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Saint Gabriel Possenti and his shooting legend

Many Catholics have given credit to a shooting story involving Saint Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother (Saint Gabriel Possenti). Only this is a legend with no historical foundation!

Here is the narrative of the fanciful “heroic feat” of St. Possenti: in 1860, after the battle of Castelfidardo, about twenty mercenaries linked to Garibaldi’s army entered the Italian city of Isola, in order to loot and stir things up.

St. Gabriel, still a seminarian, would have gone to meet the bandits, and freed a young woman who was about to be raped.

The religious young man was unarmed, but he was like a ninja and he took the guns from the holsters of two mercenaries and killed a gecko several feet away with his surgical sights. Faced with this phenomenal display of aim, the gang got scared and left the city without causing any further inconvenience.

That day was insane! Clint Eastwood’s Western loses to it.

Okay, the story is great, it would have been wonderful if it really happened – and that’s why so many people share it with excitement. The thing about it is that is fiction.

The legend of Saint Gabriel as “Savior of Isola” first appeared in a biography by Godfrey Poage, a Passionist priest. However, in the first pages, the author himself admits that some of the accounts of his book (Son of the Passion, 1962) were invented to make the story more lively.

None of the other relevant biographers of the saint cites this episode of Isola – none of this is found in the biographies produced by the Passionists Ward, Burke, Cingolani and Mead.

The oldest account of the saint’s life also makes no mention of the episode (Memorie Storiche Sopra a Vita and Virtù del Giovane Francesco Possenti, tra I Passionisti Confratel Gabriele dell’Addolorata, Turin, 1868). Nor are the memories written by the saint’s superior, Fr Norberto.

Another important fact: in the year that the invasion of Isola would have occurred (1860), St. Gabriel was in the last stages of tuberculosis. The narrated deeds would be almost impossible to be accomplished by Chuck Norris at the height of his youth, imagine for a person who can barely breathe!

But the legend continues to spread. And the main responsible for this is the St. Gabriel Possenti Society, an American organization that defends the carrying of guns and gun possession as a citizen’s right.

The St. Gabriel Possenti Society seeks to make the Holy See officially recognize Saint Gabriel Possenti as the patron saint of handgunners.

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