Feastday: October 16
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
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 soon his uncle found out and the man who taught him resigned from
the job. After four years 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. His earnings
he divided between his mother and the poor, and in offerings for the souls in
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.This order was 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.
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 Majella's reported miracles
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 souls.
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.
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
- "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
Patron of mothers
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 childbirths.
This devotion has become very popular in
North America, both in the United States and Canada.
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 pray to and 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
Saint Gerard's Church in Wellington,
New Zealand, built in 1908, was the first church to be dedicated to Gerard
In England, there is a church dedicated to
Our Lady of Lourdes and to St. Gerard Majella in Preston, Lancashire. There is
also a church dedicated to Saint Gerard Majella in Bristol.
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.
In the Del Rey section of Los Angeles,
there is another Catholic parish dedicated to St. Gerard Majella.
Two towns in Quebec, Canada, are named in
his honour: one in the Montérégie region and another in the Lanaudière region.
He was featured on an Italian 45-eurocent
postage stamp in May 2005.
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