Acta Sanctorum: St. Gabriel Possenti (Feb 27)
February 27, 2024
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.



February 27
St. Gabriel Possenti of the Sorrowful Mother

Life (1838-1862)

Rather contemporary for a saint, Francis Possenti was an unusual combination of “young man about town” and ancient ascete.

Born in Assisi, one of 13 children of a distinguished lawyer, Francis was given at baptism the Christian name of Assisi’s great patron saint. Indeed, his youth somewhat resembled that of St. Francis of Assisi. Since his father, like that of Francis Bernardone, was prosperous, Francis Possenti had time for diversions and adventure. He got into scraps, went hunting, rode horseback, played penny ante, smoked tobacco, patronized theater and opera. He enjoyed dancing, and was kiddingly called by his friends “Il Damerino" (“The Ladies’ Man”); although Maria Pannechetti, the one girl who was fondest of him and whom his father wanted him to marry, did not interest him that much. If all this sounds terribly “worldly”, it was actually very light-hearted. He was simply full of teen-age fun, and well-liked for his happy disposition.

Along the line, however, he became convinced that he was called to the religious life, and specifically to the Passionist Fathers. His father was put out by this decision. Not that he minded having a priest for a son - he had one already, a Dominican. But he had had other plans for the quick-witted, sociable Francis and he thought the Passionists too strict. So when the monastery sent the son its letter of acceptance, the father hid the letter. Finally, however, Francesco left anyhow for the Passionist novitiate at Morrovalle. Then he was given the religious name “Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows.” Meanwhile the father still had not consented, nor would he attend his son’s profession of vows a year later.

From the day of Gabriel’s entrance into the Congregation of the Passion, his aim was to achieve perfection by the rule; to become a perfect Passionist. This included the cheerful acceptance of tuberculosis, which was to bring about his death when only 24. He also had towards Our Lady a strong but manly devotion. He was no sentimentalist. His monastic life preparing for the priesthood – that he did not live to receive – made Gabriel a secluded, non-public figure. Yet there was one day during this “retiring” period when he came forth from the monastery on a mission that recalled the vigorous Francesco Possenti of earlier years.

In the mid-nineteenth century, Victor Emmanuel II, the King of Piedmont, was engaged in a series of military and political campaigns to unite and gain control of Italy. During this period the various Italian provinces were overrun by Piedmontese soldiers engaged not only in battle, but in plunder. For safety’s sake, the Passionist superiors transferred all their novices to a remote monastery near Isola in the Abruzzi Mountains. Yet even there it was reported one day that a company of soldiers was coming to pillage the town. Most of the townsfolk fled to the mountains. The soldiers arrived, got drunk, and went about robbing buildings and burning houses.

Brother Gabriel got permission to go into town to see if he could help in any way. He encountered there a soldier who had seized a young girl. The soldier mocked the monk; but Gabriel quickly seized the man’s pistol, pointed it at him and ordered him to release the frightened girl. Another soldier then came up. Gabriel ordered him to hand over his pistol, and this he took in his other hand. More soldiers drew near, loaded down with booty. They seemed to think that an ordinary monk would not know how to use a gun on them. To prove the contrary, Gabriel shot at a lizard running nearby and made a direct hit. Eventually, the Passionist Brother forced the whole company to put down their booty, extinguish the fires they had set, and troop out of the village.

Recently, some pistol fans have asked the present pope to name St. Gabriel Possenti the patron saint of pistol-bearers. The Passionists have rightly rejected such a thought. Even if Gabriel knew how to use a gun in self-defense, he would surely have deplored showing any fondness for a weapon that has been used to assassinate Pope John Paul II and many other victims of modern terrorism.

After Brother Gabriel had saved their village, the people of Isola acclaimed him as their hero. Posterity would acclaim him a saint. He did indeed prove to be a “perfect Passionist.” St. Gabriel Possenti was canonized in 1920. A great crowd of cardinals and bishops attended the canonization. Although it was 58 years since the young saint’s death, three persons who had known him well attended the rite. One was his nurse of his last illness, and another was his own brother Michael Possenti. The third was none other than Maria Pannechetti, the girl he left behind him.   --Father Robert F. McNamara

Scripture (Phil 3:8-14)

I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.  I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.  Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.


