them several times thus waiting outside the gates, invited them into her cottage. But she was often away from home and Gemma and Angelina had to wait patiently in the open air. In the evening, having satisfied their piety, they returned to the city, and then having attended Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament in some church or other, they returned home. Frequently they thus spent the day without breaking their fast.


But in Gemma's heart there was an unaccustomed and indefinable yearning. A burning fire seemed to consume her. What did Jesus want her to do? When He had allowed her to see Him crucified with blood pouring from His most precious Wounds, it caused her to run to the well in the house, and taking the rope, to knot it in several places and tie it round her waist. She felt an intense desire to suffer and to love Jesus-a desire she was never able to satisfy completely. The instruments of penance with which this innocent and penitent girl-as the Decree which declared her Venerable calls her chastised her virginal body at a time when it was still weak from the effects of her long sickness, would make the delicately nurtured bodies of many Christians shudder.

She tormented herself with a hair shirt, and was most mortified in all things. Elisa Galgani attests that she saw in a box belonging to Gemma a knotted cord, and that often finding rust-colored stains on the sides of her dresses, came to the conclusion that they were caused by an instrument of penance. ‘She used to hide her sufferings from me,' continued her aunt, 'because she did not want to displease me.' On one occasion, however, her aunt asked her what the knotted cord was for. Gemma looked at her with wide-open luminous eyes, and smilingly evading the question answered: ' Would you like a little cord also?' 'That will do now,' said her aunt. 'Tell me what you do with that little rope.' Gemma, however, again evaded the question and went away.

This burning thirst for suffering had its origin in the words spoken to her by Jesus which have already been mentioned: 'Do You desire to love Me? Learn to suffer first. Suffering teaches one how to love.' And these lessons of heavenly wisdom continued after she left the Visitation Convent. 'Take courage,' a mysterious voice said to her. 'Forget everything and abandon yourself without reserve to Him. Love Jesus much; do not place any obstacle in the way of His designs and you will see what progress you will make in a short time without your perceiving it. Be afraid of nothing, because the Heart of Jesus is a throne of Mercy where the most miserable are the best welcomed.' Gemma would then cry out: '0 my Jesus, I want to love Thee so much, but I do not know how.' And the voice would answer: 'If You desire to love Jesus, never cease for one moment to suffer for Him. The Cross is the throne of the true lovers of Jesus ; the Cross is the inheritance of the elect in this life.' [Life of Gemma Galgani, by Father Germanus, p. 58. (Sands, London.)

Once when making the Holy Hour she seemed to see Jesus with the Cross upon His shoulders and she heard a voice that said: 'Gemma, do You desire this Cross? Behold, this is the gift I have prepared for thee!' She answered: '0 my Jesus, do give it to me, but give me also the strength to bear it, because my shoulders are weak. But, my Jesus, if I suffer is that a sign that I love Thee? ' And Jesus answered that the clearest sign He could give a soul dear to Him was to make that soul suffer, and to make it walk on the road to Calvary.


The vigil of the Feast of the Sacred Heart, June 8, 1899, was drawing near. A little while before, Gemma had heard Jesus say to her heart after Holy Communion: 'Gemma, courage! I am waiting for thee on Calvary towards which You art journeying. '

Hitherto, Gemma's path in life had been a thorny one, but worse still was to come. Her ardent desire to become like Jesus Crucified, which until now had so filled her heart, was to be satisfied in a manner permitted to only a few of the greatest saints in the Church of God. She was to become the living image of Jesus Crucified, and to receive in her flesh the mark of His Wounds. The sublime, generous prayer she was to utter later on in ecstasy, revealing the ardent aspiration of her life, was granted. , When my lips shall draw near to Thine to kiss Thee, make me taste the bitterness of Thy chalice. When my shoulders shall rest upon Thine, make me feel the scourges. When Thy flesh shall be com-municated to mine, make me share in Thy Passion. When my head shall lean upon Thine, make me know the pain of the thorns. When my side shall be near Thine, make me feel the lance.' [Lettere ed estasi, p. 213.]

That morning, therefore, Jesus made it understood that He desired to meet His spouse on Calvary, and for that reason made her feel in her heart that she was to receive that evening a most extraordinary grace. Gemma did not understand clearly what this grace was to be, but nevertheless she went to confession and obtained a general absolution for her sins, and so put herself in a right disposition to receive the gift of God. The evening came. Before she began the Holy Hour, an intense sorrow for her sins took possession of her. Of what occurred then it is best to give her own touching account :


'It was in the evening. Suddenly I began to feel a great interior sorrow for my sins, so great indeed that I had never experienced anything like it before. That sorrow, I might say, almost brought me to death's door. Then I felt all the powers of my soul in recollection. One thought alone possessed my understanding -the thought of all the transgressions by which I had offended God; my memory brought them all before me, and at the same time I recalled all the torments which Jesus endured for my salvation; my will detested all my sins, and I promised that I would bear all possible sufferings to atone for them. Then one thought rapidly succeeded another in my mind -thoughts of sorrow, love, fear, hope and consolation. This recollection was quickly followed by a great rapture. I found myself in the presence of my heavenly Mother, with my guardian Angel on her right. He bade me recite an act of contrition, and when I had finished my loving Mother addressed me in these words: "Daughter, in the name of Jesus, let all thy sins be forgiven." Then she added: "Jesus my Son loves thee much, and wishes to confer a favour on thee. Canst You render thyself worthy of it ?" My nothingness knew not what to answer. Whereupon she continued: "I will be a Mother to thee; will You show thyself a true daughter of mine? " She then opened her mantle and covered me with it. The same instant Jesus appeared with all His Wounds open, but instead of Blood, flames as it were of fire issued from them. In an instant those flames touched my hands, feet and heart. I felt as if I were dying, and had not my heavenly Mother supported me, under her mantle, I should have fallen to the floor. I remained in that position for several hours. . . . When I came to, I found myself kneeling upon the floor. I still felt intense pain in my hands, feet and heart. As I arose to lie down on my bed I became aware that blood was flowing from those parts where I felt pain. I covered them as well as I could, and, assisted by my Guardian Angel, I succeeded in reaching my bed.' [Autobiographia, pp. 76-78.]

Gemma had so often prayed that she might be made like unto Jesus. She wished to be nailed to the Cross with Him, a prayer which later on she was heard to utter when in ecstasy: '0 Cross ! is there no place for me at the side of Jesus.' Her ardent desire is now satisfied. In her virginal flesh she bears the wounds of her Divine Spouse. Now she can say with St. Paul the Apostle: 'I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.' From now on, she is to become more and more like unto her Crucified God.


During this same month of June, after Gemma had made the Holy Hour, Jesus revealed to her all the humiliations and sorrows she would have to undergo in the course of the few years that yet remained to her on earth. The following is Gemma's account of what was then disclosed :

‘After the Holy Hour Jesus made me understand all that I would have to suffer during the rest of my life. He said that He, would soon test me to see if I truly loved Him and whether the offering I had made to Him was sincere. He told me that He would know this when my heart would appear to have become like a rock ; when I should experience nothing but aridity of spirit and be afflicted and tempted; when all my senses would rebel and would become like so many hungry wild beasts. He told me that my fidelity would be shown when I felt myself inclined to evil, when the pleasures of the world appear to be worth while and memory would recall to mind what I did not desire; when what is contrary to God's law would perforce present itself to me and it would seem that I had lost all relish for the things of God. He said that He would not allow my heart to taste comfort.

‘ "The demons with My permission will make continual efforts to overcome your soul. They will put evil thoughts into your mind, and give you a great distaste for prayer, and you will never be without many terrors and fears. You will suffer outrages and injuries; no one will believe in you any longer. You will receive no comfort from anyone, not even from your superiors. On the contrary everyone will mortify you, and you will be greatly confused. What will pain you most will be that Heaven will seem deaf to your pleadings. Jesus will seem to you to be so severe. You will find it difficult to pray. When you will seek Jesus you will not find Him; to you it will seem that He casts you from Him and departs from you. You will desire to be recollected and instead you will be distracted. You will call upon the Blessed Virgin and the saints, but no one will have pity on you and it will seem that you have been abandoned by all. When you receive Holy Communion or go to confession, you will feel no fervor; these things will be wearisome to you. You will go through your accustomed exercises of devotion as it were through mere routine, and you will think it merely time lost. Nevertheless you will believe, but as if you did not believe; you will hope, but as if you no longer had hope; you will love Jesus, but as if you did not love Him, because during all this time you will be without feeling. Furthermore, you will grow tired of life and yet be afraid of death; you will not be able to find refuge even in tears."

‘When I was about to finish the Holy Hour, Jesus said to me that He was going to treat me as His heavenly Father had treated Him." [Life of Gemma Galgani, by Father Germanus, C.P (Sands, London.)]

What a terrifying picture! A soul less heroic than Gemma's would have been utterly dismayed. From now on, however, she had but one desire-to suffer, for did' not suffering make her more like Jesus? 'Jesus is the Man of Sorrows,' she said, ‘and I desire to become the daughter of sorrows.'


The morning after the extraordinary ecstasy in which she received the Stigmata, Gemma was in a quandary. Holy souls are profoundly humble, indeed humility is at the root of their sanctity. God bestows His gifts upon the humble because they know how to keep jealously hidden the secrets of the King.

Her wounds were still bleeding. The phenomena did not cease until three o'clock in the afternoon of the Feast of the Sacred Heart. It was repeated unfailingly every week from about eight o'clock on Thursday evening until three o'clock in the afternoon of the following day. This lasted until February, 1901, when it ceased by a command of obedience. How was she to hide that bleeding? She must go out to Holy Communion. She procured a pair of gloves, as she said, ' in order to hide my hands.' Her feet were also paining her and she could scarcely stand up. It seemed to her that at every step she was going to die. Nevertheless she was able to go to Church and receive Holy Communion. How fervent must have been her Communion the day after she received that extraordinary favour. More truly than ever Gemma could say: 'Now I no longer live but Christ liveth in me.'

After Holy Communion the blood continued to flow, and she realized that she must tell someone about it, but she did not know what to say. She thought that such graces were usually conferred upon those who had consecrated themselves to God, and began timidly to ask various people whether they had certain wounds and what was usually done under the circumstances. She found no one who understood what she meant, her inquiries being met with pitying smiles. What then was she to do? Arriving home she opened her mantle and stretching out her hands towards her aunt she said with candor and simplicity: ' Aunt, see what Jesus has done to me !' Her aunt was amazed, but did not understand the meaning of this strange phenomenon.

