St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother
Gabriel Possenti, born March 1, 1838, the eleventh of thirteen children, was reared in a home that was none the less pious because cultured. Inordinately vain and passionately devoted to the pleasures of the world, it is little wonder that his teachers and companions were incredulous when he announced that he would enter the Passionist Order immediately upon his graduation.
His life in religion was one of love throughout – joyous love, made all the sweeter by the penances prescribed by his rule, which he fulfilled to the letter. There was nothing extraordinary about him except his fidelity to prayer, his love of mortification called for by our Lord in the Gospels and his joyfulness of spirit. At the age of twenty-three, just as he was finishing his studies, he was stricken with tuberculosis, of which he died at Isola on February 27, 1862. His feast is February 27.
Closest possible likeness of Gariel Francis Possenti, obtained from painting over an old tintype. Original is hung in office of Passionist Bishop Batistelli, C.P., Teramo, Italy.
Caricatures of his classmates, drawn by St. Gabriel on a page of his copybook while a student at the Jesuit College.
Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, the Duomo of Spoleto. Here St. Gabriel served as an altar boy.
Shrine of the Icon inside the Cathedral. The famous painting of the Madonna can be seen over the altar.
View of the Icon Procession, which the people of Spoleto have performed each year since the cholera epidemic of 1856.
Closeup of the Icon Procession at the spot where St. Gabriel was kneeling when he looked into the face of the Madonna and she seemed to say : “Why do you remain in the world?”
His Holiness, Pope Benedict XV, who canonized Gabriel Francis Possenti and proclaimed ” that he should be honored as the new patron of youth throghout the Universal Church.”
Front entrance to the Basilica of St. Gabriel at Isola del Gran Sasso. The monastery can be seen behind the church.
View of St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome, during the canonization ceremony, May 13, 1920.
St. Gabriel’s Devotion To Our Lady
BELIEF in Our Lady’s powerful intercession and motherly compassion was the keynote of Saint Gabriel Possenti’s life in religion. He had good reason to believe in the Madonna, for it was to her he owed his religious vocation. The call came when he was walking in Our Lady’s procession through the streets of Assisi, in Italy, in the year 1857. As he gazed on the Blessed Virgin’s statue he felt an irresistible desire to consecrate his life to God take possession of his soul, and, faithful to grace, he hastened to seek admission into the Passionist Congregation. Hardly had he entered on his religious life when” The Glories of Mary,” by St. Alphonsus, and” The Love of Mary,” by Dom Robert, a Camaldolese hermit, fell into his hands…. From these golden books he learnt to imitate Mary’s virtues, to prepare for her feasts, and to practise those acts of self-denial and homage which are so pleasing to her.
From these treasure-houses of devotion to the Blessed Virgin he learnt, too, that the Doctors and Saints of all ages have ever believed in Mary, have ever looked on her as the life, the sweetness, and the hope of the fallen children of Eve.
Selecting a hundred sayings of Our Lady’s servants which forced him to cry out, “I believe in Mary,” he wove them together and made what he called the” Madonna’s Credo “- his belief in the Mother of God. It was this belief in Mary that induced him to choose as his name in religion – “Gabriel of the Blessed Virgin of Sorrows” – and to meditate in every spare moment on Our Lady’s Sorrows; it was this belief that won for him his confessor’s consent to make a vow to spread devotion to the Blessed Virgin as far as lay in his power; it was this belief which prepared him, at the early age of twenty-four, after his five short years in religion, to take his place in Heaven amongst the lovers of the Mother of God.
No wonder that Cardinal Parocchi, on reading the process of Gabriel’s Beatification, should write to Pope Leo XIII.: “Mary was the very soul of Gabriel’s life, the source and model of the sanctity to which he attained, so that it may be truly said that, in his devotion to the Mother of God he has scarcely been equalled by any, even the greatest saints.”
GJ.briel Possenti was canonized by Pope Benedict XV. on :May 13, I920
Our Lady’s Creed (Madonna’s Credo)
St. Gabriel – Passionist – composed a kind of canticle in honour of his Lady, which he called her ‘Creed’. It was based upon the sayings he had culled from his readings of the great Saints and doctors of the Church.
“I believe, Mary, that thou art the mother of all men.
I believe that thou art our life and, after God, the sole refuge of sinners.
I believe that thou art the strength of Christians, and their help, especially at the hour of death; that following thee, I shall not stray; that praying to thee, I shall not be abandoned; that standing with thee, I shall not fall.
I believe that thou art ready to aid those who call upon thee, that thou art the salvation of those who invoke thee, and that thou art willing to do more good for us than we can desire; that even when not asked, tho dost hasten to our assistance.
I believe that in thy name of Jesus – that it is joy to the heart, honey to the mouth and music to the ears and that, after the name of Jesus, there is no other name through which the faithful receive so much grace, so much hope and so much consolation.
I believe that thou art a co-redemptrix with Christ for our salvation, that all the graces which God dispences pass through thy hands, and that no one will enter heaven except through thee who art rightly called the ‘Gate of Heaven.’
I believe that true devotion to thee is a most certain sign of eternal salvation.
I believe that thou art superior to all the saints and angels, and that God alone surpasses thee.
I believe that God has given to thee in the highest possible degree, all the graces, special and general, with which he can favour his creatures.
I believe that thy beauty and excellence surpass that of all angels and men.
I believe that thou alone didst fulfill perfectly the precept: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God: and that the very Seraphim of heaven can learn from thy heart how to love God.
I believe that if all the love which all mothers have for their children, and that all husbands and wives have for each other, all that all angels and saints have for those who are devoted to them, were united in one, it would not equal the love thou hast for even one soul.”