(Year B) If Mary is for me, who can be against me? I recommend to you a strong, constant devotion to Mary, our most holy and sorrowful virgin. Think often of her and sympathize with her in her sufferings. Then, this loving mother, who is never outdone in kindness, will in tum comfort you. Pour out your heart to her. Speak to her of your trials and your needs. Commend your family to her, and the important concern of your soul. Remind her of me also, as I am in great need.   Say to her often: I beg you, my Lady, holy Mary, take care of this matter-requesting a favor for yourself or someone else. We should have more confidence in this tender mother of ours who promises in Scripture that she will love those who love her: Those who love me, I also love. She declares with Isaiah: Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even if she should forget, I will never forget you. How much we cost her! She remembers the pangs she suffered in bringing us forth on Calvary. She chose that her own beloved Son should die bleeding on the cross rather than that we should be forever lost.

If we only thought of this occasionally, we would perhaps love this dear, fond mother a little more; we would confide in her a little more, and we would not fear hell so much. Rather, when threatened or terrified by hell, we would think to appeal more to her and say: If Mary is for me, who can be against me? Not God, because she conciliates him as his beloved daughter. Not Christ, the judge, because with a mother's influence she asks him to pardon us. Not sins, because they rate as nothing in the presence of her mercy. Not hell, because Satan is terrified when I say Hail Mary. Finally, not men, because the Holy Spirit says that she is as awe-in- spiring as bannered troops. How much more soundly we would sleep, how much more cheerful we would be, in fact, how much more like heaven our life would be, if we left ourselves totally in her hands and said to her: Into your hands, O Lady, I place my cause. If we have Mary with us, we have everything; if she is not with us, we lack everything. If Mary protects us, we shall be saved; if she should abandon us, we would perish. It is not I who say this; it is the saints.

Therefore, let us love Mary, not merely by practicing some little devotion, but with genuine dedication. Let us sacrifice ourselves, even greatly, to avoid displeasing her. Let us be faithful to her and thus be assured of our eternal salvation. Saint Alphonsus says: She loves us very much, with a love as great as all mothers combined have for their children, as all men have for their wives, as all the saints and angels have for their devotees. All this love would not equal the love that Mary has for one solitary soul. It is a great saint who says this.  Think over it well and then, if you can, refuse your love and your heart to this loveable and adorable Virgin. (Letters)

Musical Selection (Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles)

O YE who pass along the way 
All joyous, where with grief I pine, 
In pity pause awhile, and say, 
Was ever sorrow like to mine?
See, hanging here before my eyes, 
This body, bloodless, bruis'd, and torn,--- 
Alas! it is my Son Who dies, 
Of love deserving, not of scorn. 
For know, this weak and dying Man 
Is Son of Him Who made the earth 
And me, before the world began, 
He chose to give Him human birth. 
He is my God! and since that night 
When first I saw His infant grace, 
My soul has feasted on the light, 
The beauty of that heavenly face. 
And now behold this loving Son 
Is dying in a woe so great, 
The very stones are moved to moan 
In sorrow at His piteous state. 
Eternal Father! God of love! 
Behold Thy Son! ah! see His woe!
Canst Thou look down from Heaven above 
And for Thy Son no pity show? 
But, no-----that Father sees His Son 
Cloth'd with the sins of guilty men; 
And spares not that Beloved One, 
Though dying on His cross of pain. 
My Son! my Son! could I at least 
Console Thee in this hour of death, 
Could I but lay Thee on my breast. 
And there receive Thy parting breath!
Alas! no comfort I impart; 
Nay, rather this my vain regret 
But rends still more Thy loving heart 
And makes Thy death more bitter yet. 
Ah, loving souls! love, love that God 
Who all inflamed with love expires; 
On thee this life He has bestowed; 
Thy love is all that He desires.



Lord,  you gave Saint Gabriel of our Lady of Sorrows

a special love for your Mother and a compassion for her sorrows.

Through her, you raised him to the heights of holiness.

Give us great devotion to her sorrows, that we may know her as our loving Mother.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,  God, for ever and ever. Amen.