Friday, February 27, 2009

St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows


February 27 is the feast day of St. Gabriel Possenti (1838-1862). When I was in 2nd grade, I developed a fondness for him after seeing images like this one above, as well as those of him in ecstasy before Our Lady of Sorrows. After his canonization Gabriel was declared the patron saint of youth, and so the older I got, the more my devotion intensified. I admired him not only for his devotion to the Sorrowful Mother, but because of the way he looked. Perhaps that sounds strange, but he has always been shown in poses of great ardor, a handsome young man - and his countenance moved my heart to devotion to the Passion of Christ.
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Born in Assisi, he was named after the town's patron, Francesco. In his teens, he became the center of attention amongst friends on account of his vivacious spirit - very much like his namesake, St. Francis. Frequenting parties, admired for his sense of fashion and dancing ability, he was extremely popular. Yet in the midst of much temptation, he preserved a sense of devotion and remained singularly chaste. After completion of his studies, young Francesco revealed his intention to enter the Passionists, surprising his family, while leaving his friends dumbfounded.
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Twice before his final decision to enter religious life, the young saint, who also suffered from poor health, promised Our Lady he would devote the rest of his life to God if she obtained his cure. Regaining his health, he twice forgot his promise. While attending a procession one day, he looked upon a banner bearing an image of Our Lady, the Madonna's eyes looked at him and he heard these words; "Keep your promise."
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The saint wasted no time and entered the novitiate of the Congregation of the Passion, taking the name Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows. His life as a cleric was as ordinary as that of St. Therese of Lisieux, and like her, he died of consumption at the age of 24. He is a saint of the "little way".
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St. Gabriel is also very popular in this country with Catholic gun enthusiasts, since he happens to be the patron saint of hand-gunners. This is due to the fact he once drove a group of mercenaries from the town his monastery was located, Isola, Italy. St. Gabriel came to the defense of a young woman who was going to be sexually assaulted. Grabbing the soldier's gun, he held him at bay, shooting a lizard with one shot, the saint demonstrated his skilled marksmanship before the mockery of the insurgents. Stunned, the soldier let the girl go, while the other mercenaries were quickly persuaded to end the looting and extinguish the fires they had set. Afterwards, St. Gabriel drove them out of town, employing the guns he had confiscated from the soldiers. The townsfolk hailed him as a hero.

7 comments:

  1. David9:59 AM

    I was impressed by his manliness and I mean that in a non homo-erotic way. His images always show him to be, um...rather on the "soft" side of the XY gene combo. But when you read his authentic biography Francesco the MAN jumps right out at you and becoming "Gabriel" didn't change that. I especially like the "gun" story in his bio.

    But that brings me to a related topic: devotional religious art. Maybe because I am an artist as well as other personal-affecting things...WHY do statues and pix insist on showing Jesus and our male saints are whimps and sometimes (no irreverence intended) as real BAD drag queens (the rosy cheeks and eye shadow on statues; the hot iron curly hair in pictures especially of the Sacred Heart).

    I have had a personal boycott against this stuff for 20 years and you know where I find most of my REAL GOOD religious art? Ebay. LOL. Well, it works for me. PAX

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  2. David - I know what you mean, but these images are very attractive to children, non-threatening, sweet, and they represent a 'world apart'. Additionally, I think the soft looking male is meant to capture or reflect a heavenly beauty, as well as a childlike innocence. Today we are much more realistic, so the saints must look like us - and they do. Look at Pier Giorgio or Jacques Fesch - manly men.

    I draw the line at Precious Moments figures however. LOL!

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  3. I can look at Pier Giorgio all day long...ah....an Italian man who was hot physically, intellectually AND spiritually...can a guy ask for anything more? A nice 8x10 colorized photograph portrait of him (from Turin and touched to his tomb) is on my wall for continual spiritual inspiration.

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  4. David - I did a painting of Pier Giorgio that I gave to his neice - she placed it in the house in Pavone. I was in contact with her before that and she sent me relics, and photos of him, I haven't been in touch with her for a couple of years.

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  5. In our local Catholic newspaper, there's been a big ruckus lately over whether or not Catholics and/or Catholic newspapers should be able to find any spiritual meaning and/or solice in game hunting and/or using guns. Good grief. The Catholic Church hasn't decreed either enjoying hunting or objecting to hunting to be sinful, so far as I know. Then here's this saint, so tender in his affection for Our Lord and His Mother, so able in the use of firearms . . . makes it all the more obvious how ready we are to argue about dumb stuff. It almost (ALMOST!) makes me wish something big, ugly and horrible would happen just so people would have something worthy of writing to local editors about.

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  6. Terry: WOW how awesome. That rocks! Do you have any pix of it????? Tucked into the bottom of the frame of my Pier Giorgio pic is a little b&w copy of a RARE PG photo copied from his sister. It shows him in post Holy Communion thanksgiving, standing, eyes shut, out in the mountains at an outdoor Mass. Its a bit grainy as its not a professional photo but I love it. You see the real PG right there without any touch up etc and baby even without touch-up that man was something else! How awesome that such a hunk became a saint, the opposite possibilities but have been many.

    Ronnie: St.Gabriel has been popularly adopted as the handgun patron saint. See www.gunsaint.com

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  7. Thanks, David, for the web site reference.

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