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Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows

by Catherine Fournier

Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother, Gabriel Possenti, Francis Possenti
Feast Day: February 27
Patron: Abruzzi region of Italy, clerics, young people in general
Born: 1838 Died: 1862 Canonized: 1920

Young Families

Saint Gabriel was from a family of 13 children. He was a normal boy with normal interests of fun, school, playing, hunting, and acting. As he grew up though, he began to feel that he was 'missing something', that God was calling him to have more in his life.

Soon, after a vision of Our Lady told him that what he was suspecting was true, that the interests of the world were not for him, he joined the Passionist Order. He became a priest and looked forward to a full life of service to Our Lord and Our Blessed Mother. His life was uneventful, devoted to prayer, sacrifice, and a devotion to Our Lady and the contemplation of her sorrows over the suffering of Jesus. He was still fun-loving and generous, and enjoyed helping others.

Soon after ordination, however, he became very ill with tuberculosis and died. After his death, many miracles occurred. These miracles showed people that Gabriel had gone to heaven, and was interceding to Our Lord for those who prayed for his help. Saint Gemma Galgani was cured when she prayed to him.

When Saint Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother was canonized, Pope Benedict XV recommended him as a model example for young people.

Practiced Families

This saint was born in Assisi, Italy, in 1838 and was baptised Francis, in honor of the great and famous St. Francis of Assisi. His mother died when he was only four.

Francis grew to be a very handsome and friendly young man. He was popular and well-liked by all who knew him. Fun-loving, there was another side to him, too. Even when busy and surrounded friends and activity, he was sometimes bored. He couldn't explain why. He seemed to feel in his heart a strong desire for God and the deeper things of life.

Twice he fell ill and was near death. Each time he promised Our Lady that if she would obtain his cure, he would become a religious. Both times he failed to keep his promise. While still a young man, one day he saw a picture of the Sorrowful Mother carried in a procession. To Francis, it seemed the Blessed Mother was looking straight at him. At the same time, he heard a voice in his heart telling him, "Francis, the world is not for you anymore."

He could avoid it no longer. The promises to devote his life and the restlessness that left him dissatisfied were answered by this call. Francis entered the Passionist monastery at the age of eighteen and took the name Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother. The Holy Eucharist and Mary, the Sorrowful Mother became Gabriel's great loves. He loved to spend time thinking about the passion of Jesus and how much the Lord had suffered for him.

As a Passionist, Gabriel also learned to practice two virtues in a special way: humility and obedience, though his strongest and most dominant characteristic was joy. He was always happy and spread that happiness to those around him. After only four years in the Passionist order, Gabriel died on February 27, 1862 of tuberculosis. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Benedict XV in 1920.

His life was and is a lesson that we should not think only of having good times. We can ask St. Gabriel to help us find real joy and meaning in our life.

Experienced Families

This saint was born in the famous town of Assisi, Italy on March 1, 1838. His baptismal name was Francis Possenti. He was the eleventh of thirteen children. His father was both a civil and Church lawyer, and served as an appointed public official in the Papal states. These regions included large sections of what would eventually become a unified Italy in 1859.

Young Francis was a very normal young boy and teenager. He was interested all the things that boys of his age and station were interested in; hunting and dancing and the theater. He had many friends and was very popular. All the while though, Francis felt a strange dissatisfaction with his happy, normal, prosperous life.

This longing and restlessness was soon answered. Francis experienced a calling to the religious and priestly life and entered the Congregation of the Passionists, a religious community devoted to the living and preaching the saving merits of Our Lord's passion and death. He took vows in the Passionist community and was given the religious name, Gabriel of the Sorrowful One (or sorrowful Mother). He was stricken with tuberculosis about a year before he was to be ordained a priest and died on February 27, 1862 in the Passionist monastery at Gran Sasso in the Abruzzi region of Italy.

Gabriel's life as a religious was marked by a faithfulness to prayer, love of sacrifice, heroic virtue, and a very cheerful disposition despite his illness. Through his intercession, after his death, miraculous cures were obtained Pope Benedict XV canonized Gabriel in 1920 and declared him a 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 shrine at Gran Sasso is one of the more popular ones in Europe.

For a detailed examination of Saint Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother's life, visit the Catholic Encyclopedia

Prayer

O good St. Gabriel, God inspired you to love the passion of Jesus as it was reflected in the heart of Mary, his mother. By her side, you stood beneath the cross of Jesus, gazing on him as she did, and sharing her compassion.

O St. Gabriel, we wish, like you, to grow in love for God and all his people. Remember us in the trials of our life. Remember especially those who are young and in need.

Support us, all our days, by your holy prayers. And when this life is done, may we join you in heaven in the joyful company of Jesus and Mary.

Amen.

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