Sunday, January 31, 2010

St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother, February 27th

Dying before the age of twenty-four, before he could even complete his training for the priesthood, it doesn't seem as if St. Gabriel would have had the time to make a mark on the world, and his life held so many tragic and sorrowful events, you might think he would have drowned in his own sorrow, but he left this vale of tears victorious, having left with us a legacy of Piety and Faith to last through eternity. 

The eleventh of thirteen children, St. Gabriel was born in Assisi on March 1, 1838 to Sante Possenti and Agnes Frisciotti Possenti. St. Gabriel, whose name in saecular life was Francisco, lost his baby brother, his nine-year-old sister and his mother within a year; he was only four years old at the time.  Five years later, he lost his brother, Paul, in the Italian War with Austria, and shortly thereafter, he lost another big brother to suicide.  But little Francisco (our St. Gabriel) never lost his hope or his cheerfulness.  He attended the school of the Christian brothers and then the Jesuit college in Spoleto as a teenager.  In his sixteenth year, he contracted a critical illness and promised to give himself to the Religious life if he were cured, but upon his miraculous recovery, he soon forgot his promise.  But, he was meant for God and could not ignore the Divine Calling.  Against his father's wishes, he joined the Congregation of the Passionists. He received the habit on September 21, 1856, which that year was the Feast of the Sorrowful Mother and received the name Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother

St. Gabriel led a quiet, monastic life preparing for the priesthood; we know by his writings and by the witnesses of his life that he nurtured a dear love for Christ Crucified and for His Sorrowful Mother.  He was always cheerful and filled with pious fortitude.  Because Italy was suffering from government upheaval during this time, the Passionist Order sent many of its Religious to the mountains for safety.  In 1860, Gabriel and the other novices of his order were sent to the remote abbey at Isola  in the Abruzzi Mountains in the kingdom of Naples, but safety from terrorizing Italian soldiers could not even be found there.  The story goes that a band of soldiers arriving in Isola, wreaked havoc in the village, robbing buildings and burning houses. Gabriel received permission to go into town in order to help the frightened villagers and happened chance upon a soldier who had apprehended a young girl. Thinking that the young, slightly-built monk would never stand up to a soldier, St. Gabriel was mocked to scorn.  But our saint never backed down, and through his persuasive words and pious demeanor saved the girl and eventually convinced the company to leave the village in peace. Loved by his people in his own short time on earth, he is held in highest honor in Isolda to this day, and he has come to be loved by the world.  Though he contracted tuberculosis and died at the age of only twenty-four, St. Gabriel had already achieved a high degree of sanctity by his mortifications, his faithfulness to prayer, and his always-joyful spirit.  Pope Benedict XV canonized Gabriel in 1920 and declared him a patron of Catholic youth. His  is also invoked by the Church for students, seminarians, novices and clerics. Thousands of divine favors are attributed to his intercession with Christ Crucified and the Sorrowful Mother Mary.

St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother, Pray for us!

* We have a particular devotion to this saint, because he is a special patron for young men -- and we have six of them.  He is also one of the patrons of our five-year-old son, Gabriel (who incidentally, favors him in looks).  But, we are also honored to have received a first class relic "ex corpore" of St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother as a gift from our son, Jon, when he visited Rome last year.  So St. Gabriel is very special to us.  We invoke him every day in our rosary and pray for his intercession  for all our children, asking for his prayers especially for all seminarians, and particularly our personal friends studying for the priesthood.

* The black and white image above may be used as a coloring page.  Just click and copy to your computer to print in a larger size.