Gemma was afraid of what was to come, as the doctors said she would die that very night.
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.
Several weeks after her last visit to Gemma, Maria heard some devastating news.
Gemma was on her deathbed.
The doctors had tried to treat her spine by cauterizing it in 12 places. Unfortunately, their methods appeared to make the situation worse. Gemma began to experience a piercing headache, and the doctors feared it was a brain tumor.
Nothing more could be done for Gemma, as she slipped in and out of consciousness.
The doctors said she wouldn’t last the night.
Maria raced over to the Galgani home and walked quietly into Gemma’s room. She was resting, but her face was in great agony. The pain was increasing and there was nothing the doctors could do about it.
“Gemma! O little Gemma! My heart aches to see you in pain again! This is your last agony!”
“Maria … Maria … I-I …”
Gemma could barely talk as the pain shot through her body. She turned her face to the other side of the bed.
“I-I don’t know if I can hold on anymore … this might be the end for me …”
“Gemma, don’t lose hope! You will be in Heaven soon and I will see you there someday when the Lord calls!”
Maria rummaged through her handbag for a few minutes and found a leaflet. She handed it to Gemma and explained, “This is a special novena to Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque. She will gain for you the grace either of being cured perfectly, or of entering heaven immediately after death.”
Gemma looked over the leaflet and tried to hand it back to Maria.
“Maria, I-I don’t have any need for this. It’s too late. The doctors say I won’t even last until midnight! How am I supposed to pray a novena for the next nine days?”
“How do you know that you will die tonight? Are you God?”
Gemma was embarrassed at her response, as she knew quite well that anything is possible.
“I am sorry, Maria. This pain has been difficult to endure and I wasn’t sure if prayers would do anything more.”
“Gemma, I am not leaving this room until you promise to me that you will pray the novena, starting tonight!”
Maria sat down by the bedside, and it was clear to Gemma that she was serious! She wasn’t going to leave!
“Okay, okay, I promise that I will start the novena tonight.”
Satisfied with the response, Maria left with her own promise, “I promise as well that I will check up on you every day of the novena, to make sure you keep your word!”
Each day of the novena Maria visited Gemma and reminded her of her promise. One day Maria didn’t come as planned, and Gemma forgot to say the novena prayers. The next day she started the novena over again. A few days later this happened again, and Gemma had to restart the novena for the second time!
Throughout all of this Gemma’s health was stabilizing, but it wasn’t improving.
No miracle cure.
Despite Maria’s insistence, Gemma forgot the prayers again, and she was about to restart the novena for a third time when she heard a rosary rattling and felt a hand resting on her forehead.
A man’s voice spoke to her and asked, “Do you want to be cured?”
“It’s all the same to me,” Gemma answered.
“Yes,” the man said, “You will be cured. Pray with faith to the Heart of Jesus. Every evening until the novena is finished I will be here with you and we will pray to the Heart of Jesus together.”
“And Blessed Margaret Mary?” I asked.
“You may say the Glory Be three times in her honor.”
The same mysterious person came every evening, placing his hand on Gemma’s forehead, and they recited together the prayers of the Sacred Heart, after which Gemma added three Glory Be’s in honor of Blessed Margaret Mary.
At the close of the novena, Gemma desired to receive Holy Communion, and so the priest came to hear her confession and give her communion the next day.
Over and over again Gemma could hear the voice, “Gemma, do you want to be cured?”
Shortly after the priest left Maria stopped by to see if Gemma successfully completed the novena.
When she entered the room Maria was shocked by what she saw.
Gemma was standing!
Gemma broke the silence and said with joy, “Jesus cured me!!”
Come back next Sunday for the next chapter!