Note – Sorry there was no post on Tuesday of this week. I’m attempting to make up for this with a two part post today and tomorrow.
St. Gemma Galgani is a lesser known saint who lived in Northern Italy from 1878 to her death in 1903. When people get to know me, one of the things they find out is that I have a strong devotion to St. Gemma. The next question people often have is why.
About seven years ago I wrote the following letter to Glenn Dallaire. Glenn also has a strong devotion to St. Gemma. He created and maintains an excellent website dedicated to St. Gemma: www.stgemmagalgani.com. This letter explains my devotion to St. Gemma the best.
My devotion started slowly about 15 or so years ago, because of my mother. In 1979 her first grandchild, Molly, was almost two years old. When Molly tried to say “Grandma” it came out “Gemma” -Well… it stuck. Molly and all 19 grandchildren and one great grandchild (Molly’s first) that followed over the next 29 years all called my mom “Gemma.” I know my mom liked it a lot, partially because she was taught by a Sister Gemma when she was a little girl.
When I went to graduate school for my MA in Theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville I learned there was a St. Gemma. However, at that time my knowledge of her only went as far as knowing she existed. It wasn’t until 2007 that I began to learn more about St. Gemma, and discovered your website.
April 7, 2007 was Holy Saturday. My mom had been suffering from a number of ailments, including heart trouble. She was on several medications. My father suffered from Parkinson’s and dementia. Since neither could take care of the other, we had aides staying overnight at their house. We could not find an aide for Saturday nights, so my mom gave me a little money to stay over on Saturday nights (It was very nice of her, since there is not much money in working for the church). That night my mom went to the Easter Vigil with my dad and sister Mary Jo (I have three sisters and two brothers. I’m the youngest). I met them back at the house when Mass was over, about 10:30 pm. My mom was sitting at the kitchen counter, looking rather spectacular in her Easter best, enjoying some Polish sausage. My sister commented that the Mass was so long. My mom, however, said it didn’t seem long at all and that she really enjoyed it. Not ones to move along very quickly, my parents eventually settled down to bed around 1:00 am.
The next morning I woke up about 8:30. My father was awake and the morning aid, who had arrived earlier, was making my dad breakfast. There was a note from my mom in the kitchen asking us to let her sleep in. So, I left for home to watch my daughter, Maria, look for her Easter basket.
Around 9:20 my sister Suzy called me. She said that Dad had called and said he could not wake my mom up and that she was going over to check on things. A few more frantic phone calls latter, from my sister and the aide, and I was over at the house. My mother had passed away in her sleep. She was 75 years old.
This is when I began to look more closely into St. Gemma. One of the first things I discovered was that she is the patron saint of pharmacists. I thought this was rather funny, considering how my mom subsidized the local pharmacist rather nicely with all the medications she had been taking over the last 15 years of her life. This was quickly trumped when I discovered that St. Gemma died on Holy Saturday. Wow! My mom died Easter morning. It was a really awesome sign. The second day of the wake was on April 11th, St. Gemma’s Feast Day as you well know.
Tomorrow I will post part II of this article.