The following description of Gemma's stigmata. It is an abridgement of the account written by Father Germanus. His description agrees with that of all the other witnesses who gave evidence in the Processes, and it is given because, as the spiritual director and the first biographer of Gemma, he includes all the stigmata, whereas the other witnesses spoke of one or other manifestation of the phenomena.

Scarcely had the ecstasy begun when there appeared on the back of both hands and in the middle of the palms a reddish mark, and then one saw under the epidermis a rent being made little by little in the flesh inside-s-oblong on the backs of the hands and irregularly round in the palms. A little later the skin itself broke and the opening took on all the characteristics of a fresh wound-about a centimeter in diameter in the palms and two millimeters in diameter and twenty millimetres in length on the back of the hands. Sometimes the laceration appeared to be only on the surface; at other times it was almost imperceptible to the naked eye. As a rule, however, it was very deep and seemed that it would pass through the hand and that the upper and lower wounds would meet. One could not make certain of this latter appearance because the apertures were filled with blood, in part congealed but for the most part freely flowing, and when the blood stopped, they closed quickly; being in ecstasy the violence of the pain caused her hands to be convulsively closed. The wound in the palm became covered with a hard fleshy protuberance in the form of the head of a nail, raised and not adhering, about the size of a penny (soldo). In the feet, the wounds were wider and surrounded towards the edges with livid flesh, and the difference in size was the opposite to the wounds in the hands, the wound on the top of the left foot being bigger than that of the sole of the right foot. The aperture of the wound in the side was in the form of a crescent lying on its back with the two points turned upwards. Its length in a straight line was six centimetres and its width in the middle, three millimeters, forming with its two opposite sides an angle half a centimeter in length from top to bottom. The blood that came from the aforesaid wound was copious, .as could be seen from her under-garments, which were soaked with it. She did her best to hide this fact and made use of several folds of linen, which' she applied to her side repeatedly, but in a short time they were blood-soaked. She would then hide them in order to wash them herself later on in secret. The Friday ecstasy ceasing, the flow of blood from the side also ceased, and the raw flesh on the hands and feet began to dry up, the mass of lacerated tissues drawing in and becoming firmer little by little. On the following day or on Sunday at the latest, not a trace of those deep wounds remained, neither in the centre nor at the sides, the flesh on top becoming quite natural and quite similar to that of the parts that had not been torn. A white mark alone remained to show that on the previous day there had been raw wounds in those places, which at the end of five days would open again as before, and close again in the same manner. Two years after the phenomena of the stigmata had ceased, at the time of her death, the aforesaid marks still remained and could easily be observed on her body, particularly on her feet, which when she was alive and in ecstasy had been very difficult to uncover.



Monsignor Volpi, who had heard Gemma's confession on that memorable June 8, was perhaps expecting her to return to him with an account of what happened. But Gemma had never been able to bring herself to reveal to him the extraordinary favors she had received from God. From the first apparition of Jesus Crucified, that is, from before her entrance into the Visitation Convent, she had been told again and again by her Guardian Angel to tell her confessor about them, and had been reproved for not doing so. 'It is very wrong of you,' the Angel said--she mentions this in her Autobiography, 'to hide these things from your confessor. Remember-and I am speaking to you about it for the last time-if you keep silent again about this matter, I shall not let you see me again.' But how was she to make known such unusual and mysterious happenings?

The fact is that all these wonderful favors, instead of making her vain, filled her soul with extreme confusion. She esteemed herself unworthy of them and also feared that when people and even her confessor heard of them, they would be scandalized, for she deemed herself a great sinner. It was so easy for her to confess a fault that would lower her in the world's esteem, but it was a far different matter to lay claim to divine favors. This it was which prevented her from speaking.

But to the difficulties already mentioned there was another difficulty which seems a further justification of Gemma's attitude. Father Germanus refers to it, and so does another of her biographers, Sister Gesualda, a Carmelite nun, who also came from Lucca and was only a year younger than Gemma. Sister Gesualda also went to confession to Monsignor Volpi. 'The confessional of Monsignor in the Basilica of St. Michael,' she wrote, 'was always surrounded with people, for as a director of souls he had the reputation of being a second St. Francis de Sales. And as Auxiliary Bishop to the Archbishop of Lucca he was kept very much occupied. Gemma felt that she would take up too much of his time. It is true that she could have written to him; yet she knew that after all to receive an answer she would have to take her place among those waiting around his confessional. External difficulties were not lacking, but the greatest difficulty was within herself." [Un flore di Passione nella citta del Volto Santo, p. 101] As previously mentioned this interior difficulty was her humility.


God in His mercy desired to put an end to her difficulty and therefore came to her aid in a manner that at first sight would seem to be purely fortuitous, but which was undoubtedly a beautiful manifestation of His Providence.

In 1899, in preparation for the opening of a new century, Pope Leo XIII ordered that missions should be given in every city throughout Italy. The Passionist Fathers were chosen for Lucca, and the mission in the Cathedral began on June 25, and lasted until July 9. It was a great success.

Gemma did not attend the mission from its beginning. During the month in which she had received from Jesus such an abundance of heavenly favors she had but one desire, to hear Him and His love spoken of, and therefore she had attended a course of sermons on the Sacred Heart which were being preached in another church. It was only at the close of the month of June that she felt herself inspired to go to the Cathedral of St. Martin. But what was her astonishment when she saw that the missioners were clad exactly as she had seen St. Gabriel dressed! The impression thus made upon her was indescribable. From that moment, she confessed some years later, she began to have a special. affection for them, and attended every sermon of the mission.

A few miles outside Lucca, in a district known as Angelo, near Vinchiana, the Passionists have one of the most beautiful houses of their Congregation. The nature of their work often brought them to Lucca, but Gemma had never met any of them. In the heart of the city and in the midst of her family, she lived as in a convent.

Her first meeting with the Passionists had such an important influence upon the course of her life that it is best to set down here her own ac-count of how it happened:

‘We had come to the last day of the holy mission. All the people were gathered in the church for the General Communion. I also was taking part with the others, and Jesus, Who was pleased, it seems, made Himself clearly felt in my soul, and asked : " Gemma, do you like that habit with which the priest is clothed? " And He indicated a Passionist in my vicinity. It was not necessary for me to answer Jesus in words, for my heart was speaking with its palpitations.-" Would you also like to be clothed in a habit like that?" Jesus added.- "Mio Dio," I exclaimed.-"Yes," Jesus continued, "you will be a daughter of My Passion, and a favorite daughter. One of these children of Mine will be a father to you. Go and make everything known to him." [Autobiographia, pp. 83-85.]

At that moment Gemma felt she had strength enough to speak-a strength that she had lacked for so long, and she at once went towards the confessional of one of the missioners, Father Ignatius of St. Theresa, who was the Superior of the mission. ‘But,' she tells us, 'no matter how much I tried I could not bring myself to speak of my affairs to him.' What was the cause? Was it perhaps the great crowd that gathered around his confessional, or was it another attack of that repugnance she had felt against revealing the secret of the King?

A witness in the Processes supplies an answer to these questions, though not a very satisfactory answer. 'Gemma,' deposed Cecilia Giannini, 'told me later on in confidence that Jesus had commanded her to go to confession to Father Ignatius, and to tell him everything, even what until then she had kept hidden from her own confessor. Gemma obeyed, but felt such contraction in her throat that she was unable to speak. She then went to Father Gaetano. Whether this was by order of Jesus or by her own free will, I do not remember, and I cannot say.'

Father Ignatius, who died in 1927, was a man of great virtue and left behind him a reputation for sanctity. Gemma therefore went to another confessional and to another missioner, and with the greatest ease explained to him, in two or three separate confessions, the story of her life and the heavenly favors she had received including, last of all, the marks in her hands, feet and side, and how she found it very difficult to speak properly about these latter to her ordinary confessor.

The missioner listened without interrupting her, not knowing what to say, to the account which the humble girl gave of the marvels which God had worked in her soul. But her candor and ingenuousness convinced him that he had before him one of those privileged creatures which God at times bestows upon the earth. However, he was reluctant to offer an opinion at the moment, and after giving her certain permissions she had sought told her that he would think about the matter and that on his next visit to Lucca would listen to her again, but that in the meantime she would have to reveal everything to her ordinary confessor.

Gemma wanted to be a nun. After the last words of Jesus it seemed to her that she now knew the secret of her vocation. Nor had she forgotten the salutation of St. Gabriel when he called her 'Sorella mia' (sister mine). And had not Jesus asked her whether she would like to be clothed in the habit the missioners wore? Did He not say to her: ‘You will be a daughter of My Passion'? She longed to anticipate the joy of being a nun and therefore sought permission to take the vows of religion. She had already taken a vow of perpetual virginity, but the missioner allowed her to add for private devotion the vows of poverty and obedience until September 8, when with the consent of her ordinary confessor she might renew them for short periods. As she herself attests, the day she took these vows was one of the happiest of her life.

Gemma had also asked permission to practise certain corporal mortifications, but the missioner refused his consent, thinking rightly that God would supply her with abundant opportunities for suffering. On the contrary, he deprived her of the instruments of penance with which she had been torturing her innocent body.

The missioner's name was Father Gaetano of the Child Jesus. He was an excellent missioner and endowed with fine qualities. Gemma's meeting him was a blessing for her. And afterwards, even from Heaven, she remembered his kindness, and paid him back with a generosity of which only the saints are capable.

Before proceeding with Father Gaetano's report upon the extraordinary things which had been thus made known to him, other happenings must be related which had an important influence upon Gemma's life. The ways of Providence in her regard are henceforward so manifestly wonderful that we write of them with diffidence and veneration.



While Gemma was following with such a transport of faith and devotion the practices of the month of the Sacred Heart in the Church of the Visitation Nuns, a pious woman whom the reader knows by name was also there for the same purpose. This woman who was afterwards to occupy such an important place in Gemma's life-to become in fact a second mother to her-had not met her at this time. But she had often seen her before this and being greatly edified by her devotion had inquired into her identity and had been told that she was the daughter of the late Signor Galgani, the chemist.

When the month of the Sacred Heart was over, Cecilia Giannini like Gemma went to the mission at the Cathedral. Without knowing it these two were following one another. In the Cathedral Gemma, accompanied by her aunt, was seen a few times by her future adopted mother, but the matter ended there.

