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The Voices of Gemma Galgani: The Life and Afterlife of a Modern Saint
by Rudolph M. Bell and Cristina Mazzoni
University of Chicago Press, 2002
Cloth: 978-0-226-04196-4
Library of Congress Classification BX4700.G22B45 2003
Dewey Decimal Classification 282.092

ABOUT THIS BOOK | AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY | REVIEWS | TOC | REQUEST ACCESSIBLE FILE
ABOUT THIS BOOK
My sister Angelina knows all about my things. This morning she was talking about my things like they were no big deal; and my brother was making fun of them together with her. I'm not afraid of their jokes, you know? . . . My sister even brought her classmates to the house, and she tells them this, just to make fun of me: "Come, let's go see Gemma go in ecstasy."

Gemma Galgani was the first person who lived in the twentieth century to become a saint. Born in Lucca to a pharmacist and his wife, Gemma died of tuberculosis at the young age of twenty-five after a life of intense personal spirituality. Jesus caressed her as lovers do; the Virgin Mary was her affectionate Mom; Brother Gabriel playfully teased her about whether she preferred his visits to those of Jesus; 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 labeled 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 marvelous 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 twenty-first 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 medieval and the modern and a potent reminder of spirituality in a supposedly secular age.

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