Saint Gerard’s Life and Legacy
Saint Gerard has become one of the most beloved saints in the world. Visitors at his shrine in Materdomini, Italy, discover a room dedicated to the miracles attributed to Saint Gerard. Thousands upon thousands of letters, photographs, and gifts of thanksgiving from all over the world recognize Saint Gerard’s powerful intercession.
Saint Gerard, however, did not always have such an exalted status. He was born into very simple and humble circumstances on April 26, 1726, in the village of Muro Lucano, Italy, the fifth child of Dominic and Benedetta Golella Majella. As a boy, Gerard was poor, small of stature, and prone to illness. But his family was very loving, and they taught him that suffering and love can work together.
Gerard was so captivated by the passion of Christ and the idea that the Son of God would willingly suffer because of love that he decided he wanted to fashion his whole life in the image of the suffering Christ.
By the age of five, miraculous events began to occur in Gerard’s life. For example, his sister witnessed the statue of the Baby Jesus come alive, play with Gerard, give him a loaf of bread, and then return to Mary’s arms. For Gerard, these extraordinary events occurred so often that they seemed almost ordinary to him.
When Gerard was twelve, his father died, and Gerard went to work for a local tailor to support the family. The foreman was very mean to Gerard, but he accepted his hardships as one following the will of God. For a short while he worked for a local bishop, and later had his own tailoring business. Still, Gerard felt a deeper calling to conform his life totally to Christ.
In 1749, after attending a Redemptorist mission, Gerard decided to join this congregation of missionaries. At first, the missionaries thought he was too frail to join them. They asked his mother to lock him in his room so he could not follow them. But Gerard climbed out the window and convinced the Redemptorists to give him a chance.
Gerard quickly proved himself to be a model religious. He refused to defend himself because the Rule forbade it, even when falsely accused of inappropriate behavior with a woman. Instead, he accepted the punishment and prayed until proven innocent. He was always cheerful and loved stories and jokes. He was prayerful, pious, and extraordinarily knowledgeable of works on theology and spirituality. He offered spiritual direction, performed great works of charity, and gave himself completely to the service of God and neighbor.