Here the will of God is done,
as God wills,
and as long as God wills.
OVERVIEW OF THE LIFE OF ST. GERARD MAJELLA
is St. Gerard Majella invoked by thousands as "The Mother's Saint"?
It appears strange that a man, and a religious lay brother at that, should be
so acclaimed. It might seem that a married woman, who had been blessed with the
privilege of motherhood, would be chosen by Divine providence for this office.
However, the fact is that the countless
favours and prodigies obtained for mothers and their children through the
intercession of St. Gerard seem to suggest the role selected for him. Although
the Church has not officially proclaimed him the patron of mothers, it is hoped
that one day she may do so. During his life he helped mothers in need; since
his death, in 1755, there has been a continuous flow of extraordinary favours
granted to mothers who prayed to him; today there are millions who look to him
for help in obtaining the blessing of motherhood and in the difficulties
attendant on motherhood.
Gerard, the youngest of the five children
of Dominic and Benedetta Galella Majella, was born on April 6, 1726, in the
small town of Muro, which is a few miles distant from Naples in southern Italy.
He was very sickly at birth and was immediately taken to the Cathedral church
Even his childhood was marked by special
graces from God. When he was only five, he was accustomed to go to a small
chapel near his home to pray. Often he would return home from these visits with
a loaf of bread.
When asked about this, he would say that
"a most beautiful boy" had given it to him. One day his sister,
Elizabeth, followed him to the chapel and watched him while he knelt in prayer
before a statue of the Blessed Mother holding the Child Jesus. Then she saw a
strange thing happen. The Child Jesus left His Mother's arms and came down to
play with the little boy. After some time the Child gave Gerard a loaf of bread
and returned to His Mother's arms. This was something of a prelude to the
miraculous event in which the Archangel Michael gave him his first Holy
When Gerard was twelve, the sudden death of
his father made it necessary for him to leave school and to begin to work. His
mother apprenticed him to a tailor so that he could follow the trade of his
father. His employer took a strange dislike to him and often showered him with
blows and curses. Gerard accepted the persecution as being permitted by God for
his spiritual good. Once he was seen to smile even while he was being beaten,
and when asked about this, he said: "I was smiling because I saw the hand
of God striking me." After his apprenticeship as a tailor, Gerard served
for some time as a houseboy for the Bishop of Lacedonia, who was recuperating
in Muro. Again he manifested the virtue of patience by silently bearing the
irascible temper of this otherwise worthy man. During this time one of his
early miracles took place. One day he accidentally dropped the key of the house
in the well. With saintly simplicity he lowered a small statue of the Infant
Jesus into the well. To the amazement of the onlookers, when Gerard raised the
statue the lost key was held in its hand.
Such a youth would naturally turn toward
the religious life. Three times, however, he was refused admittance into one
religious order because of his frail health. He was still determined to become
a lay brother, and the occasion of a mission conducted by the Redemptorist
Fathers in Muro gave him new hope. He asked to be admitted as a candidate in
their order, but again was refused because they felt that his health would not
be equal to the rigours of monastery life. So persistent was the young man,
however, that Father Paul Cafaro, the superior of the missionaries, advised his
mother to lock him in his room on the night they were leaving Muro, lest he try
to follow them. Gerard's mother did so, but the next morning when she unlocked
the door she found an empty bed, an open window from which hung a sheet, and a
note on the table that read: "I have gone to become a Saint."
Gerard had caught up with the missionaries
just as they were leaving town. After many entreaties and refusals, Father
Cafaro finally gave in and sent him on to the rector of the Redemptorist house
at Iliceto with this note of recommendation: "1 am sending you a useless
The "useless" lay brother was to
do the work of four men, according to the testimony of those who worked with
him. In his six short years as a Redemptorist, Gerard advanced rapidly in
sanctity. His prayer life was continual and his spirit of obedience was so
perfect that several times he even appeared at distant places in response to
the unspoken requests of his absent superior. Even his confreres came to honour
him as a Saint.
