Lesbian and gay saints have contributed in their individual ways to the life of the Church. Two examples are Saint Alcuin, who openly professed his emotional and sexual passion for several brother monks; and Saint Bridget of Ireland, who deeply loved the young nun, Darlughdach, who slept with her and sometimes functioned as her ambassador.
There are also gay icons–the handsome youth, Saint Sebastian, and Saint Joan, a woman who dressed herself in men’s clothing, became a warrior, and defied the gender role and expectations of her time.
Of course, there is also Saint Peter Damien with his fixation on gay male sex. He is the epitome of a self-hating homosexual who persecutes others of his kind in order to avoid detection, and punish the objects of his own desire.
Here are two clues to help identify gay and lesbian saints: 1) did they enter religious life partially to avoid marriage; and 2) does part of their story involve a special “friend” they had in religious life?
Today’s lesson: Saint Galla of Rome.
In his Dialogues, Pope Saint Gregory the Great speaks of a holy woman of Rome named Galla, who had been married for less than a year when her husband died. Refusing to remarry, the young widow resolved to devote the rest of her life to God. To protect her beauty againt men’s attention, it is said she disguised herself as a man and God gave her a beard.(!)
Joining with a community of women living near St. Peter’s Basilica, caring for the poor and sick, this wealthy and pious woman founded a convent and a hospital. She is reputed to have once healed a young deaf and mute girl by blessing some water, and having the girl drink from it.
As she lay stricken with breast cancer, Galla kept two candles burning each night at the foot of her bed, for Gregory explains, “She hated darkness, being a friend of light, physical as well as spiritual light.”
It was between these two candles that one night the Apostle Saint Peter appeared in a vision to Galla. The dying woman asked him: “Have my sins been forgiven?” Smiling, Peter nodded yes and answered, “They are forgiven. Come.”
But Saint Galla now requested, “I beg you to let Sister Benedicta come with me.” Peter told her, “Sister Benedicta will follow you in thirty days.” Three days later, Galla died, and a month later, Benedicta.
Rest together in peace.
Death: c. 550 A.D.
Feast Day: October 5