Monday, February 27, 2006
Also known as Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother; Gabriel Possenti; Francis Possenti; Francesco Possenti
Francis Possenti was the eleventh of thirteen children born to Agnes and Sante, a well-to-do professional and respected Catholic family, in Assisi, Italy on March 1, 1838.
He was baptized in the same font in which St. Francis of Assisi had been baptized. His later life would mirror that of Francis -- as he turned from the pleasures and excesses of this world to the glory of the next.
Francis grew up in a household where devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows was a part of his everyday family life. He lived the life of a typical teenager, becoming popular for his warm and outgoing personality, his love of dancing, hunting and the theater.
During a procession of an icon of the Mother of Sorrows, Francis heard Our Lady speak to him and tell him that he was not meant to live in the world, but God desired him to become a religious. On the night that his father had arranged for him to become engaged, Francis departed, leaving his home to enter the Passionate novitiate. His journey, however, was delayed by well-intentioned relatives, who attempted to dissuade Francis from joining the order. Nevertheless, he was able to overcome all their arguments and persuade them of the genuine nature of his religious vocation.
Francis took vows in the Passionist community, taking the name of Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows, reflecting the devotion -- planted in his childhood home by his mother's image of the Pieta that he always had to Our Lady of Sorrows. In the novitiate he cultivated a great love for Christ Crucified and 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. Indeed as well as the vow made by all Passionists to spread devotion to Christ Crucified, Gabriel took an additional vow to spread devotion to Our Sorrowful Mother.
His writings reflect his close relationship with God and His Mother, especially his Resolutions which detail in great precision the method he used to attain such unity with the Passion of Christ and perfection of the Passionist rule. As a Passionist he grew daily in love with Our Lord and Mary, the Virgin of Sorrows and soon came to the perfection of Christian virtue.
He died from tuberculosis at the young age of 24. Saint Gabriel is remarkable because he obediently and willingly converted in a very short time from a life of excess, devoted to the pleasures of this world, to becoming inextricably linked to the Passion of Our Lord. He shows us that we are all blessed with the graces to fall in love with Our Lord, no matter what the cost.
Pope Benedict XV canonized Gabriel in 1920 and declared him a patron of Catholic youth. 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.
Message from St. Gabriel:
“Love Mary! She is loveable, faithful, constant. She will never let herself be outdone in love, but will ever remain supreme. If you are in danger, she will hasten to free you. If you are troubled, she will console you. If you are sick, she will bring you relief. If you are in need, she will help you. She does not look to see what kind of person you have been. She simply comes to a heart that wants to love her. She comes quickly and opens her merciful heart to you, embraces you and consoles and serves you. She will even be at hand to accompany you on the trip to eternity.”
~ Saint Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother
Prayer to Saint Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother
O good St. Gabriel, God inspired you to love the passion of Jesus as it was reflected in the heart of Mary, his mother. By her side, you stood beneath the cross of Jesus, gazing on him as she did, and sharing her compassion.
O St. Gabriel, we wish, like you, to grow in love for God and all his people. Remember us in the trials of our life. Remember especially those who are young and in need.
Support us, all our days, by your holy prayers. And when this life is done, may we join you in heaven in the joyful company of Jesus and Mary. Amen.