Tag: Saint Gemma Galgani

St. Gemma Galgani And The Miraculous Crucifix Of Volto Santo.

St. Gemma Galgani And The Miraculous Crucifix Of Volto Santo.

​St. Gemma Galgani and the Miraculous Crucifix of Volto Santo.

Saint Gemma often prayed before the miraculous “Volto Santo” (Holy Face in English) in the Cathedral of San Martino in her hometown of Lucca. It is before this image of the Volto Santo or “Holy Face” that Gemma would pour out the love and concerns of her heart to her beloved Jesus. In fact we read in her Autobiography that it was before the Volto Santo crucifix in the Cathederal of Santo Martino that Gemma saw and met the Passionists for the first time.

Here is what she wrote:

“The month of June was almost over and near the end of the month a mission began in the church of San Martino….(This mission was held in the Cathedral of St. Martin from June 25 to July 9, 1899. It was preached by the following Passionist Fathers: Cajetan, Adalbert, Callistus and Ignatius. -editor).

I cannot describe the impression made on me when I saw those priests preach! The impression was very great because I saw that they were clothed with the same kind of habit that Brother Gabriel was wearing the first time I saw him (in a vision -ed.) I was seized with such an affection for them that I never missed a sermon from that day until the end of the mission.

The last day of the mission arrived and all the people were gathered in the church for the general Communion. I was among the large crowd and Jesus, who was greatly pleased, made Himself strongly felt by my soul and he said to me: “Gemma, do you like the habit that priest is wearing?” (He indicated a Passionist who was somewhat distant from me). I did not answer with words but my heart answered him with its palpitations. He added:Would you like to be clothed with the same habit?” “My God!” I exclaimed, “Yes.” Jesus continued, “You will be a daughter of my Passion, and a well beloved daughter. One of these sons (of the Passion) will be your father. Go and reveal everything.” And I saw that Jesus indicated Father Ignatius.

So, we see in Gemma’s own words how Jesus spoke to her before the Volto Santo crucifix in the Cathederal of Santo Martino. But what are the origins of this miraculous crucifix?

The wooden crucifix known as Volto Santo (Holy Face) was also known in earlier times as the Holy Cross. It is reverently enshrined in a free-standing, small octagonal structure (Tempietto) located in the north aisle of the cathedral dedicated to St. Martino in Lucca, Italy. Surrounding the holy figure are countless silver and gold hearts, crosses, rings, pins and medallions which were offered as tokens of appreciation for the miracles and favors received from the wonder-working image.

Miraculous Crucifix of Volto Santo

An ancient legend tells that the crucifix was carved from a cedar of Lebanon by a man named Nicodemus. The legend also reveals that the Italian Bishop Gualfredo, while he was a pilgrim in the Holy Land, obtained possession of the Volto Santo and embarked with it in a boat without a crew or sails. Finally, after miraculously escaping pirates, the boat drifted through the Mediterranean and went ashore on the beach at Luni, near La Spezia. As the worshippers at Luni and Lucca disputed possession of the holy image, the Bishop of Lucca decided to leave the choice of its final destination to the Divine Will. Placing it on a cart driven by oxen, the animals-of their own accord-set off for Lucca. This is said to have taken place during the eighth century.

Miracles through the Volto Santo Crucifix.

The first miracle performed by the Volto Santo involved a poor minstrel who had come from France as a pilgrim. Unable to present the image with an offering, he was despondent, but then decided to offer what he had. As best he could, he began to play his lute in front of the holy image. When the humble performance was completed, the image, as a token of appreciation, let fall one of its silver slippers, dropping it in front of the minstrel. Accepting this gift from the Crucified, the minstrel kept the slipper, but was captured a short time later and charged with sacrilegious theft. Judged guilty, his innocence was only established by divine intervention. Since the time of this miracle one of the slippers of the Volto Santo has been supported by a silver cup resembling a chalice.

