St Gerard Majella, the patron saint of mothers and babies Posted on 16th October 2019

Today is the feast of St Gerard Majella, a Redemptorist and the patron saint of mothers and babies. I suppose that I have a special reason for having a soft spot in my heart for the saint – and it has nothing to do with the fact that I have a brother and sister who received Gerard’s name in his honour, nor the fact that I come from a baby-crazy family. In fact, I’m the eldest of eight children and my parents, having decided to have no more of their own, fostered eighteen babies until they were old enough to be adopted.

My family used to get the monthly Novena magazine and one of my sisters, then in her early teens, would avidly read the pages at the back of the magazine, dedicated to St Gerard and filled with letters both asking for prayers and acknowledging favours received through his intercession.

 Fifty-three years ago, my sister wrote to a Redemptorist priest, Fr Francis Dickinson, through Redemptorist Publications, telling him how much she loved the Novena magazine and asking for prayers for our ten-year-old brother who was sick. Fr Dickinson wrote a wonderful letter in reply, a letter which she still treasures, and, to her complete surprise, on 3 December 1966, offered her a relic of St Gerard. (My brother gradually completely recovered his health.)

In the decades which have passed, my family has seen little of that precious relic as it’s been constantly loaned to couples who were having problems conceiving or else whose baby was very sick. Whether or not you believe in the healing power of prayer and the importance of relics as a faith support, we’ve lost count of the sick babies who are now healthy adults and the mothers who have found themselves pregnant and have given birth to a healthy baby. As I write, that same relic has just accompanied a young mother in the last weeks of her life.

So who was St Gerard?

He was born in 1726 in Muro, Italy, and was one of the seven children of parents who found it very hard to make ends meet. When he was twelve years old, Gerard’s father died and the boy found himself as a family breadwinner. Eventually Gerard applied for admission to the Capuchins but was twice rejected because of poor health. The Redemptorists accepted him in 1749 and, after three years, Gerard made his vows as a lay brother, quickly showing that, as well as being able to work with poor people, he could also serve the community as sacristan, gardener, porter, infirmarian, and tailor.

To cut the story short, St Gerard Majella was associated with miraculous events even while he was still alive. He died of tuberculosis, aged 29, on 16 October 1755. Proceedings for his canonisation began shortly after his death. Pope Leo XIII beatified Gerard on 29 January 1893and Pope Pius X canonised him on 11 December 1904.

Sr Janet Fearns FMDM

Tags:st gerard, cssr, redemptorists

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