27 Feb: St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows – Patron of Handgunners, seminarians, novices

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.   27 February 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.

I think all you readers out there should consider concealed carry license courses and, afterwards, lots of training and practice.  Even if you choose, for one reason or another, not to carry, you will at least know something about firearms, laws, the training, and will also have received a heavy dose of how to de-escalate confrontations, avoid conflicts, increase your situational awareness, etc.  It is useful on many levels.

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. Pingback: Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows | CatholicSaints.Info

  2. Scott Woltze says:


    Thanks for the excellent pamphlet. As we named our little baby after St. Gabriel (he was born 2/24/15–a day with no saint in either calendar), I enjoyed reading about the various miracles.

  3. RichR says:

    Someone should make a rear slide cover plate for Glocks with St Gabriel on it

  4. Semper Gumby says:

    Well now, that was a courageous seminarian. Thanks for the post Fr. Z.

    Hmmm…St. Gabriel’s life may provide an opportunity for a handgun-themed application of the New Evangelization. Let me explain.

    A while back my battalion spent five months at sea onboard several of the Navy’s luxurious troopships, where I met a Navy officer who is a handgun enthusiast and an agnostic. This fine fellow, currently onboard one of our ships at sea, may find the Possenti Society motivating.

  5. Father K says:

    ‘and will also have received a heavy dose of how to de-escalate confrontations, ‘
    Oh come now!
    Poor lizard

  6. Maltese says:

    A Springfield XD-S .45ACP is a nice conceal-carry gun. I own one (my other gun is a Rock River Arms AR-15). I’ve never double-stacked or stove-piped it. Having been in federal law enforcement, I was much more used to the Glock; and used to carry a 27 on my ankle, and my service 22–I’d literally practiced with around 10,000 rounds in those guns. But I’ve gotten away from guns. Guns are a tool, nothing else. If one is thinking about home defense, look to a Remington 870 shotgun, the staple of law enforcement. Stack it with shot, slug, shot, slug. That will do the job.

    Clean your guns three times a year, practice (once you are very proficient) three times a year. And then put them away, pull out the Rosary, and pray it nightly with your families. Christ’s disciples conceal-carried for their times, and Christ told them to sell two tunics for a sword. But that was the end of it. Christ didn’t focus on this necessary element of life (e.g. personal protection). So, neither should we, but neither should we forget that it’s a man’s duty to protect his family, a priest’s duty to protect his flock, etc.

  7. Tristan says:

    The weather was nice, so I took my 9 & 6 year old out with a Crickett for their first time shooting. Fortuitous timing to this feast day.

  8. AvantiBev says:

    As a proud Itala Americana and survivor of Chicago’s once all Celtic Southwest Side, I prefer to be ready for the Patrick Brigade to show up.

  9. Semper Gumby says:

    Fr. K displays an unusual amount of sympathy for the lizard while at the same time ignoring the young woman’s plight, the townfolk’s peril, and the probability of further barbarism absent St. Gabriel’s actions.

    Fr. K would benefit from a closer reading of Fr. Z’s post, which illustrates clearly how St. Gabriel de-escalated a lethal situation.

    Fr. K, let us build our foundation on rock rather than sand.

  10. Semper Gumby says:

    The .45 caliber is a classic and proven pistol as Maltese rightly points out.

    As to the instruction to, once proficient, practice and clean thrice a year, there is another perspective on this. There was a lively discussion on church security and the security apostolate back around December 22, and some, or even many, would say that three times a year is insufficient. Muscle-memory and dry-fire drills could be done on a regular and reasonable basis, and all can agree that cleaning after every range session, be it three or twelve times a year, is preferred.

    Maltese’s point about family Rosary is well made, and should accompany sustained and reasonable effort at security.

  11. Gerard Plourde says:

    I certainly think that handgun owners deserve a patron saint. I’m not certain that St. Gabriel fits the bill. It appears that there is no contemporary account of the incident described. The oldest report of it appears only about thirty years ago, about 120 years after his death. It seems that more research is needed to verify its accuracy.

  12. Semper Gumby says:

    As research continues, note information older than thirty years. Also note a particular anti-gun cardinal dismissive of this account, and several other individuals who dismiss this account as an “Irish tale”. Note the disinformation on more than one website that reverses the conclusion of one historian who supports St. Gabriel’s use of a weapon to deescalate a lethal situation. This list of notes could continue, but that’s enough.

    The denigration of this account by the usual suspects likely means the Possenti Society and its allies are on to something here.

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