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.