Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Today, by the way, is the day that Catholics commemorate the feast of St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows, otherwise known as St. Gabriel Possenti. As described in Lives of the Saints for Every Day of the Year, edited by Reverend Hugo Hoever, S.O. Cist., Ph.D. (Catholic Book Publishing Co., New York, 1951-1955), he sounds like an unremarkable saint -- "a very great and truly contemplative soul, whose only preoccupation was to unite himself to God at all times"; he died of tuberculosis at age 24 in 1862.

However, there's a bit more to the story:

The St. Gabriel Possenti Society promotes the public recognition of St. Gabriel Possenti, including his Vatican designation as Patron Saint of Handgunners....

In 1860, a band of soldiers from the army of Garibaldi entered the mountain village of Isola, Italy. They began to burn and pillage the town, terrorizing its inhabitants.

Possenti, with his seminary rector's permission, walked into the center of town, unarmed, to face the terrorists. One of the soldiers was dragging off a young woman he intended to rape when he saw Possenti and made a snickering remark about such a young monk being all alone.

Possenti quickly grabbed the soldier's revolver from his belt and ordered the marauder to release the woman. The startled soldier complied, as Possenti grabbed the revolver of another soldier who came by. Hearing the commotion, the rest of the soldiers came running in Possenti's direction, determined to overcome the rebellious monk.

At that moment a small lizard ran across the road between Possenti and the soldiers. When the lizard briefly paused, Possenti took careful aim and struck the lizard with one shot. Turning his two handguns on the approaching soldiers, Possenti commanded them to drop their weapons....

For which he was greeted with acclaim by the grateful townspeople.

It's not clear why someone who wasn't actually walking around carrying a handgun should be the Patron Saint of Handgunners, but, er, never mind. It's also not clear that this incident ever happened. But, again, never mind.

The Society wants St. Gabriel recognize as the gunners' saint. To support this fine work, the Society will sell you a medallion that looks like the logo above, a book about St. Gabriel called Gun Saint, and a coupon you can download here, which you are encouraged to drop in the collection basket at church (no, I'm not making that up):

By the way, you might have been confused by the wording above about Vatican recognition of St. Gabriel as the patron of handgunners -- the Church hasn't, in fact, gone along with that demand (St. Gabriel is, however, the patron saint of Abruzzi, the organization Catholic Action, clerics, students, and young people in general). It should be noted, though, that Pope John Paul II did accept one of those nifty medallions.

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