“….And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a Angel of Satan to beat me, to keep me from being too exalted.” 2 Corinthians 12:7
God, in order to purify His elect and render them victims of expiation for themselves and for others, makes use even of the demons, who because of their hatred of souls and their increased intelligence become very profitable instruments to the attainment of His ends.
Thus our Lord, when He made known to our holy founder, St Paul of the Cross (founder of the Passionists –editor) that He willed to raise Him to a high degree of sanctity, spoke thus “I will have thee trampled underfoot by the devils”.
And, in like manner, Jesus said to His servant Gemma: “Be prepared My child. The Devil, at my bidding, will be the one who, by the war he will rage against you, will give the last touch to the work that I will accomplish in you.”
“During the last two days Jesus has been telling me after Holy Communion: ‘My daughter, the devil will soon wage a great war against you.’ These words I hear in my heart continuously. Please pray for me …. Who will win this battle: the devil or my soul? How sad this thing makes me! Where will the war come from? I am for ever thinking about it instead of praying Jesus to give me strength and help. Now I have told you, and I leave this matter to you, that you may help me.
Gemma soon learned that the best way to defend herself against the demons and to reach God’s ends is through prayer, which she practiced with all the ardor of her soul. What then did not the enemy do to prevent it? To weary her he would try to upset her temperament; he caused her violent headaches so that she might be obliged to go to bed, rather than remain in prayer and strove in numerous other ways to distract her from this holy exercise. “Oh” she once said to me “What torment this gives me, not to be able to pray! What fatigue it costs me! How many efforts does not that wretch make to make it impossible for me to pray! Yesterday evening he tried to kill me, and would have succeeded if Jesus had not come quickly to my aid. I was terrified and kept the image of Jesus in my mind, but I could not pronounce His name.”
At other times, he attacked her differently “What are you doing” he said, blaspheming, “how stupid you are to pray to that malefactor. Look at the harm He does thee, keeping thee nailed to the Cross with Himself. How then can you care for Him, for Him whom you don’t even know, who makes all who love Him suffer?” But these and all his other evil suggestions were as dust before the wind, and only served to afflict her at hearing her Jesus outraged by such blasphemies.
In the midst of so much suffering, the servant of God found comfort in the direction and advice of her spiritual director (the author of these lines -editor). This the wicked enemy could not bear, and tried to turn her away from her spiritual guide. He depicted her director as an ignorant, fanatical, deluded man and with so many arguments strove to convince and terrify her that the poor child thought herself all but lost. Hence on one occasion she wrote “For some days, Chiappino* (a name she called the devil) has pursued me in every guise and way, and has done all in his power against me. This monster keeps on redoubling all his efforts to ruin me and tries to deprive me of whomever directs or advises me. But even should this happen, I am not afraid” (notice her virtue of detachment). Seeing that with all his efforts he could not succeed in shaking her confidence in her director, he resorted to acts of violence, and, assaulting her while she persevered in writing, he snatched the pen from her hand and tore up the paper then dragged her from the table, seizing her by the hair with such violence that it came off in his brutal claws. Then withdrawing in fury he shouted “War, war against thy Father, (Venerable Germanus, the author of these lines –editor) war as long as he lives!” “Believe me Father” she said to me “to hear this despicable wretch one would say that his fury was against you more than against me”.
*(Gemma’s nickname for the devil was “Chiappino”, which is the equivalent of “burgular”. St John Vianney’s nickname for him was “Grappin”, which is the equivelent of “wrestler” -editor)
He carried this audacity so far as to feign to be a priest to whom Gemma used to make her confession. She had gone one day to Church, and while preparing herself to make her confession, she saw that the Priest was already in the confessional, at which she momentarily wondered, not having seen him pass and enter. At the same time she felt very much disturbed in spirit, as generally happened when in the presence of the evil one. She entered the confessional however, and began her confession as usual. The voice and ways were indeed those of the confessor, but his talk was foul and scandalous, accompanied by improper gestures. “My God” she exclaimed, “what has happened?” At such a sight and at such words the angelic child trembled, and her presence of mind returning, she hurriedly left the confessional, and saw as she did so that the pretended “confessor” had disappeared. It was the Devil, who by his coarse and fiendish ways had sought to deceive her, or at least make her lose all confidence in the minister of God.
Failing in this attempt, the enemy made another. He appeared to Gemma in the form of an angel, resplendent with light, insinuating himself with the most subtle cunning, so as to throw her off her guard. Then as with Eve in the Garden of Eden, he depicted things in the falsest colors “Look” he said “I can make thee happy if only you will swear to obey me”. Gemma, who this time did not feel in her soul the usual disturbance indicating the presence of the demon, stood listening in her simplicity. But God came to her aid. After the first wicked proposal, her eyes were opened. She stood up exclaiming “My God! Mary Immaculate!” Make me die rather!” and with these words she rushed to the feigned “angel” and spat in his face. At the same moment she saw him vanish in the form of fire.
Again Gemma writes “Once more I have passed a bad night. The demon came before me as a giant of great height and kept saying to me “For thee there is no more hope of salvation. Thou are in my hands!”. I replied that God is merciful and therefore I fear nothing. Then, giving me a hard blow on the head in a rage he said “accursed be you!” and then he disappeared. I then went to my room to rest, and there I found him. He began again to strike me with a knotted rope, and wanted me to listen to him while he suggested wickedness. I said no, and he struck me even harder, knocking my head violently against the ground. At a certain point, it came to my mind to invoke Jesus’ Father “Eternal Father, through the most precious blood of Jesus, free me!” I then don’t quite know what happened. That contemptable beast dragged me from my bed and threw me, hitting my head against the floor with such force that it pains me still. I became senseless and remained lying there until I came to myself a long time afterwards. Jesus be thanked!”
