On a summer day a little over a hundred years ago, a slim figure in a black cassock stood facing a gang of mercenaries in a small town in Piedmont, Italy. He had just disarmed one of the soldiers who was attacking a young girl, had faced the rest of the band fearlessly, then drove them all out of the village at the point of a gun. The young man was Francesco Possenti, whose father was lawyer for the Papal States and who had recently joined the Passionist Order, taking the name of Brother Gabriel.
He became very sick during his school years and had promised that if he got better, he would dedicate his life to God. St. Gabriel Possenti got better and forgot about it. He got sick again and made the same promise, but again got well and forgot his promise. Once, during a church procession in which a great banner of Our Lady, Help of Christians, was being carried, the eyes of Our Lady looked straight at him and he heard the words: "Keep your promise." Shaken, he remembered his promise, changed his life completely, and entered the Passionists.
He hoped to be sent to the missions after his ordination to the priesthood, but at the young age of twenty-four, he died. Canonized in 1920, he is, along with St. Aloysius, one of the patrons of youth. He was very fond of his family and is particularly remembered as a remarkable young man who, at the age of twenty, threw all aside for God, determined to become a saint.
From 'The Catholic One Year Bible': . . . Suddenly his face began to shine with glory, and his clothing became dazzling white, . . . a cloud covered them, blotting out the sun, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him."—Mark 9:2-3, 7