Today is the feast day of my paisan & Confirmation padrone St. Gerard Majella, C.Ss.R.
. He is the patron saint of expectant mothers (esp those with having difficulties), "il santo dei felice parti" (happy childbirth), & 1 of those adopted by the Pro-Life movement as a padrone. He is also 1 of the patron saints of those falsely accused. It is for 1 incident in his life that he is padrone for all these things.
St. Gerard was born on 23 April 1726 at Muro, Italy. His father, Dominic, was a tailor. His mother, Benedetta, was deeply pious & raised Gerard to have a deep love for Jesus. At aged 12, his father died 7 he was apprenticed with a tailor. While the tailor loved him, the foreman of the shop bullied him & at times even beat him. After 4 tears he was ready to go on his own. Instead he took a job as a servant with the Bishop of Lacedonia. The bishop had a reputation for his temper & nagging. Servants normally didn't stay too long as a result. Gerard stayed for 3 years until the bishop died. It was a difficult job, but it enabled him to spend time with the Blessed Sacrament.
Aged 19, he now returned to Muro where he set up his own tailor shop. The shop prospered. But, Gerard didn't keep much of the money for himself. He set aside what was needed to support his mother & sisters. The rest went to the poor or to have Masses said for the dead.
Lent of 1747 saw him reach the decision that would set the course for the rest of his life. He wanted to be as Christlike as he could. So, he decided to join the Capuchin friars. He was denied admitance so he became a hermit.
In 1749 15 Redemptorist missioners came to Muro & began preaching at the 3 Catholic Churches in town. Gerard asked the superior, Fr. Cafaro, to grant him permission to join, but Gerard was turned down because of his health. This didn't discourage him. He kept pestering the missioners. When it was time for them to leave Fr. Cafaro told Gerard's family to lock him in his room until they left. Even a locked door wasn't enough to stop him. Tying his bed sheets together he climbed out the window & caught up with the Redemptorist band, now 12 miles away. To Fr. Cafaro he said: "Take me on, give me a try, then send me away if I'm no good." Surrendering to such perseverence, he sent Gerard to the Redemptorist community in Deliceto. The letter of introduction accompanying him said: "I'm sending you another Brother, who will be useless as far as work is concerned..."
Despite this poor recomendation, he was accepted. On 16 July 1752 (Our Lady of Mt. Carmel) he took his 1st vows. Gerard loved it there. St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori put love of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament at the heart of Redemptorist life. When asked what he wanted most, Gerard replied: "to love God much; always to be united with God; to do all things for the sake of God; to love everything for God's sake; to suffer much for God. My only business is to do the will of God." & over the years it included different roles, garderner, sacristan, tailor, porter, cook, carpenter, and clerk of works of the new buildings in Caposele.
1754 the greatest test of his complete surrender to the will of God came. As a part of his work he had met the Caggiano family. A daughter, Neria, had left the convent of San Salvatore 3 weeks after she entered. She began telling falsehoods about the convent to justify leaving it. The people, knowing St. Gerard, doubted her. So, she decided to destroy his reputation to save hers. She began to tell her confessor, Fr. Benigno Bonaventura, a sordid tale of an affair between St. Gerard & her younger sister Nicoletta. She was able to shore up her lies with dates & times that she knew were when St. Gerard had been at her home. She had no qualms about destroying her family to save her reputation. Nor did she care about piling sin upon sin by also doing so in the Confessional.
Fr. Bonaventura had no reason to doubt her, so he ordered her to write St. Alphonsus about the accusations. She also released Fr. Bonaventura from the seal of Confession so he could write. When St. Alphonsus got the letters he called for a careful investigation of the charges. Then he called St. Gerard in & laid the charges before him. In imitation of Christ before Pilate, he remained silent. This left St. Alphonus no other choice than to suspend him from his duties, banning outside contact of any form, & forbiding him from receiving the Eucharist.
This went on for month after month. Finally Neria fell ill & was near death. Waking up to the evil thing she had done, she wrote St. Alphonsus to confess her lies, admiting the calumny she had done. St. Alphonsus called for Gerard & asked him why he hadn't defended himself. "How could I, my Father? Does not the Rule forbid me to excuse myself and to bear in silence whatever mortifications are imposed by the Superior?" was the reply. "Very good, very good, my son," rejoined Alphonsus, with difficulty mastering his emotion, "go now and God bless you."
In the Positio super virtutibus (for his canonization) the following was written about the incident: "It is well to note here that the rule in question is undoubtedly to be understood of excusing oneself where breaches of regular observance are concerned, and not where there is question of enormities so unworthy of a religious. Anybody else, no matter how obedient, would have thus interpreted that rule. When Gerard in his great humility and utter heroism did not do so, he won the admiration of all his brethren, not excepting the holy Founder himself."
His trials continued in a different form now. In 1755, while at Caposele, he was seized by violent hemorrhages and dysentery. His death was imminent. His superior ordered him to get well. He rose up, healed & returned to his work. a month later he took ill again. On 15 October 1755, just before midnight, he died of tuberculosis. A while before his death he posted the following on his door as his last will & testament: "The will of God is done here, as God wills it and as long as He wills it."
During his lifetime he was gifted with a variety of Spiritual gifts, knowledge, ecstatsies, prophecy, discernment of spirits, and penetration of hearts, bilocation, and with what seemed an unlimited power over nature, sickness, and the devils. He even predicted the date & time of his death/ After his death God continued to work powerfully through Gerard's intercession. He was beatified on 29 January 1893 by Pope Leo XIII. On 11 December 1904 by Pope Saint Piu X declared him a saint.
How did St. Gerard become the patron saint of expectant mothers? The story goes thus: 1 day he was leaving a home when he dropped his handkerchief. a young woman saw & brought it to him. "Keep it. One day it will be of service to you.". Puzzled, she still obeyed. A few years later this women was no expecting her 1st child. Complications had set in as she was about to give birth. Remembering what he said, she called for someone to fetch it. When it was placed on her stomach, the pains ceased & the child was born safely. the cloth was passed on from woman t woman as she gave birth. By 1904 only a small piece remained. Yet, got was still working through the relic. Other pieces of cloth touched to it were also used powerfully by God over the years.
St. Gerard, padrone mio, I ask for your powerful intercession on this, your feast day. As we celebrate your joyful entry into Heaven, I ask that you would go before the Throne of Grace & ask the Father to bless our efforts to put an end to the scourge that is abortion. Bless all those groups who are there to offer women alternatives to abortion so that their efforts will be successful. & bless the work of those groups like Rachel's Vineyard, who strive to bring God's healing forgiveness to those men & women who have been hurt emotionally as a result of their participation in an abortion. With thanksgiving we ask this in the name of Jesus Our Lord & Savior.