Gemma Galgani was the first person who lived in the 20th century to become a saint. Born in Lucca, she died of tuberculosis at 25 after a life of intense personal spirituality. Jesus caressed her as lovers do; the Virgin Mary was her affectionate Mom; and she even received all of Christ's wounds in her hands, feet and side. At the same time, she was mocked by her family and labelled a hysteric by doctors and the local bishop. Her trials and the intimate details of her supernatural encounters - the voices of Gemma Galgani - are revealed here in this marvellous book by Rudolph M. Bell and Cristina Mazzoni. Bell and Mazzoni have chosen and translated the most important of Gemma's words: her autobiographical account of her childhood, her diary, and key selections from her "ecstasies" and letters. Gemma emerges as a very modern saint indeed: confident, grandiose, manipulative, childish, admired, and, with this book, no longer forgotten. Following Gemma's own voice, Bell carefully contextualizes her life and passion and explores her afterlife, specifically the complicated process of her canonization.
Mazzoni closes the book with a "Saint's Alphabet" that finds, through Gemma's voice, spiritual meaning for women in the 21st century. Far more than the reinvigoration of a neglected historical figure, "The Voices of Gemma Galgani" is a portrait of a complex girl-woman caught between the mediaeval and the modern and a potent reminder of spirituality in a supposedly secular age.
Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
Number of pages: 336
Weight: 614 g
Dimensions: 233 x 160 x 25 mm
Edition: 2nd ed.
"A young Italian laywoman, Gemma Galgani (1878-1903) was the first person who lived in the 20th century to be canonized (1940) as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church. She was a mystic in the medieval mode, complete with ecstatic visions, extreme asceticism, and stigmata. . . .The book under review includes English translations of Galgani's complete autobiography and diary as well as selected letters and ecstatic utterances. Bell introduces the historical setting, while Mazzoni applies feminist theology and theory to expand understanding of Galgani's life and work. This sympathetic yet thoroughly scholarly work is the first book-length treatment of St. Gemma in English since 1950."
"Bell and Mazzoni demonstrate how potentially subversive Gemma's physical eloquence was.... At the heart of Bell and Mazzoni's endeavour is an understanding that a phenomenon may retain spiritual value, even after its biological and psychological roots have been uncovered."
--Hilary Mantel "London Review of Books "
"Was Gemma an inspired young woman, heroic in her physical sufferings and prescient in her mystical understanding? Or was she simply mad? Her writings show her to be perhaps a combination of the two--thoroughgoing in her religious devotion, yet also emotionally manipulative and psychologically precarious. This absorbing collection of primary sources and scholarly analysis sheds light on one of the modern era's most intriguing yet understudied female saints."