6. Illness and Death

GABRIEL, although never very robust, enjoyed very good health for the first four years of his religious life. He then began to manifest symptoms of consumption. As soon as his director noticed these signs of weakness, he forbade his rising for the midnight office and prayer, and dispensed him from the fasts of rule and all its penitential severities. These dispensations were displeasing to Gabriel, and nothing but the virtue of obedience would have induced him to accept them.

Notwithstanding these precautions, and the attendance of a doctor, the deadly disease made rapid progress, and reduced its victim to a pitiable state of weakness. For months he suffered on a bed of pain, and was subject to violent haemorrhages. He bore all patiently, and without murmur or complaint. So cheerful was he that his fellow-students thought it a privilege to be allowed to watch at his bed side. When told that his end was near, he first manifested a little surprise, and then gladly resigned himself to the will of God. In his dying moments, after receiving absolution from his Father Director, he asked for an old picture of his, much worn by frequent use. It was a picture of the Crucifixion, with the Blessed Virgin standing at the foot of the cross. He devoutly kissed it, placed it on his breast, folded his hands across it, and began to speak in prayer. With indescribable love he began to say aloud: “Oh, my Mother make haste, make haste!” Commending his soul to God, he repeated the familiar ejaculation:

“Jesus, Mary, Joseph, I offer you my heart and soul. Jesus, Mary, Joseph, assist me in my last agony. Jesus, Mary, Joseph, may I breathe forth my soul with you in peace.”

His director, his fellow-students, and many of the community were watching and praying in his cell beside him. So devoutly did he raise his eyes to heaven, so sweetly did he pronounce the holy names of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, so tenderly did he call upon Mary to make haste, so lovingly did he supplicate his Divine Saviour, that all were filled with awe and moved to tears. Suddenly he turned his eyes to the left and above him. He gazed upon some heavenly vision. His eyes beamed with transports of joy, long, loving sighs came from his heart; and then, with a sweet smile in his lips, and without the least movement of his body, he ceased to breathe. The Reaper had stooped and gathered the little passion flower.

Gabriel was not yet a priest when he died, in the twenty-fourth year of his age, and in the sixth year of his religious life. His death took place on the twenty-seventh of February, 1862, and he was buried in our retreat of Isola di Gran Sasso, Italy.

“Being made perfect in a short space, he fulfilled a long time; for his soul pleased God” (Wis. iv. 13).