A few days after the mission Cecilia Giannini received a letter from Father Gaetano, who was staying in the Retreat near Lucca, informing her that he would call upon her on a certain day and asking her to find Gemma and tell her that on that day she was to come to see him. Gemma, accompanied by one of her aunts, therefore came to see Father Gaetano at the Giannini home. After speaking to him for a little while, she left the house and went to the Church of Santa Maria Bianca. Father Gaetano followed her there and heard her confession. Before Gemma left Cecilia Giannini had asked her to return the next day. She did so in the afternoon. Cecilia liked to have Gemma near her, it did her good, she said. She would have liked to have her as a frequent visitor, especially when she learned that the family was living in such poverty. She could not but feel a certain veneration for Gemma. However, there were already many in the house, for more than twenty sat down to dinner every day. But her brother, Matthew Giannini, the head of the house, saved her from her difficulty by saying: 'Let her come and let her stay for dinner also.' Thus began the relations between Gemma and the Giannini family.

Before she had met Gemma and when she had got to know who she was and the wretched conditions under which she lived, Cecilia Giannini had mentioned these facts to her brother. He showed himself very willing to receive her into the family, for he was a man good-hearted and full of charity. , I knew nothing about the extraordinary graces,' he deposed in the Processes. 'I only knew that she was a good girl and knowing the condition of the family I wanted to perform an act of charity. The permission of Gemma's aunts was asked, and they were very pleased.'


Gemma therefore began to spend a few hours every day at the Giannini home. Subsequently she used to stay the whole day. God Who, in the designs of His Providence, had arranged that these two holy souls, Gemma and Cecilia Giannini, should meet on the pathway of life in order to assist one another to sanctify their souls and become better instruments of His Glory, also awakened in their hearts from their first meeting an undying affection for one another. Cecilia Giannini as before mentioned experienced in Gemma's presence a sense of spiritual well-being. ‘I prayed more,' she said. 'I was more recollected, and in trouble and difficulties I was more at peace. She was generally silent, but when I asked her a question or mentioned any of my trials, a word from her was enough to tranquillize me.' This was the reason why she wanted Gemma near her. On her side Gemma wished to be with her friend and says so expressly in her Autobiography: 'From then I loved her as if she were my mother-and I have always regarded her as such.'

It was not only Aunt Cecilia-she will be so called henceforth, for it was by that name she was known in the Giannini household-who experienced a sense of spiritual well-being in Gemma's society. The other members of the family felt her attraction. Signora Justina, the mother of this excellent family, desired Gemma to become the friend of her grownup daughters, knowing that they would be safe in her company and would also be edified by her virtue. She records with pleasure in the Processes the first time she saw Gemma speaking to her eldest daughter Annetta.

These meetings were few, however, because in the beginning of July the family went to the country and did not return until November. Aunt Cecilia remained at Lucca. Being alone she desired more than ever to have Gemma with her, and with the consent of Gemma's aunts, she called for her every morning, and brought her back home every evening. Sometimes Gemma stayed with her at night.

If Aunt Cecilia was pleased to have Gemma's company, Gemma was no less pleased to have hers, for she was conscious of being in a congenial atmosphere where she was understood.


The Galgani family was gradually growing smaller.

One brother had set out or was about to set out for America; another for military service. There were left then, only Gemma, her two aunts, her brother Anthony and her two sisters. Death was soon to make other gaps. However, in her own family Gemma was not understood and never could have been. She had endeavored to keep secret the extraordinary things that were happening to her, not only because of her humility and her innate repugnance at revealing them, but also because she had been warned not to do so, by her confessor, her Guardian Angel, and even by Jesus Himself. But no matter how much she tried to hide her affairs, they became known and were discussed outside the family. Gemma suffered in consequence. She remembered the warnings of Jesus Who had said to her often that if she allowed these things to be known in her family she would have to suffer. Besides there was one at home who, being unable to understand these sublime things, used nevertheless to speak of them publicly. Gemma was spied upon continually, laughed at and ridiculed, even outside the house.

What Gemma felt and to what a pass things had come is easily understood from a letter she wrote to her confessor :

'. . . I am terrified. N. N. knows everything about me. This morning she was speaking about my affairs as if it did not matter. She and my brother were making fun of them. I am not a bit afraid of their ridicule, you know. From eleven o'clock this morning until three I have not been left alone. She says she wants to see everything. She is like a little imp. Besides, my aunts look on and smile, so that I could almost cry. . . . She has even brought her school companions to the house, saying to them, in order to make fun of me: "Let us go and see Gemma in ecstasy." Yesterday she shouted out these words outside the front door for everyone to hear." [Life of Gemma Galgani, by Father Gennanus, C.P.]

Sometimes, however, the phenomena appeared in such a way that she was unable to hide them. Her friend, Palmira Valentini, attested that on one occasion she met her with clotted blood all over her forehead and temples. She was not surprised at what she saw, but as Gemma did not realize that anything extraordinary had happened, she said to her: 'Gemma, one of yours has taken place.' Then she invited her into her house to wash herself. Gemma entered and washed, but not before her friend had wiped some of the blood away with her handkerchief, which she afterwards treasured with veneration. Palmira Valentini was well aware of the extraordinary things that were happening to Gemma, for she herself had told her about them. She gave the following evidence in the Processes :

'One day Gemma asked me: "Do you know what a beautiful present Jesus has given to me?" And I answered: "Tell me, Gemma, what Jesus has given to you." Gemma replied: "Guess what it is. Even Sister Julia guessed." I believe from the way Gemma spoke that she thought it was an ordinary gift received by all who loved Jesus. In fact, I know this was what she thought. And I insisted that she should tell me what it was that Jesus gave her. Gemma then replied: "Jesus has given me the marks of His Wounds." I prudently said no more than: "Did it have to take so long to tell me that!" ‘

But others were not as prudent and as charitable as Palmira Valentini and because of their imprudence Gemma had to suffer much. During a quarrel in the home a member of the family blasphemed. Gemma was horrified and began to sweat blood all over her body. But how was she to hide this blood? One of her aunts- 'who is so good and the one who loved me so much ' -as Gemma described her in a letter to her confessor, followed her into her room that evening to find out the cause of the blood. But it is better to quote the letter in which she mentions these facts:

'Monsignor, do you know what one of my aunts did to me yesterday? When I arrived home I went to my room. She followed me, very angry, and said: "This evening Julia is not here to defend you, and you must let me see where all that blood comes from or, if not, I shall beat you until you do." As I remained silent, she grew angrier, and holding me by the throat with one hand, with the other she tried to take off my clothes, but did not succeed, for the bell rang and she left me. . . . But the matter did not end there. When I was going to bed she came to me and said it was time I gave up all my tomfoolery, and that I had given people enough to talk about. "Mind," she said to me, "if you do not tell me where that blood comes from, I shall not allow you out of the house alone nor shall I send you anywhere." As you can imagine, at these words I began to cry, and I did not know what to do. At last I decided to tell her and I answered in this way: "The blasphemies of your nephew are the cause of it." "What!" my aunt said. "The blasphemies cause this blood to flow?" "Yes," I answered. "When I hear blasphemies I see Jesus suffering and I suffer with Him, and I suffer in my heart and the blood comes." That appeared to calm her a little, and she said: "Is it only when your brother blasphemes that you suffer and not when others do so ?" "I suffer always when I hear blasphemies, but there is a difference. His blasphemies make me suffer much more." And in saying this I cried bitterly."

Yes, again and again this innocent victim sweated blood, and even wept tears of blood when she heard her Jesus blasphemed. It can be easily understood that Gemma had much to endure in her own home. However, being so meek and resigned, she was not the one to lessen the weight of the burden of crosses and humiliations that were placed upon her shoulders. She remembered what Jesus had said about not allowing His divine favors to be known, and fearing therefore that He would be offended she asked her confessor to arrange for her to enter a convent. But her confessor was at a loss what to do. Knowing that she was visiting the Giannini’s, he used his influence with Cecilia Giannini and asked her to keep Gemma with her as long as possible. This is known on the authority of Euphemia Giannini who, afterwards as a Passionist nun, bore the name of Mother Gemma of Jesus. 'My family,' she said, 'was fortunate in having Monsignor Volpi as a friend. He used to visit us, and my aunt sometimes went to confession to him. Knowing the situation in which Gemma was placed at that time in her own home…’he desired my aunt to keep her at our home as long as possible.'

So to the exhortations of the Passionists who had been the first to speak of Gemma, as the Processes attest, and in particular, of Father Gaetano who, according to Annetta Giannini's deposition, ' desired that the Giannini’s should see her and afterwards receive her into their home as a member of the family because they would be blessed through her " there was now added the authoritative and welcome advice of the Auxiliary Bishop, Monsignor Volpi, who strengthened Cecilia Giannini in the resolve she had not only made but had already put into practice. God, therefore, Who had formerly come to the help of His servant when she was tormented with interior anxieties, by making the Passionists known to her, continued to show His care of her, and fulfilled the promise made to her when He cured her of the sickness that would otherwise have proved fatal: 'And if it should happen that you cannot become a nun, or that the nuns should send you away, I will find persons who will take care of you, and who will give you all that will be necessary.'

Cecilia Giannini therefore took every opportunity of having Gemma near her. On her side, Gemma was eager to take advantage of the invitation and her aunts' permission to remain all night occasionally at the home of her benefactor, especially on Thursday and Friday, in order to hide as far as possible what happened to her on those days.

In the beginning, however, Cecilia Giannini was somewhat perplexed about these extraordinary manifestations. But being an intelligent and prudent woman, she concealed her perplexity, and watched Gemma continually. When she saw what did happen to the holy girl, she was not upset, and it was not long before. she was convinced that Gemma was a privileged creature, and she thanked God from her heart that she had an Angel such as Gemma for a companion.


But the family after spending the summer months at Viareggio, S. Casciano di Controne and other places, now returned to Lucca, and Cecilia Giannini was wondering what she ought to do. Was she to be deprived of the companion from whom she had received such spiritual good? Must she send Gemma back to suffer in her home? She took courage and said to her brother: 'God has placed this angel in my care. Could she not remain with us ? We have eleven children in the house; one more will not matter.'

This last remark was not really made in order to introduce a total stranger into the family permanently. They also knew that Gemma's mother had died of consumption. Was it prudent to bring her into contact with healthy children? But no one . knows what hearts filled with the charity of Christ may venture. God willed it so, anyway, and no one can go against the will of God. Matthew Giannini was most agreeable, and so was his wife and all the children, and the priest named Laurence Agrimonti who, holding a benefice at the Cathedral, lived with the family. Even the domestic staff was pleased, a thing rare enough, and all the more remarkable in this case because Gemma was coming not as a servant but as a member of the family.

