April Europe Religious Saints

Saint Gemma Galgani

Feast Day: April 11

How To Make Rosemary Focaccia

Today we are feasting with… Saint Gemma Galgani.

St. Gemma Galgani - Sacred Heart of Jesus

To celebrate this feast day, we are making a Rosemary Focaccia. Focaccia bread is a flat yeasted bread, originating in Italy, that’s quick and easy to make.

Love + Suffering

Gemma Galgani was born on March 12, 1878, near Lucca, Italy. Her mother helped her develop a great love of Jesus and devotion to prayer at a very young age.

Unfortunately, her mother passed away when Gemma was only eight years old. After the death of her mother, Gemma’s father sent her to a Catholic boarding school run by the the Sisters of Saint Zita. Ultimately, her poor health forced her to return home before completing her education.

When Gemma was nineteen her father passed away leaving her an orphan. She took responsibility over her seven siblings until some of them were old enough to help. During this time, two men asked for her hand in marriage, but Gemma refused them. She wanted to devote her life to God and prayer instead.

Gemma was known as “the daughter of Passion” because of her profound imitation of the Passion of Christ.  She suffered a great deal but she offered all of her suffering to God. 

Gemma had really desired to become a Passionist nun, but she was not accepted because of her ill health.  When she was 20, Gemma was diagnosed with spinal meningitis, of which she was eventually miraculously healed.  She attributed her miraculous healing to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the intercession of the Passionist saint, Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows, and Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque.

Gemma had many mystical experiences and received many special graces throughout her life.  This often caused her to be ridiculed and misunderstood by many of those around her.  She offered up this harsh treatment in reparation to Our Savior who was also misunderstood and ridiculed.

At times she spoke with Our Blessed Mother, and other saints, especially Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows.  According to her personal accounts, she received special messages from them about present or future events.  She also saw her guardian angel and would often send him on errands to deliver letters or messages to her confessor in Rome.

On June 8, 1899, when she was 21 years old, Gemma had a feeling that something special was going to happen.  It was the eve of the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  She began to experience pain in her hands, feet, and heart. She had been given the special grace of the stigmata – the five wounds of Christ’s Passion. Due to her declining health, her spiritual director asked her to pray that she no longer be gifted with the stigmata, and her prayers were answered. 

In January 1903, Gemma was diagnosed with tuberculosis. On Good Friday of that year, her health rapidly deteriorated and she died the next day, April 11, 1903, at the age of 25.

Gemma was beatified on May 14, 1933 by Pope Pius XI and canonized on May 2, 1940, by Pope Pius XII– only 37 years after her death.

Saint Gemma is the patron saint of students, those suffering from back pain, back injury, headaches and migraines, those struggling with temptations of impurity, those seeking purity of heart, those who have lost their parents, and pharmacists (her father was a pharmacist).

Saint Gemma, pray for us.