April 26, 1998
Brother John Raymond

St. Gerard Majella

Easter reminds me of new life, which brings to mind the patron saint of expectant mothers, St. Gerard Majella (feastday October 16). He was born in 1726 in Muro, a little town in Southern Italy. In spite of poor health Gerard, at a young age, tried to join the Capuchin friars but was not accepted. Then, in 1749, the Redemptorists came to Muro. Gerard made up his mind to join the Redemptorists but again he was turned down because of his poor health. The missionaries moved on and Gerard's family prevented him from going after them by locking him in his room. Not to be stopped Gerard knotted the sheets of his bed and, climbing out of the window, followed the band of missioners. He pleaded with the superior to give him a chance. He was sent to the Redemptorist community in Deliceto with a letter that read: "I'm sending you another Brother, who will be useless as far as work is concerned..."

Gerard took his first vows on July 16, 1752. The "useless" tag didn't last long. Gerard was an excellent worker and during the next few years he worked as gardener, sacristan, tailor, porter, cook and carpenter.

In 1754 Gerard had to undergo a great trial. A girl who wanted to ruin his reputation falsely accused him of having sinful relations with the young daughter of a family at whose house he often stayed on his missionary journeys. Gerard made no effort to defend himself. Finally, when his accuser fell seriously ill, she recanted her false accusation.

Gerard's miraculous apostolate for mothers began even during his lifetime. Once, as he was leaving the home of the Pirofalo family, one of the daughters called after him that he had forgotten his handkerchief. Gerard turned to her and prophetically told her "Keep it. It will be useful to you some day." Years later the girl to whom he had given it was in danger of death at 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 a mother asked for the prayers of Gerard when both she and her unborn child were in danger. Both she and the child came through the ordeal safely.

In 1755 Gerard started having violent hemorrhages and dysentery. 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." A little before midnight on October 15 he died.

Because of the miracles God worked through Gerard's prayers for mothers, 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 the saint of happy childbirth.

Thousands of mothers have felt the powerful intercession of St. Gerard. 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 were convinced that it was his intercession that helped them to have healthy children. Even girls are named after him, and it is interesting how "Gerard" takes such forms as Gerarda, Geralyn, Gerardine, Gerianne, and Gerardette.

Prayer for Expectant Mothers

O Saint Gerard, beloved servant of Jesus Christ, perfect imitator of your meek and humble Savior, enkindle within my heart one spark of that heavenly fire of charity which glowed in your heart. As the patron and protector of expectant mothers, preserve me from danger and from the excessive pains accompanying childbirth, and shield the child whom I now carry, that this child may see the light of day and receive the great grace of Baptism through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.