Devotion to St. Gabriel of
Our Lady of Sorrows, Patron of Youth
The faithful, who devoutly recite Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be, adding the invocation, “Saint Gabriel, pray for me,” before a representation of St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother, may gain an Indulgence of 300 days.
(From the 1943 Raccolta)
In the Tradition of the Holy Mother Church, today we celebrate the life of Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows. He was born March 1st, 1838, and was the eleventh of thirteen children. His given name was Francis Possenti. When he was only about five years old, his family moved to Spoleto so that the children would be able to get a better education, but unfortunately, shortly after the family moved, his mother died.
His father who was already a religious man, depended more and more on his Faith when raising his children. He made sure to pray for at least an hour every morning and then took all of the children with him to Mass. Every night before his children were sent to bed, he questioned them as to what they had learned and what they had done that day. He made sure that all of his children prayed and more importantly, he made sure that his children did not get caught up with the bad crowd.
Francis received his education from the Brothers of St. John the Baptist de la Salle, and then continued his studies at the college of the Society of Jesus at Spoleto. As a youth, Francis showed self control and a generous nature. He also was obedient and docile. His heart was full of love for spiritual things. But like most boys, he also was impulsive and sometimes inclined towards anger. But even when he allowed his bad temper to lead him into occasions of sin, he was full of repentance and sought to change this vice of his, seeking God’s forgiveness.
As he grew he advanced in his studies, making good progress. Due to his agreeable nature and his joyful attitude, he had many friends and was commonly called “the genial Francis” by those who knew him. This flattery and attention fed his ego and his vanity, causing him to seek the acceptance of man rather than God. He grew to love things of the world. Mostly innocent in nature, he developed a love for reading novels, hunting and going to theaters to see the latest shows. And even though none of these things are considered bad, they did have a negative affect on the young Francis….they distracted him from what God wanted him to do.
While he was still young he contracted tuberculosis and fell very ill. While still suffering in the sick bed, he promised the Lord that he would devote his life to Him if he were healed, but like most promises made when one is sick…he changed his mind as soon as his body was well again. A second time he became violently ill with a throat malady … again he prayed and again he was healed. Once again turning his back on the promise he made if he were cured.
Then one day when he was out hunting, he was severely wounded. As he was recuperating in bed, his closest sister died suddenly. his heart was broke. and it was then that he remembered the broken promises he had made to his Heavenly Father. As he mourned the loss of his sister, and continued to recover from his own wounds, he told his family about his promise to God. His father, not believing that his son was called to the cloistered life, tried to dissuade him. He encouraged him to go to the theater and carry on with the things of the world. He even suggested to his son, that he should marry the daughter of a predominant family in town. Francis agreed, and the preparations for the wedding were begun… But, the Blessed Mother, who already held a place of honor in the young man’s heart, came to collect Francis for his true calling....
On the octave of the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother, there was a solemn procession from the Cathedral of Spoleto which continued through the roads of the town. A highly venerated image of the Blessed Mother was carried high above the procession. As the image was carried passed Francis, it seemed to the young lad, that the Blessed Mother looked sharply at him, while an interior voice spoke to him. The voice said, ” You know that you are not made for the world. Why, then do you still remain in it? Enter soon into some Religious Order.”
At this, Francis was overcome with emotion. He had indeed felt ‘a calling’ his whole life, but due to his attachment to the things of the world, he had been hiding from his true vocation. When he heard the words of the Blessed Mother, he knew it was to be. His heart and soul were on fire… and overcome, he ran into the church and hid, trying to conceal his tears and his excitement. Later, when he revealed to his confessor what had happened, his confessor approved of the genuine nature of his vocation and agreed that he should join the Passionists.
O God, You taught blessed Gabriel to meditate constantly on the sorrows of Your most sweet Mother, and You exalted him by glorious virtues and miracles. Through his prayers and example may we share the sorrows of Your Mother and come to eternal life under Her motherly care; who lives and rules with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.
On the feast of the Mother of Sorrows, which is the third Sunday in September, he was given the habit of the Order, and given the name of Gabriel of the Mother of Sorrows. Afterwards, he wrote to his friends and apologized for not being a better example to them. His separation from his love of the things of the world was now complete… his heart now longed only for the Lord and the Blessed Mother. He no longer sought after empty satisfactions that he once sought after. Once he allowed God to penetrate his heart, he realized that true happiness could only be found by uniting himself to the Lord.
Saint Gabriel had a way with the young boys and his friendliness made him much sought after among the boys in the town. Saint Gabriel was a shining example as to how the Lord can move us to become the best that we can be. He used every opportunity to talk with the boys of some pious exhortation. He used every chance to bring the young boys closer to God. As Gabriel neared the end of his studies, he was stricken with consumption. And when he was only twenty three years old he died in Isola, on February 27, 1862. His last words were to the Blessed Mother.
Immediately after his death, miracles begin occurring at his tomb. Many people who were deaf, blind, lamb or unable to speak were healed. It is quite rare that so many miracles occur in such great succession, and so shortly after the death of a saint, that at his beatification, which took place on May 31, 1908, it was declared that “the miracles which glorified the beginnings of the Church, one could behold renewed at his grave.”
His brother Michael Possenti, who was 87 years old at the time, was present at his beatification and laid a white rose at the feet of the statue that represented his saintly brother, Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows. It is quite remarkable that it happened the way it did. There is a photo of the event. It combines the Church Triumphant with the Church Militant here on earth. To have been able to witness the canonization must have been a truly special occasion for all the family members involved. Since his death, the miracles surrounding this Saint have not ceased. He is recognized as a mighty protector of the youth, particularly in a time when their faith and morals are being exposed to such great dangers.
This picture also represents to us a vital truth that still holds true today. The Holy Church is still our Mother… She still seeks out those to serve Her… to love Her with a heart that is pure and holy. She is still calling us to live our lives in a heroic manner which exhibit our Christian virtues. And She still is coming to the aide of those who dedicate themselves to Her cause…with it’s sole purpose of uniting us in a closer union with the Almighty Lord, so that one day we may join with God and His elect…and be with Him in Heaven.
As I was researching this great an holy saint I found a bit about him that is particularly relevant for this day and age. It tells the story of the young Saint Gabriel and how he saved an entire village from a group of terrorists who had come kill all the people of the town. When he witnessed the marauders dragging off a young woman who they intended to rape, the young Saint had had enough, and even though he was unarmed, he ran out to confront them. Grabbing a pistol from one of the invaders, he managed to take control of the situation and save the entire town. Read the rest of the remarkable story here.
“Jesus, Mary, Joseph, I offer you my heart and soul. Jesus, Mary, Joseph, assist me in my last agony. Jesus, Mary, Joseph, may I breathe forth my soul with you in peace.” – Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows.