By Susan Ciancio
As adults, we often pray to discern the will of God, but do we teach our children to do so? Teaching them how to talk to God and to listen for His response is vital for their spiritual growth. One way to do this is to follow the examples of great saints, like St. Gerard Majella—the patron saint of expectant mothers, preborn babies, and children.
This weekend, we celebrate the Feast of St. Gerard—an amazing saint who exemplifies the virtues of obedience, piety, charity, and humility. St. Gerard’s life gives us a beautiful example of how we can learn to understand what God wants for us and how to go about following His will.
St. Gerard’s early life
St. Gerard knew from a young age exactly what it meant to be an obedient servant of God. Born in 1726 in Muro, Italy, to a poor family of seven, Gerard encountered tragedy at the age of 12, when his father died. His mother then sent him to live with an uncle to apprentice as a tailor. Gerard obediently went and did well in this profession. His desire to be close to Christ and his love for the priesthood led him to leave his uncle’s home and become a servant to a bishop. When the bishop died, however, Gerard returned to the profession he had learned, and for a while he worked as a tailor. Because of his love for the poor, he divided his earnings among his family and the poor, and he gave some as offerings for the suffering souls in purgatory.
Though he worked as a tailor, Gerard never lost his passion for Christ. He would often fast and go into the nearby cathedral to pray. During that time, his health began to decline, so much so that, when he attempted to join the Capuchin monastery, he was turned down because they did not feel that he was suited for such a rigorous life.
But Gerard would not give up. In 1749, he joined the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer as a lay brother. Gerard lived in the monastery and shared the community’s prayers and good works. He took the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience—the same vows as a priest. Within the community, he served as a gardener and as a tailor, he helped in the sacristy, and he served those who were sick. His superiors said that, even though he was sickly, Gerard did the work of three men. Everyone loved him and knew that he was special. His compassion for and service to the poor earned him the nickname Father of the Poor.
Throughout his time at the monastery, Gerard continued to be sickly. At one point he was bedridden, and many thought he would not recover. He asked for a sign to be put over his room that read: “Here the will of God is done, as God wills, and as long as God wills.”
Gerard’s health improved after that, and he was able to get out of bed, but a month later, he fell ill again. He died of tuberculosis on October 16, 1755, at the age of 29.
Gerard’s last recorded miracle came after his death and explains why he is the patron saint of expectant mothers. While he was alive, he accidentally left his handkerchief at the house of some friends he was visiting. The young daughter of the family found it and sought him out to return it. He said she should keep it, telling her that one day she might “need it.”
Years later, after St. Gerard died, this young woman had married and was expecting a baby. But labor came too early, and the young mother was in a lot of pain. Soon, she and the baby were both in distress; neither was expected to survive. Suddenly she remembered the handkerchief and asked someone to get it and put it on her belly. Immediately her pain abated, and she delivered a healthy baby.
Seeking God’s will
In everything, Gerard sought the will of God. His superiors called him a model of obedience, piety, and virtue.
He can be a model for us too, as Christ calls us all to obedience, piety, and virtue. Let us pray that we have the strength to model our lives after St. Gerard by helping the poor, praying devoutly, being obedient to Christ, and working hard. His example teaches us that God is always there for us, that we must work every day toward strengthening our relationship with Him, and that we must do good for the people around us. In doing so, we help build a culture of life.
When we are unsure of our direction in life or when we just need guidance, let us do as Gerard did and talk to Jesus in prayer. And then let us keep our hearts open to His response.
St. Gerard, pray for us!
For lessons on other amazing saints, visit culture-of-life-studies.myshopify.com.