Aunt Cecilia, having been so readily granted what she desired, went at once to Gemma's home. Her aunts, who in spite of what had occurred really loved Gemma, hesitated a little before giving their consent. Their realization of the poverty of the family, and the fact that such unusual things were happening to Gemma, things they could not understand, caused them to yield at least in part. They consented to allow Gemma to spend half her time at the Gianninis' and declared that she had to spend the other half at home. Finally in September, 1900, they gave their full consent, and Gemma then took up her residence permanently with the Gianninis, and never left them, except for a few days before her death, and then on the doctor's advice. Gemma's brother deposed in the Processes that she never visited her home again except on a few occasions to visit her Aunt Elisa. But the latter came to see Gemma more frequently at the Giannini home.


The first months Gemma passed outside her own home were spent between Aunt Cecilia and the , Mantellate ' .nuns who are known in Lucca as 'Suorine.' A deposition of one of these nuns, Sister M. Julia of St. Joseph, declares that Gemma was with them from August, 1899, to March or April, 1900. This is what she says:

'I know that Monsignor Volpi, through Signora Cecilia Giannini, was looking for some means of getting Gemma away from her home, in order that when in ecstasy she might not be observed by strangers. I know for a fact that Gemma was once found rapt out of her senses and that she had to be carried to her room. . . . Signora Cecilia Giannini would have liked to have taken her immediately to her own home, but decided against it because there were so many little children in the family, and she therefore asked us to keep her in the Convent, on the understanding that she would afterwards repay us for what we spent on her. We readily consented. And Gemma then began to frequent our parlours, the little church and the rooms next the sacristy. Gemma came to us in the month of August, 1899, it seems, and remained until March or April, 1900.'

The words ' it seems ' are italicized because there is a doubt whether these dates are correct. Here is the deposition on the same subject made by the Superior at that time, Sister M. Agnes Galli:

'I believe Gemma began to frequent our Convent here when she had been miraculously cured. As I have said, she came here every day, presented and recommended to us by Signora Cecilia Giannini. The reason why Gemma was sent here by Signora Giannini was this : to be able to be alone with Jesus and to pray at her ease and as long as she liked. We welcomed her because we knew from Signora Giannini that she was good-a holy soul she called her. She came here after she had finished at home, or in the church, at about half-past eight. We gave her coffee with milk and a little bread because she said she did not want much, and she took the coffee in the parlor near the front door. Afterwards she went through the sacristy to the priest's room. For the midday meal she took very little, some soup, a piece of something else, and on a rare occasion a little wine, which she never asked for, but took only when I pressed her to do so. She passed the whole time between breakfast and dinner in our little church, except for a short time spent in holy conversation . . . or in knitting stockings for Signora Cecilia Giannini. After dinner she returned to the church and remained there until Signora Giannini or her aunts came to bring her home. I think that Gemma was living in the Via Biscione at that time.'

These depositions are quoted at length, especially the last one, in order to prove that when Gemma frequented the Convent of the ' Mantellate ' nuns, she was already in contact with the Giannini family, and that the nuns came to know her through Signora Cecilia, who was a fervent tertiary of the Servants of Mary, and that if, as is true, Gemma sometimes spent the night at the Convent, it was not because she had been abandoned by her relatives.' [L'Osservatore Romano, January 25 and 26, 1932]

Gemma stayed with the ' Mantellate' nuns for a few days on another occasion. Her first visit was accompanied by many extraordinary facts which will be mentioned later on in this book. We shall also have to relate the steps she took in an endeavor to become a religious in this same Convent.


In order to give the reader an account of Gemma's new family there is set down here in its entirety the description given of it by the Carmelite nun Sister Gesualda:

'The Giannini family was really and profoundly Christian and reminded one of the ancient patriarchal families. At its head was Matthew Giannini, tall, dignified, with a long white beard-a fine type of man from whose countenance goodness and kindness beamed. His was a sincere, upright, pious soul. His wife, a diligent and intelligent mother, was not less pious. At that time her eleven children formed a stairway, from the eldest, who was at the University and about to take his degree, to the youngest who was not yet out of long clothes. . . . An aunt completed this family-Aunt Cecilia, whose watchful care made her loved by all. Because Signora Justina was often sick, it fell to Aunt Cecilia's lot to look after the affairs of the household, and it was a task that was not always easy. Nevertheless she was able to find time for works of charity and zeal. To understand how she was able to get through so much work, it was enough to see her. Slim, energetic, good, there was a resoluteness and masculine intelligence in her look. Her piety was not merely emotional, but enlightened, genuine, deep. Her sincerity-a marked characteristic of hers-could be read in her counte-nance. . . . Christ was King of this household, and the Gianninis made no mystery about it. The family drew its income, a large part of which was given to the poor and religious orders, from a pharmacy, a chandler's shop and several properties in the country. A certain part of the house was set aside for the use of the Passionist Fathers, who when they came to Lucca ... knew that they had at their disposal at the Gianninis' , special rooms, a little chapel, and a refectory with a crucifix looking down upon the table as in their own monastery.” [Un flore di Passione nella citta del Volto Santo, PP. 104-105]

The Giannini family, therefore, must always be associated with the name of Blessed Gemma Galgani, and be blessed and venerated by all who love and honor her. This family is a shining example of how pleasing and acceptable to God is charity, and of how He rewards it even in this life. The name of this family will be remembered through the centuries, and their house will be regarded as a holy sanctuary where a saint has left the perfume of every virtue.


Before proceeding with the story of Gemma's, life it is thought well to mention here some of these virtues, gleaned from the evidence of witnesses. It is to be regretted that the most authoritative witness of all in the Giannini household did not live long enough to take part in the ceremonies of the Beatification. Aunt Cecilia died at eighty-four years of age, on December 24, 1931, less than a month after the Sovereign Pontiff had declared that Gemma had practiced virtue in an heroic degree, and had bestowed upon her the title of Venerable.

Upon entering her new home Gemma had but one thought, to love as ardently as possible that God who had come to her rescue in her spiritual and temporal necessities, and also to show her gratitude to the hospitable and good family by edifying and assisting them as far as she could. Matthew Giannini thus spoke of Gemma's conduct in his home:

'When she was with my sister Cecilia, especially on Sundays when we went out for a walk, I believe she occupied her time either in reading or in conversation. In the evening they went to Benediction. As far as I know Gemma never went out alone, for she went to the church both morning and evening with my sister, and we never sent her on errands or anything of that sort. We treated her as one of the family. Even when she visited her family or the Zitine Sisters she was with my sister, or another member of the family went with her. She was a source of edification to my sons and daughters, who held her in great esteem, as did also my wife and even the servants. People thought it extraordinary that we should keep her in our home. They called her stupid because she never spoke to them. She dressed in a humble fashion, kept her eyes lowered and was always recollected, and never took part in the children's games. She used to go with my sister to the Rosa church and also to that of S. Martino, which was nearer. She often went to Santa Maria Bianca, which was our parish church, and to a few other churches on special feast days. They went out early, in winter from half-past six to seven o'clock, and in summer from six o'clock to half-past six. I have said they heard two Masses, that is, when there were two. Otherwise they spent that time in private prayers ; Gemma was never idle. We had a piano and the children played and sang, but not Gemma. Towards the end of her life I learned with surprise that she understood music and could sing, and embroider. I do not know exactly whether she could play the piano.'

Aunt Cecilia confirms and completes this deposition of her brother:

‘Before Gemma came to reside permanently at our. house, for some months I used to call for her at her home, and frequently I found that she had gone to church, for she assisted at Mass and went to Holy Communion daily, then and afterwards, except on one or two mornings when through indisposition she could not go .... At first she used to work at crocheting, but she preferred knitting or mending stockings, because, I believe, it enabled her to keep more recollected. And she worked constantly, for she looked after the stockings of the entire household. She did whatever there was to do. H the need arose she put the rooms in order or helped the children with their lessons. Although she could not cook, she sometimes lit the kitchen fire. She was always humble, obedient, calm and silent ... .'

The eldest boy of the family, Joseph, who became a lawyer, deposed that although no particular work was assigned to her in the house, she helped everyone gracefully and without ostentation. 'She taught the little children,' he continued, ' without, however, undertaking the more delicate tasks reserved to others. Her demeanor was always such that she was an edification to us all.'

It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that Gemma should have won the love and esteem not only of the family, but also of strangers who visited the house. In regard to this matter Signora Justina deposed:

'As regards the esteem in which she was held in the house I can say that I never saw her commit the slightest fault. All the others in the house had the same opinion of her. For instance, when I told my eldest boy that I was afraid that I had cancer in the stomach, he said to me: "Did not Gemma tell you that you hadn't, and why don't you believe her? " Even visitors came to hold her in high regard.'

The evidence of many witnesses is summed up in the words of Brother Famiano of the Heart of Jesus, a Passionist whose work often brought him to the house: 'She was like an angel, she spoke only when she was addressed. When she had finished eating she retired immediately from the table. The whole household regarded her as a soul that belonged entirely to Jesus.'

The one who, above all others, rejoiced in having Gemma in the house, was, it is needless to say, Cecilia Giannini, who at a certain time every day used to retire, saying: 'Now let me enjoy my Gemma.' And then she and Gemma would go into the courtyard at the back of the house or into a little room where they would work and talk about Jesus. These were precious hours in which Cecilia Giannini endeavored by innocent artifice to make Gemma reveal her intimate secrets-secrets that otherwise would have remained hidden. 'With Gemma,' said Cecilia, ' I was at rest. Merely to see her near me made me feel more recollected, more patient, more able to bear the weight of fatigue, and the bitterness of my troubles. What an account I should have had to render to God if I had not appreciated the gift He had bestowed in giving me this angelic creature, and if I had not reaped some profit for my soul through it! '

In spite, however, of the esteem in which Gemma was held and the confidence reposed in her, she never forgot that she did not belong to the family, and regulated her conduct with admirable delicacy and prudence. Never by any word or act did she cause the least disturbance in the family. She never meddled in affairs that did not concern her, or discussed the domestic arrangements. When visitors came to the house she slipped away unobtrusively, and it was this reserve and silence which made them think she was stupid. Canon Andreuccetti, seeing her on one occasion retire on his arrival, asked the reason why, and was told that it was her usual practice on such occasions. She acted in the same way even with Doctor Tommasi, whom she knew well.

The hearts of Saints are extremely delicate, and Gemma felt deeply the duty of gratitude she owed to her adopted family. She prayed constantly for them all. 'Mom,' she was once heard to say in an ecstasy as she was addressing the Blessed Virgin, 'my confessor has obliged me to do something. He has asked me to pray for this family. I have done so already. Will you do what I cannot do ! Obtain for them great graces, an infinite number of graces. Mom, you understand, an infinite number. If at times Jesus desires to send them trials, tell Jesus to show His mercy towards them .... ' And on another occasion she prayed: 'Mother mine, I recommend this house and this family to you. Tell Jesus to help them in the hour of tribulation, but if He should be about to lay His hand, heavily upon them, I am here, and let Him lay it on me instead. I recommend this matter to you very fervently. Tell Jesus that it is very important."

