Gabriel Possenti Society Commemorates Annual Feast Day
The St. Gabriel Possenti Society commemorates
the feast day of St. Gabriel Possenti on February 27, Society
chairman John M. Snyder noted.
In 1860, St. Gabriel Possenti’s handgun marksmanship
enabled him to rescue the villagers of Isola del Gran Sasso,
Italy from a marauding gang of about 20 renegade soldiers.
After freeing a young woman from would-be rapists, St. Gabriel
Possenti confronted the onrushing brigands waving revolvers.
At that moment, Possenti fired at a lizard that happened to
be running across the road and dispatched it with one shot.
Thus having demonstrated his excellent handgun marksmanship,
he was able to take command of the situation and ran the now-frightened
brigands out of town.
St. Gabriel Possenti performed this feat of courage without
causing physical harm to a single human being.
St. Gabriel Possenti died in 1862. He was canonized by Pope
Benedict XV in 1920.
The St. Gabriel Possenti Society seeks official
Vatican designation of St. Gabriel Possenti as Patron of Handgunners.
Snyder noted that certain individuals dispute the historicity
of the shooting and rescue incident. He stated that, “in
response to lizard incident challenges, let me point out that
Rev. Godfrey Poage, C.P., who wrote about the incident was
a Passionist, the same religious order as St. Gabriel Possenti.”
Snyder further noted that, “Fr. Poage was the author
of ‘Son of the Passion, The Story of Gabriel Francis
Possenti.’ It was published in 1962 by the Bruce Publishing
Company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and republished in 1977 by
the Daughters of St. Paul. The book carried the nihil obstat
of Frederick Sucher, C.P., S.T.D., Censor for the Congregation
of the Passion, the imprimi potest of Walter Kaelin, C.P,
Provincial of the Holy Cross Province (of the Passionists),
dated February 27, 1962, the nihil obstat of John F. Murphy,
S.T.D., Censor librorum, and the imprimatur of Most Reverend
William E. Cousins, Archbishop of Milwaukee, dated April 13,
“The account of the lizard incident, Chapter 7, ‘The
Savior of Isola,’ is one of the book’s eight chapters.
In the book’s introduction, Fr. Poage explained that,
‘nothing was said that had not been quoted by eyewitnesses,
at least in the third person.’”
“When challenged re the accuracy of
his report of the lizard incident, Rev. Poage stood by its
historicity,” Snyder stated. “Father Poage said
that challenges to the accuracy of his writing came from people
who didn’t have any evidence to the contrary. Father
Poage said this to Mark Pattison of the Catholic News Service
on February 10, 1992. The CNS report appeared in The Catholic
Sun of Phoenix, Arizona on February 20, 1992. Pattison reported
that, ‘Fr. Poage said the episode was witnessed by a
‘lay helper’ at the monastery. The documentation
was uncovered during his research in Italy in 1947-48.’
“Fr. Poage, who had been a peritus
at the Second Vatican Council, died June 25, 2001. The Passionist
Family Circle Newsletter, in its Fall/Winter 2001 issue, stated
that he was ‘a man of extraordinary talents and great
kindness’ and ‘a trusted servant of God.’”
Snyder stated that, “The Poage
account of the lizard incident remained non-controversial
for over a quarter of a century. It wasn’t until I began
promoting St. Gabriel Possenti as a Patron of Handgunners
in the late 1980s that anti-gun bigots began a belated attempt
to attack the account of the lizard incident. It seems they
are more concerned with being politically correct than historically