In the Middle Ages the legend of the Holy Cross and the reports of its miracles spread quickly throughout France, Flanders, London and all the countries visited by the merchants of Lucca. The image was so well known in England that even the monarchy knew of it. It is said that King William II of England used to swear “per sanctum vultum de Luca’ (“by the holy face of Lucca”).

The Volto Santo eventually became the symbol of Lucca. Its image can be found engraved on the coins of the town and on the seals of the Corte dei Mercanti (the Merchants’ Guilds). The Volto Santo is also mentioned by Dante Alighieri in his book “Inferno”. [and speaking of Dante, an interesting side note is that Dante’s wife was also named “Gemma”).

Miraculous Crucifix of Volto Santo

Disputing the legend previously mentioned, it is the prevailing opinion that the Volto Santo is the work of a Lombard master of the second half of the eleventh century. Extant documents make mention that the Volto Santo was preceded in St. Martino’s by another crucifix of which there are no records, except that it is known to have been very old. This might have been the crucifix of the legend. Regardless, the Volto Santo has been regarded as miraculous since its arrival in Lucca, a claim that has always been respected.

The holy crucifix was originally of polychrome wood, but the blackening produced during the centuries by the smoke of candles and incense has given the whole figure a very distinctive gloss. During the annual September festivities in honor of the Holy Cross, the Volto Santo is adorned with precious ornaments: a velvet tunic lavishly decorated with gold embroidery, a tall golden crown, a gold collar and costly ornaments. On the thirteenth of September at sunset, a candlelight procession, attended by the whole of Lucca, makes its way through the town. 

Gemma surely attended these yearly celebrations with the joy of seeing her Jesus loved and honored by the many people, and with her heart all on fire with love for Him.

May Saint Gemma teach us to love Jesus with all our hearts, and to sacrifice and suffer out of love for Him. 

St Gemma, pray for us!



How Jesus Gave The Stigmata (Holy Wounds) To St. Gemma Galgani

How Jesus Gave The Stigmata (Holy Wounds) To St. Gemma Galgani

The Stigmata of St. Gemma Galgani

The Stigmata of St Gemma Galgani. Excerpts gotten From “The Autobiography of St. Gemma Galgani

Jesus gives St Gemma the stigmata.

“On June 8th (1899) after Communion, Jesus told me that that evening He would give me a very great grace. I went that same day to Confession, and I told Monsignor (Monsignor Giovanni Volpi, Gemma’s confessor –editor). He told me to be very attentive, so that I could tell him about it afterwards.

Evening came, and all of a sudden, earlier than usual, I felt an interior sorrow for my sins, far deeper than I had ever experienced before. In fact, it brought me very, very close to death. After this, all the powers of my soul became recollected. I could think of nothing but my sins, and the offense that they gave to God. My memory recalled all my past sins to mind, and made me see all the torments that Jesus had suffered in order to save me. And my will made me detest them, and promise to be willing to suffer anything in order to expiate them. My mind was flooded with thoughts; thoughts of sorrow, of love, of fear, of hope and of comfort.

Following this interior recollection, I was quickly rapt out of my senses, and I found myself before my heavenly Mother (Blessed Virgin Mary –editor). At her right stood my guardian angel, who told me to make an act of contrition. When I had finished it my blessed Mother said to me:

Daughter—In the name of Jesus, your sins are forgiven.” Then she added: “Jesus my Son loves you very much, and He wishes to give you a grace. Do you know how to make yourself worthy of it?” In my misery I did not know what to answer. She continued “I will be your Mother. Will you be a true daughter?” She then spread her mantle and covered me with it.

