Saint Gerard Majella, C.Ss.R., the “Mothers’ Saint”
At age eighteen, Gerard opened his own tailor shop and seemed cheerfully resigned to his trade, until the day fifteen Redemptorists blew into town to give a mission. The fiery missionaries were members of a new religious institute founded by Alphonsus Liguori. Gerard was swept off his feet. He approached the superior, Father Cafaro, and asked permission to join. Father Cafaro took one look at Gerard’s bony body and pale face and dismissed him.
This time, though, nothing would deter Gerard. He hung around the missionaries all day and badgered Father Cafaro. On the last day of the mission, Father Cafaro advised Benedetta to lock Gerard in his room so he wouldn’t follow the Redemptorists out of town. Although Benedetta no longer depended on Gerard for financial support, she willingly complied. When she unlocked Gerard’s bedroom door the next morning, however, Gerard was gone. The window stood open and a knotted bedsheet hung from the sill. A note on the bed jubilantly proclaimed,"Have gone to become a saint!"
Gerard caught up with the missionaries about twelve miles outside Muro. When his pleas failed to move Father Cafaro, Gerard tried a new tactic. "If you do not receive me," he said sweetly, "you will see me every day begging alms at the monastery gate." Father Cafaro gave up and angrily scribbled a note of introduction to the Redemptorist novice master: "I am sending you a useless lay Brother."
The novice master doubted that the skinny new postulant would last a month, but Gerard was beside himself with joy, and that joy was a terrific source of energy. He threw himself into even menial tasks, "sweeping, scrubbing, and sewing his way to heaven." In his brief religious life, he served the community as tailor, gardener, infirmarian, sacristan, carpenter, baker (not a very good one, we’re told), and porter.