Thoughts for the Feast of St Gemma Galgani from Fr Willie Doyle

St Gemma Galgani

O my God, pour out in abundance Thy spirit of sacrifice upon Thy priests. It is both their glory and their duty to become victims, to be burnt up for souls, to live without ordinary joys, to be often the objects of distrust, injustice, and persecution.

The words they say every day at the altar, “This is my Body, this is my Blood,” grant them to apply to themselves: “I am no longer myself, I am Jesus, Jesus crucified. I am, like the bread and wine, a substance no longer itself, but by consecration another.”

O my God, I burn with desire for the sanctification of Thy priests. I wish all the priestly hands which touch Thee were hands whose touch is gentle and pleasing to Thee, that all the mouths uttering such sublime words at the altar should never descend to speaking trivialities.

Let priests in all their person stay at the level of their lofty functions, let every man find them simple and great, like the Holy Eucharist, accessible to all yet above the rest of men. O my God, grant them to carry with them from the Mass of today, a thirst for the Mass of tomorrow, and grant them, ladened themselves with gifts, to share these abundantly with their fellow men. Amen.

COMMENT: Today’s quote comes from Fr Doyle’s prayer for priests. Fr Doyle was deeply concerned about priests – he wrote two hugely successful booklets on the priesthood and religious life; he assisted many men (and women) in finding their vocations; he developed very innovative fundraising schemes to help young men pay for their seminary formation; he was the Director General for Ireland of the League for Priestly Sanctity. Furthermore, he offered many of his severe penances in reparation for the sins of priests. This message of priestly sanctity is always timely, but perhaps never more so than in Ireland at this time.

In addition to being Tuesday of Holy Week, today is the feast of St Gemma. She was a simple Italian lay woman who died in 1903 at the age of 25 (she was born 5 years after Fr Doyle). She was unable to join a convent, so she lived a simple and modest life in the world. She was also the recipient of numerous mystical gifts, though of course these themselves are not the reason for her canonisation.

St Gemma herself also felt that Jesus was calling her to prayer for priests, and she regularly offered her own sufferings for them. St Gemma once felt that Jesus was saying the following to her:

I have need of a great expiation specially for the sins and sacrileges by which ministers of the sanctuary are offending me.

Let us all therefore pray for our priests, and support them at this difficult time. And let us also remember that all of us are called to holiness in whatever state of life was are in!

Fr Doyle was an early devotee of St Gemma’s. Her biography was first published in English in 1913 (just 4 years before his death) and we are told that he would sometimes pick a page at random at use it as inspiration for his prayer. Recently I had the opportunity to examine some of Fr Doyle’s diaries, and flicking through one of them I found a photograph of St Gemma that had been cut from a newspaper, presumably by Fr Doyle himself – an intimate sign of Fr Doyle’s devotion to this beautiful saint. 

For those who desire more information about St Gemma, there is an excellent website dedicated to St Gemma here: http://www.stgemmagalgani.com/

Advertisements

Thoughts for the Tuesday of Holy Week from Fr Willie Doyle

My denial of Jesus has been baser than that of Peter, for I have refused to listen to His voice calling me back for fifteen years. But Jesus has won my heart in this retreat by His patient look of love. God grant my repentance may in some degree be like St Peter’s. I could indeed weep bitterly for the wasted sinful past in the Society. The time I have squandered, the little good done, and the amount of harm done by my bad example in every house in which I have been. What might I not have done for Jesus! Dear Jesus, You forgave St Peter, forgive me also, for I will serve you now.

COMMENT: The denial of our Lord by St Peter contains many powerful lessons for us. St Peter was an intimate friend of Jesus. He witnessed the miracles. He saw the dead rise to life, the blind see, the deaf hear and the dumb speak. He saw devils cast out and the paralysed get up and walk. He saw Jesus calm a storm and walk on water. He was there are the Transfiguration. Jesus taught him how to pray. He had left everything and followed the Master. He urged Jesus not to go to Jerusalem and risk death. He didn’t feel worthy to have Jesus wash his feet, and promised him that he would die for him. When the guards came to arrest Jesus, he pulled out his sword to defend him. Peter was the Rock, the leader of the Apostles and the first pope. He had just been at the Last Supper, that most intimate final meal with Christ…

And then he failed. The man who would die for Jesus denied him when a maid and some other random bystanders said that he was a friend of Jesus.

Then Jesus looked at him. How low he must have felt. The movie The Passion of the Christ has a wonderful scene where, after his denial, Peter goes to Mary. He knows that she will have pity on him. Three times she reaches out to him, and three times he pulls back. In sorrow herself, she consoles him and prays for him. The video below captures some of this drama.

We may not have physically lived in Jesus’ presence the same way Peter did, but we have received His grace and we have seen the effects of that grace in our own lives and in the lives of others. We have received many gifts from Him. We have the examples of countless holy lives over the past two thousand years to give us an example of how we should live. We have received the sacraments. Depending on our age, we may well have received the Lord in the Eucharist thousands of times. And still we deny Him by our unfaithfulness. Perhaps we even deny Him by joining in with criticism of His Church, by undermining the teaching of the Gospels, or by staying silent when we could defend it.

Like Fr Doyle, we may feel that we have gone on for years denying Jesus. Well, let us then learn some lessons from St Peter who was so contrite after his fall that he thought it nothing to suffer imprisonment and death for the One he had denied. St Peter repented. He did not despair like Judas did. Judas, too, could have been repented. Jesus would have forgiven him. We would today know him as St Judas, perhaps the greatest convert in history. He could have been an extraordinary witness to the mercy of Christ. But alas…

There are other important lessons we can take from this episode. We are told that Peter was warming himself at a fire when he denied Jesus. Was it the lack of a spirit of mortification that weakened his will and lead to his fall? We are told that he followed Jesus “from afar”. Was it his lack of closeness with Jesus that undermined his resolve and fortitude? We are told that his first denial came after a maid asked him if he knew Jesus. Was he more fearful of the judgement of the maid (the judgement of the world?) than the judgement of God? Did he fall because of what is termed “human respect” – a fear of the opinion of others? We are also told that instead of watching and praying with Jesus in the Garden, Peter slept. Not only once, but three times. Perhaps he failed because he did not watch and pray that he would not be put to the test.

But not everyone was asleep that night. The enemies of Jesus were wide awake and coming in the night to take Him by force, all while his friends slept. How little has changed in the last 2,000 years…