St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows: Patron of Handgunners

St. GabrielToday 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

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. AvantiBev says:

    I will be ready when the TERRORISTS show up such as the I.R.A. or the I.R.S.

    As for Garibaldini, I don’t doubt that this was a marauding band of mercenaries broken away from the true red shirts. Sounds like they were seeking plunder rather than the RIGHTFUL and JUST aspirations of the Italian people to unite as a country and govern themselves. This country has had their share of such savage bands in every war from the Civil War through the current one. My Lai massacre comes to mind.

    [You may have a very rosey notion of what the unification of Italy was like.]

  2. Clinton R. says:

    There is a St. Gabriel Possenti conference room at a Passionist retreat house, Mater Dolorosa, I attend yearly. So I was interested in finding out more about about St. Gabriel. Thank you for this, Father. May St. Gabriel Possenti pray for the seminarians and for men contemplating the priesthood. +JMJ+

  3. Unwilling says:

    Bang on!

  4. Ichabod says:

    Thank you, Fr. Z, for profiling Gabriel Possenti, and just as importantly, the Passionists. I highly recommend any retreat the Passionists offer. They are so good in reminding us and rekindling within us, that the core of our faith has its roots in Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection. Their ability to teach men and women how to pray by reinforcing the grace of contemplation is profound. The spirituality of St. Paul of the Cross is so needed in today’s world.

    If in Detroit, I recommend Fr. Pat Brennan of St. Paul of the Cross Retreat Center who is a very holy, kind and wonderfully funny man.

    If in Rome, you can’t get a better view of the eternal city and the Coliseum in particular, then visiting the Passionists mother house at Piazza SS. Giovanni e Paolo, Rome, Italy.

  5. TopSully says:

    May I respectfully suggest that folks get the training before they get the concealed carry license? I realize in many states that is the required order of things, but in some states there is no training requirement.

  6. RJHighland says:

    Hi Fr. Z, a quick question. Saturday March 15 is a ferial day. We are taking the altar boys up to a monastery that follows the 1962 missal and was wondering if it would be appropriate for me to ask the priest to offer this mass on that day and offer a homily on the readings. I was at daily mass today and the readings struck me as possibly having a profound message for young men. I am not sure exactly how the ferial days work, I know priests will use them to offer masses for a particalar saint that has fallen on a Sunday but can a priest offer a mass that has already be said for the year? What ever happens I will recount the story of St. Gabriel of our Lady of Sorrows to the boys that weekend, most excellent rendition Father.

  7. wolfeken says:

    There seems to be confusion on the feast day. On the 1962 / traditional Latin Mass calendar, the 3rd class Mass of Saint Gabriel of Ourt Lady of Sorrows is offered TODAY, 27 February.

    If however, it is a leap year (2016 next) then the feast is transfered on the traditional calendar to 28 February, as was last done (albeit as a commemoration) in 2012.

  8. Bea says:

    “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.”

    Yes, and let us take spiritual aim at the heretics within the Church (the interior “Garibaldi troops”).

    What’s this “women and men” let it remain “men and women” We women, here (at least not I) take no offense at “men” first. We are not PC.

    [Why do you think I did that?]

  9. Vecchio di Londra says:

    Bit tough on the lizard! :-)

  10. Bea says:

    I don’t know why. It’s just that it seems so much PC all around us (as in the NO readings) “Sisters and Brothers” instead of “Brothers and sisters” or “Bretheren” Too much Novus Ordo around me, I guess.
    Sigh….. for the TLM here. The Bishop’s letters always begin with “Sisters and Brothers”


  11. Arele says:

    Fr. Z. I think you said women first because the woman in the story was about to be raped. It is she who needed defending. A woman who is smaller and weaker than her assailant can defend herself by becoming proficient with a handgun and getting a CHL. Guns are the great equalizer.

    And just like St. Gabriel, it doesn’t always mean you have to shoot your assailant either. A national survey from 2002 indicates that about 95 percent of the time that people use guns defensively, they merely have to brandish a weapon to break off an attack. (John R. Lott Jr.. More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws, Third Edition (p. 3). Kindle Edition.)

