Saint Gerard Majella by Ann Walker
“Who except God can give you peace? Has the world ever been able to satisfy the heart?”
Saint Gerard Majella lived from 1726 to 1755, when, at age 29, he succumbed to tuberculosis. From afar, it would seem that Saint Gerard didn’t always have peace. He grew up in poverty, his father died when he was twelve years old, and he was then sent away to live with his uncle. It has been noted that when he started working and was paid, he gave half of his earnings to his mother and the rest to help the poor. He offered his prayers to the poor and, when he began fasting, he offered his abstaining from food to help people as well.
Through his selfless deeds, Saint Gerard tried to help others attain what the world wasn’t providing. But the fasting came at a cost—he became thin and weak. He desired to become a Capuchin but was turned down due to his sickly appearance. He wouldn’t give up. Only God would satisfy the desires of his heart and Saint Gerard deeply desired to serve within a priestly institution. He was finally accepted into an order—the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (also known as the Redemptorists). He wasn’t there too long before dying, but many inspirational things happened during that short time.
Saint Gerard was known to help a woman have a successful childbirth when it seemed this would not be possible. Afterwards, Saint Gerard became known as a valuable intercessor for expectant mothers. Motherhood is such a blessing, but it comes with uncertainties. The people of the world have always suffered from sickness, but in this most recent era of pandemics and insecurities, expectant mothers have much to be concerned about. They hope and pray that their child will be born without any sickness or problems. They hope that the delivery is uncomplicated. Women want to make sure that their infant doesn’t get exposed to the many germs circulating around us. Unfortunately, worrying can put added stress on the family. Praying that Saint Gerard will ease worries can bring God’s peace into our lives.
How often do we let the actions of others bother us? There are so many situations that can distract us in life, and we can get rather frustrated. We need to remember that everyone is a child of God. If only we could see people in the way that God sees them. Some days, it can be challenging to view people and situations in a positive way. Changing our way of thinking involves looking beyond people’s actions. If there isn’t anything we can do about how someone acts, then the best thing we can do is to send prayers to ask for a change of heart. This could be a change of other’s hearts to follow a righteous path and/or a change of our own hearts to not be distracted by things we have no control over. Perhaps we are the ones who aren’t always walking along a righteous path and need to change somehow. We are only human, but we need to keep trying….
Saint Gerard is known for saying, “I see in my neighbor the Person of Jesus Christ.” This was seen in the way he was a humble servant of God and truly lived his vows of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience. His closeness to God led him to have mystical experiences. It was said that he could read people’s souls—and he prayed for people to have good confessions. There were miracles attributed to him, and he became known as the Patron Saint for couples hoping to conceive, expectant mothers, unborn children, women in childbirth, children, and mothers. People also seek his prayers for his birthplace Muro Lucano, Italy, for lay brothers, and for the falsely accused. Indeed, we have a special advocate on our side!
Let’s honor Saint Gerard by being reflective on how we can see the Person of Jesus Christ in others. While doing so, we need to make sure that we are kind to ourselves as well. We are made in God’s image, and when we humbly try to help others, we are helping them as well as ourselves on our trek to Heaven, where someday we will truly have gained God’s peace.
- By Ann Walker