Gemma Galgani was the very first canonized saint to have lived in the twentieth century. A young girl who lived her life hidden away in relative obscurity would eventually touch the lives of many.
In reading this biography of St. Gemma many of the events will appear fantastic, supernatural and mystical all of which were witnessed and recorded at the time.
I was fortunate to be given time and personal access to Gemma's residence and original belongings and much invaluable resource and research material in the beautiful warm setting of the historical walled and jasmine infused city of Lucca in Italy's Tuscany.
May the Passion of Christ be always in our hearts.
The emblem of the Passionists Religious Order displays a white heart and Cross of purity. The Cross over the heart indicating that hearts dedicated to Christ must expect to be at the foot of the Cross and be united with it. The words translate as “Passion of Jesus” and the three nails remind us of His suffering set against the black background as in mourning for the death of The Saviour. In the history of the church it is rare for a saint to have shared so closely in the Lords Passion and one of the very elect few is Gemma Galgani.
Gemma a name derived from gem, a precious and beautiful stone. Gemma Galgani was the very first canonised saint to have lived in the twentieth century and from birth to death at the young age of twenty five despite her many infirmities portrayed a fine image. The art of photography was young but the many descriptions and pictures taken reveal a radiance of striking beauty. Unusual for the Italian her eyes, often raised to heaven were a bright and piercing azure blue and her long hair soft brown. A young girl who lived her life hidden away in relative obscurity would eventually touch the lives of many and still does today. Orphaned of a loving mother at only seven years of age Gemma matured quickly and would rise to the highest state of sanctity that the church can recognise. This humble servant of God became a mystic, visionary, and ecstatic and was allowed by Christ to unite with Him and suffer the wounds of His Passion by displaying the Stigmata and more as her own physical heart would reveal after death.
In reading this biography of St. Gemma some of the events will appear fantastic and supernatural but all of Gemma’s mystical experiences and ecstasies were either witnessed, recorded or transcribed by not only those close to her but also by the church authorities under the guidance of her spiritual director the Venerable Fr. Germanus, C.P. and have been well documented remembering also that Gemma’s life reached into the 20th century, modern times. Gemma under religious guidance was also instructed by Fr. Germanus to write down her form of life from childhood to the age of twenty three and all of her diaries, letters and prayers survive as a testimony to a life consecrated to Christ. Her words were often addressed to Christ Himself and the Blessed Virgin and Gemma was rewarded by the singular gift of heavenly and divine visions and locutions with the Lord, the Mother of God and her Guardian Angel and each of the following chapters will open and conclude with some of our saints own compositions which draw us closer to her profound and spiritual prayer life that displayed such great sadness and immense joy.
Gemma’s many illnesses would mean that her wish to enter various religious orders would always result in rejection. Towards the end of her shortly numbered days Gemma urgently desired to join the Passionists Nuns of St. Paul (of the Cross) but events only ever allowed her to remain a laywoman. As we shall discover however, her prophetic words would strike true as she said “though you would not have me in life, you will in death” and after her life ended and her bodily remains having been adopted by the Passionists it was Pope Benedict XV who confirmed that “if not by habit and profession, undoubtedly by desire and affection, Gemma is rightly numbered among the religious children of St. Paul of the Cross”.
A special word of thanks in writing this new biography goes to Sister Mary of the Sisters of St. Gemma’s Convent in Lucca who shared her precious time, fathomless knowledge, insights and reflections while showing me around the Giannini home that between 1900 and 1903 was the last residence of Gemma Galgani; and in allowing such personal access to the rooms, Gemma’s original belongings, stigmatic stained clothes, writings and providing me with invaluable resource material and a relic of St. Gemma. Thank you also to the St. Gemma Galgani Museum and repository at the Sanctuary of St. Gemma for information, allowing photography and presenting me with English prayer translations and a fragment of St. Gemma Galgani’s original wooden coffin. And finally to the warm setting of Lucca as it was on a previous visit to this beautiful city that the seeds of inspiration were planted to write the story of St. Gemma Galgani ……………….. John Paul Kirkham
“I shall love You. I shall love You always. When day breaks, when evening turns into night, at every hour, at every moment I shall love You always, always, always”. St. Gemma Galgani