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The Voices of Gemma Galgani: The Life and Afterlife of a Modern Saint Hardcover – January 15, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0226041964 ISBN-10: 0226041964 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 1 edition (January 15, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226041964
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226041964
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #554,943 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Few in North America are familiar with the writings of Gemma Galgani, the first person who lived into the 20th century to be canonized as a saint. The tempestuous and passionate saint was born in Lucca, Italy, in 1878. (You can tell she's Italian because one of her significant angelic visions occurred in the kitchen while she watched a servant shaping meatballs.) She succumbed to tuberculosis at the tender age of 25, after receiving numerous visits from Jesus, the Virgin Mary and various angels. In The Voices of Gemma Galgani: The Life and Afterlife of a Modern Saint, Rudolph Bell (Holy Anorexia) and Cristina Mazzoni (Saint Hysteria) offer the saint's own autobiographical writings, including her memoir of childhood, miscellaneous letters and her diary. The documents raise some fascinating questions about the nature of sainthood and religious devotion. 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.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"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."
(Library Journal)

"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."
(Publishers Weekly)

“The authors skillfully navigate the boundaries distinguishing biography from hagiography. . . . The volume tackles important issues of source bias and historical veracity, which loom especially large when trying to make scholarly sense of the ineffable. . . . This volume makes for interesting reading and enhances our understanding of female spirituality and modern Catholicism.”
(Sharon Strocchia Biography)

“[The authors] rescue Gemma from contempt, pity, and platitude. They render her empathetically by tracing the stages of her life and placing her in the context of larger political and religious currents affecting the newly unified Italian state. . . . The book is a fascinating resource for students of women’s mysticism, Italian popular Catholicism, and hagiography. The imaginative use of documentary sources and the richly drawn multivocal portrait of Gemma and her culture are a model for future work.”
(Paula Kane Journal of Religion)

“This is a multi-textured study of the spiritual experience of Gemma Galgani. . . . Mazzoni allows Saint Gemma Galgani to speak to a postmodern world by considering her embodied self and clothing, her devotion to the Eucharist, her difficulties with food and hysteria, and much more. This chapter alone is worth the price of the book.”
(John J. O'Brien Catholic Historical Review)

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Davide Bianchini on July 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The title appears to give an indication of the character of this book; "The voices of..." (i.e., suggestive multiple personality disorder). The previous reviewer seemed to explain it succinctly; "The third part is a discussion by Professor Mazzoni about Gemma's life and spirituality through the lens of the modern feminist movement which emphasizes the Church's incomprehension of feminine spirituality."

If you are an practicing Catholic (or anyone seeking an honest study of the life of the saint), it is best to look elsewhere and avoid these authors entirely. For an authoritative source, it is advisable to read the biography by Venerable Fr. Germanus.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By elizabeth jennings on May 20, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Composed of a scholarly discussion of early 20th century Italy, diary entries/transcripts of the ecstatic prayer a young Tuscan girl and the theories of a feminist scholar, THE VOICES OF GEMMA GALGANI is not so much a book as a resource for a book that (one hopes) may one day be written.
It's about a young girl who loved and was loved by Jesus, who talked to her guardian angel and was frequently visited by her friend, the not-yet-canonized Passionist saint, Blessed Gabriel of the Sorrowing Virgin, and who frequently depended for consolation on the Mother of Jesus, her "Mom."
This is Gemma Galgani, who lived not in medieval times, as one might expect, but in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the bustling Tuscan city of Lucca, in northern Italy. Gemma's life was approximately contemporaneous with that of Therese of Lisieux and with the reign of Pope Leo XIII, but she did not teach a "little way" to sanctity nor address problems of the industrial world.
Gemma's sanctity, her closeness to God was, it would seem, thrust upon her. The book does not tell when it began, but Gemma's own words tell the reader that sometimes when she prayed her head would "take off" and she would be unaware of anything but the presence of the Jesus she loved.
Sometimes, when she regained awareness, she would find her brothers and sisters laughing at her, along with a few of the playmates they had invited in to see the funny spectacle of"Gemma in ecstasy." Neighbors and relatives were undecided whether Gemma was a holy child or an oddity. Her father a successful chemist defended and supported her.
In her letters to her confessor, Gemma describes herself sometimes as "bad.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By G. Dallaire on September 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book gives a in depth study into the life and canonisation of St Gemma Galgani. On the plus side, the authors have translated some of her writings into English for the first time. They have included portions of her autobiography, her diary and some of her ecstacies and letters.

On the negative side, the approach of the book itself is quite academic, and therefore may not interest more casual or first time readers into the life of St. Gemma. For this reason, I would highly recommend "The Life of St. Gemma Galgani" written by her spiritual director, Venerable Father Germanus C.P. which is the "bible" for Saint Gemma devotees.
The Life of St. Gemma Galgani
Glenn Dallaire
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Alvin Spears on May 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This book is a collection of all the crucial writings and recorded ecstasies of St. Gemma, along with some essays providing background, the story of her canonization, and commentary. Gemma's writings are quite fascinating and spiritually valuable reading, whether she's recording her life, her visions, or corresponding with her confessor, Father Germano. Her absolute devotion to Jesus sets a daunting standard for any Christian. She is certainly a child-like saint, a kind of angsty counterpart to Therese of Lisieux, and many modern believers may have a hard time seeing an easily imitable example in her playful relationship with her guardian angel, whom she believes in so strongly that she actually tries to get him to deliver mail! She is utterly immature by worldly standards, even that of her own time (the turn of the 20th century), but not by the standards of Christianity. Her radical detachment from the world, her agonizing sense of her existence as a sinner, and her unrestricted erotic passion for Jesus mark her out as an extraordinary religious figure, especially considering that she lived so close to the so-called "post-Christian" era when all three traits are more likely to be regarded as mental illness, even within the Church. While most of her writing is simple, her ecstasies occasionally verge on sublime poetry of mystical love. There were many times reading her writings when I felt almost like crying just because it was so beautiful and so true.

The editors and authors of the additional material, Rudolph M.
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