On a summer day a little over a
hundred years ago, a slim figure in a black cassock
stood facing a gang of mercenaries in a small town in
Piedmont, Italy. He had just disarmed one of the
soldiers who was attacking a young girl, had faced the
rest of the band fearlessly, then drove them all out of
the village at the point of a gun. The young man was
Francesco Possenti, whose father was lawyer for the
Papal States and who had recently joined the Passionist
Order, taking the name of Brother Gabriel.
He became very sick during his school years and had
promised that if he got better, he would dedicate his
life to God. St. Gabriel Possenti got better and forgot
about it. He got sick again and made the same promise,
but again got well and forgot his promise. Once, during
a church procession in which a great banner of Our Lady,
Help of Christians, was being carried, the eyes of Our
Lady looked straight at him and he heard the words:
"Keep your promise." Shaken, he remembered his promise,
changed his life completely, and entered the Passionists.
He hoped to be sent to the missions after his ordination
to the priesthood, but at the young age of twenty-four,
he died. Canonized in 1920, he is, along with St.
Aloysius, one of the patrons of youth. He was very fond
of his family and is particularly remembered as a
remarkable young man who, at the age of twenty, threw
all aside for God, determined to become a saint.
From 'The Catholic One Year Bible': . . . Suddenly his
face began to shine with glory, and his clothing became
dazzling white, . . . a cloud covered them, blotting out
the sun, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my
beloved Son. Listen to him."—Mark 9:2-3, 7