Saint Gerard Majella by Ann Walker
“Who except God can give you peace? Has the world ever been able to satisfy the heart?”
From afar, it would seem that Saint Gerard Majella didn’t always have peace. Saint Gerard lived from 1726 to 1755, when, at age 29, he succumbed to tuberculosis. His relatively short life was filled with uncertainties which led to lots of praying.
Saint Gerard grew up in poverty. At twelve years old when his father died, he was 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 up prayers along with his sacrifice of fasting to help the poor 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 events 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. This led many expectant mothers to elicit Saint Gerard's help! Women hope that their child will be born without sickness or problems, and they hope the delivery is uncomplicated. Women who are wishing to conceive also pray to Saint Gerard. Praying that Saint Gerard will ease worries can bring God’s peace into people's lives.
However, there may be times when--no matter how hard one tries--it can be difficult to find peace and comfort. What happens when stress and worries won't seem to go away? We may need to look at situations in a different way. 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, and it would be helpful if we could try to view others in the way that God sees them; but that isn't always easy. 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--theirs or ours! We could ask God to change others' hearts so they can be open to making positive changes in their lives. Other times, it may be that we need to ask God to help us change our own hearts so that we are not distracted by things we have no control over. Or, perhaps we are the ones who aren’t always walking along a righteous path and need to change our own ways 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. Saint Gerard has become known for not only helping mothers and mothers-to-be, but some people seek his help with Muro Lucano, Italy (his birthplace). He also advocates 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. After all, we are made in God’s image. When we humbly try to help others, we are helping them as well as ourselves on our trek to Heaven. It is in Heaven where someday we may truly have gained God’s peace.
- By Ann Walker