It is a common dream of many people to start a family. Many of us dream about not just getting married, but about having children of our own to raise. We think about what we will name them, how we will decorate their nurseries, whether they will inherit traits from the mother or father, like appearance or aptitudes or skills.
However, getting pregnant can be a difficult road for some, and not all pregnancies and deliveries go smoothly. Some look to examples of faith to give them inspiration and courage to persevere in the tribulations that may accompany childbirth. For many Catholics, St. Gerard Majella is just such an individual because he is the patron saint of pregnancy, unborn children, childbirth, and expectant mothers.
#1 When did St. Gerard Majella live?
Gerard Majella was born in 1726 in the Italian town of Muro Lucano, the son of a tailor. When his father died, Gerard spent several years in an apprenticeship to learn his father’s trade, eventually becoming the servant of the bishop of Lacedonia.
#2 How did he engage in ministry for others?
Gerard spent his time after the death of his master (the Lacedonian bishop) working again in his trade as a tailor. He split his earnings between his mother and in offerings to the poor.
After working as a tradesman, he sought to join an order of friars and further his service to the Church. However, he was turned away due to the physical demands of such a commitment and his own frail physical health. Ultimately, he was accepted at age 23 to the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, a group now known as the Redemptorists, and served in their central location of Naples.
His ministry with the Redemptorists focused on preaching to and giving to the poor. He grew close with many of the peasants around him, serving in a variety of trades as needed. While he was never officially ordained as a priest, his piety and personal holiness made a great impact on the people he served and on his superiors in the Order.
#3 What miracles can be attributed to Gerard?
His service with the poor led to many miraculous accounts that were attributed to Gerard’s missional activity. He supposedly restored a boy to life after a great fall, and he also is reported to have multiplied or maintained the food supply of the village when food was scarce. He also was said to be able to walk on water and had a reputation for his ability to read souls.
#4 What is his most notable miracle?
However, the most notable miracle associated with his ministry led to his close association with pregnancy and childbearing. Near the end of his life, while visiting a family to serve them, he dropped a handkerchief. When one of the daughters of the household tried to return it to him, Gerard insisted that she keep it, and suggested that she might need it someday. Later in her life, she was near death while delivering her child; she remembered the handkerchief and asked that it be brought to her. When she picked it up, her pain was immediately relieved, the child was delivered, and both he and the mother were both healthy.
#5 Were there any other stories that Gerard is known for?
At one point, Gerard was accused of having an affair with one of the young women in the village, which would have gone against the code of conduct for his Order and for church leaders in general. When he was accused, Gerard remained silent despite his innocence. The girl who accused him later withdrew her story and helped him to clear his name. The false accusation would later lead to another group of devotees from those going through similar circumstances.
#6 When did he die?
Gerard died at the young age of 29, succumbing to tuberculosis. Before his death, he was miraculously healed for a brief period but became sick again almost a month later. When he died, there was a note on his door which read, “Here the will of God is done, as God wills, and as long as God wills.”
#7 How does someone become a saint, and when was St. Gerard canonized?
After a person has died, their life is investigated by an official expert authorized by the Church. Their initial report is submitted to the bishop of their diocese and further investigation is performed. They may then submit the individual to the office of the Pope for recognition by the universal church. If this recognition is granted, they will have been venerated by the Church, and are given the title “Venerable.”
The next level involves further research, and if warranted the person is beatified and is given the new title “Blessed.”
The final level of investigation determines whether or not miracles were performed. Proof of at least two miracles performed by God through this person must be verified. Once this is proven, the Pope may canonize this person as a saint through a public proclamation.
St. Gerard Majella was beatified in 1892 and was canonized in 1904.
#8 What about St. Gerard makes him the patron saint of pregnancy?
Some Christian denominations, such as Catholicism, recognize certain saints as able to intercede before God in prayer on behalf of those suffering from a particular ailment or to pray on behalf of a certain kind of believer. Others do not believe that saints can intercede on behalf of the living when they die.
St. Gerard Majella is the patron saint of unborn children, childbirth, expectant mothers, and motherhood in general. He is also associated with those who have been falsely accused (due to the false accusations made against him for misconduct) and lay brothers (those who serve in the ministry without going through the ordination process, just as he did).
#9 What were some of the hallmarks of his ministry?
He dedicated himself tirelessly to work that focused on serving others. He diligently obeyed the directions of his superiors, whether they were present or not. He lived by a personal code of obedience, poverty, and chastity, and was often called upon by the villagers to minister to the sick and dying.
He engaged in a number of trades throughout his ministry, always seeking to meet the needs of others. Some of his tasks included gardening, cooking, carpentry, care for the church itself, and a business clerk.
St. Gerard Majella is yet another example of a young man who devoted himself tirelessly to the work of Christ, thinking only about his fellow man and giving himself to live out the commands of Jesus. His ministry to the poor is an example for all of us to follow, and his close association with pregnancy and childbirth make him a touching figure for all who seek to start families of their own. Whether or not the miracles linked with S.t Gerard actually happened, we can take comfort in the fact that God will always be with us as we seek to grow our families and bring new life into the world.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.