Another time Gemma writes “Today I thought I was to be entirely free from that nauseous animal, and instead he has knocked me about greatly. I had gone to bed with the full intention of sleeping, but it turned out otherwise. He began to beat me with such blows that I feared I would die. He was in the shape of a big black dog, and he put his “paws” on my shoulders, hurting me greatly. I felt it so much in all my bones that I thought that they were broken. Also, when I was taking holy water he wrenched my arm so violently that I fell to the floor from the pain. The bone was dislocated, but went back into place because Jesus touched it for me, and all was remedied”. Knowing her mission as soul victim, the Devil once said to her “You can pray for yourself, but if you pray for others, I will make you pay dearly for it”.
In her Diary Gemma writes:
“The devil, in the form of a great black dog, put his paws upon my shoulders, making every bone in my body ache. At times I believed that he would mangle me; then one time, when I was taking holy water, he twisted my arm so cruelly that I fell to the earth in great pain.After a while I remembered that I had around my neck the relic of the Holy Cross. Making the Sign of the Cross, I became calm. Jesus let me see Himself, but only for a short time, and He strengthened me anew to suffer and struggle.”
Another time in her Diary she writes:
“This evening I felt I could not collect myself; I said a few evening prayers and went to bed. To tell the truth, I foresaw a bit of a storm because Jesus had warned me a few days ago, saying: “The enemy will try you with one final battle, but it will be the last because now that is enough.” I could not help but thank Him for the strength He had always given me, and I prayed that He would want to give me strength for this final test as well, that is to say last night.I went to bed, as you know well, with the intention of sleeping; slumber was not long in coming when almost instantly a tiny, tiny man appeared, all covered in black hair. What a fright! He put his hands on my bed and I thought he wanted to hit me: “No, no,” he said, “I am not able to hit you, don’t be afraid,” and as he said this he lay down on the bed.I called Jesus to help me but he did not come, but this doesn’t mean he abandoned me. As soon as I called his name I felt liberated, but it was sudden.Other times I had called Jesus but He had never been ready like last night.You should have seen the demon afterward, how angry! He rolled around on the floor, cursing; he made one last effort to take away the cross I had with me but then he instantly fell backward. How good Jesus was with me last night. The devil, after that last effort, turned toward me and said that since he had not been able to do anything, he wished to torment me the rest of the night. “No,” I told him; I called my guardian Angel, who opened his wings and alighted next to me; he blessed me and the devil ran away. Jesus be thanked. This morning I learned that at the very moment the devil was rising in fury, the scapular of Our Lady of Sorrows had been placed on me [by Cecilia Giannini] and I realized that when the devil was trying to take something off of me, it could be nothing but that. My Mother, Our Lady of Sorrows, also be thanked.”
Another time in her Diary she writes:
“It happened today as usual. I had gone to bed, in fact I was asleep, but the devil did not wish this. He presented himself in a disgusting manner; he tempted me but I was strong. I commended myself to Jesus asking that He take my life rather than have me offend Him. What horrible temptations those were! All displease me but those against Holy Purity make me most wretched. Afterward he left me in peace and the Angel Guardian came and assured me that I had not done anything wrong. I complained somewhat, because I wished his help at such times, and he said that whether I saw him or not, he would be always above my head.”
“With a view to protect her from these Satanic attacks and apparitions, I enjoined on her, under whatever form the persons of the other world might appear to her, to at once repeat the words “Viva Gesu!” (“Long live Jesus!” –editor). I was unaware that our Our Lord Himself had given her a similar remedy in the words: “Benedetto sio Dio e Maria!” (Blessed be God and Mary!)
And the docile child, in order to obey both, used to repeat the double exclamation-
“Viva Gesu! Benedetto sio Dio e Maria!” (Blessed be Jesus! Blessed be God and Mary!) The good spirits always repeated her words, whereas the malignant ones either did not reply, or else pronounced only a few words, such as “Viva” or “Benedetto”, without adding any name. By this means Gemma recognized them and scorned them accordingly. ”
Regarding the attacks from the devil, at times she would find comfort in her sense of humor. She once wrote to Father Germano stating “If you would have seen him Father, when he fled making faces, you would have burst out laughing! He is so ugly!…. But Jesus told me not to be afraid of him”
Certainly Satan must have growled with rage at the zeal of this holy girl, finding how she snatched his choicest victims from him. He often appeared to her with eyes of fire and in threatening tones said: “While acting for yourself, do as you please, but listen well, do nothing for the conversion of sinners; if you attempt it, I shall make you pay dearly for it.”
At other times assuming the role of prudent counselor he would say: “How and where comes such presumption? You are laden with sins, and all the years of thy life would not suffice to bewail and expiate them, and yet you lose time about the sins of others? Do you not see that your own soul is in danger? A strange gain, that of thinking for others and neglecting thyself.” And on another occasion the infenal demon said “Don’t you see that Jesus no longer hears you and that He will no longer have anything to do with you?” But through the grace of God, and the will of Gemma, all the devils temptations were made in vain.