February 27, 2024
Jude 1:20-21
February 27, 2024
Show all



Saint Gabriel was an Italian Passionist clerical student. Born to a professional family, he gave up ambitions of a secular career to enter the Passionist congregation. His life in the monastery was not extraordinary, yet he followed the rule of the congregation perfectly and was known for his great devotion to the sorrows of the Virgin Mary. He died from tuberculosis at the age of 23 in Isola del Gran Sasso, in the province of Teramo. He was canonized by Pope Benedict XV in 1920.

Francisco Possenti was born in Assisi on March 1, 1838, (March 1, 1838 – February 27, 1862), the eleventh child of Sante Possenti and Agnes Frisciotti. His father Sante was a distinguished Italian lawyer. The boy was given the name of the city’s illustrious patron, St. Francis, at baptism. Francis (who later look the religious name Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows) had a “sweet, good-humored, persevering, settled and generous temperament, and also possessed a sensible heart full of affection…He was well-spoken, proper, intelligent, loving and full of a surprising grace…” He was very tall in stature, had a good voice, was agile and well-formed.

In 1841 Sante moved the family to Spoleto where he was appointed magistrate. In that same year, the youngest Possenti child died at just six months old; Francis’ nine-year old sister, Adele, soon followed. Just days later, his heartbroken mother was also called to eternal life. Francis had lost his mother when he was just 4 years old. In 1846, Francis’ brother, Paul, was killed in the Italian war with Austria. Another brother, Lawrence, later took his own life.

Such events, however, did not rob Francis of his spirit and cheerfulness. During his formative years, Francis attended the school of the Christian brothers and then the Jesuit college in Spoleto. Young Francis wished to join the Jesuits but was turned down, as he was not yet 17. Following the death of a sister to cholera, his resolve to enter religious life became even stronger. At sixteen, he suffered a life-threatening illness. Praying for a cure, Francis promised to become a religious.

With recovery, however, Francis quickly forgot his promise. But God’s call would not be denied, and Francis soon turned his heart to the Congregation of the Passionists. The decisive step was taken while seeing the highly honored miraculous picture of our Lady in Spoleto borne about in solemn procession.

As his eyes followed our Blessed Mother, Francis felt the fire of divine love rising in his heart and almost at once made the resolve to join the Passionists, a religious congregation dedicated to the veneration of and meditation on the passion of Christ (1856).

Sante Possenti was less than pleased with his teenage son’s decision. But the young man was not to be dissuaded. Immediately after completion of his schooling, he left for the Passionist novitiate in Morrovalle. In the novitiate, he cultivated a great love for Christ Crucified. Francis received the Passionist habit on September 21, 1856, which that year was the Feast of the Sorrowful Mother. He was given the name: Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows.

A year later he took his vows. His monastic life preparing for the priesthood made Gabriel a secluded, non-public figure. His writings reflect his close relationship with God and His mother. Gabriel’s heroism lay in his obedient attitude.

He conformed himself to his community in complete humility. Little is known of his life – only that he was blessed with an excellent memory and other gifts that made him an outstanding student. He also had a great devotion to the Passion of Christ and the Sorrows of Mary.

The new Passionist province of Pieta, to which Gabriel belonged, was in the center of chaos in Italy. By 1860, the Passionists had ceased apostolic work due to the growing threats surrounding the community. For safety’s sake, the Passionist superiors transferred all their novices to an isolated monastery at Isola in the Abruzzi Mountains of the kingdom of Naples. Soldiers arrived in Isola and went about robbing buildings and burning houses. Gabriel asked permission to go into town in order to help the frightened townspeople.

He soon encountered a soldier who had apprehended a young girl. The soldiers mocked the young monk. They seemed to think that an ordinary monk would not stand-up to a soldier. But, eventually, Brother Gabriel forced the company to leave the village in peace. Struck with tuberculosis at the age of 24, Gabriel died in 1862 before his ordination to the priesthood. His fidelity to prayer, joyfulness of spirit and habitual mortifications stand out in his otherwise ordinary and mundane life.

Possenti was buried the day of his death. His companion in the novitiate, Bernard Mary of Jesus, exclaimed:
“Tears come to my eyes and I am filled with shame for having been so far from the virtues that he attained in such a short time.” Immediately thereafter, Norbert wrote a biography of his life. In 1866, four years after the death of Possenti, the Passionists were forced to abandon the monastery of Isola del Gran Sasso, and the church where Possenti lay buried went deserted for 30 years. Since his death, the fame of Possenti’s sanctity had spread through the local area, and amongst the Passionists.

In 1891, the Congregation decided to formally open proceedings for Possenti’s canonisation and, a year later, a committee visited his grave to examine his remains. Upon the arrival of the committee at Isola del Gran Sasso, the townspeople surrounded the church, determined not to have the body of Possenti taken from their midst. Two years later the Passionist returned to resume their life at Isola del Gran Sasso near the city of Teramo.

The two miracles presented for the beatification of Gabriel were the inexplicable healings of Maria Mazzarella from pulmonary tuberculosis and periostitis, and the instantaneous cure of Dominic Tiber from an inoperable hernia.


Possenti was beatified by Pope Pius X on 31 May 1908. Present at the ceremony were his brother Michael, his companion Sylvester, and his director, Norbert. The outbreak of the First World War delayed Possenti’s canonisation for a while, but on 13 May 1920, he was raised to the altars by Pope Benedict XV.

Pope Leo XIII said of him: “Because of his filial love for Mary at the foot of the cross, he deserves to take his place by St. John, the beloved disciple, to whom Jesus in his dying hour commended his Mother.” On Ascension Day, 1920, Pope Benedict XV bestowed the honors of sainthood on a youth who is rightly called the Aloysius of the 19th century. Thousands of divine favors are attributed to his intercession with Christ Crucified and Mary, Mother of Sorrows.

Saint Gabriel wrote: “Love Mary! She is loveable, faithful, constant. She will never let herself be outdone in love, but will ever remain supreme. If you are in danger, she will hasten to free you. If you are troubled, she will console you. If you are sick, she will bring you relief. If you are in need, she will help you.

She does not look to see what kind of person you have been. She simply comes to a heart that wants to love her. She comes quickly and opens her merciful heart to you, embraces you and consoles and serves you. She will even be at hand to accompany you on the trip to eternity”.

St. Gabriel’s life reveals that a profound love for the Mother of Sorrows is of the very essence of the Passionist charism, for it was Mary who appeared to young Paul Francis Daneo, the Passionist founder, and called him to found the Congregation. Gabriel is known for writing, “Our perfection does not consist of doing extraordinary things but of doing the ordinary well.” He is patron of Abruzzi region of Italy, Catholic Action, clerics, students, and young people.


O Good Saint Gabriel, God inspired you to see the Passion of Jesus as it was reflected in the heart of Mary His Mother. By her side you stood beneath the cross of Jesus, gazing on Him as she did and learning the meaning of love. O Saint Gabriel, we wish, like you, to grow in love for God and all God’s people.

Remember us in our trials, remember especially those who are young. Support us by your prayers all our days. And when this life is done may we join you in heaven in the company of Jesus and Mary. Amen

Post your prayer

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *