|St. Gerard Majella, C.Ss.R.|
April 6, 1726|
Muro Lucano, Basilicata, Kingdom of Naples
|Died||October 16, 1755
Materdomini, Campagna, Kingdom of Naples
|Honored in||Roman Catholic Church
(The Redemptorists and Campagnia, Italy)
|Beatified||January 29, 1893 by Pope Leo XIII|
|Canonized||December 11, 1904 by Pope Pius X|
|Major shrine||Shrine of St. Gerard Majella, Materdomini, Avellino, Italy|
|Attributes||Young man in a Redemptorist habit|
|Patronage||Children (and unborn children in particular); childbirth; mothers (and expectant mothers in particular); motherhood; falsely accused people; good confessions; lay brothers; and Muro Lucano, Italy.|
Gerard Majella, C.Ss.R. (April 6, 1726 – October 16, 1755), was an Italian lay brother of the Congregation of the Redeemer, better known as the Redemptorists, who is honored as a saint by the Catholic Church. His intercession is sought for children, unborn children, women in childbirth, mothers, expectant mothers, motherhood, falsely accused people, good confessions, lay brothers and Muro Lucano, Italy.
The Redemptorists were founded in 1732 by St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787) at Scala, near Naples. They are essentially a missionary order dedicated to "preaching the word of God to the poor." Their apostolate consists principally in the giving of missions and retreats.
Majella was born in Muro Lucano, Basilicata. He was the son of a tailor who died when Gerard was twelve, leaving the family in poverty. His mother then sent him to her brother so that he could teach Gerard to sew and follow in his father's footsteps. However, the foreman was abusive. The boy kept silent, but soon his uncle found out and the man who taught him resigned from the job. He tried to join the Capuchin Order, but his health prevented it. He joined the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer in 1749.
During his life, Majella was very close to the peasants and other outsiders who lived in the Neapolitan countryside. In his work with the Redemptorist community he was at different times, gardener, sacristan, tailor, porter, cook, carpenter, and clerk of works on the new buildings at Caposele.
At age of 27, Majella became the subject of a malicious rumor. An acquaintance named Neria accused him of having had relations with a young woman. When confronted by Alphonsus Liguori, the founder, regarding the accusations, the young lay brother remained silent. The girl later recanted and cleared his name.
Some of the miracles attributed to Majella include: restoring 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 a boatload of fishermen through stormy waves to the safety of the shore. He was reputed to have had the gift of bilocation and the ability to read consciences.
Majella's last will consisted of a small note on the door of his cell saying, "Here the will of God is done, as God wills, and as long as God wills." He died on October 16, 1755 in Caposele, Campania, of tuberculosis, aged 29.
Patron of mothers
One miracle in particular explains why Majella became known as the special patron of mothers. A few months before his death, Gerard visited the Pirofalo family and accidentally dropped his handkerchief. One of the Pirofalo girls spotted the handkerchief moments after he’d left the house, and she ran after Gerard to return it. “Keep it,” he said to her. “You may need it some day".
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. This was no small feat in an era when only one out of three pregnancies resulted in a live birth, and word of the miracle spread quickly. Because of the miracles God worked through Gerard's prayers with 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 "il santo dei felice parti"—the saint of happy childbirth.
This devotion has become very popular in North America, both in the United States and Canada.
Majella was beatified in Rome on January 29, 1893, by Pope Leo XIII. He was canonised less than twelve years later on December 11, 1904, by Pope Saint Pius X. St Gerard's Church in Wellington, New Zealand, built in 1908, was the first church to be dedicated to Gerard Majella. The feast day of Saint Gerard Majella is October 16. He was featured on an Italian 45-eurocent postage stamp in May 2005. The St. Gerard Majella Annual Novena takes place every year in St. Josephs Church, Dundalk, Ireland. This annual nine-day novena is the biggest festival of faith in Ireland.
In 1977, St. Gerard's Chapel in St. Lucy's Church (Newark, New Jersey) was dedicated as a national shrine. Each year during the Feast days which include October 16, there are the traditional lights, music, food stands and the street procession. Devotees visit the Shrine also throughout the year to pray to and petition the help of this Miraculous Wonder Worker.
The League of St Gerard (Redemptorists, Clapham, London) provides spiritual support and prayers for all expectant mothers and families.
In Scotland, there is a church dedicated to St Gerard Majella in Bellshill, Lanarkshire, opened in 1971.
In Hollis (within the Borough of Queens), New York City, there is a Catholic parish dedicated to St. Gerard Majella.
Some quotations attributed to Gerard Majella include:
- "The Most Blessed Sacrament is Christ made invisible. The poor sick person is Christ again made visible."
- "I see in my neighbor the Person of Jesus Christ."
- "Consider the shortness of time, the length of eternity and reflect how everything here below comes to an end and passes by. Of what use is it to lean upon that which cannot give support?"
- "Who except God can give you peace? Has the world ever been able to satisfy the heart?"
- Patron Saints Index: St. Gerard Majella
- "St. Gerard Majella: Celebrant of Life", Redemptorists of Australia and New Zealand
- Carr, John, "St. Gerard Majella"
- J. Magnier (1913). "St. Gerard Majella". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
- Von Stamwitz, Alicia, "The Mothers' Saint for the Modern World", Hope, spring 2011, The Redemptorist Denver Province
- "St. Gerard Majella", Liguori Publications
- "St Gerard's Church". Register of Historic Places. New Zealand Historic Places Trust. Retrieved 27 May 2012.
- St. Lucy's Church, Newark, NJ.
- His life story and prayers can be found at SaintGerard.com
- Chapin, John, "A Treasury of Catholic Reading"
- Farrelly Jr, Peter, "Hope in the Handkerchief of a Saint"
- Rabenstein, Katherine, "For All The Saints"
- Karelse, Theun, "The Field Guide To Flying Saints"
- Heinegg, Peter (translator), "Saint Gerard Majella, His Writings and Spirituality" - ISBN 0-7648-0788-9