Something I almost never do – daytime channel hopping.
There on the screen an old celebrity DJ cycling down the Italian Apennine hills into the old walled city of Lucca.
It looked stunningly picturesque and quiet and so we immediately decided to book a budget airline plane ticket and discover this hidden gem of Tuscany.
It was a place that destiny would bring me back to more than once as in its delightful maze of shady cobbled streets, the amber glow of terracotta rooftops and heady jasmine scented gardens and saints a plenty I discovered the young and beautiful Gemma Galgani and her Passion.
Saint Gemma, a young stigmatist, mystic and visionary was the very first canonized saint to have lived in the 20th Century and her deep humility and with her suffering, she contracted tuberculosis, meningitis, severe infections and bore cancer in a way that was supernatural.
But more than this alone was her undivided love of the Saviour who she longed to be with for ever.
Her special place in her local parish church was on the very back row by the door (sound familiar?) mind you her excuse was to deflect attention from her own impending sanctity as she was unable to hide away in a convent and keep secret her bleeding Wounds of Christ.
The wide and high city walls of Lucca are still totally intact and surround the city completely and so in a gentle hour’s walk a 360 degree panoramic stroll enables you to perfectly commune and meditate with the incredible landscape and to follow the footsteps of one so enabled by love in love with He who created us.
Two Feast days for the Price of One
The official Feast Day (Memorial) for St. Gemma is April 11th. However for the Passionist Congregation, this feast day is celebrated on May 16th. The reason is because April 11th the day on which she died originally hosted the Feast day of St Leo the Great, so May 16th was selected by the Passionists as it was a “free” saints day in the calendar and close to the day of her official canonisation May 14th.
As we honour Santa Gemma Galgani on her feast days in April and May she is like the blue azure precious stone reflecting a guiding light helping to extinguishing the darkness that may lurk in our modern lives.
St. Gemma the patron of Pharmacists, Students, and those with back pain, is entombed in Lucca’s Passionist large green domed Sanctuary and makes for a blessed rewarding detour from Tuscany’s more popular cities of Florence and Pisa.
“I shall love You. I shall love You always. When day breaks, when evening turns into night, at every hour, at every moment I shall love You always, always, always”
John-Paul Kirkham is CTS author. Read more on Saint Gemma Galgani with the CTS Great Saints booklet.