Gemma realized how great was the care that was bestowed upon her, and she wished to make some return, but not being able to do so, she showed her gratitude in a thousand ways. 'I shall pray to Jesus for you,' she often said to anyone who helped her in any way. But she did not want to be treated well. t I don't want them to do anything for me,' she wrote to her director. 'If you could only see what they do! How they put a foot-warmer in my bed at night, and all this for one who deserves to be treated like the fowls. Is this right? I am heaped round with comforts. And in spite of all I am not able to say a word of thanks. If I could only help them with my poor prayers! [Lettere ed estasi.]

In the same way she complained to Aunt Cecilia: 'You must not bother about me at all. I am to be considered no more than the duster in the kitchen; otherwise Jesus will not be pleased. I do not desire any care and attention from you.' She knew she was poor and wanted to be treated as a poor person. ' You may think, perhaps,' she wrote to her director, ' that I regret that I have to live on the charity of others. No, No! I do not regret that, for is it not that which makes me like to Jesus? '

It was this understanding of her actual position economically which urged her no doubt to treat the domestic staff with such consideration, even though she received in return from some of the servants only rebuffs and criticism. Knowing that this was done because they were jealous of the care Aunt Cecilia bestowed on her, Gemma used to say on these occasions: 'Have patience, the Lord will repay you for what you do for me. What I want you to do is to act as if I was not in the house.' On her side Gemma tried to be very attentive to them in order to take away any cause for jealousy, so that one of them was heard to say: 'That poor girl would like to help us, only she hasn't got the strength.'


A duty which she wished to be reserved for herself alone, was the care of the sick in the home. For this provided her with an excellent means of showing her gratitude. 'When she was with me,' attests Aunt Cecilia, 'she looked after those who were sick and showed them the greatest care and attention, being always punctual with the medicine, visiting them regularly, taking note of their temperature. We should have forgotten many things, but she was always so attentive and so exact. She had no favorites. She acted just the same whether it was my sister-in-law who was often sick, or Don Laurence, or a servant, or one of the children. She was always prepared, but spoke very little, and all this she did for the love of God.'

On one occasion Signora Justina was seriously ill with what was thought to be a cancer in the stomach. Notwithstanding all the remedies that were tried, she grew worse from day to day, and it was feared that she was dying. Gemma gave her every care. Justina herself deposed as follows in the Processes:

‘During my long sickness, Gemma of her own accord undertook to write down every day an account of the progress of the disease and filled several pages of a day-book .... I asked Doctor Nerici to read Gemma's manuscript in order that he might know the history of my sickness, and when he had done so he said: "One would think it had been written by a doctor." ‘

In order to obtain Justina's cure a friend of the family had arranged for a triduum in honor of the Sacred Heart in the Church of S. Giovanni. All the household took part in it. But Gemma . . . she whose heart was burning to be near Jesus-remained with the sick woman, and recited with her the prayers that were being said in the church. According to the testimony of Signora Justina, Gemma sometimes spent entire days in the sick-room without saying a word. And what was she meditating in that long silence? She was praying and making a heroic resolve-she was thinking of offering to Jesus her own life which seemed to her of no account, in exchange for the life of her benefactress who was also the mother of twelve 'children. She began to think it was her positive duty. She therefore approached her confessor and her director to obtain their consent. She wrote to the latter:

'Father, the mother is very seriously ill. I have been thinking this way: when I was sick she was ready to help me even more than she was able, but I have had no opportunity of showing them gratitude. Perhaps the time has come? The mother is sick and I cannot make any return for all she has done for me. Up to the present I have offered for her only a little suffering, some little mortifications .... This morning I spoke to Jesus, and afterwards I said to my confessor: "I should like to give my life for the poor mother!" He said:

"No. Absolutely no." I then said: "Two years, at least? May I not give at least that much!" Jesus was satisfied, and said: "Yes, you may. However, on condition that the Father director is also satisfied!" I want to make this promise, this vow, to-morrow morning, but I cannot unless I get the permission of the Father director. Father, you will not refuse, will you? Two for Serafina, and two for the mother, more if there is need. I am most anxious that you should reply immediately.'

Serafina was a friend of Gemma who had mentioned her to her spiritual director before. 'I have only about eight years to live,' she wrote to him. 'I should like to give three to Serafina and keep the others for myself.' After several refusals and many evasions, Gemma at length obtained the desired consent. Signora Justina was cured except for an inconvenience of another nature which Gemma herself had foretold. Gemma, however, became seriously ill with stomach trouble, and was in violent pain. To make Aunt Cecilia realize how much she was suffering, she said that the effect of swallowing a drop of water was like a burning fire in her stomach. Father Germanus attests that the two women mentioned above got better, but that Gemma died at the exact end of the period she had bargained to live.' [Lettere ed estasi, pp. 35-36]

If the laying down of one's life out of love for a person who returns it, is according to the Gospel an act of the greatest charity, what must be said of that charity by which one is impelled to offer one's life and one's services on behalf of a person by whom one is actually despised? There was a servant in the house who had a disgusting wound in the leg, which was dressed by Gemma with every care even though she received only abuse in return. Mother Gemma Giannini said that when passing the room where the servant was, she saw Gemma on her knees kiss and dress the sore.

After her death Gemma continued to prove her gratitude to her benefactors. Chevalier Matthew Giannini well recognized this and in his evidence before the ecclesiastical tribunal he said:

‘For my part I must say this, that although my five sons were all at the war, exposed to the greatest danger, they all came back safe and sound, and one who had been appointed to a very dangerous post, was not sent. All this I owe, I believe, to the intercession of Gemma, to whom we have always prayed. And I think that it is to her I also owe the success of all my sons. They are a great consolation to me, for they go to Holy Communion every day, and are much occupied in promoting Catholic Action. Of my daughters, five are nuns, one has remained at home and one is married.'

Notwithstanding all this, Gemma feared that she was a source of scandal to her benefactors. Thus she wrote to a nun: 'Say a prayer for me, Mother, that Jesus may give me the grace to set a good example to this family and not to be a scandal to it." [Lettere ed estasi, p. 141.]


The reader will remember how charitable Gemma was as a child, how she was even still more charitable when her family fell from prosperity to absolute want. In the Giannini household, the desire she had of assisting the poor, did not meet with so many obstacles, and she was able to satisfy it to her heart's content. The Gianninis, knowing her kind-heartedness, made her the channel of their charities to the poor, and Aunt Cecilia's recollections give us an insight into this aspect of Gemma's virtue. The poor have a way of finding out where they will be well treated, and there was always a goodly number who knocked at the Gianninis' door. Gemma knew their knock, being able to distinguish it from others. She went, therefore, to offer whatever Aunt Cecilia had set apart for the poor. Sometimes, however, there was a disagreement between Gemma and her adopted mother. But we had better give Aunt Cecilia's own account:

‘In order to be able to help her neighbor, Gemma was willing to go hungry. She would have liked to give away everything. On the contrary I did not approve of this and I scolded her because, I said, I did not want to encourage the poor to come to the house in a procession. Besides, in case of any trouble I should not have been able to help Gemma. At table she usually put aside something for the poor, and then when there was a knock at the door, she would ask my permission to give it away. I used to answer: " Yes, but you must not bring them into the house." She then took whatever she could and brought it to them. She used to sit with the poor person at the back of the stairs in the loggia, and it was while I watched from a window looking on to the stairs that I heard the good advice she gave her poor.'

Gemma used to give the poor short and comprehensive instructions in the Catechism, hoping thereby to raise their thoughts to Heaven and thus make the sorrows of life more tolerable.

Aunt Cecilia declared that Gemma often urged her to visit certain sick people who otherwise would never have been visited, and for this purpose put forward such arguments that she was obliged to yield, and Mother Gemma attests that it can truly be said that all her aunt's charities were inspired by Gemma.

In fact Gemma had to be closely watched, for she would have given away everything that belonged to her, although she was scrupulous in her care of the goods of the house. She had not much to give, however. Her furniture consisted of a rough chest of drawers in which she kept her linen, and a little table. Every month her aunt at Camaiore sent her five or six lire, but her various charities claimed this money immediately. When she first came to the Gianninis' she had about thirty lire which she had given to Palmira Valentini for safe keeping. A certain person in need asked for it, and Gemma would have given it away at once, only she was accustomed to ask permission in such circumstances from Aunt Cecilia. However, both Aunt Cecilia and Monsignor Volpi opposed this, and the former kept the money for the use of Gemma and her family.

But Gemma's charity was not confined to the material sphere. Matthew Giannini deposed that when she went with them to the country, 'she instructed the men and the boys, teaching them their catechism, and giving good advice to all.' And Joseph, the lawyer, adds: 'She taught the little children to have devotion to the Blessed Virgin and to their Guardian Angels.' Once when Euphemia gave way somewhat to vanity on going out for a walk with her father, Gemma met her on the stairs, and smilingly said: 'Whoever tries to please men, does not succeed in pleasing Jesus.' These words haunted the girl during the whole walk. Gemma never let slip a chance of doing good. On another occasion Euphemia asked her to give her a thought that would serve as a headline when practicing handwriting, and Gemma suggested the following words: 'If every one would endeavor to know and love God, this world would be changed into a Paradise.'


Having studied Gemma's relations with her neighbor, we must now examine her relations with God. Leaving to another chapter the more particular and the extraordinary manifestations of her union with God, there will be recorded a few of the many depositions made in the Processes for the Beatification.. The following is by Aunt Cecilia:

“The Eucharist was her principal devotion. Communion meant everything to her, and she prepared for it the night before. In the church she remained beside me, with her eyes fixed upon the Tabernacle. When the moment came to receive Holy Communion I got up first and she followed me, and she always kept beside me with her hands under her mantle. Afterwards we went to some place where there were no people, because as she herself used to say, she went, as it were, out of herself. People often came to ask her prayers. She used not to answer, and therefore lest they might perceive something, I asked Monsignor Volpi what I ought to do, and he said that I should tell them that she did not speak because after Holy Communion she was making her thanksgiving and did not want to be distracted. . . . Some criticized her for this silence, although good people remarked upon her recollected and edifying demeanor. As a rule we heard two Masses, if there were two and if there was time. She continued her thanksgiving right through the morning, even after she went home and was occupied with her household duties. We used to go to several churches . . . and I did this in order that she might escape being noticed by people, although I did not tell her my reason for so doing.

