St. Gerard Majella
Feast Day: October 16
St. Gerard Majella was born in Muro Lucano, Italy, on April 6, 1726, into a poor family. From his parents Gerard learned the love of prayer and sacrifice. When his father died, Gerard, being the only son, had to provide for his family by working as a tailor. At age 14 he sought to enter the Capuchin friary but was rejected because of his poor health. After a short time as the domestic servant of the bishop of Lacedonia, he returned to tailoring but earned a minimal income.
In April 1749 after attending a Redemptorist mission in Muro, Gerard succeeded in getting himself accepted by the congregation. Following a trial period and a year of novitiate in the house at Deliceto, he professed religious vows on July 16, 1752. Gerard was noted for his observance of the Redemptorist rule and collecting money for the material needs of the community. His presence to people who were weighed down by poverty and illiteracy was a sign of hope to them. Gerard had great empathy and testified to trust in the love and the compassion of God.
During his five years as a lay brother in the congregation, Gerard was remarkable for his apostolic zeal, patience in sickness, love for the poor, deep humility in the face of false accusation, heroic obedience, spirit of penance and constancy in prayer. He wrote numerous letters of spiritual direction. The Lord favored him with many spiritual gifts, including prophecy, the reading of people's hearts, and the gifts of miracles. He died at Materdomini on October 16, 1755. He was just 29 years old.
Gerard was beatified by Leo XII on January 29, 1893, and canonized by St. Pius X on December 11, 1904. He is invoked as patron of mothers, especially in time of pregnancy. Couples hoping to conceive a child also seek St. Gerard's intercession.
One particular miracle explains why Gerard became known as the special patron of mothers. A few months before his death, Gerard visited a family and accidentally dropped his handkerchief. One of the girls spotted the handkerchief moments after he’d left the house and ran after Gerard to return it. “Keep it,” he said to her. “You may need it someday."
Years later, when the girl—-now a married woman—-was on the verge of losing her life in childbirth, she remembered the words of the saintly lay brother. She asked for the handkerchief to be brought to her. Almost immediately the pain disappeared, and she gave birth to a healthy child. Word of the miracle spread quickly. 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.
The worldwide shrine of St. Gerard Majella is at the basilica in Materdomini, Italy.
St. Lucy Church in Newark, N.J., is his shrine in the United States.
Prayers to St. Gerard
Almighty and Eternal God, we thank you for the gift of St. Gerard and the example of his life. Because St. Gerard always had complete faith and trust in you, you blessed him with great powers of help and healing. Through him, you showed your loving concern for all those who suffered or were in need. You never failed to hear his prayer on their behalf. Today, through St. Gerard's powerful intercession, you continue to show your love for all those who place their trust in you. And so, Father, full of faith and confidence, and in thanksgiving for all the wonderful things you have done for us, we place ourselves before you today. Through the intercession of St. Gerard, hear our petitions, and if it is your holy will, grant them. Amen.
O good St. Gerard, powerful intercessor before the throne of God, wonder-worker of our day, I call upon you and seek your help. While on earth, you always fulfilled God's designs; help me, too, always do God's holy will. Beseech the master of life, from whom all parenthood proceeds, to bless me with offspring, that I may raise up children to God in this life and heirs to the kingdom of God's glory in the life to come. Amen.
For a safe pregnancy and delivery
O almighty and everlasting God, through the Holy Spirit, you prepared the body and soul of the glorious virgin Mary to be a worthy dwelling place of your divine Son. Through the same Holy Spirit, you sanctified St. John the Baptist, while still in his mother's womb. Hear the prayers of your humble servant who implores you, through the intercession of St. Gerard, to protect me amid the dangers of childbearing and to watch over the child with which you blessed me. May this child be cleansed by the saving water of baptism and, after a Christian life on earth, may we, both mother and child, attain everlasting bliss in heaven. Amen.
Source: Living Redemptorist Spirituality: Prayers, Devotions and Reflections (North American Commission for Partnership in Mission, 2009)