The eleventh of thirteen children of Sante Possenti, a lawyer and the Governor of Assisi, Italy, he was born in 1838 and was Baptized Francis, then later educated at the Jesuit college at Spoleto. His mother died when the young Saint was a small boy.
He joined the Jesuits when he was seventeen after he had vowed to do so if cured of an almost fatal illness, but delayed entering the novitiate. His father, who misunderstood the meaning of worth of a religious vocation did much to try to dissuade his son. But Francis was devoted to the Sorrowful Heart of Mary. It was Our Lady who helped him to bear up during this trial.
This handsome, intelligent and personable young man, while still in his teens, set his heart on that which transcends anything of this world. Answering the call of his Crucified Lord, he joined the Passionist Congregation in his 18th year, taking the name Br. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows [or the Sorrowful Virgin]. The heart of his spirituality was to study and imitate the virtues of our Suffering Savior as mirrored in the heart of the Sorrowful Virgin Mary. He led an exemplary life as a religious, filled with penances and self-effacement, was stricken with tuberculosis before he could be ordained, and died at Isola di Gran Sasso in the Abruzzi on February 27, 1862: he was not yet twenty-four. Yet, he had attained such remarkable sanctity in that short time he was a Passionist that he was canonized a Saint by the Church in 1920. Only five years later, weekly devotions in his honor were begun in St. Michael Church, Union City, N. J. For over 55 years, thousands of favors—–some of a most extraordinary nature—–have been granted and are attributed to his powerful intercession with Christ Crucified and the Sorrowful Mother Mary.