‘At Benediction in the evening she was as recollected as in the morning, with her eyes fixed upon the Tabernacle. Sometimes we made the Stations of the Cross, and one evening after we had made them with greater devotion and recollection than usual, she said: "Let us always make them like that !" And I believe she said this because we had prayed a little longer, especially at the Death of Jesus. . . . We went to the church also for the Forty Hours or to hear a sermon, but we never went to the general Communions or to functions where there were great crowds, although we paid visits to churches where particular feasts were being celebrated. Sometimes she said to me: "We do not know how to behave when we are in the church. It would not be so if we could see how the Angels and the Seraphim around the Altar behave."

Her love for the Blessed Virgin was deep and full of understanding. 'I have now no earthly mother,' she used to say. "But instead I have a Heavenly Mother.' It gave her great pleasure to call the Blessed Virgin, Mom. One day when she was before the altar of Our Lady of Sorrows in the Servite Church, she said to Aunt Cecilia: 'You also call her Mom, and you will see how pleased she will be !' Aunt Cecilia well remembered that day. It was May 8, the Feast of Our Lady of Pompeii. All the days consecrated by the Church to the Blessed Virgin were indeed festival days for her, but on this day after she had returned home from Holy Communion and Aunt Cecilia had begun the day's work, she immediately went into ecstasy. She spoke of the Holy Communion she had received, of the joy she had experienced, and the joy she would experience. As they were alone in the house, Aunt Cecilia allowed her to remain quiet, and the ecstasy lasted until midday.

She had also a great devotion to the Rosary, which she frequently recited. According to Aunt Cecilia, Gemma usually carried in her pocket but two things, her Rosary and her handkerchief. It happened, however, that she seldom got beyond the first decade, . either of the ordinary Rosary, or of the Rosary of the Seven Dolours, without going out of herself, as she called it, that is, without going into ecstasy, with the beads in her hands and her flushed face and bright eyes fixed on Heaven. Mother Gemma Giannini attests that Gemma taught her and wrote out for her a beautiful prayer to the Blessed Virgin composed by St. Alphonsus. And Joseph Giannini, the Advocate, testified that it was Gemma's delight to speak of the Blessed Virgin Mary with children.

In contact thus with Heaven, Gemma lived as if she were not of this earth. We have already spoken of her perfect detachment from everything that was not Jesus. We shall complete what we have said with the following deposition of Aunt Cecilia.

‘If she had formed any friendships before she met me, I could not know of them. I believe she spoke freely with some friends, knowing them to be pious souls. After she came to me, she wanted me to accompany her everywhere, and would rather wait until I was free than go with other people. . . . Of politics or affairs like that she never spoke, and when they were spoken of she appeared not to understand or even not to hear. Gemma's world, especially during her last years with me, was very limited. Her acquaintances were restricted to the persons in the house, and to a few others whom she met only through absolute necessity and obedience. Whether they were seculars or religious, men or women, priests or nuns, she preferred not to have to meet them.'

Gemma had such a wealth of beautiful thoughts to occupy her, that she wished to avoid distraction. Seated on a stone near the kitchen door or in the courtyard of the Giannini home, calm, silent, smiling, she worked at knitting or mending stockings while her mind was far from the things of earth. Happy girl! She knew how to taste in exile the joys of the eternal Fatherland! Blessed was the family that gave shelter to such a guest!



The great and overpowering desire of the Saints has always been to make themselves as like as possible to Jesus Crucified who is the sublime model for all the predestined. This resemblance is principally achieved in the soul, within, but in a few Saints it has been made manifest externally, and they have borne visibly in their bodies the marks of Christ's Passion. However; all the Saints have not participated equally in drinking the chalice of the Savior’s sufferings, but Gemma was privileged to drink so deeply of it that her Divine Spouse could say to her: 'My daughter, there are a few of your age in Heaven to whom it has been given to share so largely in My sufferings.' [Lettere ed estasi.]

One by one Gemma did indeed experience all the sorrows of the drama of the Sacred Passion, so that the prayer she had uttered was completely answered : , Jesus is the Man of Sorrows, and I desire to become the daughter of sorrow.' This was always the one desire of her heart. 'When will the time come when I can embrace the Cross, and feel the thorns, the nails, the pains . . . and be as it were immersed in the Wounds of my Saviour? . . .' She did indeed become so steeped in the Passion of Christ that she could say: 'I am fruit of Thy Passion, a flower of Thy Wounds.' [Lettere ed estasi.]


Before the Redeemer of the world suffered the awful torture of the scourging, the crowning with thorns, and the Crucifixion, He underwent the Agony in the Garden, in which He shed His blood so copiously. As we have already seen, Gemma participated in this sorrow of the Passion by sweating blood when anyone blasphemed in her hearing.

Among the causes that contributed to the Agony of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemani were the sins and the ingratitude of mankind. The same considerations made Gemma not only sweat blood, but even shed tears of blood, as was testified by witnesses in the Processes for her Beatification. One of these, Mother Gemma Giannini, asserted that so great was Gemma's grief over the sins of the world and for those which she thought she herself had committed, that she often sweated blood and even wept tears of blood. 'She used to sweat blood because of the sins that gave such great offence to God,' declared Aunt Cecilia, ' often saying in ecstasy: "Revenge Thyself on me, but spare all sinners!"

This mysterious phenomenon manifested itself particularly once during a whole month when she was praying very earnestly for priests. The sweat and the tears of blood took place about the same time as the Stigmata, and according to Father Germanus, from time to time on certain days.


One of the most exquisite torments suffered by Jesus in His Passion was the crowning with thorns. For a long time Gemma was ambitious to wear this diadem, and her desire grew all the more ardent when Jesus Himself allowed her to see Him crowned with thorns, and asked her whether she would like to be crowned in the same way.

The first time that she mentioned this matter in her diary was on July 19, 1900. She wrote:

‘This evening at last, after six days of suffering through Jesus withdrawing Himself from me, I am somewhat recollected. I began to pray as I am accustomed to do every Thursday. I began to think of the Crucifixion of Jesus. At first I did not feel anything, but after a few moments I became a little recollected, Jesus was near. To the recollection there succeeded what usually happens. I went into ecstasy and I found myself with Jesus Who was suffering excruciating pains. What was I to do, seeing Jesus suffer without being able to help Him? I felt then a great desire to suffer and I asked Jesus to grant me this grace. He granted my wish immediately and did what He had done on other occasions.'

And here, after having described how she received the crown of thorns from Jesus, she continued: , And so I remained an hour suffering with Jesus. I should have liked to remain there the whole night.' On the following day, July 20, she wrote again: 'At three o'clock I was again in the presence of Jesus .... He took off the crown from my head, and put it on His own head again, and I ceased to suffer pain.'

But Gemma began to live these ' sorrowful, but happy moments' long before this date. Her own words imply this: 'He did what He had done on other occasions.' Perhaps the King had placed His precious diadem upon the head of His beloved Gemma before He had allowed her to bear the marks of His Wounds. If we are not to confuse it with the sweat of blood over her whole body, of which we have spoken, this phenomenon took place during her first stay with the 'Mantellate' nuns. It was deposed in the Processes that one of these religious on arranging Gemma's hair noticed to her great surprise that every hair had a drop of blood on it.

Besides, the several witnesses who spoke of the manifestations of the Stigmata also mentioned that blood flowed freely from her head. But the evidence given by the priest, Laurence Agrimonti, deserves to be quoted. In his account of the extraordinary things that happened to Gemma during the first months of her stay with the Giannini family, that is in 1899 before she came to live permanently there, he writes: 'On August 20, I, the undersigned, saw Signorina Gemma Galgani, sitting in a chair, she being as in a trance, with her face .and hands all stained with blood, and on her forehead certain marks in the form of a crown of thorns.'

Matthew Giannini deposed: 'I saw her and it seemed as if she had a drop of blood on every hair. It was her own blood. I saw the stains left on the cloths with which my sister wiped away the Mood, and these cloths were afterwards sent to the laundry. At first the blood exuded from the skin near the hair. Afterwards it came out all over her forehead, as if there was a crown of small red drops dripping down upon her face.' Similar descriptions were given by other members of the Giannini family. Joseph Giannini, the lawyer, gave the following evidence under oath:

'I saw on one occasion, I think it was on Good Friday ... something like a circle of blood on her forehead. Some drops were running down her temples, and it really seemed to me that she was exuding blood from the skin. I did not touch her, but my aunt wiped away the blood with white cloths and these showed the true red stain of blood. The blood, however, continued to come. It was certainly a sweat of blood. She was in ecstasy, and suffered much. The circle of blood reached across her forehead from the hair on one side to the hair on the other. I do not know, and I did not try to find. out, whether the circle continued its way through the hair. The width of this circle was some millimetres in the top part of the forehead, leaving unaffected a little space between the circle and the beginning of the hair, as well as the lower part of the forehead upon which the blood was dripping.'

'The wearing of the crown commenced on Thursday at the usual hour,' said Mother Gemma Giannini, 'and ceased on Friday evening.' This same religious likewise deposed that she heard certain words spoken by Gemma in an ecstasy that preceded -the manifestation of this phenomenon. From this testimony one must conclude that her Guardian Angel appeared to her, holding two crowns, one of roses and one of thorns, and invited her to choose. Gemma said: 'Better that which belongs to Jesus. As you well know, my dear Angel, I recognize that which is His. Give it to me .... ' It was observed that on Thursday she suffered more than on Friday evening, and when she was asked why this was, she explained that on Thursday the thorns were driven in, and on Friday they were taken out. Once it was noticed that there remained for a short time in the middle of her forehead near her hair a triangular wound, very distinct and visible. The pain of this coronation was intense. 'She lay stretched out on the bed with only her head to be seen,' said Mother Gemma Giannini. 'Blood was flowing in drops from her forehead, from her eyes like unto tears which afterwards coagulated, from her nose even, and was running down upon her neck like two streamlets, so that gathering under her throat it formed a small mass of blood. In the morning she got up and washed and then not a trace of the phenomena I have described remained. She went to Mass and fulfilled her usual duties.'

Aunt Cecilia speaks of a special manifestation of this phenomenon which took place on Good Friday, 1902. Gemma was occupied with the devotion of the Three Hours' Agony, when there opened on her forehead a punctured wound which later on almost disappeared, only to come again every Thursday, and this continued until the end of June of the same year.

