Make your heart a living tabernacle of the sweet sacramental Jesus, keep him with you always, and embrace him often with holy affections because these are the arms of the soul.
(Letter of St. Paul of the Cross to Teresa Palozzi, June 8, 1758)
Throw yourself into the arms of Mary, Mother of Sorrows, and have recourse to her as the Mother of Mercy, and then do not disturb yourself; do not fret. Think only of entrusting and confiding yourself to God and in the merits of Jesus Crucified. I leave you in his holy Wounds and pray for you.
(From a Letter of St. Paul of the Cross to Lucrezia Bastiani Paladini, August 12, 1775)
My brothers and sisters, through the wounds of the Lord, let us plunge into the boundless ocean of God's love. The apostle Saint Paul, our guide and instructor, says that Jesus, dying on the cross, wanted to show the ardor of his love for us. The Crucified is a furnace of love flaming out on every side. How many are the wounds, which are so many apertures through which the fire flares; how many the bloody lacerations, which are so many mouths crying out: Love, love!"
(From the book The Treasures Which We Have in Jesus Christ by Saint Vincent Mary Strambi, bishop)
(From a letter of St. Paul of the Cross to Francis Appiani, July 29, 1740)
"When you approach the sacred altar, let your greatest aim in doing so be that your souls may ever more and more be dissolved in his holy love. Oh! dearest ones, I say nothing to you about preparation, for I think you do what you can. Remember, it is a question of performing one of the holiest possible actions. Our dear Jesus could do nothing more than to give himself to us as food. Then let us love this dear Lover and be very devout toward the Blessed Sacrament."
(From a letter of St. Paul of the Cross to his sisters and brothers, February 21, 1722)
Reading biographies of St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows, one wonders how Francis Possenti went from a life attached to the world, to a life of almost perfect virtue practically overnight. In the scriptures, Christ condemns the lukewarm. These are the hardest to convert. But those who are full of energy and enthusiasm, though attached to the pleasures of the world, once converted give themselves wholeheartedly to Christ. Francis Possenti was one of these. He was a young man full of life. Though he was excited by the pleasures of the world, when his zeal was redirected towards the service of God he truly flourished and found what he was made for. His heart was made to be wholly given--and he would give it totally to the world or God. Like another young saint, Therese, he could not be a saint by halves.
What was Francis' secret to holiness? How was he captured by the love of Christ. The name he received as a religious reveals his secret: Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows. He abandoned himself completely, totally to Mary. He truly belonged to her. It was Mary who called Francis out of the world, who gently rebuked him for dragging his feet in taking the step to become a religious. Mary revealed to him the heart of her Crucified Son. And Mary was Gabriel's secret to attaining holiness quickly and relatively easily. St. Louis de Monfort, about a century before Gabriel lived, made the bold claim that indeed giving ourselves entirely to Mary is the quickest, easiest, and surest way to holiness. He wrote: "we make more progress in a brief period of submission to and dependence on Mary than in whole years of following our own will and relying upon ourselves." Gabriel did indeed reach sanctity in a brief period, dying at the age of twenty-four. He gave up his will entirely, even his goal of becoming a priest.
St. Gabriel did nothing extraordinary to attain this life of virtue--nothing that we cannot do. He surrendered himself to Jesus through Mary and lived his state in life faithfully, with all the zeal of a young man in love. He did all for love of God and saw the eternal meaning in the tasks of everyday life.