Medium: Coloured Pencil
A native of Lucca, Italy, St. Gemma is sometimes called the “Daughter of the Passion”. She burned to console the Man of Sorrows by becoming the daughter of sorrows. Jesus answered the desire of her heart by choosing her to be a victim for sinners. Gemma was truly crucified with her Divine Spouse. She suffered much in the order of nature, including two illnesses. She suffered even more in the order of grace, through her mystical participation in His Passion. One by one, Jesus shared with her His own agonies: His anguish in Gethsemane, the holy stigmata, His piercing crown of thorns, and the gaping wounds of His scourging. These exceptional graces carried not only excruciating pain, but misunderstanding and humiliation from others. Ablaze with the fire of divine love, Gemma accepted every cross the Lord laid upon her, praying “Revenge Thyself upon me, but spare all sinners!” Wishing to suffer yet more, she also laid upon herself the practice of intense corporal penances.
Gemma’s brief twenty-five years of life were marked by profound purity of mind, body and heart. Though a laywoman, she was consecrated in spirit, rejecting an offer of marriage to belong to Jesus alone. She tried to become a Passionist nun, but was rejected owing to the onset of her final illness. Nevertheless, Gemma is now a member of the Passionist family, who honours her as a Passionist saint. Indeed, her life is an exquisite exemplar of their Cross-centered spirituality. Having drank so deeply the bitter chalice of her Saviour, one can only imagine the degree of her exultation in Heaven; for “Those who sow in tears will reap with cries of joy!” (Psalm 126:5)
Drawing this image was a special joy because Gemma is my patron saint. In an age that flees from a true comprehension of sin and the memory of the Passion, I find her witness particularly compelling. While I referenced her face from her authentic photograph, I also wished to depict her uniquely. Her face is brightly illuminated amidst dark surroundings, just as her pure life was a light flickering in the darkness of sin. Her simple black frock carries the Passionist emblem, which reads “Jesus XPI Passio”, meaning “The Passion of Jesus Christ” – a Passion which she entered into, to the point of it becoming her own. Her pierced hands bear a red rose, symbolic of her love for her Beloved, which she lived through a daily martyrdom. Her head is encircled with a glowing crown of thorns – as though by a halo – because renouncing everything the world has to offer, her sole glory and inner radiance was her participation in the Cross of Christ.
St. Gemma, radiant Gem of Christ, intercede for us before the Throne of God, that we might have a greater love for our Saviour in His Passion. You understood so well that the way of the Cross is the one true road to Paradise. Help us to enter into the sufferings of our thorn-crowned King, and to console Him through the acceptance of our own, so that dying with Him, may we be brought to the joy of our heavenly resurrection. Obtain for us the graces we need to bravely walk the path of purity and penance on this earth, that like yours, our lives may shine brightly amidst the darkness of sin. Amen.