St. Gabriel’s life started a chain of holiness which includes many of the Church’s saints, blesseds and venerables. This chain starts in his very childhood with his father Sante Possenti, himself a model of sanctity, who was a close friend of Blessed Pius IX. Pope Pius governed the Church during the troubled times of the Unification of Italy. He defended the indepedence of the Church against modernism and creeping secularism. At the Vatican Council he pronounced the dogma of Papal Infallibility. A great devotee of Our Blessed Lady, he promulgated the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Pius IX could indeed be described as a Marian Pope; in the Encyclical Ubi Primum he defended the recognition of Our Lady as Mediatrix of Salvation. He was beatified in 2000.
One of Gabriel’s companions as a Passionist was Blessed Bernard Mary of Jesus. He was already a priest when he began his novitiate at Morrovalle wherein he was privilaged to witness the life and death of St. Gabriel. He later became Rector of Scala Santa where he supported a weeping Pius IX in climbing those sacred steps to beseech the Almighty to save the city of Rome. In 1878 he became Superior General and greatly expanded the congregation as well as healing rifts that then existed. He resigned in 1889, only to be told by St. Gabriel in a vision to attend the next chapter, where he was duely re-elected. He was beatified in 1988.
As devotion to St. Gabriel spread, Venerable Germano Ruoppolo began to activly promote Gabriel’s cause for canonisation. His novice master had been Bernard Mary of Jesus. Fr. Germano worked in Belgium and France before returning to Italy for further studies. He was elected to a number of offices in the Congregation before being appointed postulator for the cause of St. Gabriel. He died in 1909.
It was through Father Germano that St. Gemma came to know of St. Gabriel. She was healed through his intercession and throughout her life maintained a strong devotion for him. Her letters and diaries are repleat with references to the graces she received, both physical and spiritual, through the intercession of St. Gabriel. She was graced to have the saint appear before her and he imparted to her that she would forever be ranked amongst the members of the Passionist family.
Finally it was the great Pope St. Pius Xth who beatified Gabriel in his jubilee year. A humble parish priest who rose to the Papacy he was a great defender of the rights of the Church and a reformer of the liturgy. He was known for his strong devotion to Our Lady, for his compassion for the poor and his humility. He was canonised in 1954.
Venerable Father Norbert of Holy Mary was aged 27 when he first met St. Gabriel. He had been born on 12 April 1829 and baptised Dominic. his was much like St. Gabriel had been in youth – interested in the latest fashions and prone to vanity, but morally upright and pious. At the age of 14 he entered the junior seminary and was en route to ordination as a secular priest. At the age of 16 he experienced an interior conversion and became a new man; redoubling his efforts to serve God. He became increasingly attracted to the religious life and in 1847, at the age of 18, he entered the novitiate of the Passionists and took the religious name ‘Norbert of Holy Mary’. St Norbert, founder of the Premonstratensian Order was a 12th century canon and archbishop who promoted devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. Fr. Norbert was ordained priest in 1851 and thence became vice-master and subsequently master of the novitiate, at Morrovalle where he met St. Gabriel and began to guide the saint’s soul. After Gabriel’s death the political situation and the anti-clerical laws of the newly united Italy forced the religious to disband. In this period Norbert was given responsibility to care for various small groups of religious that tried to keep alive the religious life of the Passionists. In 1878 he was elected as a consultor of the Congregation and thereafter held positions of leadership within the Passionist congregation. He was present for the beatification of St. Gabriel and died on the 29th June 1911 at Rencanati. He was declared ‘Venerable’ in 1994.
“Because of his filial love for Mary at the foot of the Cross, St. Gabriel deserves to take his place by the side of St. John the Beloved Disciple, to whom Christ in His dying hour commended His Mother”
Pope Leo XIII