Lay brother. Born in 1725, in Basilica, Italy, Gerard trained and worked in his father's trade as a tailor before joining the Redemptorist noviciate at Deliceto in 1749. St Alphonsus Liguori recognised his extraordinary spirituality and ordered that he be professed early. Although he worked in ordinary jobs, as a porter and a gardener, his life was marked by a series of extraordinary phenomena, including ecstasies, bilocation, prophesies, healings and the ability to read people's hearts. He was exceptionally caring to the poor and those with troubles. Though he never became a priest, clergy and communities of nuns came to seek his advice and spiritual direction.
Gerard died of TB in 1755, when he was just 29. He was beatified in Rome on January 29, 1893, by Pope Leo XIII, and canonised less than twelve years later on December 11, 1904, by Pope Saint Pius X. Pope Pius X praised him as the patron and model of lay brothers in their humble hidden lives. Paradoxically, he was acclaimed the 'most famous wonder worker of the 18th century.'
His intercession is sought for children, unborn children, women in childbirth, mothers, expectant mothers, motherhood, falsely accused people, good confessions, lay brothers and Muro Lucano, Italy.
One miracle in particular explains why Majella became known as the special patron of mothers. A few months before his death, Gerard visited the Pirofalo family and accidentally dropped his handkerchief. One of the Pirofalo girls spotted the handkerchief moments after he'd left the house, and she ran after Gerard to return it. "Keep it," he said to her. "You may need it some day".
Years later when the girl--now a married woman--was on the verge of losing her life in childbirth, she remembered the words of the saintly lay brother. She asked for the handkerchief to be brought to her. Almost immediately the pain disappeared and she gave birth to a healthy child. This was no small feat in an era when only one out of three pregnancies resulted in a live birth, and word of the miracle spread quickly. Because of the miracles God worked through Gerard's prayers with mothers, the mothers of Italy took Gerard to their hearts and made him their patron. At the process of his beatification one witness testified that he was known as "il santo dei felice parti"- the saint of happy childbirth.
This devotion has become very popular in North America, both in the United States and Canada.
In 1977, St Gerard's Chapel in St Lucy's Church, Newark, New Jersey, was dedicated as a national shrine. Each year during the Feast days which include October 16, there are the traditional lights, music, food stands and the street procession. Devotees visit the Shrine also throughout the year to pray to and petition the help of St Gerard.
Today is also the Feast of St Margaret Mary Alacoque
Born on 2 July 1647 Margaret Mary Alacoque was a French Roman Catholic Visitation Sister and mystic, who promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in its modern form.
Her father Claude died when Margaret was eight, and from age 9-13 she suffered a paralyzing illness. During her illness, Margaret made a vow to enter religious life. For a time she changed her mind and even considered the possibility of marriage. Her life changed after she experienced a vision one night while returning from a dance, in which she saw Christ being scourged. Margaret believed she had betrayed Jesus, by pursuing the pleasures of the world rather than her religious vocation, and at the age of 22, she decided to enter a convent.
Two days after Christmas of 1673, Margaret experienced Christ's presence in an extraordinary way while in prayer. She heard Christ explain that he desired to show his love for the human race in a special way, by encouraging devotion to 'the heart that so loved mankind.'
She experienced several more private revelations but the superior of the convent dismissed this as a delusion. For a time she felt very disappointed but in 1674, the Jesuit priest Father Claude de la Colombiere became Margaret's spiritual director. He believed her testimony, and chronicled it in writing.
Fr de la Colombiere (who was also later canonised) was sent to serve as a missionary in England. By the time he returned and died in 1681, Margaret had made peace with her community. Through St Claude's direction, she had reached a point of inner peace, no longer concerned with the hostility of others in her community.
Eventually, her own writings and the writings of St Claude about the Sacred Heart were studied and accepted as true by the Church. Margaret Mary Alacoque died on October 17, 1690, and was canonized by Pope Benedict XV i