Saint Gemma Galgani domain

On this April 11th, 1903 – the same year that the Italian Guiseppe Sarto was elected Pope later that summer as Pius X – another Italian saint died, a lovely young woman by the name of Gemma Galgani. She lived a brief life of 24 years, as did a number of other young saints, including Pier Giorgio Frassati and Thérèse Lisieux, and, like the latter, the last span of her life spent slowly and painfully dying from tuberculosis.

She was born in 1878, the fifth of eight children, the family suffering illnesses and deaths: Aurelia, the mother, died of the same disease that would later take her daughter, when Gemma was but two and a half. Her sister and brother soon followed. Gemma herself contracted meningitis when she was 16, and miraculously recovered. But she never lost the sweet spiritual taste of what she had endured for Christ:

During this same year of 1896 another desire began to grow in me. I began to feel an ever greater yearning to love Jesus Crucified very much, and at the same time a desire to suffer with him and to help him in his sufferings.

She was orphaned at 19 with the death of her father, and took over caring for her siblings. She refused at least two offers of marriage, consecrating herself and her life to God alone.

Two years later, Gemma’s life took a decidedly mystical turn, when she was given – according to her spiritual director – the charism of the stigmata. As she wrote:

I felt an inward sorrow for my sins, but so intense that I have never felt the like again … My will made me detest them all, and promise willingly to suffer everything as expiation for them. Then the thoughts crowded thickly within me, and they were thoughts of sorrow, love, fear, hope and comfort

The rest of her short life was spent in expiatory suffering, accompanied, as it usually is, by a deep mystical union with God and His divine will. She was mocked by some, even her sister, and the stigmata claimed to be the result of ‘major hysteria’. Others held her in great admiration, and a living saint.

The tuberculosis that took her life became acute at the beginning of Holy Week, and she lived the passion of our Lord vividly, the nurses in admiration of her patient endurance and holiness:

We have cared for a good many sick people, but we have never seen anything like this.

Gemma Galgani died on Holy Saturday, 1903. She was beatified twenty years later, in May, 1933, and canonized on May 2, 1940, by Pope Pius XII. Like Saint Thérèse, she has been a miracle worker ever since.

Saint Gemma Galgani, ora pro nobis! +


(source:, in partibus)