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Celebrating the Feast Day of St. Gemma Galgani

Liturgical

I’ve mentioned a few times that this Lent changed my life…and today, I’d love to share one of the reasons why!

Gemma Galgani was born near Lucca, Italy in 1878. She died in 1903 and was canonized (became a Saint) in 1940 (on May 2, exactly 75 years before my wedding day). Fast forward to 2004, during my Confirmation preparation, I chose her as my patron saint because she was on the cover of the book of Saints my mom gave me to look through and I thought she was beautiful. I paid attention to facts and stories I heard about her as they popped up throughout my teen years and through college, but for the most part, she remained mostly a stranger to me. Based on what I knew about her, she felt impossible to relate to (as in, there are accounts of her holiness from when she was two years old!), so I was a little hesitant to even try to get to know her. But, this Lent, I decided to dive into the biography her spiritual director, who knew her better than anyone, wrote about her, The Life of St. Gemma Galgani. I poured over the 300 pages almost every night after Dave fell asleep, and as I soaked in her story and prayed that God would speak to me through her holy life and wisdom, I was blessed SO much by this Saint who has been part of my faith life in small ways since I was 14. More than anything else, I fell in love with Jesus in His Passion, the great love of St. Gemma’s life, alongside her, and by the time Good Friday arrived, Jesus’ agony, His scourging, His crown of thorns, His carrying of the cross, and His crucifixion felt so real and raw and loving to me in a way I had never experienced before.

I am so honored to share more about what I learned from St. Gemma on the Blessed Is She blog today! Here’s how we’ll be celebrating the day the Catholic Church sets aside to remember and honor this incredible woman, following my eat/decorate/pray method I’ve been using for feast days this year :)

Ideas for celebrating the feast day of St. Gemma Galgani

Eat: I feel a little funny suggesting something to eat for this feast day because Gemma desired so deeply to be free of all worldly pleasures, including that of food, in favor of seeking all her joy from Christ. In fact, with the permission of her spiritual director, she prayed that God would take away any enjoyment she found from food! But, for those of us who do celebrate through food (hand so very raised), I like the idea of cooking a dish from her native Tuscany. This blog post provides a great summary of dishes and ingredients that are characteristic of that particular region (though if you want to just make spaghetti and call it a day, I’m all for that too :)).

Decorate: Honoring her simplicity and purity, I love the idea of decorating with white seasonal, local flowers. I’m actually putting a personal twist on this by decorating with dogwoods (they’re everywhere right now!)–we used huge bunches of dogwood branches as our wedding ceremony altar arrangements, and since our anniversary is also the day she was proclaimed a Saint, it seems perfect to use them for her feast day!

Pray: Like I mentioned, there was nothing St. Gemma loved more than Jesus in His Passion, so that’s where I want to turn in prayer. A few ideas include the Stations of the Cross, the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, or reflecting on some of the words Gemma herself spoke in prayer:

“Oh Jesus, why am I not burned up with love for you? Why is it that my heart is not consumed with Love’s flame? Why is it that my love does not correspond to yours? Oh Jesus, how much time I have lost! How many years I could have loved you, and did not do so! But your bounty makes me hope that I may make up for lost time. Why did you suffer for me, dear Jesus? For love! The nails…the crown…the cross…all for love of me! For You, I sacrifice everything willingly. I offer you my body with all its weakness, and my soul with all its love. My God, dear Jesus, remove whatever malice may be at the bottom of my offering, and then accept it. Do not abandon me, Jesus. I am Yours. Take care of my soul. Think of what you have borne to save it. Surely they are right who say ‘To suffer is to love’.”

Additional reading:
Learning to Love Jesus with St. Gemma (my post for Blessed Is She!)
More about St. Gemma
A Dinner for the Feast of St. Gemma Galgani (Catholic Cuisine)

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  1. Rhiannon

    April 10th, 2018 at 6:37 pm

    This is so beautiful, Lisa! And you’re right, St Gemma is a stunner. Love reading more about your faith!

  2. Lisa

    April 17th, 2018 at 3:27 pm

    Thank you so much for your encouragement, Rhi!! She is so beautiful–and even more on the inside than on the outside!

  3. Kristina

    April 11th, 2018 at 7:45 am

    Loved your blog post on Blessed Is She and this is the perfect addition to it. Honestly, I had never heard of St. Gemma Galgani before but find her story deeply moving and feel called to learn more about her. And for her feast day, I already have white tulips on my kitchen table and now will be making Italien for dinner :-)

  4. Lisa

    April 17th, 2018 at 3:28 pm

    Kristina! I’m so happy I got to introduce you to her, and I hope you love getting to know her more! The second website I linked at the bottom of this post is an awesome resource :)

  5. Dana

    April 11th, 2018 at 12:18 pm

    Very interesting! I should probably do some reading on St. Bernadette too.

  6. Lisa

    April 17th, 2018 at 3:29 pm

    I hope you had fun celebrating St. Bernadette yesterday!! We should get the same book on her and do long distance book club this summer!

  7. Karen

    April 11th, 2018 at 1:03 pm

    Lisa, thank you so much for posting this and the post on Blessed is She. Growing up I heard a lot about St. Gemma. (She is a cousin of my Maternal Grandmother who grew up in Lucca – I am still working on the Geneology to find out exactly where in the tree. Saints are really hard to find genealogical records on.)

    I have read her diary, her biography and more and every time I am amazed and in awe of her life and devoutness. Praying the Sorrowful mysteries has always brought her to my mind’s forefront in prayer and I find myself calling to her when I need strength to turn away from the world’s sins and sadness. She is an amazing Saint and I really wish there was even more out there about her and her life.

  8. Lisa

    April 17th, 2018 at 3:31 pm

    Hi Karen! Thank you so much for sharing–how incredible that she is part of your family! I’m sure that makes your devotion to her that much sweeter and more intimate. I love what you said about calling to her when you need strength to turn away from the sin and sadness of the world. Her focus on Heaven is truly inspiring!

  9. Claire

    April 11th, 2018 at 2:05 pm

    I love this post so much! Happy Feast Day! She is interceding for you in such a special way today!

  10. Lisa

    April 17th, 2018 at 3:32 pm

    Thank you so much, Claire! I’m so grateful for your sweet encouragement!

  11. Grace

    April 11th, 2018 at 9:24 pm

    Did you know dogwoods are the flower of the Passion and Resurrection??? They are white but also look like they have red nail marks in them! My mom taught me that when I was little because our dogwood tree would bloom around Holy Week each year.
    I’m just now getting to know St. Gemma well as I struggle with sometimes debilitating back pain.
    Ora pro nobis!

  12. Lisa

    April 17th, 2018 at 3:33 pm

    Oh my goodness, I did know that but had totally forgotten! How perfect! Thank you so much for the reminder :) I will be praying for her intercession for your back pain as well. Thank you for your comment, Grace!

  13. Caroline

    April 11th, 2018 at 11:35 pm

    St. Gemma Galgani- a hidden gem who one day, made me serious about my Catholic faith. As a teen, I had the exact same saint book you had, her picture on the front. Years later, in my late twenties/early thirties, I happened upon her biography you mentioned. I found it in a small church library in Maine, and recognizing her face, I picked it up. It propelled me to start thinking seriously about my life. Thank you, Gemma!

  14. Lisa

    April 17th, 2018 at 3:36 pm

    That is so beautiful, Caroline! I’ll have to ask my mom if she still has the book–I’d love to take a peek at it again. Regardless, I’m so glad that it led us both to this beautiful saint!


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