A Community of Conversion and Testimony
Witness: Saint Gerard Majella – faith is my life and life for me is faith!
We are in Italy, in Materdomini, in front of the grave of Saint Gerard Majella in the basilica dedicated to him and the Mother of the Lord (Materdomini). Next to this church Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori started to build a monastery for his missionaries in 1748. It was here that Saint Gerard served the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer as a religious brother. Saint Gerard is a saint, whose life was amazing and full of miracles and God’s grace. “Life is faith to me and faith for me is life,” Gerard used to say, and that’s how he lived from his childhood. A humble soul filled with love and mercy towards others and unbreakable faith, his short earthly life was filled with four great loves: Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, Christ Crucified, Mary the Mother of God, and the poor people. He was distinguished by apostolic zeal, patience in weaknesses, love for the poor, heroic obedience, harsh penance, and persistent prayer. Now we will move to the museum dedicated to him, next to which is his room. There, we will briefly discuss the most important stages of his life.
Gerard was born on April 6, 1726 in Muro Lucano, a small and poor town in southern Italy. His parents were Dominic Majella and Benedetta Galella. The last of four siblings, he had a difficult childhood. Poverty was the only thing that was never lacking in his home. When something that was necessary was missing, he went to the chapel of the Virgin of Capodigiano, where he played with Baby Jesus, who fed him with small white bread. The desire to receive the Eucharistic Jesus was burning strongly in this small child. So small and already so mature in faith … so much so that Saint Michael the Archangel himself appeared to give him his first Communion. After a Redemptorist mission in his town, he asked for the possibility of joining the congregation founded by Saint Alphonsus. He was 22 years old. The frail Gerard did not resemble someone suitable to lead a life full of suffering that was characteristic of the first missionaries. However, he managed to face all this with great strength and determination. In his life he was guided by the maxim: “Love God very much, be always united with God. Do everything for God. Love everything for God. Always obey His holy will. Suffer much for God. It is so painful to suffer and not do it for God. To bear all suffering and do it for Him – it’s nothing.” He wrote many letters, being a spiritual director, as well as “rules of life”. The Lord gave him many charisms, among them: prophecy, the ability to penetrate human hearts and the gift of miracles. He did a lot of them during his lifetime, and is continuing to do so from heaven now. The low-born and the poor recognized him before his death as a holy intercessor: on the monastery gate he fed a large group of the poor and healed the hearts of many needy before he took care of their physical needs. He died of tuberculosis here, in Materdomini, after great suffering, on the night of October 15 – 16, 1755, when he was only 29 years old.
Declared a saint on December 11, 1904, saint Gerard was proclaimed around the world the patron of women giving birth, and patron of mothers and children, to whom he had a special love during his life. Even now he doesn’t cease to support them from heaven with his powerful intercession. That is why we are here in a special place of this sanctuary – Sala dei Fiocchi – The Hall of the Bow’s. Now I will explain to you the relationship that mothers and their children have with our saint! When a child comes into the world to celebrate it, there is a tradition of preparing ribbon bows, which later hangs as an expression of happiness. All the bows that are hanging in this room were given to Saint Gerard from parents, who wanted to express to him their gratitude for taking care of mother and child during childbirth, or for being gifted with the joy of being parents after many difficulties. There are many marriages around the world who say that they felt the close presence of Gerard during pregnancy and childbirth. Many children also bear his name as a sign of lasting piety.
Today, crowds of pilgrims come to Materdomini to pray in front of his grave in this church dedicated to him. Many believers visit the shrine to thank the humble brother, guardian of mothers and children for the graces received, or simply to find some peace at his worldly remains. They feel at their heart his closeness as a brother and as a friend. Saint Gerard was above all distinguished by his love for the poor. Also in his writings one can see how other people were important to him, he always protected the other regardless of the situation in which he found himself. In an extremely ingenious way he did everything to meet the other person, the sick, the poor. This should be a great inspiration for us today.
As he entered families and the lives of others, he always tried to bring out the best in everyone and lead him on the path of following Christ.
Saint Gerard, look after us always and intercede for us before God!
Author: Elisa Malanga
Translation: Dominik Król CSsR