The Holiness of the Church in the Nineteenth Century – Gemma Galgani

Saint Gemma GalganiArticle

A true jewel of the Church, reflecting in splendid hues a fullness of supernatural gifts, was the Servant of God, Gemma Galgani. She was a child of grace, a favorite of God and His saints, an angel in the flesh. The only purpose of her life seems to have been to demonstrate to the world the reality of supernatural power. At first for a few years she was seemingly unnoticed, but now she enjoys in her native land the fame of a popular saint for her virtues and miraculous gifts. The Church, too, has taken the first steps to raise this simple maiden to the honors of the altar.

Gemma Galgani was born on 12 March 1878 at Camigliano, near Lucca. Shortly after her birth the family moved to Lucca, where her father had a pharmacy. The family was thoroughly Catholic and its life a continual service of God. The mother, a daily communicant, was particularly edifying in word and example. Unfortunately she died in 1886. In the heart of none of her children had she implanted the spirit of religion so deeply as in Gemma’s. A short time before her death she had arranged to have Gemma receive Confirmation, and it was at this holy ceremony the favored child was given her first extraordinary enlightenment. Gemma now longed with the fervor of a saint to be admitted to Holy Communion, and nothing was to be done but to yield to the impetuous urging that discovered so ardent a love and so mature an understanding. From this time on – her ninth year – she daily approached the table of the Lord and experienced from it such joy and delight that she seemed in paradise. At the Institute of Saint Zita, the school she attended, she was much looked up to for her remarkable modesty, her interior piety, and deep knowledge of spiritual things.

In the family Gemma took the place of a mother to the younger children and had the principal part in managing the house. The year 1897 brought her heavy trials. Her father lost nearly all his property and soon died. The poor children fell into extreme want and Gemma herself fell into a serious illness, from which she recovered, by a miracle it seems, only after a year. A kind-hearted lady, who had a numerous family herself, offered to take care of Gemma and to treat her as one of her own.

Very soon the Servant of God was favored with extraordinary graces and communications. She saw her guardian angel almost constantly at her side and could converse with him as with any other person. Visions and ecstasies were frequent and she was endowed with a knowledge of hidden and future things. On the eve of the Feast of the Sacred Heart, 1899, she received the stigmata, and later the wound in the side and those of the crown of thorns. Eye-witnesses tell us that the wounds were a centimeter deep and that full streams of blood poured out from them. It was also given her to share in the interior bitterness of Our Lord’s sufferings. Her spiritual director was very distrustful of these extraordinary conditions, and subjected her to severe proofs. But it served only to bring her virtue into clearer light And she had to make her sacrifice, for though she ardently desired to join the Sisters of the Passion, they would not receive her precisely because of her extraordinary visitations, fearing that such a person might cause too much unrest in the convent.

Still it was not merely for herself that Gemma was favored with this superabundance of grace. She was most zealous for the welfare of the Church and the salvation of immortal souls and by her prayers she obtained a large number of remarkable conversions.

The life of the Servant of God was completely absorbed in meditation of such works of divine love as are manifested in the sufferings of Christ and in the Holy Eucharist. She strove with never lessening zeal to live in accordance with what the Heart of Our Saviour experienced during His life on earth and still experiences in the tabernacle. By degrees she succeeded in ridding herself of all earthly considerations. Sufferings and the cross were her delight. Desire of God consumed her and Our Lord called His beloved bride to her eternal home on Holy Saturday, 11 April 1903. She was twenty-five years of age.

When we read her life we can hardly know whether we are more astonished at the profuse generosity of God toward this innocent soul or at her heroic love for Him. Apart from the many miracles worked through her intercession after her death, Gemma Galgani won so many friends among all classes, from Pope and cardinals down to the poorest of the people, that in her is united almost everything which made the great saints of the past admirable and amiable. She was, as her name suggests, a jewel which God and men are delighted to look upon.

MLA Citation

  • Father Constantine Kempf, SJ. “Gemma Galgani”. The Holiness of the Church in the Nineteenth Century: Saintly Men and Women of Our Own Times, 1916. CatholicSaints.Info. 18 September 2018. Web. 7 July 2020. <>