At that moment Jesus appeared with all His wounds open, but blood no longer came out of those wounds. Rather, flames of fire issued forth from them and in an instant these flames came to touch my hands, my feet and my heart. I felt as if I would die. I fell to the floor, but my Mother supported me, keeping me covered in her mantle. I had to remain several hours in that position. Finally she kissed me on my forehead, and all vanished, and I found myself kneeling on the floor. But I still felt an intense pain in my hands, feet and heart. I arose to go to bed, and I then noticed that blood was flowing from those parts where I felt pain. I covered them as well as I could, and then with the help of my angel, I was able to go to bed. These sufferings and pains, although they afflicted me, filled me with perfect peace. The next morning I was able to go to Communion only with great difficulty, and I put on a pair of gloves in order to hide my hands. I could hardly stand on my feet, and I thought I would die at any minute. The sufferings continued until 3pm on Friday afternoon, the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

(The solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church every year on the 19th day after Pentecost. The stigmata of St Gemma Galgani occurred on the vigil of this feast, June 8, 1899 -editor)

Such is Gemma’s simple written account of how she first received that most marvellous of gifts, the sa­cred Stigmata, or marks of our Lord’s Five Wounds. The following morning she went as usual to Church to participate at Holy Mass, despite the terrible pains, and she put glo­ves on her hands to cover and hide her wounds. But she was very far from feeling the smallest pride or vainglory because of them, on the contrary she began to wonder whether they were a gift bestowed to all people consecrated by vow to Jesus Crucified. She began also to gently question people in such a way so as to find out whether they had experienced anything of the same kind. 

As the days went on the blood kept flowing, and not knowing what to do, she felt that she must tell someone of the family about it. Fi­nally she went to one of her aunts and in the most simple way she showed her the wounds in her hands and said:
“Aunt, just look at what Jesus has done me!”.
Her aunt was completely stunned, and gazed at her in amaze­ment, and knowing Gemma she realized at once that those wounds were due to some supernatural mystery, but she was far from expecting what happened afterwards, na­mely, that for a long time to come Gemma would receive this marvellous and keenly painful favour every week on Thursday night, and that it was to continue until about 3:00pm on Friday afternoons. 

No preparation whatever preceded the phenomenon, it came upon her always quickly, with a sudden “call” of of her spirit which was then followed by a rapture, during which the wounds appeared in her hands, feet and side, sometimes deeper and more visible than at other limes, but always causing intense suffering, and always disappearing on Friday afternoon or early on Saturday morning. The disappearance of her wounds was as well remarkable: as soon as the ecstasy on Friday was over, the flow of blood from all the wounds ceased, the flesh quickly healed, and on the following day, or at the latest on Sunday, not a trace of those deep gashes remained. Only a whitish mark was left where the wounds had been. 

This extraordinary grace of the stigmata was repeated on each Thursday evening from 8:00pm until the following Friday afternoon at 3:00pm, the hour in which our Lord Jesus died on the cross. In Gemma’s last three years of her life it completely ceased, out of obedience to her spiritual director who forbade it, and Jesus, who always respects obedience above all things, caused the stigmata to cease at the request of her director, however the white marks were distinctly visible upon her body, and especially on her feet, even when she died. And so when Gemma’s spiritual director, Padre Germano Ruoppolo told her to ask God to remove all exterior signs of the passion, she humbly obeyed and prayed that the stigmata and other exterior signs be removed, at least from outward appearance. God seconded the authority of the Priest and answered Gemma’s prayer. For the remainder of her life the exterior signs of the Stigmata were removed, however she often continued to suffer the Stigmata interiorly. During this time she was heard in ecstasy to say: “Oh Jesus, I would give you my hands and my feet, but my director has forbidden it. Take my heart then; that at least I can give.”

This picture is an actual drawing of the wounds by Gemma’s spirtual director, Venerable Father Germanus C.P. (Note: You can click on the drawing-picture to enlarge it)

Gemma had become Jesus’ little victim of love, waiting on His Will for everything. She had learned very well from Him that love is shown by sacrifice, and this knowledge deepened her thirst after suf­fering. And a worthy victim of Love she was! His Wounds upon herself became the treasure of her life and her haven of refuge. And like five precious jewels they adorned her. In union with the wounds of Jesus she found in them all that she wish­ed, and in their blood she bathed and offered all her sufferings and sacrifices, most especially for the conversion of sinners, and for the souls in purgatory; and her message is that we may do likewise, by offering Jesus wounds and blood for ourselves, our loved ones and others. 

–St Gemma, pray for us!

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