The second chapter of a new fictional series exploring the life of St. Gemma Galgani.
Note: This is part of a serial fiction series focusing on the life of St. Gemma Galgani, following the life of a fictional character as she encounters the saint. New chapters are released every Sunday! For the previous chapter(s), click here.
“I wonder if Gemma read the book I gave her.”
Maria hoped and prayed that Gemma had read at least a chapter from the book about Venerable Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows. Gemma was in great pain, not only physically but spiritually, and she seemed to resist every grace that God wanted to give her.
Maria also had to return to the book to the original owner, as she was borrowing it from a priest she knew well.
The Galgani house was quiet today as Maria let herself in, knowing that Gemma wasn’t able to move much from her bed.
She reached Gemma’s door, knocked gently and opened it slowly.
“Gemma! It’s me, Maria, your neighbor.”
“Yes, come in, Maria! I have much to tell you!”
Maria was curious to know what it was that Gemma needed to tell her. Did she read the book? Did she find a little glimmer of hope in it?
Maria came over to the side of the bed and clasped Gemma’s hand.
“What is it my dear little Gemma? Did you read the book?”
“I almost didn’t, but then something happened and I couldn’t put it down!”
“One day I was alone. It was a little after noon. I was attacked by a strong temptation and I said within myself that I was tired of all this and staying in bed annoyed me. The devil took advantage of these thoughts and began to tempt me, saying that if I had listened to him he would have cured me and would have done all that I asked of him. Maria, I was on the point of giving in. I was disturbed and felt that I was conquered. But suddenly a thought came to me. My mind turned to Venerable Gabriel and I said fervently: ‘The soul comes first and then the body!'”
“Wonderful! So you did read the book!”
Gemma was smiling as she continued.
“Yes! I am so glad that I did! A thousand ugly thoughts continued to rush through my mind. Again I turned to Venerable Gabriel and with his help I conquered. Entering within myself, I made the sign of the Cross and in a quarter of an hour I turned to unite myself with God, whom I so little appreciated. That same night I began to read the life of Brother Gabriel. I read it several times. I never grew tired of reading it and admiring his virtues and his example. All this week I could not sleep unless I had his picture under my pillow! I have never failed to pray to him every day in these words: ‘The soul comes before the body.'”
Maria was astonished at the sudden change in Gemma’s disposition. She was truly a different person! Before she was depressed, but now her life had new meaning. Praise be to God!
“Hearing that brings joy to my heart!”
Then Maria hesitated, knowing what she had to do next.
“Gemma, it is wonderful to see your joy. However, I do need that book back. I forgot to tell you that the book is not mine, but is from a good priest I know.”
The joy washed away from Gemma’s face as she heard Maria’s request. Her life was just starting to look better and now the only hope she clung to was going to be taken away from her!
Gemma grabbed the book from under her pillow, but kept it on her lap, looking at it with great sorrow.
Maria noticed the internal pain she was experiencing and it became evident to her that this was not the right time.
“Actually,” Maria interrupted, “You can keep it for now. Let me talk to the priest and see when he needs it back.”
“Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!”
Gemma hugged the book, kissed it and put it back under her pillow.
A few days passed before Maria came back to Gemma’s bedside. Maria had spoken with the priest and, unfortunately, he did need the book back. Reluctantly, Gemma handed Maria the book and started crying. It was her only solace in this bleak world. She was worried that its loss would send her into another bout of depression.
Later that night, however, something extraordinary happened.
Maria came again a few days later, and Gemma told her everything.
“Maria, when you took the book from me I didn’t know what to do. It kept me from losing hope and I feared the worst. However that same night Brother Gabriel rewarded my little sacrifice. When I was asleep, he appeared to me clothed in white! At first I did not recognize him. When he saw that I did not recognize him he opened the white garment and I saw him clothed as a Passionist. I knew him immediately. I remained in silence before him. He asked me why I had cried when you took the book from me. I don’t recall what I answered in the dream, but he said: ‘See how much your sacrifice has pleased me. It has pleased me so much that I have come myself to see you. Do you wish me well?’ I did not answer. Then he comforted me and said to me: ‘Be good because I will return to see you.’ He told me to kiss his habit and rosary and then he went away.”
Maria was astonished to hear that Venerable Gabriel had appeared to Gemma in a dream!
“That is remarkable, Gemma! I never expected something like that would happen!”
“I didn’t either! Ever since I have found myself always awaiting another visit from him. He hasn’t appeared again, but this has given my life new hope! He could appear at any moment!”
Come back next Sunday for the next chapter!