St Gerard Majella - Biography - 12th October 2017

Thursday, October 12, 2017


When Gerard was twelve, the sudden death of his father made it necessary for him to leave school and to begin to work. His mother apprenticed him to a tailor so that he could follow the trade of his father. His employer took a strange dislike to him and often showered him with blows and curses. Gerard accepted the persecution as being permitted by God for his spiritual good. Once he was seen to smile even while he was being beaten, and when asked about this, he said: "I was smiling because I saw the hand of God striking me." After his apprenticeship as a tailor, Gerard served for some time as a houseboy for the Bishop of Lacedonia, who was recuperating in Muro. Again he manifested the virtue of patience by silently bearing the irascible temper of this otherwise worthy man. During this time one of his early miracles took place. One day he accidentally dropped the key of the house in the well. With saintlysimplicity he lowered a small statue of the Infant Jesus into the well. To the amazement of the onlookers, when Gerard raised the statue the lost key was held in its hand. 


Such a youth would naturally turn toward the religious life. Three times, however, he was refused admittance into one religious order because of his frail health. He was still determined to become a lay brother, and the occasion of a mission conducted by the Redemptorist Fathers in Muro gave him new hope. He asked to be admitted as a candidate in theirorder, but again was refused because they felt that his health would not be equal to the rigours of monastery life. So persistent was the young man, however, that Father Paul Cafaro, the superior of the missionaries, advised his mother to lock him in his room on the night they were leaving Muro, lest he try to follow them. Gerard's mother did so, but the next morning when she unlocked the door she found an empty bed, an open window from which hung a sheet, and a note on the table that read: "I have gone to become a Saint." 

Gerard had caught up with the missionaries just as they were leaving town. After many entreaties and refusals, Father Cafaro finally gave in and sent him on to the rector of the Redemptorist house at Iliceto with this note of recommendation: "1am sending you a useless lay brother." 

The "useless" lay brother was to do the work of four men, according to the testimony of those who worked with him. In his six short years as a Redemptorist, Gerard advanced rapidly in sanctity. His prayer life was continual and his spirit of obedience was so perfect that several times he even appeared at distant places in response to the unspoken requests of his absent superior. Even his confreres came tohonour him as a Saint. 

Much of his life as a brother was spent in traveling with and assisting the missionaries. They deemed him an invaluable companion, because he had such remarkable success in bringing sinners to the Sacraments and in inducing many to repair their past bad Confessions. People followed him everywhere, and already called him "il santo"-----the Saint. 

True sanctity must always be tested by the cross, and it was in 1754 that Gerard had to undergo a great trial, one that may well have merited for him the special power to assist mothers and their children. One of his works of zeal was that of encouraging and assisting girls who wanted to enter the convent. Often he would even secure the necessary dowry for some poor girl who could not otherwise be admitted into a religious order. 

Neria Caggiano was one of the girls thus assisted by Gerard. However, she found convent life distasteful and within three weeks had returned home. To explain her action, Neria began to circulate falsehoods about the lives of the nuns, and when the good people of Muro refused to believe such stories about a convent recommended by Gerard, she determined to save her reputation by destroying the good name of her benefactor. Accordingly, in a letter to St. Alphonsus, the superior of Gerard, she accused the latter of sins of impurity with the young daughter of a family at whose house Gerard often stayed on his missionary journeys. 

St Gerard Majella, pray for us!