I received many comments and emails asking for more information about St. Gabriel Possenti. He was the eleventh of thirteen children of Sante Possenti, a lawyer and the Governor of Assisi, Italy. He was born in 1838 and was baptized "Francis," then later educated at the Jesuit college at Spoleto. His mother died when he was a small boy.
He joined the Jesuits when he was seventeen after he had vowed to do so if cured of an almost fatal illness, but he delayed entering the novitiate. His father, who misunderstood the meaning of the worth of a religious vocation did much to try to dissuade his son from entering the religious life. But Francis was devoted to the Sorrowful Heart of Mary. It was Our Lady who helped him to bear suffering during this trial.
While still in his teens, set his heart on that which transcends anything of this world. Answering the call of his Crucified Lord, he joined the Passionist Congregation at 18 years old, taking the name Br. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows (or the Sorrowful Virgin). The heart of his spirituality was to study and imitate the virtues of our Suffering Savior as mirrored in the heart of the Sorrowful Virgin Mary.
He led an exemplary life as a religious, filled with penances and self-effacement, was stricken with tuberculosis before he could be ordained, and died at Isola di Gran Sasso on February 27, 1862 - months before his 24th birthday. Yet, he had attained such remarkable sanctity in that short time he was a Passionist that he was canonized a Saint by the Church in 1920. Only five years later, weekly devotions in his honor were begun in St. Michael Church, Union City, N.J. For over 55 years, thousands of favors, some of a most extraordinary nature, have been granted and are attributed to his powerful intercession with Christ Crucified and the Sorrowful Mother Mary.
He is known to be a patron of youth, and more recently has been considered a patron of handgunners, since as a seminarian he once singlehandedly defended his town from robbers with two handguns:
St. Gabriel, pray for us!