Gerard Majella, C.Ss.R. (Italian: Gerardo Maiella; 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.
|St. Gerard, C.Ss.R.|
Portrait of Gerard Majella
April 6, 1726|
Muro Lucano, Basilicata, Kingdom of Naples
October 16, 1755 (aged 29)|
Materdomini, Campania, Kingdom of Naples
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, skull|
|Patronage||Children (and unborn children in particular); childbirth; mothers (and expectant mothers in particular); motherhood; falsely accused people; good confessions; lay brothers; tennis ball football, head boys and Muro Lucano, Italy.|
Majella was born in Muro Lucano, Basilicata, the youngest of five children. 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 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. Upon the bishop's death, Gerard returned to his trade, working first as a journeyman and then on his own account. He divided his earnings between his mother and the poor and in offerings for the souls in Purgatory.
He tried to join the Capuchin Order, but his health prevented it. In 1749, he joined the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, known as Redemptorists. The order was founded in 1732 by Saint 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.
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 gardener, sacristan, tailor, porter, cook, carpenter, and clerk of works on the new buildings at Caposele.
At 27, the good-looking Majella became the subject of a malicious rumor. An acquaintance, Neria, accused him of having had relations with a young woman. When confronted by Alphonsus Liguori, the founder, on the accusations, the young lay brother remained silent. The girl later recanted and cleared his name.
Some of Majella's reported miracles include restoring life to a boy who had fallen from a high cliff, blessing the scanty 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 the gift of bilocation and the ability to read souls.
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.
- "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?"
Patron of mothersEdit
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. "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. 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.
His 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. 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 the traditional lights, music, food stands and the street procession. Devotees visit the Shrine also throughout the year to petition the help of St. Gerard.
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. 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 life.
In Scotland, there is a church dedicated to St Gerard Majella in Bellshill, Lanarkshire, opened in 1971.
In Kirkwood, Missouri (a suburb of St. Louis), there is a Catholic parish dedicated to him; the includes a school from prekindergarten to Grade 8.
In the Del Rey section of Los Angeles, there is another Catholic parish dedicated to him.
In Ghent (Belgium) a model school was named after Saint Gerard. This school was exhibited on the world exhibition of 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.
- "St Gerard Majella". cssr.org.au.
- "Liguori Publications:Saint Gerard Majella". liguori.org. Archived from the original on 2013-01-17.
- J. Magnier (1913). "St. Gerard Majella". In Herbermann, Charles. Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
- Carr, John, "St. Gerard Majella", A Treasury of Catholic Reading, ed. John Chapin (New York: Farrar, Straus & Cudahy, 1957)
- "Redemptorist". cssr.com.
- St. Lucy's Church Archived 2013-10-23 at the Wayback Machine., Newark, NJ.
- "St Gerard's Family League". redemptoristsdundalk.ie. Archived from the original on 2014-09-03.
- "St Gerard's Church". Register of Historic Places. Heritage New Zealand. Retrieved 27 May 2012.