    Not long ago in Oregon, a woman was being dragged off into the bushes at night by her ponytail by a stranger, and she pulled her legally owned handgun from her purse and the guy ran off. Not a shot was fired, but she was not attacked, raped or killed. Because she had a CHL.

    Other than that, I agree with Bea. It really annoys me when priests and lay people say, “Sisters and brothers.” Adam came first. Just sayin’.

  12. LeeF says:

    Re the positive comments about the Passionists above, unfortunately we have a different breed of same in my area, focused on eco/enviro/whatevero. Another sad tale of younger members of an order rejecting the charism of their founder and the graces that comes with it, and reflected in the lack of vitality of such orders.

  13. abasham says:

    I love these Passionist saints. If only there were a traditional Passionist order… nowadays, unfortunately, they send their seminarians to CTU in Chicago, which seems dedicated to keeping alive all the horror stories you’ve told of seminaries back in the dark days.

  14. Catholic_Convert2 says:


    I’ve been carrying since I was 18 – legally since 21. I’m now a trainer and instructor, and aspiring sheriff. My whole life I’ve felt called to serve and protect. I feel that violence is a tool, and force is a language I speak freely: I believe it’s critical that MORE good men than bad men know how to speak this language well!

    However Father, I see no Saintly examples of warriors who fought and killed (and/or died) in the name of protecting innocent. Is it impossible to become a ‘S’aint if you ‘live by the sword’? I understand that even Joan of Arc never fought or killed in combat.

    What do you say, father? I know that it’s only martyrdom if you’re being killed for your faith, and so I know we all have the duty to defend our (and other innocent) lives and to not sell our lives cheaply.

    But what Saintly examples do us ‘Sheepdogs’ have? Or are we the black sheep?

  15. Darren says:

    St. Gabriel Possenti is significant in my family. (Paternal side is Italian… grandfather born in Italy). My father is Gabriel, and my Grandfather was Gabriel… with St. Gabriel Possenti on the gravestone. Some other Gabriels in the family as well… now and in the past.

    Most Italians named Gabriel are after him as opposed to St. Gabriel the Archangel.

    Yes, I blurred the family name ;)

  16. abasham says:

    To Catholic_Convert2 above… I’m thankful that you want to lead a life of service and sacrifice. I grew up in a military family and have the utmost respect for those who serve our country in uniform, whether it is military camouflage or police blue. But a life of “violence” is not the same thing as a life of service. No one is called to a life of violence; you are right that violence and force are a language, but it isn’t one used in favor of the side of justice. I hope you can continue to discern what calling you have in life, but I can tell you this: people like me are horrified that people who use the type of language you just used aspire to work on behalf of the power of the state.

  17. Nan says:

    @Catholic Convert 2, St. Demetrios of Thessaloniki was a soldier; however, it is the miracles he performed after death that took place in battle. Patronages aren’t always derived from something literal during the saint’s life. St. Therese of Lisieux is the patron saint of Missionaries. Just exactly where did she go? To the convent to pray but she had the desire to be a missionary.

    Your examples are not the ones you’re thinking of: St Michael the Archangel who protects us and is constantly in a battle for souls; St. Maximilian Kolbe, who gave up his life so that a man with a family could live; your parish priest who battles daily; St. Martin of Tours, who, as bishop, was dedicated to freeing prisoners so authorities refused to see him because they knew he’d ask for mercy and they’d be unable to refuse him.

    One of the greatest saints to help win battles is the Mother of God whose rosary tipped the balance in Lepanto, halted the enemy at the Gates of Vienna, and saved Moscow on more than one occasion.

  18. jlduskey says:

    wolfeken says: “There seems to be confusion on the feast day. On the traditional Latin Mass calendar, the 3rd class (Double, in pre-1962) Mass of Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows is offered 27 February. If however, it is a leap year then the feast is transferred on the traditional calendar to 28 February.”
    The feast isn’t really transferred. It is set on the third of the Kalends of March, which is two days before March 1. When there is a 29th day in February, the date two days before March 1 is February 28. Otherwise it is the 27th of February. The same situation pertains to St. Mathias, a double of the second class, which is celebrated in the old calendar on the 24th (in leap year, 25th) of February. In order to see this more clearly, you would have to understand the old (really old) calendar in which days were counted from the Kalends (1st of the month) or the Nones or the Ides of the month. Remember that the Ides of March are March 15. But the Ides and Nones are different in some of the other months. It really doesn’t matter, except when you add a day at the end of February.