Cecilia Giannini, who more frequently than anyone was a spectator of these phenomena, in order to give an idea of how Gemma looked when she participated in the crowning with thorns, likened her to an Ecce Homo. And what a martyrdom Gemma must have suffered at these times! Certainly it would melt a heart of stone to hear her repeat in ecstasy: ' 0 Jesus, my head! I t is too much-I cannot bear it any longer, I cannot bear it any longer! ... My Jesus, help me!' Nevertheless she wanted all this pain, as a proof that Jesus loved her, and as a demonstration of the love she bore Him in return. '0 Jesus, show me that You love me. At other times when I asked Thee, You didst allow me to feel the Wounds of Thy Passion, the thorns ... I give myself to Thee, 0 Jesus. . . . 0 God, more, more, 0 Jesus . . . still more ! Now, Jesus, I know that You love me!' [Lettere ed estasi, p. 159.] THE WOUNDS AND SCOURGING

Gemma desired a still deeper participation in the Passion. She wanted to bear the wounds, and with the wounds, the pain of the scourging. '0 my God, give me Thy wounds; they are mine and no longer Thine; give them to me. Quick, 0 Jesus; if You wait I shall die!' In her abounding love, she longed for a share, not in a few, but in every one of the torments of the Passion. '0 Jesus, let me share in all Thy sorrows; let me suffer while I love, suffer for Jesus who loves, and die suffering for Jesus ! '

God answered the prayers of Gemma, not only by satisfying these desires, but also by sharpening them still more.' This morning after Holy Communion,' she wrote, ' Jesus said to me: " If it is true that you love Me so much as you say, I want you to bear My image impressed upon you. Look at Me ! You will see Me ill-treated, despised by all, dead on a Cross. And I invite you also to die on a Cross for me.'" Then He showed her the instruments of the Passion. How such a sight made her heart beat! This is how she writes to her spiritual Father: 'It seems impossible; Jesus is so determined. He came yesterday evening before I began to suffer. He came and He had in His hands all the instruments of the Passion. I do not know what He meant. He showed them to me one by one. When He had finished I wanted to say something, but at that moment I could not say' a word, and Jesus went away and left me alone .... ' But she consoles herself with the thought that Thursday is near. 'Father, this evening is Thursday evening !' And in another letter she explains why she looks forward with such joyous expectation to the Holy Hour: 'How happy I am after I have spent an hour compassionating Jesus! When Thursday evening draws near, I feel absolutely different, so happy: For me Friday is always a festival day.' [Lettere ed estasi, p. 30.]

These divine favors added new fuel to the fire of love that burnt within her, and she cried out to Jesus: ' Love has indeed slain Thee! My Jesus, make me also die of love! Life will be a torment. There is no one in the world who can satisfy my affections, only You. The thorns, the Cross, the nails, all are the work of love.' 'Yes, I love the Cross, the Cross alone, because I see it always on Thy shoulders. I see well, my Jesus, that all my love is for Thee and Thy sufferings.' 'The Wounds of Jesus speak to me with such sweet violence that I should like . . . 0 my Jesus, I should like my heart to be possessed with but one desire, such as the saints had, that I might be able in some way to love Thee.'

The phenomena which we have described continued to be manifested in Gemma until February, 1901, when by order of her spiritual director, she prayed to Jesus to be freed from them. Her prayers were heard. But although the Stigmata disappeared, a new torture took their place-s-the scourging. The following is the account she gave of it to Father Germanus, her spiritual director:

'Something has happened which I never experienced before. . . . You know that on Thursday and Friday Jesus gives me a little present, and this week another still more dear to me was added. He allowed me to feel some of the blows of His scourging over all the body, very painful, Father, but it was nothing compared with the merciless blows which Jesus received. You remember, we prayed together that Jesus might take away every external sign, and behold Jesus has added another in its place. Viva Gesu! May He be infinitely thanked! Nevertheless He assured me that to please me He would take away the external signs . . . but He added: " Your sufferings will increase and a different life will begin for you…’

To Monsignor Volpi she afterwards wrote thus:

‘It was just at the time when I was praying Jesus to take away all external signs, but Jesus instead added another. He allowed me to feel a few blows of His scourging. To the pain in the hands, feet, head and heart, this was also added. May He be for ever thanked!

'So about five o'clock I began to feel so great a sorrow for my sins that I seemed to be beside myself through fright; but to this there succeeded almost immediately a hope in the mercy of God which calmed me. I did not feel any pain yet. After about an hour I seemed to see my Guardian Angel who was holding two crowns in his hands, one of thorns made in the form of a hat, and the other made of the whitest lilies. The sight of the Angel caused me as usual to be a little afraid, but afterwards it caused me joy. Together we adored the Majesty of God ... and then showing me the two crowns, he asked me which one I should like. I did not want to answer because the Father had forbidden me to do so, but he insisted, saying that it was he who was commanding it, he blessed me and made an offering of me to the Eternal Father, saying to me that I was to forget myself and think only of sinners that night. I was persuaded by these words, and I told the Angel that I would have chosen that of Jesus. He showed me the one of thorns. . . . I kissed it several times, and after he had placed it on my head the Angel disappeared. I began then to suffer in my hands, feet and head, and later on in all the body, and I felt heavy blows. I spent the night in that way, and in the morning I forced myself to get up, so that no one would know these things. The blows and the pain I felt until about two o'clock. At that time the Angel came back, and to tell the truth I could scarcely bear it any longer-and he made me feel well, saying that Jesus had had compassion on me because I was yet a little one, and incapable of suffering with Jesus until the hour in which He expired. . . . But I was worried about one thing, the marks had not disappeared. In the morning when I received Holy Communion I prayed very fervently to Jesus that the marks would be taken away, and He promised that on the day of His Passion He would take them away.'

From the documents quoted, it must be inferred that Gemma began to suffer the new torment of the scourging about February 7 or 8, 1901, and that the Stigmata ceased on February 12, the Feast of the Commemoration of the Passion. The phenomenon was repeated on the four Fridays of March, and on a few other occasions, as we can see from her letters, although we cannot say exactly how many times they occurred because they passed unobserved. The following is an account given by Cecilia Giannini of the phenomena that happened in March. We have compressed it somewhat:

‘Some weeks she suffered neither the Stigmata nor the crowning with thorns. I was pleased. One evening, however, I saw that she was suffering very much, and went to bed earlier than usual, and seeing this I watched her. I thought she was ill and I was not thinking of the extraordinary things, when suddenly I saw little streaks of blood on the backs of her hands. I uncovered her neck and her arms, turning the sleeves of her nightdress up a little. Gemma was in ecstasy. But I was not thinking of what it could be, and believing that it was her own blood that was trickling from her skin, I tried to wipe away the blood from the back of the hand with a cloth which became stained. It was her own blood. I could not imagine how the thing was happening, but I heard her say in the ecstasy: "Are these Thy lashes, Jesus?" And that made me think it was the scourging. This was on the first Friday of March, the manifestation having commenced on the Thursday evening before. It lasted until about four or five in the afternoon of Friday. This was repeated on the Thursday and Friday of the next three weeks of March. In these other ecstasies the scourging was more extensive. In the second I noticed that the skin opened under the streaks of blood. In the third the wounds were wider, and I counted eleven wounds of which three were near the neck, two on the knees, and the others on the calves of the legs and on the arms. I did not uncover from under the neck to the knees, but I noticed that her nightdress was all stained with blood. I did not uncover her shoulders nor her back. On the shoulder of the nightdress, on the right shoulder, I believe, there was a big blood-stain, and besides there was blood all over the bed. . . . A few days after the fourth Friday I said to her: " But tell me this. At first there were only red streaks, and now there are cuts and wounds. Why?" She answered: "At first they were whips, and now they are scourges." ‘

As happened with the other wounds of which we have spoken, all signs of this phenomenon disappeared after two or three days. On one occasion Aunt Cecilia bandaged two of these wounds on her shin, but they would not heal and even festered, whereas left unbandaged they healed of their own accord.

The wound on her shoulder mentioned by Cecilia Giannini was so big and so deep as to compel her to walk bent over towards that side. She felt the effect of it longer than the effects of the other wounds. One witness deposed that having placed a hand a few times on Gemma's shoulder, she said that she felt great pain there. These things happened until April 5 of the same year, when at the voice of obedience the phenomena disappeared.

The following extracts were taken down while she was in ecstasy contemplating the sorrowful mystery of the scourging.

‘0 Jesus to what a state You art reduced! Oh, the holy Person of Jesus has become a plaything for all! They blaspheme Thee, my Jesus, they treat Thee roughly, they curse Thee .... 0 Jesus, I am surprised that although I see Thee in the midst of these humiliations, I do not wish to hear them spoken of. Oh, if I were able, Jesus, with .my blood I should wish . . . I should wish to wash with my blood all those places where I see Thee outraged! ... No more blows on Thee, 0 Jesus. You have not deserved them; I, yes; You, no ! It is I who am the sinner, You art innocent.' , To-night, 0 Jesus, I wish to suffer all; if You also wish to suffer, let us suffer together. Let me be one victim with Thee. Art You pleased, oh Jesus? Strengthen me for this, oh Jesus; I do not ask Thee anything more. Poor Jesus! What a number of blows, poor Jesus! Those bad men are not sparing Thee, but Thy patience is not exhausted. Leave Jesus alone, beat me! Why revenge yourselves upon Jesus; revenge yourselves upon me. More still, 0 Jesus; more, oh God! . .. Still more, Jesus-and more, Jesus, more! My Jesus, help me in this hour! Oh Jesus, to whom do You wish that I go for help? '

And the blows rained down upon the sufferer, so that the spectators of this scene sometimes thought she would die of pain.


Although the exterior manifestations ceased God allowed her to suffer just as much as before in those places. She did not shed blood, but that very fact made her pain all the greater, for the flowing of the blood had given her some alleviation.

God, however, did grant her relief in the mouthfuls of blood which came from her heart. This is how she writes to her spiritual director: 'My Father, my heart being small needs to be enlarged, but there is no room. . . . It desires to expand, but I am so small; Jesus is infinite . . .' And on another occasion: 'Live, Jesus! Towards half past one my little heart could not contain itself and I began to spit up blood in great quantities.' And again: 'I have disobeyed Monsignor. In forbidding me all those things on Friday, he has forbidden me also to spit blood. Until now I have obeyed, but this morning-it was the Feast of St. Paul of the Cross, who himself had suffered so much from the same most desirable infirmity-about an hour after Communion, in a violent movement of my heart, a little of it came away.'

Gemma's heart, all on fire as it was with love, could not but be affected by such ardent desires, and indeed it was so affected that three of her ribs were displaced on that side. 'Imagine,' she wrote, , Jesus told me some time back that they (the feelings of oppression in her heart) would every day grow more painful so that I should become unconscious, that in one of these, I do not know how to explain it, I should die. Live, Jesus !' But of these phenomena which have been verified we shall speak later on.

