St.Gabriel of Our lady of Sorrows

Becoming a Memory Maker for those who have lost their story.

St Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows also known as Francesco Possenti, was born on March 1, 1838, in Assisi, eleventh child of Agnes and Sante Possenti. Francis was baptized on the day of his birth in the same font where St Francis of Assisi had been baptized.

Francesco didn’t start life as a budding saint. He was liked, but was also vain. He spent hours getting ready for parties. He could be difficult and liable to bouts of anger. He was keen on the social scene of Spoleto. He was known as a ladies man and had several girlfriends. Even on the night he left for the Passionists family still hoped he might become engaged to a local girl, Maria who was in love with him. In 1851 he became dangerously ill and promised God to enter religious life if he recovered. But his promise faded once he had recovered. So much for promises! Tragedy struck when his sister Mary died from cholera. He also promised to enter religious life when he just escaped being shot during a hunting trip with friends. Again, he forgot!

After the cholera epidemic that killed his sister ended, there was a procession of the ancient icon of Mary. Gabriel attended the procession and, as the image passed him, he heard a voice asking why he had not kept his promise. He sought the advice of a priest and resolved to enter the Passionist Congregation. But his father didn’t trust his motives and refused to let him go. After they could not dissuade him, his father finally gave his blessing to enter the Passionists.

The new Italian government ordered religious Orders closed in the Papal States. The new Passionist province to which Gabriel belonged, was at the centre of this chaos. So Passionists ceased their apostolic work due to the growing threats from soldiers who terrorised the towns with little mercy.

The people of Isola would always remember him as “their Gabriel.” Struck with tuberculosis at the age of 24, Gabriel died on February 27, 1862, before he could be ordained. His fidelity to prayer, love for the kids as he taught them catechism, his humour and love of the Crucified Lord stand out in an otherwise ordinary life.