St. Gerard Majella
By Fr. Donnell Kirchner, C.Ss.R.
Compassionate Advocate for all Life
Catholics have always been greatly devoted to and fond of the saints. They inspire us, intercede for us and help us to stay close to Jesus. You probably have your personal favorites. There are so many who call us to greater spiritual growth and holiness, from the mystical St. Teresa of Avila to Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who worked selflessly for the poor.
The Redemptorist saint, Gerard Majella, is very popular with expectant mothers. Through the ages, countless couples who were finding it difficult to conceive turned to St. Gerard and were blessed with children. He has been a source of strength and blessing for so many women in difficult and high-risk pregnancies as well as for women facing complicated deliveries. But it would be a mistake to limit St. Gerard’s powerful intercession simply to all things related to motherhood. In his brief years as a Redemptorist brother, he distinguished himself as a compassionate advocate who defended all life and promoted social justice.
St. Gerard saw the face of God in everyone, and he was compelled to relieve their pain and suffering. His profound friendship with the Lord drew him to the less favored members of society. According to one author, he had “an almost psychic ability to sense the suffering of another and try to alleviate it, to let passion become compassion.”
From his day until now, St. Gerard has been a steadfast agent of God’s loving anointing. “Peace and tranquility are often manifested in the lives of people praying to St. Gerard for healing and other needs in ways that were beyond their imagination,” attests Br. Dan Korn, C.Ss.R.
Pope Francis reminds us that we may think that we give glory to God only by our worship or simply by following certain moral norms, but what we have done for others, the sacrifices we have made in order to give life to others, are the ultimate criteria by which we will be judged. Our good works are diverse ways to practice that social justice called for in the Gospel message of Jesus. Our lives will be judged by what we have done for others. All who really love the Lord will be involved and concerned about all of God’s creatures, all of creation, just like St. Gerard. An authentic prayer life puts us in touch with all aspects and dimensions of creation. Praising the Lord includes following the example of Jesus as the Good Shepherd “who came that (all) may have life and have it abundantly.” (Jn 10:10).
St. Gerard’s spirituality will lead us to value and protect the dignity of each and every life, from the innocent unborn to the frail, elderly and dying and everyone in between. We will cherish each child and work to ensure that they have the physical, emotional and spiritual nourishment necessary to flourish in life. St. Gerard leads us to all those in need, to an all-embracing pro-life stance, regardless of character, age, gender, race, ethnicity, social status, economic ideology, political opinion or anything else that makes us different one from another. After a child is born, it still needs loving parents who are justly remunerated for their work in order to support their family. Once born, a child still needs clean air and water and adequate and affordable nourishment, decent housing, access to health care, clothing and educational opportunity. Life is to be protected and promoted from “womb to tomb.” This is the culture of life, the civilization of love.
A mother’s role includes uniting all her children to live together in harmony and peace as members of one family. Mothers know that children are not the same, each is unique, with a variety of talents and hopes. Mothers support and encourage all their children to develop their gifts and realize their potential as fully as possible.
We can look to St. Gerard as someone who encourages deeper understanding and authentic dialogue among people with diverse opinions and viewpoints. St. Gerard can help us to build bridges and live together more peacefully, knowing that all people are sons and daughters of the same Father, true brothers and sisters. By his example and intercession, St. Gerard can help us renew our world. Different races, cultures, societies and mentalities can coexist peacefully if they listen to and learn from the insights and values of others who are different. We do not all have to be exactly alike. We only need respect those who have a different opinion or outlook.
In his short 29 years of life, St. Gerard demonstrated it is possible to live devoutly in the presence of God and still accomplish great good in one’s community and society. The Lord’s presence not only draws us in and fulfills our deepest longings, but also gives energy and dynamism, inspiration and meaning to our whole existence: life lived for others. St. Gerard shows us a sure path to the abundant life that Jesus promises.