View all Uncle Eddy | February 27, 2018
St Gabriel Possenti of Our Lady of Sorrows
(central Italy), (entered heaven on this day, 1862)
Maybe I’m just getting old, but I can’t figure you out. Why are you afraid of adventure? Why are you afraid of the less-traveled road? Why are you afraid of God? You say that you know in your heart God is calling you to be a priest. Then WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!? I mean that question literally: what are you waiting for? God is never going to force you into it. He’s not going to make it so clear that you have no choice left. A mere inkling in your heart ought to be enough to start down that path – after all, we’re talking about a special task assigned by the King of the Universe, not whether you should sign up for basket-weaving or bottle-capping in the spring semester. Maybe you just need some encouragement from a young man like yourself who already made the right choice and found the joy that goes with it. Today’s saint is just the guy for you.
He was popular, smart, from a healthy family. He was such a social butterfly that his buddies called him “The Dancer” (for obvious reasons). He was the best-dressed of his group; he had the best sense of humor; he loved going to the theatre and the opera; he wrote poetry… He was your perfect young man of the world. He had everything going for him. But in his heart he knew that God was calling him to something higher. During an annual religious procession in his town of Spoleto, in the depths of his soul he felt that a voice was saying, “Francis [that was his original name], why do you remain in the world? It is not for you. Follow your vocation!”
So he tried to follow it (unlike some of my cowardly nephews – hurumph…). But his dad wouldn’t give him permission. Then he asked again. And his dad still said no. So finally, determined to follow God’s will and not his own, he wrote a letter to the nearest Passionist monastery requesting admission. They wrote back accepting him, but his dad hid the letter. His dad started a campaign among his friends and relatives to convince his beloved son to abandon his religious thoughts, but St Gabriel wouldn’t betray his heart or his Lord. His dad finally allowed him to travel to the monastery to request admission in person.
Once he entered the novitiate, he used his bright and lively personality to encourage his religious brothers. It was no easy task for him, however, to change the worldly habits he had formed throughout his youth. He studied, he prayed, he sacrificed, he followed the rigorous, exhausting schedule of the monastery, and when he wrote home to his dad, he described how he felt: “My life is one of unending joy.”
When the war in Italy reached the town where he was stationed, he even became a war hero. As the soldiers pillaged and terrorized, he asked permission to leave the monastery and see if he could help the townspeople. He found a drunk soldier dragging a young girl off the streets. St Gabriel took the gun from the soldier’s holster and demanded that he let the girl go. Another soldier showed up and the young monk disarmed him as well. They yelled for their companions and soon a squadron of twenty soldiers faced the young, black-robed religious in the town square. He ordered them to disarm; their leader laughed at him. Just then a lizard scrambled across the street. St Gabe, drawing on the skills he learned as a hunter back in his worldly days, picked off the reptile without even taking time to aim. The rambunctious looters were sobered up by his marksmanship, and he marched them out of town, much to the jubilation of the townspeople.
The rest of this young saint’s life was passed in the simplicity of studies and small apostolic endeavors. His health declined, and he died at the young age of 24, filled with joy and meaning. So if you are having trouble drumming up the courage you need to do what you know you ought to do, ask St Gabriel Possenti to help you – he has courage to spare.
Your loving Uncle,