Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows

Francesco Possenti was born on March 1, 1838 the eleventh of thirteen children. He led a relatively normal life, becoming popular for his warm and outgoing personality. His interested included dancing, hunting and the theater. Twice he fell seriously ill as a child, and promised his life to God if he became well, and twice was healed. Both times he put off his promise.

During a procession of an icon of the Mother of Sorrows, Francesco felt her call to him and say that he was not meant for this world, and he should join the seminary. On the night his father had arranged for him to become engaged, he left for the Passionist novitiate. His journey there was delayed by well-meaning relatives who, on his father's direction, attempted to turn him from joining the order. He was able to overcome all their arguments and persuade them that his desire was genuine.

Francesco took vows in the Passionist community, and took the name Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows, reflecting the devotion that he always had to Our Lady of Sorrows. Gabriel attained holiness in a very short space of time, he was consumed with love for Christ, through Our Lady of Sorrows. As well as the vow made by all Passionists to spread devotion to Christ, Gabriel took an additional vow to spread devotion to Our Sorrowful Mother. His writings reflect his close relationship and devotion with God and Saint Mary.

The Saint Gabriel Possenti Society has recently been promoting the idea of having Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows designated as the Patron Saint of Handgunners. The story says that in 1860, a band of soldiers from the army of Garibaldi entered the mountain village of Isola, Italy where Saint Gabriel was staying at the time. They began to burn and pillage the town, killing and otherwise terrorizing the villiagers.

Saint Gabriel walked into the center of town, unarmed, to face the terrorists. One of the soldiers was dragging off a young woman he intended to rape when he saw the monk and made a remark about the young man being all alone.
Saint Gabriel quickly took the soldier's revolver from his belt and ordered him to let the woman go. Gabriel also grabbed the revolver of another soldier who walked by, and the man let the woman free. The other soldiers started to gather at that point, with the intent of stopping Saint Gabriel. At that moment a small lizard happened to run across the road between Saint Gabriel and the band of soldiers. When the lizard briefly paused, the Saint took careful aim and killed the lizard with one shot. Turning his two handguns on the approaching soldiers, He then commanded them to drop their weapons. After seeing his marksmanship with a pistol, the soldiers complied. Saint Gabriel then ordered them to put out the fires they had set, and otherwise clean up the mess they had caused, and upon finishing, marched the whole lot out of town, ordering them never to return. The grateful townspeople thereafter referred to him as "the Savior of Isola".

Gabriel died of tuberculosis in 1860.
Pope Benedict XV canonized Gabriel in 1920 and declared him a patron saint of Catholic youth. In 1959, Pope John XXIII named him the patron of the Abruzzi region, where he spent the last two years of his earthly life. His patronage is also invoked by the Church for students, seminarians, novices and clerics. Saint Gemma Galgani held that it was St. Gabriel who had cured her of a disease and led her to a Passionist vocation. Millions of pilgrims visit St. Gabriel's shrine each year in Teramo, Abruzzi to see the burial place of the Saint and the monastic house in which he lived out his final years. The cult of St. Gabriel is especially popular amongst Italian youth. Every March, thousands of high school students from Abruzzo and the Marche reions of Italy visit his tomb 100 days before their expected graduation.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, this really helped with my R.S prep!!! xxxx

Anonymous said...

Actually the story of St. Gabriel and the gun incident is wholly untrue.