Much of his life as a brother was spent in
traveling with and assisting the missionaries. They deemed him an invaluable
companion, because he had such remarkable success in bringing sinners to the
Sacraments and in inducing many to repair their past bad Confessions. People
followed him everywhere, and already called him "il santo" -----the
True sanctity must always be tested by the
cross, and it was in 1754 that Gerard had to undergo a great trial, one that
may well have merited for him the special power to assist mothers and their
children. One of his works of zeal was that of encouraging and assisting girls
who wanted to enter the convent. Often he would even secure the necessary dowry
for some poor girl who could not otherwise be admitted into a religious order.
Neria Caggiano was one of the girls thus
assisted by Gerard. However, she found convent life distasteful and within
three weeks had returned home. To explain her action, Neria began to circulate
falsehoods about the lives of the nuns, and when the good people of Muro
refused to believe such stories about a convent recommended by Gerard, she
determined to save her reputation by destroying the good name of her
benefactor. Accordingly, in a letter to St. Alphonsus, the superior of Gerard,
she accused the latter of sins of impurity with the young daughter of a family
at whose house Gerard often stayed on his missionary journeys.
Gerard was called by St. Alphonsus to
answer the accusation. Instead of defending himself, however, he remained
silent, following the example of his Divine Master. In the face of his silence,
St. Alphonsus could do nothing but impose a severe penance on the young
religious. Gerard was denied the privilege of receiving Holy Communion, and
forbidden all contact with outsiders.
It was not easy for Gerard to give up his
labours in behalf of souls, but this was a small penance compared with being
deprived of Holy Communion. He felt this so keenly that he even asked to be
freed from the privilege of serving Mass for fear that the vehemence of his
desire to receive would make him seize the consecrated Host from the very hands
of the priest at the altar.
Some time later Neria fell dangerously ill
and wrote a letter to St. Alphonsus confessing that her charges against Gerard
had been sheer fabrication and calumny. The Saint was filled with joy by the
news of the innocence of his son. But Gerard, who had not been depressed in the
time of his trial, was not unduly elated in the hour of his vindication.
In both cases he felt that the will of God
had been fulfilled, and that was sufficient for him.
Of few Saints have there been so many
wonderful events recorded as of St. Gerard. The process of his beatification
and canonization reveals that his miracles were of the widest variety and
He frequently fell into ecstasy while
meditating on God or His holy will and at such times his body was seen raised
several feet above the ground. There are authentic records to prove that on
more than one occasion he was granted the unusual miracle of being seen and
spoken to in two places at the same time.
Most of his miracles were performed in the
service of others. Such extraordinary happenings as the following begin to seem
commonplace when one reads his life. He restored life to a boy who had fallen from
a high cliff; he blessed the scanty supply of wheat belonging to a poor family
and it lasted until the next harvest; several times he multiplied the bread
that he was distributing to the poor. One day he walked across the water to
lead to the safety of the shore a boatload of fishermen threatened by the
stormy waves. Many times Gerard told people of secret sins on their souls which
they had been ashamed to confess, and brought them to penance and forgiveness.
His miraculous apostolate for mothers also
began during his lifetime. Once, as he was leaving the home of his friends, the
Pirofalo family, one of the daughters called after him that he had forgotten
his handkerchief. In a moment of prophetic insight Gerard said: "Keep it.
It will be useful to you some day." The handkerchief was treasured as a
precious souvenir of Gerard. Years later the girl to whom he had given it was
in danger of death in childbirth. She remembered the words of Gerard, and
called for the handkerchief. Almost immediately the danger passed and she
delivered a healthy child. On another occasion the prayers of Gerard were asked
by a mother when both she and her unborn child were in danger. Both she and the
child came through the ordeal safely.
