St Gemma was born in 1878 in Italy. She given the great grace to see her guardian angel at all times from when she was very young to when she died at 25. Her angel would physically help her and would hand deliver letters to her spiritual director.
In this painting, the angel’s constant Earthly aid to Gemma is shown by having him grounded with a hand on Gemma’s shoulder and his wings around her, instead of, for example, having him floating. In contrast, his striking blue sash symbolizes his Heavenly origins.
St. Gemma is the patron of those with back pain because in her youth she contracted what some doctors thought to be tuberculosis of the spine which caused her much back pain and searing headaches. To help cure her, she was directed to wear a heavy steel corset which caused her even more back pain. Quickly though, she became bedridden, unable to move except her arms and head. She underwent various dramatic operations, none of which worked, and all the doctors thought she was going to die. Everyone, however, noted that she took each new trial with peacefulness and surrender, always offering a smile to all who came to her bed.
However, this was not to be the end of the Saint. She began to pray a novena to the Sacred Heart (she was very devoted to the Sacred Heart already), and on the first day and ever successive day of the novena then Venerable Gabriel Possenti would appear to her and offer her encouragement. On the last day of the novena Jesus appeared to her and cured her. She was able to leave her sick bed, though for two more months she still had to wear the steel corset.
After her cure she asked to join the Passionist community, but because she still was not fully cured, they rejected her. Later Jesus would give her a complete recovery, but the Mother Superior of the house and the Archbishop would not allow Gemma to join.
And after refusing two proposals to marriage, she moved into the household of a friend of her spiritual director and worked as their housekeeper, cleaning and taking care of the house – the house shown in the painting. This worked out well for Gemma as it allowed her long hours of communion with God.
Frequently she would be found in ecstasy, immobile and locked in prayer. After a time she would come out of the ecstasy and return to work as normal with her usual quiet and serene demeanor.
Beginning when she was 21 she would receive the Stigmata – the wounds of Christ on her hands, feet and side – that would open on Thursday and disappear on Friday around 3pm or Saturday morning and fade to white scars at all other times.
This would continue for quite some time until her spiritual director ordered her to ask Jesus to stop because he health was declining. Out of obedience, Gemma did as bid and the mystical experience stopped, but she was left with white scars, and she recounts that the pain from the wounds would still come weekly, though there were no exterior signs.
Out of great love for the Passionist order, Gemma constantly prayed for them and was given the grace to know that a Passionist convent would be established in her town in the future, which did happened two years after her death. The Passionist order regards her as one of their own because of her great devotion to them and her unfailing prayers.
Lastly, growing around the Saint are lilies, which symbolize purity. For St Gemma, living out purity meant living out the Vocation to the consecrated single life, never dating or taking a husband, but living her life wholly for Christ.
Printed on archival paper with archival inks, this print will last forever without fading, even with sunlight. The quality of the print is stunning because of the high resolution scan and robust printer.
Available in four sizes: mini 2.5×3, 5×7 and 8×10.
Shipped in a rigid cardboard mailer with cardboard backing. Sealed in waterproof plastic sleeve.
Have a Saint you want me to paint? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org – I love making paintings that are completely meaningful just for you!