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Gerard Majella

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Gerard Majella

Portrait of Gerard Majella.
Born(1726-04-06)6 April 1726
Muro Lucano, Basilicata, Kingdom of Naples
Died16 October 1755(1755-10-16) (aged 29)
Materdomini, Campania, Kingdom of Naples
Venerated inRoman Catholic Church
(The Redemptorists and Campagnia, Italy)
Beatified29 January 1893 by Pope Leo XIII
Canonized11 December 1904 by Pope Pius X
Major shrineShrine of St. Gerard Majella, Materdomini, Avellino, Italy
Feast16 October
AttributesYoung man in a Redemptorist habit, skull
PatronageChildren (and unborn children in particular); childbirth; mothers (and expectant mothers in particular); motherhood; falsely accused people; good confessions; lay brothers.

Gerard Majella (Italian: Gerardo Maiella; 6 April 1726 – 16 October 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, the falsely accused, good confessions, lay brothers and Muro Lucano, Italy.[1]


Majella was born in Muro Lucano on 6 April 1726, the youngest of five children. He was frail, and his parents had him baptized the day he was born.[1] He was the son of Domenico Maiella, a tailor who died when Gerard was twelve, leaving the family in poverty. His mother, Benedetta Galella, 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 his uncle soon found out and the man who taught him resigned from the job. After four years of apprenticeship, he took a job as a servant to work for the local Bishop of Lacedonia.[2] Upon the bishop's death, Gerard returned to his trade, working first as a journeyman and then on his own account, but earned a minimal income.[3]

He tried to join the Capuchin Order twice, but his health prevented it.[4] In 1749, he joined the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, known as Redemptorists.[5] The order was founded in 1732 by Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787) at Scala, near Naples. The essentially- missionary order is dedicated to "preaching the word of God to the poor." Its apostolate is principally in giving of missions and retreats.[6]

During his life, he was very close to the peasants and other outsiders who lived in the Neapolitan countryside. In his work with the Redemptorist community, he was variously a gardener, sacristan, tailor, porter, cook, carpenter, and clerk of works on the new buildings at Caposele.[1]

At 27, Majella was controversially identified by a young pregnant woman as the father of her child. To avoid exposing the father, Gerard accepted the blame silently. His superior Alphonse Liguori questioned him and, due to his silence, banned him from receiving Holy Communion. After several years, the woman revealed the truth on her deathbed, but also testified to Gerard’s holiness.

Some of Majella's reported miracles include restoring life to a boy who had fallen from a high cliff, blessing the scant supply of wheat belonging to a poor family and making it last until the next harvest, and several times multiplying 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 bilocation and the ability to read souls.[2]

His last will was a small note on the door of his cell: "Here the will of God is done, as God wills, and as long as God wills." He died at 29 of tuberculosis on 16 October 1755 in Materdomini, Italy.[7]

Patron of mothers[edit]

One miracle in particular explains how Majella became known as the special patron of mothers. A few months before his death, he visited the Pirofalo family and accidentally dropped his handkerchief. One of the Pirofalo girls spotted the handkerchief moments after he had left the house, and she ran after Gerard to return it, but he told her to keep it in case she might need it someday. Years later when the girl, now a married woman, was on the verge of dying 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. That 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 that 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 childbirths.[8]

His devotion has become very popular in North America, both in the United States and Canada.[2]


A relic of Majella on display for veneration in Lima, Ohio.

Majella was beatified in Rome on 29 January 1893 by Pope Leo XIII. He was canonized less than twelve years later on 11 December 1904 by Pope Pius X.[5] The feast day of Saint Gerard Majella is October 16.

