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 :)
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’.”