Today, being All Saint’s Day, I thought I would take a moment to bring to light a particular Saint and his story. Saint Gabriel Possenti, the Patron Saint of Handgunners.
In 1860, Saint Possenti was attending seminary in the mountain village of Isola. He was also dying of tuberculosis which would eventually take his life less than two years later.
When a group of 20 armed marauding bandits, from Garibaldi’s army, came to the village to pillage and rape, the villagers hid the best they could and hoped that the terror would pass them by. Everyone hid except for Gabriel Possenti. With the permission of the Seminary Rector, Possenti, suffering from tuberculosis, gathered his strength and walked into the center of the town alone and unarmed.
One of the rogue soldiers had grabbed a young woman and was dragging her off to rape her and scoffed at the sickly monk being all alone and helpless. Possenti moved quickly and stripped the soldier of his pistol and held him at gunpoint demanding the woman’s release. As the bandit was doing so, one of his cohorts stumbled upon the scene and Possenti removed his pistol as well before the bandit realized what was going on.
With the woman freed and armed with two pistols the rest of the 20 men arrived to deal with the commotion. At this point a small lizard was crossing the town square some distance away. Possenti, took aim and fired, shooting the lizard with one shot (with the weapons of the time, it was an amazing feat).
The bandits quickly lost their nerve as they feared this sickly monk, while probably not be able to take them all out, could kill enough making their resolve crumble. Possenti then ordered the men to lay down there weapons and to douse the fires that they had set around the town. After that was done he marched the group out of town, ordering them never to return.
From that point on Gabriel Possenti was hailed as the Savior of Isola and was canonized in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV.
There are some who doubt this story, stating that Saint Possenti would have been too ill at the time to do such heroic acts and that such actions go against the church teachings.
To the former, that he was too ill to be able to perform such deeds, I say that is what makes it a miracle. And to the second point of going against the churches teachings, this was disproved by Pope John Paul II when he cited Catholic Catechism 2265:
“legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for someone responsible for another’s life, the common good of the family or of the state.”
I’m not Catholic, so I’m not a big follower of Saints, but I find it oddly comforting that there would be a Patron Saint of Handgunners. Whether the Vatican officially designates the title to Saint Possenti or not, I think he’s earned it.