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 traditional lights, music, food stands and a street procession. People come from all over to celebrate. Devotees also visit the shrine throughout the year to petition the help of St. Gerard.[9]

The St. Gerard Majella Annual Novena takes place every year at St. Josephs Church in Dundalk, Ireland. This annual nine-day novena is the biggest festival of faith in Ireland. St. Joseph's sponsors the St. Gerard's Family League, an association of Christians united in prayer for their own and other families, to preserve Christian values in their home and family lives.[10]

The Sanctuary of San Gerardo Maiella is a basilica in Materdomini, Italy dedicated to him.[11]


Statue of Gerard Majella at the Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Trinity, Indiana

The Senior Coroner for Liverpool and Wirral sits at the Gerard Majella Courthouse in Liverpool.

In Scotland, there is a church and primary school dedicated to St Gerard Majella in Bellshill, Lanarkshire, opened in 1971 & 1973 respectively. The maternity hospital, now a housing estate, was located close by; hence, the choice of name of church and school.

Two towns in Quebec, Canada, are named in his honour: one in the Montérégie region and another in the Lanaudière region. Another town, St-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, has one of its parishes named after him.

In Ghent (Belgium) a model school was named after Saint Gerard. This school was exhibited on the International Exposition (1913) in Ghent as a model for Belgium's future school buildings. In 1914 it was rebuilt after the exhibition with the same stones. Nowadays the Saint Gerard School is used by a charity organisation "Geraarke" (local name) which supports poor people with clothes and food packages. In Nigeria, there is a shrine dedicated to St Gerard Majella at a place called Oba, in Anambra State. It was given to the Redemptorists of the Vice-Province of Nigeria by the Archbishop of Onitsha, Most Rev. Valerian Okeke. The Redemptorists also built a school for the poor and most abandoned in the shrine site dedicated to St Gerard Majella.

He was featured on an Italian 45-eurocent postage stamp in May 2005.


  1. ^ a b c "St. Gerard Majella | Christian Apostles.com". christianapostles.com. 2020-12-19. Retrieved 2021-01-09.
  2. ^ a b c "Liguori Publications:Saint Gerard Majella". liguori.org. Archived from the original on 2013-01-17.
  3. ^ "St. Gerard Majella", The Redemptorists, Baltimore Province
  4. ^ "St. Gerard Majella - Saints & Angels". Catholic Online. Retrieved 2021-01-09.
  5. ^ a b Public Domain J. Magnier (1913). "St. Gerard Majella". In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  6. ^ Carr, John, "St. Gerard Majella", A Treasury of Catholic Reading, ed. John Chapin (New York: Farrar, Straus & Cudahy, 1957)
  7. ^ "È il giorno della festa di San Gerardo, l'angelo di mamme e bambini: le foto del dono dell'olio". Avellino Today. 16 October 2020. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  8. ^ "Redemptorist". cssr.com. Archived from the original on 2003-05-11. Retrieved 2016-03-16.
  9. ^ St. Lucy's Church Archived 2013-10-23 at the Wayback Machine, Newark, NJ.
  10. ^ "St Gerard's Family League". redemptoristsdundalk.ie. Archived from the original on 2014-09-03.
  11. ^ Salerno, Redazione (2017-06-18). "Il Santuario di San Gerardo Maiella alle Porte del Territorio Salernitano". AmalfiNotizie.it (in Italian). Archived from the original on 2018-01-18. Retrieved 2019-03-10.

Further reading[edit]

  • Carr, John (1959). Saint Gerard Majella. Westminster, MD: Newman Press.
  • Farrelly Jr, Peter, "Hope in the Handkerchief of a Saint"
  • Karelse, Theun, "The Field Guide To Flying Saints"
  • Londono, Noel (2001). Saint Gerard Majella: his writings and spirituality. Translated by Heinegg, Peter. Liguori, Mo.: Liguori. ISBN 0-7648-0788-9.
  • Mangier, J. (1905). Life of St. Gerard Magella. St. Louis,MO: B. Herder.
  • Rabenstein, Katherine, "For All The Saints"

External links[edit]

Media related to Gerard Majella at Wikimedia Commons