Saint Gerard Majella, the Wonder-Worker and "Patron of Expectant Mothers," is worth far more to the veneration of Catholics than he has been afforded for much of history. Though he died of tuberculosis at only 29 as a lay brother, he achieved paramount sanctity, as great as the wonderworkers of the first millennium. His character was such that his religious superiors attested not only that he had never committed a mortal sin, but also that they could not detect a single trace of guilt at all!
St. Gerard was born in Muro, south of Naples, in 1726. His father died while he was a child, and so his mother sent him to be an apprentice tailor under his uncle, who was a kind master, though Gerard suffered on account of the foreman. Eventually, St. Gerard found work on his own as a servant of the rather picky Bishop of Lacedonia, who died, leaving Gerard to go back to work as a tailor. He gave to his mother and the poor and also donated for Masses for the poor souls in Purgatory. Hearing God's call to religion, he tried to become a Franciscan and then a hermit but failed both times. At last he managed to enter the newly founded Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer—the Redemptorists—at age 26.
His jobs included all manner of manual labor, which he performed dutifully, and he even bound himself to an additional vow to always do that which seemed more perfect, not only exhibiting perfect obedience when asked but also obeying his superiors' unspoken desires even in their absence. He became called the Father of the Poor for his strenuous work, despite his frail health, and it was a mortification of the will for him to stay away from the Lord in the tabernacle.
One particular example of his sanctity comes from early in his career as a Redemptorist. Though he was a marvel of chastity, when he was 27, he was accused of being the father of a young pregnant woman's child. He bore the lie resolutely, patiently, and silently, barred from receiving Sacramental Communion on account of his unwillingness to deny his guilt. It was not for years, until the woman died having revealed the truth, that Gerard was finally acquitted, earning the astonished praise of St. Alphonsus Liguori himself.
His miracles were intense and known to many, including raising a boy from the dead who had fallen off a cliff; multiplying wheat and bread; walking on water to save fisherman from a storm; and posthumously saving an expectant mother and baby in childbirth by his handkerchief. St. Gerard became famous for these miracles and more: cures, charities, ecstasies, mortifications, prayers, purity, obedience, zeal for souls, discernment of spirits, penetration of hearts, infused knowledge, prophecies, knowledge of distant events, bilocations, and power over nature and over other human hearts—and even over the devil. Finally, he predicted the day and hour of his own death of tuberculosis in 1755. Recounted in this sizeable biography are also his funeral, posthumous miracles, beatification, and canonization in 1904.
You will have to search far and wide to find another Saint's life as inspiring as that of St. Gerard Majella. For God has surely manifested His approval of this servant and his wonderful sanctity through such many and great miracles of grace.
- Fr. Edward Saint-Omer, CSsR
- TAN Books
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