Gemma feels called to be a Passionist nun, but her health prevents her from realizing her dream.
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.
The retreat at St. Martin’s church was coming to a close, and Maria walked to the church with Gemma one last time. Gemma had yet to speak to the Passionist priest, but was planning on approaching him at the end of his last sermon.
Maria asked Gemma how she was enjoying the retreat.
“Captivating!” Gemma said with a big smile on her face. “It is difficult describe the impressions made on me when I saw those priests preach! At first I was overwhelmed with peace when I saw that they were clothed with the same kind of habit that Brother Gabriel was wearing the first time I saw him. If you remember, a few months ago I saw Brother Gabriel in a miraculous vision and he visits me from time to time. Praise be to God!
“That is remarkable!” Maria replied. “I knew this would be a grace-filled time for you! I only hope that Father Cajetan will listen to your stories with a discerning heart, and not dismiss you as a lunatic!”
“He may not be wrong!” quipped Gemma. “My sister never ceases to tell me how crazy I am! She may be right!”
The two women filed into St. Martin’s church and found a seat before the beginning of the final day of the retreat.
It was another fiery sermon on the Sacred Heart of Jesus and it lit the heart of Gemma on fire. In the midst of the sermon she heard a voice in her heart.
“Gemma, do you like the habit that priest is wearing?”
“My God!” She exclaimed in her heart, “Yes!”
Then the voice responded gently, “You will be a daughter of my Passion, and a well beloved daughter. One of these sons of the Passion will be your father. Go and reveal everything.”
Gemma couldn’t wait until the sermon was over, as her heart yearned to spill out everything to the Passionist priest.
Maria noticed that Gemma was getting anxious, but refrained from talking to her during the sermon.
When it was immediately over, Gemma shot out of her seat and shuffled quickly through the crowd in order to catch the attention of the priest.
“Father Cajetan! Father Cajetan! I must talk to you!”
The Passionist priest was initially surprised by the eager young woman, but then motioned her to follow her into the nearby confessional.
“What is it, my child? Do you want to make your confession?” Father Cajetan assumed that the woman was a great sinner and wasn’t prepared for what she was going to say next.
“Father …” Gemma hesitated. “I — I have been seeing visions of Jesus … and of Brother Gabriel!”
Father Cajetan was confused, but decided not to make an immediate judgment and let Gemma proceed.
She went on for about an hour, telling Father Cajetan of her miraculous healing, the visions she experienced and finally, the holy wounds of Christ that were on her hands.
While initially Father Cajetan was surprised by Gemma’s remarkable story, he could sense her sincerity and that she was not speaking like a lunatic, but more like a mystic.
Gemma reached the end of her story and told him about Jesus’ promise.
“Jesus told me that I would be a ‘daughter of his Passion’….I believe he meant I would become a Passionist nun!”
Father Cajetan leaned back and rubbed his chin as he thought about this latest revelation.
“Dear child, let me talk to my superior and see what we can do for you. God has clearly called you to a higher way of life, but your health still worries me.”
Gemma was heartbroken at these words and nearly began to cry. She thought to herself, “Did he not trust me? Can he not see that I am not crazy?!”
The next day Father Cajetan was about to leave the city of Lucca to return home. He summoned Gemma to the church and went with her into the confessional again.
“Gemma, I spoke with my superior and we have decided to allow you to take private vows. You can continue to live at home, where your health can be monitored, but you will essentially live the life of a Passionist nun, pledging chastity, poverty and obedience.”
Gemma could barely keep in her joy.
“Thank you! Thank you! I am so grateful to you, Father Cajetan! If I can’t become a Passionist, I will at least live like one!”
After that day Gemma’s health continued to decline and she was later diagnosed with tuberculosis, and continued to experience the presence of God throughout her intense suffering. During Holy Week in 1903, her health grew worse, and by Good Friday she was suffering tremendously, dying the next day on April 11, 1903, Holy Saturday.
Her life and miracles inspired many after her death, and she was beatified by the Catholic Church on May 14, 1933 and canonized on May 2, 1940.
Come back next Sunday for a new series!