Angels are messengers between God and men. But sometimes they are also messengers of their protégés. St. Gemma Galgani, a young Italian woman who was born in 1878, began seeing her guardian angel when she was seventeen. The first meeting took place when Gemma was getting ready to go out. She was joyfully thinking about wearing the pretty gold watch and chain that was given to her. “The heavenly spirit, looking at her severely, slowly said these words: ‘The only jewelry that embellishes the spouse of a crucified King are thorns and the cross.’ And he disappeared.” Gemma removed the jewelry, fell on her knees, and, crying, made this promise: “For Your love, O Jesus, and to please only You, I promise You that I will never wear any object that feels vain, and I will never talk about it.” In spite of her rich family’s criticism, Gemma never wore jewelry again and dressed very simply.
Then she was sick for a long time. The angel came to comfort her throughout her illness. She saw him as a handsome adolescent. He looked at her severely when she spoke thoughtlessly or misbehaved at Mass, but he gave her a big smile when she left the confessional. One day, when she was feeling bad, the angel gave her a little cup of coffee. She said in her autobiography that “the coffee was so good that I was instantly healed.”
It was so natural for her to see her angel that she had not thought about mentioning it to her spiritual father, Fr. Germain. People saw her having conversations with her angel.
“Gemma saw him with her physical eyes, touched him with her hands — like a human being. She conversed with him, as with a friend. . . . She spoke with him in the same way that she would with any friend. She gave him endless errands of all kinds to aid earthly inhabitants and communicate with heavenly ones, with a respect that was very humble but full of loving familiarity. . . . Most of the time, Gemma and the angel prayed together or praised the Most High God.”
When she wanted to confide in Fr. Germain but it was not possible for her to leave the house, or if she did not have any stamps, she handed her letter to her guardian angel, who brought it to the priest. She even wrote to Jesus and Mary! Her spiritual father testified to this after her death:
“Gemma handed various messages to [her guardian angel] for God, the Blessed Mother, and her holy advocates. She even gave him sealed letters for them, along with the request to bring back responses in their time. It is wonderful that these letters were really carried off by an invisible being. After taking every precaution to assure myself of a supernatural reason for their disappearance, I had to remain convinced that, with regard to this point, as with many others that were less phenomenal, those in Heaven liked to play, so to speak, with a child whose simplicity was so endearing to them.”
In the evening, when Gemma went to bed, she asked her angel to trace a cross on her forehead and watch over her. Then she peacefully went to sleep. In the morning, she woke up to go to Mass and declared to her angel, whom she still found at her bedside table: “I have something much better than you. I am going to Jesus.”
When her angel left her, he always very gracefully said goodbye to her, and Gemma responded: “Farewell, dear angel. Greet Jesus for me.”
Fr. Germain reported that she often had this dialogue with her angel:
“Dear angel,” she said, “how much I love you!”
“And why?” He asked.
“Because you teach me to be good, to stay humble, and to please Jesus.”
Finally, let us keep the good Fr. Germain’s advice in mind: “Do not envy her. For we also have received an angel to look after us from the same Heavenly Father. And if, like Gemma, we are very pure, humble, simple-hearted, and full of faith and holy desires to be perfect, we will be surrounded by as much concern and love.”
“Send Me Your Angel”
Sometimes Padre Pio seemed very busy while he was alone: he was receiving the guardian angels of his spiritual children who were coming to bring him their messages!
Padre Pio often advised those who lived far from the monastery: “Do not move if you have something to tell me, but send me your angel! He does not pay for any train tickets.”
When one of his penitents skeptically asked him if he had received her guardian angel’s message, he replied sharply, “What do you think? When you send him, he comes. He is more obedient than you!” And he repeated, word for word, the message she wished to send him.
One of his friends asked him, “Do you really hear what I tell you through the intervention of my guardian angel?” The holy priest responded, “So, you think I am deaf?”
At times, he complained because the angels bothered him at all times of the day. “You are rascals! Even at night, you do not leave me alone!”
One day, he even advised someone, “Do not send him to me to tell me foolish things!”
A busload of pilgrims was traveling by night to go and meet Padre Pio. Suddenly, while they were still far from their destination, the vehicle was caught in a frightening storm. Recalling the priest’s advice, the pilgrims started praying to Padre Pio’s guardian angel. Soon the storm let up. When they arrived at San Giovanni Rotondo, before they could say anything, Padre Pio, who was waiting for them, cried out to them, “My children, you woke me up last night. I had to pray for you.”
Another time, when Padre Pio heard it said of someone, “Alas, she is alone,” he declared, “Nobody is alone! There is a guardian angel for every person.”
Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a chapter in the book, Encounters with Angels: The Invisible Companions of Our Spiritual Life. It is available as an ebook or paperback from your favorite bookseller or online through Sophia Institute Press.
image: Statue of Saint Gemma Maria Humberta Pia Galgani (Colombo, Paraná, Brazil), photo by Luiz Hybiak / Shutterstock.com