THE PRODIGIOUS LIFE AND MIRACLES OF ST. GERARD MAJELLA
St. Gerard Majella is the patron of pregnant women and
children. There are many stories of remarkable healings
attributed to him; stories of a man of faith that felt such an
emotion for the mothers’ tears and the children’s cries to
respond with the prayer of the heart: a prayer imbued with
faith, that urged God to perform miracles. The worship for
him has gone beyond the Italian borders over the centuries
and it is now widespread in America, Argentina, Canada,
Australia and European countries.
His life was made of obedience, concealment, humiliation and fatigue: it was marked by the incessant desire to comply with the crucified Christ and do his will with joy. The love for others and the suffering made him an exceptional and tireless miracle worker who firstly healed the spirit - through the sacrament of reconciliation - and then the body, operating inexplicable healings.
Over his twenty-nine years of earthly life he operated in many countries in the south of Italy, Campania, Puglia and Basilicata, in particular in Muro, Lacedonia, Santomenna, San Fele, Deliceto, Melfi, Atella, Ripacandida, Castelgrande, Corato, Monte Sant'Angelo, Naples, Calitri, Senerchia, Vietri of Potenza, Oliveto Citra, Auletta, San Gregorio Magno, Buccino, Caposele Materdomini. Each of these places professes a sincere devotion for him, for the miraculous events that took place there, facts related to the presence of the young man who was soon considered a saint on earth.
Gerard was born in Muro (PZ) in April 6, 1726 from Benedetta Cristina Galella, a woman of faith that conveyed him the awareness of God’s immense love for His creatures, and Domenico Maiella, a laborious and devoted tailor, who lived in modesty. For his parents God was also for the poor, therefore the family grew robust and accepted difficulties with joy.
Since his early childhood he had already drawn to places of worship, in particular the chapel of the Virgin in Capodigiano, where he said he often would receive the gift of a white roll from the son of that beautiful Lady who moved away from his mother to do so. Only when he was an adult, the future saint realized that generous child was the very Jesus, and not a child of the earth.
The symbolic value of that white roll unconsciously got through to Gerard the enormous value of the liturgical bread: when he was only eight, he tried to receive the Eucharist, but the priest rejected him because of his young age. The following night his desire was fulfilled by the Archangel Michael who offered him the coveted Eucharist.
At the age of twelve, his father’s sudden death made him the main source of sustenance of the family. He apprenticed as a tailor at Martino Pannuto’s, whose workshop was a place of marginalization and mistreatment for the presence of arrogant and discriminatory young men. His teacher, instead, had great confidence in him and took him to cultivate the fields when work was scarce.
One evening Gerard inadvertently set fire to the barn while he was here with another child, Martino’s son: everyone was in a panic except for Gerard who did not lose heart but made the sign of the cross and concentrated in a short, silent prayer, after which the flames were instantly and miraculously extinguished.
The 5th June 1740 Monsignor Claudio Albini, Bishop of Lacedonia, imparted Gerard the sacrament of Confirmation and offered to hire him in the service of the bishop.
Albini was known for his rigor and little patience, but Gerard was happy with the hard life he lived, thinking that reprimands and sacrifices, to which he added corporal punishment and fasts, could become a faint means to be conformed to Christ crucified. Mysterious facts occurred even here, as when the Bishop Albini’s keys fell into the well: he ran to the church, took a figurine of baby Jesus and pleaded him for help before lowering it into the well with a pulley. When the icon was hoisted again it was dripping water but held in his hand the keys lost.
Thenceforth the well is called “Gerardiello’s well”. When Albini died, Gerard mourned him as a loving friend and a second father.
Once come back to Muro, he experienced a week in the mountains as a hermit, then he went to Santomenna, where Gerard hoped to get his uncle p. Bonaventure’s support to its vocation. But he refused to help him since he was sickly. From that moment on until he was accepted by the Redemptorists, Gerard always met a general refusal for his intentions. Meanwhile he opened a tailor shop and the following year he compiled the tax return in his own hand.
The craftsman lived a modest condition because its motto was: “Those who own something, please give it, and those who do not have anything, please take it”. He was often withdrawn into adoration of the tabernacle in his spare time, where he conversed with Jesus whom he affectionately nicknamed “Madcap” because he is the living God who chose to be imprisoned there for love of His creatures.
The celibate life of the twenty-year-old Gerard was constant object of attention for his countrymen who would urge him to get engaged, but he was in no hurry and would say them that soon he would announce the name of the woman of his life: he did it on the third Sunday of May when jumped on the platform that was passing in procession, slipped his ring to the Virgin and intimately consecrated to her with a vow of chastity, proclaiming aloud that he had engaged to the Madonna.
The following year, in August 1748 the fathers of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer came to Muro. It was founded by the future saint Alfonso Maria de’ Liguori sixteen years before. Gerard applied for novitiate but was turned down many times because of his frail appearance. On April 4, 1749 he was chosen to play the crucified Christ in the living representation of Calvary in Muro. He did it by trying to offer his people the greatest awareness of Jesus’ sacrifice, his mother fainted when she saw her son covered in blood from the body and the head, pierced by a crown of thorns in a silent and stunned cathedral moved by pity for this young figurant.
On April 13, Low Sunday, Redemptorists returned to Muro with a full program of catechesis which Gerard participated with fervor. The Fathers rejected once again his desire to join them and the day of their departure they advised his mother to lock him in the room to avoid him to follow them. The boy bound the sheets and left the room, leaving a prophetic note to her: “I'm going to become a saint”.
Therefore he reached the fathers on their way to Rionero in Vulture and implored them to put him to the test. In the letter sent to the founder Alfonso Maria de’ Liguori, Gerard was presented as a useless, fragile and sickly postulant. The twenty-three-year old boy was meanwhile sent to the religious house of Deliceto (FG), where in July 16, 1752 he took his vows.
The six years before returning to her father's house are punctuated by prodigious events narrated in the paragraph "MIRACLES" of this website.