"Love Mary! She is loveable, faithful, constant. She will never let herself be outdone in love, but will ever remain supreme. If you are in danger, she will hasten to free you. If you are troubled, she will console you. If you are sick, she will bring you relief. If you are in need, she will help you. She does not look to see what kind of person you have been. She simply comes to a heart that wants to love her. She comes quickly and opens her merciful heart to you, embraces you and consoles and serves you. She will even be at hand to accompany you on the trip to eternity." - Saint Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother
Born as the eleventh of thirteen children, Francis Possenti (1838-1862) was admired for his great charity and piety. When he was about 13 years old he became seriously ill, and promised that if he would be recovered he would enter the religious life. But he soon forgot his promise after he did recover. A few years later, he once again became ill and promised that he would enter the religious life if he was healed. He attributed his healing to the recently beatified Andrew Bobla SJ. This time he was applying to join the Jesuits. But for some reason, he did not join the Jesuits. In the past years, three of his siblings and his mother passed away tragically.
Not long after his sister passed away from cholera, Francis attended a procession in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As the ancient image of Our Lady passed by him, he felt an interior voice asking him what he was doing remaining in the world. Right after the procession, he listened to the advice of his spiritual director, and sought to enter the Passionist Congregation. But Francis' father was totally against the idea and refused to give him the permission to go. His father then sent other family members to discourage Francis, or reason with him. Their attempts did not move Francis and later his father became convinced that he was really called.
With his brother, Aloysius, who was a Dominican friar, Francis traveled to the novitiate of the Passionists. On the way they visited some of the same relatives that attempted to convince Francis to go home. Their attempts, however, were not so successful, and soon Francis arrived at the novitiate. September 9, 1856, only about five years later when he first promised to enter the religious life. Now his promise was fulfilled, and several days later he took the name Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows.
Prayer to Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows
Dear Saint, your very name recalls your particular devotion to Christ the Man of Sorrows and to Mary the Afflicted Mother. You died young as a Passionist religious but left to us all an example of a life of Christlike sacrifice. Intercede for our seminarians and young religious who are in desperate need of your patronage amid today's sensual and selfish world. Amen.