ROME, APRIL 22, 2004 (Zenit.org).- One could think of St. Gemma Galgani as a patron of the lonely.
The saint who lived from 1878-1903 is an antidote against loneliness, say authors Father Bruno Moriconi and Armida Pezzini, in a news book on the young Italian.
In this interview with ZENIT, Father Moriconi, a Discalced Carmelite, explains what was behind Gemma Galgani’s well-known smile, a saint who always retained her serenity even though she endured misunderstandings and was afflicted by sufferings.
Father Moriconi is co-author of “Beyond Loneliness: The Message of Gemma Galgani” (“Oltre la Solitudine. Il Messaggio di Gemma Galgani”), published by Città Nuova.
He teaches exegesis and Christology at the Pontifical Faculty Teresianum of Rome, and at the Camillianum International Institute of Health Care Pastoral Theology.
Q: What is hidden behind St. Gemma Galgani’s smile, the saint of the Passion?
Father Moriconi: St. Gemma was really an attractive girl. But behind her smile, which we discuss in the first chapter of the book, there was much more: her attitude, welcoming and loving, and her serenity, derived from her faith.
Despite the sad incidents of her life, Gemma offered everything that befell her for the good of others. Behind her smile was the love of Jesus Christ for the whole of humanity.
“Jesus, I would like my voice to reach the confines of the whole world,” she said. In fact, St. Gemma told Christ that in prayer she “would call all and tell them to enter his heart.”
Despite the fact that she is identified precisely as the “saint of the Passion,” Gemma is not attracted by suffering as such, but by the love which drove the Lord to give everything, even allowing himself to be crucified to take the love of the Father to all.
Q: Why does Gemma “enrich the world with the force of love,” as you state?
Father Moriconi: Because once one discovers what really moves and sustains her, Gemma is one of those figures of which we are in great need. Although there is much talk about love today, the love exercised in our world is many times another side of egoism, and of desiring to have everything at all cost.
Instead, the love of the saints, such as Gemma’s, is really stronger than death, as it is that transparent and selfless love that we all need, regardless of our situation.
Q: How does one learn to have the trust that Gemma had to overcome loneliness?
Father Moriconi: We have chosen the title “Beyond Loneliness” for the book because it seems to us that it is, fundamentally, Gemma’s message for our time.
First of all, because she remained alone, was unable to enter a convent, and experienced to the highest degree the isolation of loneliness.
In the second place, because although the conditions were there for her to despair or to fall into depression, she had the grace to find the strength to live with serenity.
Thanks to her mother, who had taught her trust in the Lord and in Mary, she reflected profoundly within herself and found that presence which no one could ever take away.
She went deeply into the simple way of prayer, which each one of us can do, in addition to prayer in the Church, in the secret of our own heart, at home, on the street, in school, at work, on all occasions. In fact, the only weapon against loneliness is always to have a You to whom one can turn.
Q: Did Gemma feel out of place, wanting to be a nun but being unable to do so due to her precarious health?
Father Moriconi: To enter a convent was the only thing that she really wanted. Although she received marriage proposals on more than one occasion, Gemma felt she was called to a life of consecration in a convent.
When she was rejected for the umpteenth time by the convent of Tarquinia, where she would have been happy to carry out the most humble services, Gemma could not help express her disappointment.
“They don’t want me while I am alive but when I die they will look for me,” she told an aunt. Words that proved to be prophetic, given that the convent of the Passionist Sisters of Lucca has been built around St. Gemma’s Shrine.
Although she was not in the place where she wanted to be, Gemma did not abandon her daily commitments. Instead of questioning why these things were happening to her, including the rejection from the convent, she lived her life where she was.
Seeing her somewhat disappointed one day because of the nuns’ rejection, her brother Tonino said to her: “Don’t be upset; if you want to become a saint, you can do so outside the convent.”
His advice was wise and is valid for everyone, given that the ideal conditions to live in the best way do not exist, but one can live the best way in any condition, as St. John of the Cross taught with this maxim of absolute efficacy: “Where you see there is no love, put love, and you will get love.”
Q: Is her message attractive to young people?
Father Moriconi: It might seem that it is not, because of a certain unilateral way of presenting her figure, so full of extraordinary phenomena that studded her brief life. But it is, as we have tried to show in this little book.
We address real life in depth, its ideals and fears. Even a youth of today can rediscover St. Gemma as a travel companion, as well as a patroness.