A MYSTIC ESSENTIALLY is anyone who actively and wilfully seeks a direct relationship and union with God through prayer and devotion. A Mystic need not be one who receives extraordinary mystical graces such as vision, ecstasies or inner locutions. In other words, a Mystic need not receive direct communication from God. This article and subsequent ones on the subject, however, will explore the extraordinary mystics who are called by God to a special sacrificial union with Him. By the express Will of God, the Mystics are united with Jesus and Mary in suffering for the conversion of sinners. As victim souls, they are fastened to the Cross in union with Jesus in order to continue our Saviour’s offering to the Father in reparation for our sins. In other words, they are co-redeemers with Christ and their mission is to lead souls to God. They are the great lovers of God who offer and give of themselves completely to “fill up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body which is the Church” (Colossians 1:24). The first of the extraordinary Mystics of the Catholic Church which I shall write on is St. Gemma Galgani – The Gem of Christ, Stigmatist and Victim Soul.

Gemma was born on March 12, 1878 in Camigliano, Italy, and soon after her birth, her family moved to Lucca, Italy, where she remained the rest of her life. Her mother Aurelia, a holy woman, died when Gemma was only 8 years old. The loss of her mother at such a young age was a sword of suffering upon her little heart. Eleven years later, at age 19, she also lost her father, leaving her and her brothers and sisters orphans. Not long after this, she became gravely ill with spinal meningitis, becoming bedridden and on the verge of death. It was at this point that the extraordinary graces in her life began to manifest.

The Passionist Venerable Gabriel Possenti (now a Saint) began appearing to her in a series of visions, encouraging her and helping her to make a Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in hopes for a cure. It was at this time that the attending doctors left her to die. On March 3, 1899, Jesus appeared to Gemma and cured her on the last day of the Novena, which coincided with the First Friday of the month (which is devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus). It was at this time also that Gemma began receiving inner locutions (interior words) from Jesus, and she began seeing her guardian Angel who inspired and instructed her in the practice of virtues.

A few months later, on the morning of June 8, 1899, Gemma was enlightened during Holy Communion that she would soon be receiving a great grace from Jesus. That evening, the Blessed Mother appeared to her, along with her guardian Angel. The Blessed Virgin told her:

“Jesus my Son loves you very much and He wishes to give you a grace. Do you know how to make yourself worthy of it?” In her misery, she did not know what to answer. Our Lady continued, “I will be your Mother. Will you be a true daughter?” The Blessed Virgin then spread her mantle and covered Gemma with it. At that moment Jesus appeared with all His wounds open, but blood no longer came out of those wounds. Rather, flames of fire issued forth from them and in an instant these flames came to touch Gemma’s hands, feet and heart. Gemma felt as if she would die. “I fell to the floor”, reported Gemma, “but my Mother supported me, keeping me covered in her mantle”. Gemma had to remain several hours in that position. Finally Our Lady kissed her on her forehead, and all vanished, and she found herself kneeling on the floor. But she still felt an intense pain in her hands, feet and heart. She arose to go to bed, and then noticed that blood was flowing from those parts where she felt pain. She covered them as well as she could, and then with the help of her angel, she was able to go to bed. These sufferings and pains, although they afflicted her, filled her with perfect peace. The next morning she was able to go to Communion only with great difficulty, and she put on a pair of gloves in order to hide her hands. She could hardly stand on her feet, and she thought she would die at any minute. The sufferings continued until 3pm on Friday afternoon, the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

It was at this point that Gemma began suffering as a victim soul for the conversion of sinners. She continued this extraordinary mission until the end of her life. At times accompanying the Stigmata were also the Crown of Thorns and also the Scourging which is well documented by her Spiritual Director, Venerable Father Germanus C.P.

Along with suffering in union with Jesus for the conversion of souls, she was also drawn into the most remarkable and sublime ecstasies where she conversed and often pleaded with Jesus for sinners, for the souls in Purgatory, for love and for mercy upon humanity, always telling Jesus of her love for Him, and offering herself as a holocaust and victim to obtain these graces.

In September 1902, Gemma became severely ill with Tuberculosis. By that time the fever of disease had begun to consume the innocent victim of divine Justice. Early in September she became very sick and vomited blood in quantities. One who watched by her bed wrote to her Director: “She is reduced to skin and bones; she suffers excruciating pains. One cannot bear the torment of not knowing what to do to relieve her. Gemma feels great need of you. Come quickly and tell us what to do”.

Thus the months dragged on with Gemma living in the closest union of love and suffering with Jesus Crucified. Through the offering of her sufferings in union with Jesus, the Victim Soul was obtaining countless graces each day for the conversion of sinners. Holy Week arrived and now the victim of Jesus was to be made conformable to His Death. On Good Friday, April 10, 1903 she said to Cecilia Giannini who was attending her: “Don’t leave me until I am nailed to the Cross. I must be crucified with Jesus. He has said to me that His children must be crucified”. She then went into ecstasy and gradually extending her arms, she remained in that posture for about three hours – an image of Jesus dying on the Cross. All that day and night her agony continued.

On the morning of Holy Saturday, April 11, 1903, at about 8:00a.m. she received Viaticum and the Last Anointing. At around 1:30pm, with the crucifix in her hands she said: “Jesus, now it is indeed true that nothing remains for me. If it be Thy will, take me”. Glancing at the picture of Mary, she added: “My Mother, I recommend myself to You. Ask Jesus to have mercy on me”. Then, in a feeble voice: “Jesus, I commend to You this poor soul of mine. Jesus”. These were her last words. She kissed the crucifix, placed it over her heart, folded her hands over it, and closed her eyes. Then, after a few moments, she turned her head on the pillow and ceased to breathe, and thus her holy soul took flight to be forever united with the God whom she loved with all the strength of her heart.

The priest who was reading the last prayers of the Church never knew the moment of her passing. “I have assisted many sick people”, he said, “but I never knew one to die in that way, without a tear or a sigh. She died with a smile and the smile remained on her lips so that I could hardly convince myself that she was really dead”.

And one of the Nursing Sisters from the Order of St.Camillis de Lellis who was caring for Gemma in her last days attested: “We have cared for a great many sick people, but we have never seen anything like this”.

The inscription placed on her tomb reads:

“Gemma Galgani of Lucca, a most innocent virgin, while in her 25th year, consumed rather by the fire of Divine Love than by the violence of disease, flew into the arms of her Heavenly Spouse on Holy Saturday, the eleventh of April, 1903. Peace be to Thee, O sweet soul, in company with the Angels”.  St. Gemma, pray for us!

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