St Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows

Confessor (entered heaven this day in 1862)

Dear Gabriela,

Don’t be so foolish.  If you stay out in the sun, you’ll get burned; and if you hang out with pagans (by profession or by practice), your faith will wane.  It’s that simple. Use your imagination a little. Imagine yourself fifteen years from now, married, with four children. Would you be careless about the kids they hang out with?  Would you be careless about the activities they get involved in? Would you be utterly careless about what they watch on TV, what Web sites they frequent, what books and magazines they dive into?  I doubt it. Well, you should take equally good care of your own soul. I want to share with you an excerpt from a letter written by today’s saint after he had entered the Passionists’ novitiate, just a few years before he died of tuberculosis.  

Gabriel Possenti was a popular, normal boy of a prosperous family (thirteen children) that lived in central Italy.  He loved all the normal activities of his time – games, theatre (the theatre was as common for them as movies are for us), parties, etc.  Only after being miraculously cured (as he believed) two separate times from odd diseases that brought him to the verge of death did he finally respond to the vocation he had long perceived.  And as soon as he entered the religious life he began exercising the Christian virtues in little ways but with great eagerness. God only granted him a few years of this exemplary life (he died before ordination, when he was only 24), but it was enough to renew his companions’ enthusiasm for following Christ and impress young and old alike with his love for God’s will.  

Soon after he entered the novitiate he wrote a letter to a friend, which I believe you may find interesting.  Keep in mind that Gabriel never got involved in any seriously sinful activities (robbery, murderous rivalries, promiscuity), and yet he still bewails the carelessness with which he chose his friends and his pastimes before he entered the seminary:

“Dear Philip, if you truly love your soul, shun bad companions; shun the theatre.  I know by experience how very difficult it is when entering such places in the state of grace to come away without having lost it, or at least exposed it to great danger.  Avoid pleasure-parties and avoid evil books. I assure you that if I had remained in the world [i.e. instead of entering consecrated life], it seems certain to me that I should not have saved my soul.  Tell me, could anyone have indulged in more amusements than I? Well, and what is the result? Nothing but bitterness and fear. Dear Philip, do not despise me, for I speak from my heart…”

Of course, I don’t mean for you to shut yourself up in your dorm room and wear blinders – not at all.  You are a college student, and God needs you to be normal, to be present and active in college culture so that you can be an instrument of his grace.  But don’t be foolish, don’t be naïve, take care to protect yourself from seductive but evil influences, listen to your conscience, and build up relationships that will bolster your faith.  That way you will not only avoid many temptations, but you will also begin to experience the incomparable joy that accompanies a real friendship with Jesus Christ.

Count on my prayers.  Uncle Eddy

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