  19. Clinton R. says:

    Ichabod said: “If in Detroit, I recommend Fr. Pat Brennan of St. Paul of the Cross Retreat Center who is a very holy, kind and wonderfully funny man.”

    Yes, our loss here in southern California of Fr. Brennan is Detroit’s gain. I was blessed to be able to attend the retreat for 5 years with Fr. Brennan. A very good priest with kindness in his heart.

  20. Bea says:


    Here is a link that lists Blesseds, Martyrs, Saints, even a Pope, etc who were soldiers.
    Some ceased being soldiers to become men of God and afterwards, became saints.

    But, as Abasham said, I too deplore your mention of “violence”
    It is justice and protection of the frail that should motivate us, firstly through peaceful means, then when all else fails, through strength of force (not violence).

    But there are more important battles to be fought (besides worldly ones). The greatest battles are the spiritual ones. Ignatius Loyola was a soldier, fought and was wounded before he came to see the importance of the spiritual battles during his convalescence. That’s why he called it the “company of Jesus”.

    Our priests are in the front lines battling evil, sin, heresy, etc. They are the “soldiers of Christ” within the “Church Militant” Protecting us through the Sacraments and leading us to our True Home.
    Perhaps one day your zeal will be directed in this direction?

  21. Kerry says:

    Dittos to training and carrying a firearm. You can’t shoot the Lizard-Insect overlords without a weapon.

  22. Catholic_Convert2 says:

    Hello friends (Bea and Abasham): We’re speaking synonymously: force IS violence IS killing. The only difference is that you haven’t made a career out of the philosophy of what it means to cause injury, and why that might be necessary. And you haven’t considered the issue enough to realize that all the steps you place between Decision and Action and Consequence have only been placed there for your own emotional protection. For example: Please tell me the difference between force and violence? There is none- except ‘force’ allows you to live in a world where it’s possible to “shoot to wound”, or to “scare off”. Neither are possible. Not legally, not morally. For, if you draw a gun on someone BEFORE they present a lethal threat to you, YOU are the bad guy. The aggressor. The instigator. And you WILL be tried accordingly. And obviously, ‘shooting to wound’ is as much lethal force (physically and morally) as shooting for center of mass. And so the ONLY time you draw a gun (use force) on someone is AFTER they present a lethal threat. If they disengage before you’re able (required) to pull the trigger, you have a moral obligation to let them go – but still, there is no difference between force and violence and killing. Not to the one who is educated on this topic. Absolutely: violence (I’ll revert to saying ‘force’, since this is apparently easier on your eyes) is a last resort.

    Violence (oops, I mean ‘force’) begins when choice ends. And violence (dang it- ‘force’) is very, VERY rarely the answer to any question- but when it IS the answer, it is the ONLY answer.

    Does that make sense? I get worried when I read something like “people like me are horrified that people who use the type of language you just used aspire to work on behalf of the power of the state.” Rather than being horrified, you should be grateful. Without warriors *who understand when violence is and isn’t required* there would be no state to protect.


    I appreciate the examples of Saints but again notice that nobody who’s ever made some heroic last stand with a sword or rifle is a Saint. Nobody who jumped on a grenade. I would love to hear Fr. Z comment- I’ve been meaning to invite our priest to dinner to hear his take. Every day I talk to so many incredible people in the trades of violence (police, citizens, military), and they have a grasp on earthly reality that you won’t find anywhere else. However: I’m wondering if this ‘calling’, or this ‘trade’ is nothing more than an insecurity of our earthly bodies… if we desire to prepare and protect because of a deep seated fear we have… if perhaps, we should lay down our arms, and learn to accept brutality for ourselves and loved ones?

    I would sell my GLOCKs and M4s in the blink of an eye if I was convinced that they were hindrances – rather than aides – to help me get into Heaven. My God, have a place for me, please!

    Any more thoughts on the matter, anyone?

  23. wolfeken says:

    jlduskey — Excellent point. Ken

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