||April 9, 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)
||January 29, 1893 by Pope Leo XIII
||December 11, 1904 by Pope Pius X
||Shrine of St. Gerard Majella, Materdomini, Avellino, Italy
||Young man in a Redemptorist habit, skull
||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.
Gerard Majella, C.Ss.R. (Italian: Gerardo Maiella; April 9, 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, the falsely-accused, good confessions, lay brothers and Muro Lucano, Italy.
Majella was born in Muro Lucano, the youngest of five children. He was the son of Domenico Maiella, a tailor who died when Gerard was twelve, leaving the family in poverty. His mother, Benedetta Galella, 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 a 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.
Patron of mothers:
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 dying 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.