In the center of Italy, a few hours’ drive from Rome, is a mountain range.
In the midst of the mountain range is its tallest group of peaks, the Gran Sasso, majestic and towering.
In the shadow of the Gran Sasso lies the tiny town of Isola, enveloped in a stunning, ethereal silence.
Opposite the mountain lies a shrine. Within the shrine lies a saint.
The saint’s name is St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother, and you’ve probably never heard of him. But we can almost guarantee you’re going to be friends.
Rewind to Spoleto, Italy (not far from Isola), sometime in the 1850s. Francesco Possenti, the teenaged son of a well-known lawyer, seemed to have a bright and successful future ahead of him. He was intelligent, talented, fun-loving, and popular. A happy—but secular—life among the well-to-do of Spoleto seemed assured.
But Francesco had made a promise. During a grave illness, he had promised God that he would become a religious if he recovered. The outgoing youth had regained his health, but put off fulfilling his promise.
Our Lady, however, did not forget. Once, in procession, Francesco saw an image of her that seemed to look at him and remind him that his place was not in this world.
So, after finishing school, he left everything behind to join the Passionist Congregation, an austere order dedicated to the Passion of Our Lord. He took the name Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows—a fitting title, since his love for the Sorrowful Mother would be a hallmark of his religious life.
As a Passionist, Brother Gabriel embraced complete obedience, humility, and the perfect observance of his order’s Rule. His love for Our Lady of Sorrows was that of a most devoted son. He wasn’t gifted with any particular spiritual favors or mystical experiences, but he found holiness in the faithful and loving performance of even the smallest duties.
In the midst of it all, Brother Gabriel’s joyful spirit was in no way diminished—on the contrary, it flourished. He was always bright, happy, and cheerful, even when tuberculosis began to erode his health. He died before turning 24 on February 27th, 1862, and was canonized less than sixty years later—the smiling saint who had traded in all the joys of the world achieving an everlasting crown in return.
St. Gabriel is a saint we can easily imitate in our own states in life by embracing our duties with love and joy. We can also join him in his devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows. The Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows is a beautiful devotion that will cultivate a love for Our Sorrowful Mother in your heart. At The Catholic Company, we offer a handcrafted Chaplet—designed and produced right here in Charlotte, NC—with beautiful black onyx beads. Includes instructions on how to pray the Chaplet. Begin this devotion as part of your Lenten routine. Order yours at The Catholic Company today!