Who Was Saint Gemma Galgani?

She Had a Close Relationship with Her Guardian Angel

guardian angel
Gemma Galgani in 1901. Public domain

St. Gemma Galgani, the patron saint of students and others, taught others valuable lessons about faith during her brief lifetime (from 1878 - 1903 in Italy). One of those lessons is how guardian angels can give people wise guidance for every aspect of their lives. Here's a biography of Saint Gemma Galgani and a look at miracles from her life.

Feast Day

April 11th

Patron Saint Of

Pharmacists; students; people struggling with temptation; people seeking greater spiritual purity; people who are grieving the deaths of parents; and people suffering from headaches, tuberculosis, or back injuries

Guided By Her Guardian Angel

Gemma reported that she often communicated with her guardian angel, who she says helped her pray, guided her, corrected her, humbled her, and encouraged her when she was suffering. "Jesus has not left me alone; He makes my guardian angel stay with me always," Gemma once said.

Germanus Ruoppolo, a priest who served as Gemma's spiritual director, wrote about her relationship with her guardian angel in his biography of her, The Life of St. Gemma Galgani: "Gemma saw her guardian angel with her own eyes, touched him with her hand, as if he were a being of this world, and would talk to him as would one friend to another. He let her see him sometimes raised in the air with outspread wings, with his hands extended over her, or else hands joined in an attitude of prayer. At other times he would kneel beside her."

In her autobiography, Gemma recalls a time when her guardian angel appeared while she was praying and encouraged her: "I became absorbed in prayer.

I joined my hands and, moved with heartfelt sorrow for my countless sins, I made an act of deep contrition. My mind was wholly plunged in this abyss of my crime against my God when I beheld my Angel standing by my bed. I felt ashamed of being in his presence. He instead was more than courteous with me, and said, kindly: 'Jesus loves thee greatly.

Love Him greatly in return.'"

Gemma also writes about when her guardian angel gave her spiritual insight into why God was choosing not to heal her of a physical illness she was going through: "One evening, when I was suffering more than usual, I was complaining to Jesus and telling him that I would not have prayed so much if I had known that He was not going to cure me, and I asked Him why I had to be sick this way. My angel answered me as follows: 'If Jesus afflicts you in your body, it is always to purify you in your soul. Be good.'"

After Gemma recovered from her illness, she recalls in her autobiography that her guardian angel became even more active in her life: "From the moment I got up from my sick bed, my guardian angel began to be my master and guide. He corrected me every time I did something wrong. ... He taught me many times how to act in the presence of God; that is, to adore Him in His infinite goodness, His infinite majesty, His mercy and in all His attributes."

Famous Miracles

While numerous miracles have been attributed to Gemma's intervention in prayer after her death in 1903, the three most famous are those that the Catholic Church investigated during the process of considering Gemma for sainthood.

One miracle involved an elderly woman who had been diagnosed by doctors as terminally ill with stomach cancer. When people placed a relic of Gemma on the woman's body and prayed for her healing, the woman fell asleep and woke up the next morning cured. Doctors confirmed that cancer had completely disappeared from her body.

Believers say the second miracle happened when a 10-year-old girl who had cancerous ulcers on her neck and left side of her jaw (which had not been successfully treated with surgery and other medical interventions) placed a photo of Gemma directly on her ulcers and prayed: "Gemma, look at me and have pity on me; please cure me!". Immediately afterward, doctors reported, the girl was cured of both the ulcers and cancer.

The third miracle that the Catholic Church investigated before making Gemma a saint involved a farmer who had an ulcerous tumor on his leg that had grown so large that it prevented him from walking.

The man's daughter used a relic of Gemma to make the sign of the cross over her father's tumor and pray for his healing. By the next day, the tumor had disappeared and the skin on the man's leg had healed back to its normal state.

Biography

Gemma was born 1878 in Camigliano, Italy, as one of eight children of devout Catholic parents. Gemma's father worked as a chemist, and Gemma's mother taught her children to reflect on spiritual matters often, especially Jesus Christ's crucifixion and what it meant for people's souls.

While she was still a girl, Gemma developed a love for prayer and would spend lots of time praying. Gemma's father sent her to a boarding school after her mother died, and teachers there reported that Gemma became the top student (both academically and in spiritual development) there.

After Gemma's father's death when Gemma was 19, she and her siblings became destitute because his estate was in debt. Gemma, who cared for her younger siblings with the help of her aunt Carolina, then became ill with maladies that grew so bad that she became paralyzed. The Giannini family, who knew Gemma, offered her a place to live, and she was living with them when she was miraculously healed of her ailments on February 23, 1899.

Gemma's experience with illness nurtured a deep compassion within her for other people who were suffering. She interceded often for people in prayer after her own recovery, and on June 8, 1899, she received stigmata wounds (the crucifixion wounds of Jesus Christ). She wrote about that event and how her guardian angel helped her get to bed afterward: "At that moment Jesus appeared with all his wounds open, but from these wounds there no longer came forth blood, but flames of fire. In an instant, these flames came to touch my hands, my feet, and my heart. I felt as if I were dying. ... I rose [from kneeling] to go to bed, and became aware that blood was flowing from those parts where I felt pain. I covered them as well as I could, and then helped by my Angel, I was able to go to bed."

Throughout the rest of her brief life, Gemma continued to learn from her guardian angel and pray for people who were suffering -- even as she suffered from another illness: tuberculosis. Gemma died at age 25 on April 11, 1903, which was the day before Easter.

Pope Pius XII canonized Gemma as a saint in 1940.