Always frail in health, it was evident that
Gerard was not to live long. In 1755, he was seized by violent hemorrhages and
dysentery and his death was expected at any moment. However, he had yet to
teach a great lesson on the power of obedience. His director commanded him to
get well, if it were God's will, and immediately his illness seemed to
disappear and he left his bed to rejoin the community. He knew, however, that
this cure was only temporary and that he had only a little over a month to
Before long he did have to return to his
bed, and he began to prepare himself for death. He was absolutely abandoned to
the will of God and had this sign placed on his door: "The will of God is
done here, as God wills it and as long as He wills it." Often he was heard
to say this prayer: "My God, I wish to die in order to do Thy most holy
will." Between midnight of October 15, early morning of the next day his
innocent soul went back to God.
At the death of Gerard, the Brother
sacristan, in his excitement, rang the bell as if for a Feast, instead of
tolling it for a death. Thousands came to view the body of "their
Saint" and to try to find a last souvenir of the one who had helped them
so often. After his mother's death miracles began to be reported from almost
all parts of Italy, attributed to the intercession of Gerard. In 1893, Pope Leo
XIII beatified him, and on December 11, 1904, Pope Pius X canonized him as a
Devotion to St. Gerard spread rapidly
beyond Italy and throughout the world and he came to be called "the wonder
worker of our day." Because he had so often helped sinners to make a good
Confession, he was adopted by many as the patron of a good Confession. Others
revere the young apprentice tailor and Redemptorist lay brother as the patron
of workingmen. Because he had so much difficulty getting into a religious order
and because he sent so many girls to the convent he is often called upon as the
patron of vocations.
Above all, the mothers of Italy took Gerard
to their hearts and made him their patron. At the process of his beatification
one witness testified that he was known as "il santo dei felice
parti" -----the Saint of happy childbirth. His fame in this regard spread
so that in many countries of the world mothers would not think of entering into
their confinement without having a medal of St. Gerard. This devotion has
become very popular in America, both in the United States and in Canada.
Thousands of mothers have experienced his power. Many hospitals dedicate their
maternity wards to him and give medals and prayer leaflets of St. Gerard to
their patients. Thousands of children have been named after St. Gerard by
parents who are convinced that it was his intercession that helped them to have
healthy children. Even girls are named after him, and it is interesting how
variously "Gerard" is given a feminine form. Some of the more popular
names are: Gerarda, Geralyn, Gerardine, Gerianne and Gerardette.
St. Gerard obtains great favours for
mothers and their children, but that is not his only office. He also teaches
parents and especially mothers the duties of their state in life. The terrible
and all too common evils in marriage today are the crimes of contraception and
abortion. Under pretext of poor health, or lack of material means, or fear of
the future or of what others may say, so many women accept pagan practices and
limit their families by sinful means. The only adequate defence against this
evil is an unlimited trust in God.
God made marriage a Sacrament and thereby
promised to provide every Christian married couple with all the graces
necessary to fulfil the laws He had made for marriage.
One of Gerard's greatest virtues was trust,
and his favourite slogan was "God will provide." Once while he was on
a pilgrimage with some clerical students, he used the last few coins to buy
some flowers for the altar. When he placed the flowers before the altar he
said: "Lord, I have taken care of You. Now You take care of my students
and me." And the Lord did provide sufficient money for the rest of the
trip. When the false accusation was made against him, to all the entreaties of
friends to defend himself he replied: "It is for God to see to that."
In poor health and in danger of death his trust in God did not waver one bit.
Thus Gerard showed himself as a model that mothers can imitate in the
confidence in God on which marriage must be based, if they are to avoid the
forces of "anti-life."
Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Anne, Therese, I love You; Save Souls!
Jesu mitis et humilis corde, Fac cor nostrum secundum Cor tuum. (ter)
Deus propitius esto mihi peccatori.
St Pio, ora pro nobis!
Labels: Patron Saint of Happy Deliveries, St Gerard Majella