Today is the feast of St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows, Gabriel Possenti, according to the calendar of the Novus Ordo. In the older, traditional Missal we find that 28 February was given to him. His date is most properly 27 February since that is the day he died and was born into heaven in 1862. I visited his shrine beneath the great mountain Gran Sasso in Italy while I was in seminary.
Little Francesco Possenti came from a large family, 13 children, in Spoleto and was baptized in the same baptismal font as St. Francis of Assisi.
During a childhood illness he promised to become a religious if he were healed. This actually happened twice, but like many of us who make promises to God if He would only do something for us, Francesco forgot about it. However, during a procession in honor of an image of Our Lady of Sorrows, Francesco finally felt strongly the calling to be a religious. He took off for a Passionist house and noviatiate on the eve of his engagment.
When Francesco made his vows he was given the name in religion of Gabriel adding of Our Lady of Sorrows. Gabriel made a special promise to spread devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows. His writings are imbued with this devotion and a special focus on the Passion of the Lord. He was known for his perfect observance of the rule of the Passionists.
While still young was contracted tuberculosis. He remained always in good spirits, never quitting his harsh mortifications however. Before he could be ordained a priest, he died embracing an image of Our Lady of Sorrows.
Gabriel was canonized by Pope Benedict XV 1920 and declared him patron of Catholic youth. In 1959, Pope John XXIII named him the patron of the Abruzzi region, where he spent the last two years of his earthly life. His is also invoked by seminarians and novices. St. Gemma Galgani attributed to St. Gabriel the cure which led her also to her vocation as a Passionist.
Let us look at his Collect from the 1962 Missale Romanum.
Deus, qui beatum Gabrielem
dulcissimae Matris tuae dolores assidue recolere docuisti,
ac per illam sanctitatis et miraculorum gloria sublimasti:
da nobis, eius intercessione et exemplo;
ita Genetricis tuae consociari fletibus,
ut materna eiusdem protectione salvemur.
O God, who taught blessed Gabriel
to reflect constantly upon the sorrows of Your most sweet Mother,
and through her raised him on high by the glory of holiness and miracles:
grant us, by his intercession and example;
so to be joined to the tears of Your Mother,
that we may be saved by her maternal protection.
Now here is the politically incorrect part of the story.
From the Possenti Society:
In 1860, soldiers from Garibaldi entered the mountain village of Isola, Italy. They began to burn and pillage the town, terrorizing its inhabitants.
Possenti, with his seminary rector’s permission, walked into the center of town, unarmed, to face the terrorists. One of the soldiers was dragging off a young woman he intended to rape when he saw Possenti and made a snickering remark about such a young monk being all alone.
Possenti quickly grabbed the soldier’s revolver from his belt and ordered the marauder to release the woman. The startled soldier complied, as Possenti grabbed the revolver of another soldier who came by. Hearing the commotion, the rest of the soldiers came running in Possenti’s direction, determined to overcome the rebellious monk.
At that moment a small lizard ran across the road between Possenti and the soldiers. When the lizard briefly paused, Possenti took careful aim and struck the lizard with one shot. Turning his two handguns on the approaching soldiers, Possenti commanded them to drop their weapons. Having seen his handiwork with a pistol, the soldiers complied. Possenti ordered them to put out the fires they had set, and upon finishing, marched the whole lot out of town, ordering them never to return. The grateful townspeople escorted Possenti in triumphant procession back to the seminary, thereafter referring to him as “the Savior of Isola”.
Thus, some consider him to be the patron of shooters and handgun users. For good reason. Thus endeth the lesson.
And I encourage all you women and men out there to get your concealed carry license and lots of training and practice. Ask St. Gabriel to help you in the process. Be ready for when Garibaldi’s troops show up.
“I want to break my own will into pieces, I want to do God’s Holy will, not my own. May the most adorable, most loveable, most perfect will of God always be done.” St. Gabriel