For First Communicants

With Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1919

by a Sister of Notre Dame, author of First Communion Days

  Page 5


-------St. Gemma Galgani--------

You have all heard of the great St. Paul, and of how he spent his life after his conversion in preaching "Christ and Him Crucified." Ever since the days in which this ardent apostle lived there have been Saints in the Church who have honoured Our Dear Lord in His sufferings and who have been glad to suffer for love of Him. Just forty years ago [this story was written in 1918] a holy little girl was born to whom it was given to suffer for the love of Jesus many pains like those Our Blessed Lord suffered in His Sacred Passion. This story will tell you about her First Holy Communion, but when you are older you must try to learn more about her.

In a small village in Northern Italy, near the ancient city of Lucca, there lived a pious chemist whose name was Henry Galgani. He had five boys and three girls, who all died when they were young except three, who were still living in 1914. The mother belonged to a noble Italian family, and on the 12th of March, 1878, her eldest daughter was born. She was Baptized the next day, receiving the name Gemma, which in English means "Gem"; and this girl does indeed shine today as a gem in the Church of God.

To look at, she was just the same as any other little girl, but her soul was beautiful in God's sight. When she was only two years old she was sent to school like a kindergarten during the day, but used to return home each night. Gemma's mother was, as people say, "a Saint". She taught her little daughter all about Almighty God, Our Blessed Lady, the Angels and the Saint: Often she used to show her a crucifix and say: "Look Gemma, how this dear Jesus died on the Cross for us. And Gemma would eagerly listen to all her mother told her about the sufferings of Our Dear Lord, even following her about the house to say, "Mamma, tell me a little more about Jesus."
Before she was seven years old Gemma made her First Confession. But soon after this her mother became very ill. This was a great grief to Gemma. She used to kneel by her mother's pillow while they prayed together, till her father sent her away to be taken care of by a kind aunt. The little girl went without a murmur, but she never saw her dear mother again, for she died soon after.

Not very long after this Gemma was sent to school again, this time to a convent. Gemma was delighted, and a long time afterwards, speaking of it, she said: "I began to go to the school of the Sisters; I was in paradise." She very soon made friends with her companions, who learned to love her dearly; and before long Gemma was the life and soul of the place.

Almost at once she asked to be allowed to make her First Holy Communion. Although nine years of age Gemma was very small for her age, so she was told she must wait a little longer. With tears she begged her father, the priest, and the Sisters to change their minds.

"Give me Jesus," she would say, "and you will see how good I shall be. I shall be quite changed. I won't commit any more sins. Give Him to me for I cannot live without Him."
At last the priest gave way and told her father that Gemma was quite ready to receive Our Lord into her heart
"If we do not want our Gemma to die of longing," he said, "we must allow her to go to Holy Communion."
When Gemma heard this she thanked Our Lord and His dear Mother, and then asked to be allowed to live in the convent while she prepared herself for such a great act. Her father did not like to lose his little girl even for a short time, but she begged so hard that at last he said she might "just for ten days."

"Oh, how happy I was," wrote Gemma afterwards. "As soon as I got inside the convent I ran to the chapel to thank Jesus; and with all the earnestness I could I implored of Him to prepare me well for my Holy Communion. Then I felt," she adds, "an earnest desire to know all about the life and sufferings of Jesus."

This thought of the Passion of Our Blessed Lord with Holy Communion is the one He Himself asked us never to forget when He said to His Apostles at the Last Supper: "Do this in memory of Me." Ever since that day the Church has taught us to see in the Holy Mass one and the same Sacrifice with that of Our Lord on the Cross, and to think of His Passion when we go to Holy Communion.

Gemma learned all the good Sisters taught her about the sufferings of Our Blessed Lord and the mystery of the Blessed Sacrament. The priest used to give instructions to the First Communicants, and every day he repeated: "Whoever feeds on Jesus lives with His Life."

Gemma said afterwards: "I almost died of longing to be able to say those words: Jesus lives in me." The day fixed for her First Holy Communion was Sunday, the Feast of the Sacred Heart, the 19th of June, 1887. On the Saturday before this happy day Gemma wrote to her father, and this is what she said:

"DEAR PAPA,-----Today is the eve of my First Communion, a day for me of the greatest happiness. I write these few lines only to tell you of my love, and to ask you to pray to Jesus in order that the first time He comes to dwell in me, He may find me ready to receive all the graces He has prepared for me. I beg your pardon for all my disobedience, and all the pain I have ever given you, and I beg of you this evening to forget it all. I ask you to bless me. Your most loving daughter,
The next morning Gemma almost ran to the chapel, and during Holy Mass her dear Jesus came for the first time into her loving little heart. She kept very quiet and recollected all day, spending her time with Our Blessed Lord in chapel, or in talking of Him to the Sisters. She took a little time also to write down all she wished to promise Our Lord in return for His Gift of Himself to her. Here is what she wrote:

1. I will confess my sins and receive Holy Communion each time as if it were to be the last.
2. I will often visit Jesus in the tabernacle, especially when I am sad.
3. I will prepare for every Feast of Our Lady by some mortification, and every evening I will ask my Heavenly Mother's blessing.
4. I will try to remember that God always sees me.
5. Every time the clock strikes I will say three times:
"My Jesus, mercy."

Gemma kept all these resolutions, for she was resolved to become a Saint.
The Sister who taught her at school often used to remind her of this and say to her "Gemma, remember that you must become a truly precious gem."
When she won the first place in her class this Sister rewarded her by telling her more about Our Lord's Sufferings and Death upon the Cross, and the little girl grew more and more in the love of "Jesus Christ Crucified."
In 1894 Gemma gained the Gold Medal Prize for Religious Knowledge. Long before this she had become a daily communicant, but when she was thirteen she became very ill and had to leave school.

At home, when she got better, Gemma went on trying to please Our Lord in all she did. Her great desire was to suffer for love of Him.

"Yes, my Jesus," she used to say to Him, "I wish to suffer and to suffer much for Thee." Later on Jesus granted her desire, and even allowed her the privilege of bearing in her body the marks of His Five Most Precious Wounds, as He did long ago to St. Francis of Assisi. For all this Gemma found grace and strength in Holy Communion.

Prayer for Obtaining Graces

Composed by the servant of God, St. Gemma Galgani

Behold me at Thy Sacred Feet, dear Jesus,
to acknowledge my gratitude for the many favors shown me.
As often as I have invoked Thee, Thou hast always granted my prayer:
as often as I have had recourse to Thee, Thou hast consoled me.
How can I express my gratitude, dear Jesus? I thank Thee.

But I wish another grace: O my God, if it please Thee, grant me . . .
If Thou were not Omnipotent I would not make this request.
O Jesus, have mercy on me. May Thy holy will be done in all things.

The above image is not part of the book, which has black and white illustrations.