To make the image of Jesus Crucified in Gemma more complete something was yet wanting. Jesus had been despised, humiliated, mocked, spat upon in His Passion, and so was Gemma. Let us take a few facts from the Processes. 'Imagine anyone paying attention to an hysterical girl like that!' This was what she sometimes overheard. And often when she went to the church for confession, she was made to wait a long time because no one would tell the priest she was there, or she was found fault with because she went to confession so frequently. At times they were slow in calling the priest to give her Holy Communion, and often her requests received this answer: 'Go and see whether you can succeed in bothering another priest.' Gemma, however, was always calm and patient, and excused them, saying: 'They would come if they were able.'

According to Thecla Natali, Gemma was frequently worried by the street urchins because of the Crucifix she wore, and because of the way she dressed, but she never lost her patience with them. On one occasion in the Via Zecca when she was on her way from the convent she was seriously molested by some boys. She was rescued by some people, who then accompanied her home. Although the boys had gone so far as to spit in her face, she remained calm throughout. These humiliations, far from upsetting her, united her all the more to Jesus. , One evening,' deposed Annetta Giannini, 'when Aunt Cecilia, Gemma and I were entering the Church, some boys began to annoy Gemma, but she was not in the least angry and said: "By being despised by the world I am hoping to become a saint." ‘

The outrageously scornful words which were cast at her in the Giannini home by a religious from whom she least expected them, resulted in her love for humiliations being more clearly manifested. , You worthless consumptive and tiresome nuisance, when will you die and cease to soil this house with your presence?' Gemma, far from being upset, answered calmly: 'You are right; what you say is true.'

Gemma was to know the pain even of the Crucifixion, including the contraction of the limbs, the displacement of the bones, the terrible hours of agony, and a desolate death while abandoned by ~ Heaven and earth. All this we shall see in its place. She had to experience in life the atrocious torment of thirst which Jesus felt when dying. This is what she wrote to her spiritual director about this thirst :

‘Yesterday was Friday and I felt ill. All my nerves were racked, and this caused a tremendous thirst….I have had this thirst before but never so great as this time. And then I noticed this curious thing. Water, or anything one drinks, ought to quench my thirst, but instead it only increased my thirst and tormented me more.'

Of a final trait of resemblance between Jesus and Gemma we shall have to speak later on. Here we shall only mention it. The Gospel relates of Jesus that after His death His side was pierced by the lance of a soldier, and that from the wound blood and water came forth. Gemma was also wounded in the side after death and from that wound blood came forth. Truly a creature that thus bore in her soul and body the lineaments of Jesus Crucified must be considered predestined.


Participating thus abundantly in the sufferings of her Divine Redeemer, it is not to be wondered at that Gemma was ever increasing in her love for Him and ever more eager to suffer. These were the lessons that she learned daily at that school. 'Jesus has always two flames in His hand,' she wrote, ‘and He explained to me that one is the flame of love and the other the flame of sorrow.' And these flames did indeed penetrate into the happy soul of the Servant of God, and ended by setting it on fire. Here are some of the heavenly teachings which Gemma received on this subject from her Angel or directly from Jesus:

‘The Angel says to me that by means of suffering I can become like to Jesus, and show Him my love and be assured of that of Jesus.'

“Sometimes Jesus says to me: "See, My daughter, the greatest gift that I can make to a soul that is dear to Me, is the gift of suffering." And then I cannot resist throwing myself at the feet of Jesus and thanking Him so much, because it seems to me that He may give even to me some little thing to suffer for His sake.'

The Angel added: "Look at this Cross! It is the Cross that your Father presents to you. It is a book which you must read every day. Promise me, my child, promise me, that you will carry this Cross with love, and that you will esteem it better than all the joys of the world." ‘I promised him all he asked and with trembling hands I embraced the Cross.'

'After an hour of suffering the Angel came. I did not receive him at all well; I asked him to go away. As always, these visions at first afflict me a little, but afterwards my heart becomes filled with happiness. "What is it that pleases Jesus most? " he asked me. "Suffering," I answered. "And do you wish to please Him-to suffer-and how much?" "Very much," I replied in my mind. He said to me that my desire that Jesus remain in my heart should be satisfied, and that I should have to suffer very much. The Angel then blessed me and went away, crying out: "Live, Jesus, live, the Cross of Jesus! "’

‘The Angel said: "The measure of suffering is according to the weight that the hand of Jesus gives to it, that is, according to the amount He desires to be felt."’

‘And Jesus: "Embrace the Cross, My daughter, and be certain that whilst you are satisfying your desire of suffering you are satisfying My heart; and remember, the more bitter the Cross seems to your heart, the more agreeable it is to Mine."

‘Jesus has said to me: "Do you know why I desire to send crosses to the souls that are dear to Me? I desire to possess them entirely, and for that reason I surround them with crosses, and I shut them in with tribulations so that they may not escape out of My hands; for that reason I spread thorns everywhere so that giving their affections to no one they may seek all their pleasure in Me alone. My daughter, if the Cross was not felt, it could not be called a Cross. Be certain that if you stand beneath the Cross you will never be lost. The Devil has no power over those souls who weep near the Cross. My daughter, how many would have abandoned Me, if I had not crucified them. The Cross is a very precious gift, and many virtues can be learned through it." ‘

"When I shall be a spouse of blood to you "said Jesus-" I will love you, but you must be as one crucified. Prove your love for Me as I have proved My love for you; and you know how-by suffering pains and crosses without number. You must consider yourself honored when I treat you thus, and when I lead you through thorny and sorrowful paths. It is with My permission that the Devil torments you, that the world fills you with disgust, that the persons dearest to you cause you affliction. . . . And you, My daughter, must think of only one thing during this time, that is, of exercising great virtues. Keep on the path of the Divine will, and humble yourself, and be convinced that if I nail you to the Cross, I love you." ‘

"My daughter "-Jesus said to me- "if you truly love Me, you will love Me even in darkness." The Lord delights in playing with souls that are very dear to Him, but He plays with them because He loves them. Now He consoles them, now He allows them to become well esteemed by mankind, and afterwards He allows them to become a laughingstock to the world. At one time He makes them so courageous that Hell has no terrors for them, and at another time, He allows them to be frightened at the least thing. Whoever thinks that he is suffering, knows little; but whoever suffers and yet thinks that he suffers little or naught, is enlightened. Whoever is humiliated on earth, is in Heaven and on the Cross; whoever has the first place on earth, has the last before God. He who knows the Cross, desires it; he who does not know it, runs away from it.'

Gemma was meditating on and even living the Passion of Jesus Christ, and from this meditation she drew all her consolation. 'To meditate on Thy Passion, 0 Jesus, has always been a great relief to holy souls.' And this is how she wrote of the fruits she gathered from this meditation. 'Every day I make a meditation, but always on the Passion. If I did not do so, it would seem to me that Jesus would reprove me thus: "See, My daughter, here I am on the Cross, through love, a victim for your many faults. Consider well My sufferings, and then deny Me, if you can, the tender compassion that I deserve."’

'When I see Jesus weep, my own heart is transfixed with sorrow; I think . . . I think how I have by my sins aggravated the oppression which Jesus suffered in the Garden. At that time Jesus saw all my sins, all my omissions, and besides, He saw the place I should have occupied in Hell, if Thy Heart, oh Jesus, had not granted me pardon.'

‘When I am looking at the Crucifix, it seems to me that Jesus turns to me with words of reproof and says: "If you allow yourself to sin you will crucify Me anew. Are not these sufferings enough?" Mio Dio! After these words could I hold out any longer? But Jesus turning to me, very pleased, added and repeated: "Love Me as much as you can, and I shall give you all that you desire. Love Me with all your heart and I shall forgive you all your sins." Oh the infinite goodness of Jesus! All He asks of me is love! '

‘Many times I have asked Jesus to teach me the true way of loving Him, and it seems to me that then Jesus allows me to see all His open Wounds, and that He says: "Look, My daughter, look how I have suffered! Do you see this Cross, these nails, these thorns? They are the works of love. Look and learn how to love." [All the above quotations in this and in the following section have been taken from the “Lettere ed estasi.”]


The lessons which were taught in this school of love and suffering penetrated into the soul of the holy girl. The resolutions which she was thereby induced to make are among the most heroic that can be conceived, and the maxims she formulated almost divinely sublime.

‘I shall compensate Thee, 0 Jesus,' she exclaims, , by treating myself as Thy slave, and by putting my shoulders under Thy Cross.'

‘Suffering will raise my spirits, and far from discouraging me will give me the strength necessary to correspond with Thy grace.'

‘Oh, how much I realize that by doing what the goodness of Jesus wills, every cross is changed into joy, suffering even becomes too pleasant! He has neither cross nor fear who is closely united with Jesus.'

‘My heart possesses Jesus and possessing Jesus I feel that I can smile even in the midst of so many tears. I feel, yes, I feel happy even in great suffering.'

‘0 Jesus, whether You caress me or strike me, it is the same to me. Yea, when You do strike me, I am all the more pleased, because it is really what I deserve.'

‘It ought not be that suffering should adapt itself to us, but we ought to adapt ourselves to suffering. '

'Whoever loves Jesus has sufficient strength to suffer any cross whatsoever.'

‘Whoever truly loves, suffers gladly.'

‘The more a cross is contrary to my desires, the more it is like to Thine, 0 Jesus.'

‘The masters of this world teach always with the voice, but You with suffering.'

‘Who knows how many would have abandoned Thee, if You had not held them to the Cross.'

‘In loving it is You who delight my soul, and in suffering it is I who delight Thy Soul.'

'Why are you so. afflicted, 0 my soul? You offend your Beloved if you do not embrace the Cross with gladness. If you do not send your thoughts to Calvary, you are not concerned about Paradise.'

‘0 Jesus, You give crosses to them who love Thee! '

‘0 Cross, when I am near thee I feel strong! '

'All my days are sown with crosses. 0 holy Cross, I have embraced thee!'

‘May my life be a continual sacrifice! May You increase my sufferings, my humiliations! '

‘If I had to live in the world without suffering I should say to Thee: "Let me rather die now…Either crucify my soul or make me die!'

Upon hearing a cry like this-a cry that only the love of the Crucified could inspire, there remains only one thing for us to do, that is, to throw ourselves on our knees and exclaim with Blessed Gemma herself: 'Oh Passion of Christ! Ye Angels of Heaven, bow down with me in honor of the Passion of Jesus; together let us catch the Blood of Jesus! 'Passion of Jesus, I love Thee! Angels of Heaven, come, let us all adore the Passion of Jesus.

-Click here for Part 2 of this book