By JOEL PADGETT
CONNECTING FAITH AND LIFE
Today (Oct. 16), we celebrate the feast of Saint Gerard Majella, patron saint of mothers, expectant mothers and those desiring to become mothers. It is rare that I dedicate this column to a saint or write about personal things, but I owe him one.
Saint Gerard was born in Italy in 1726, and he passed away in 1755 at the young age of 29. He was a religious brother of the Congregation of the Redemptorists, which Saint Alphonsus Liguori had only recently founded. He was known to possess many supernatural gifts and to be a worker of miracles.
One such miracle is at the origin of how he came to be considered the patron saint of mothers. As he was leaving the home of a family of close friends, one of the daughters called out to him that he had forgotten his handkerchief. He told her to keep it, saying that she may need it someday. Years later, the girl – by then grown up, married and expectant with child – suddenly went into labor and began experiencing life-threatening complications. She asked that Saint Gerard’s handkerchief be brought, and upon applying it, her condition immediately improved; she delivered a healthy child.
In 2010, while I was studying in Italy, my father, sister and I had the opportunity on my birthday to visit the shrine where Saint Gerard is buried, which is a few hours south of Rome. My father’s name is Gerard, and my middle name is Gerard, so it was a special occasion for both of us. It was a great grace to be at the tomb of the saint who had become my namesake on that same day 29 years before. I was particularly impressed by a large room at the shrine that had every inch of its walls covered in thank you mementos and pictures of babies as tokens of gratitude from mothers who attributed the birth of their children to the intercession of Saint Gerard.
Years later, after around five years of marriage and unsuccessfully being able to have a child, Saint Gerard once again made his presence felt in my life. My wife and I had heard of a wonderful Catholic doctor who specializes in infertility and who helps couples in accordance with Church teaching. It just so happened that his clinic was named St. Gerard Ob/Gyn!
Speaking with the doctor was like a breath of fresh air for my wife and me. He both respected and shared our faith, and he guided us in the direction of a treatment that was firmly rooted in medical science and followed Catholic morals. We were able to conceive, and the day that we found out that we were expecting was Oct. 16, the feast day of Saint Gerard Majella, two years ago today! So if I ever make it back to Saint Gerard’s shrine, I’ll be contributing to the room where I once stood in awe.
One of Saint Gerard’s last requests while he lay sick and dying from tuberculosis was to have a sign posted on the door of his room that read: “Here the will of God is done, as God wills, and as long as God wills.”
Our prayers may not always turn out as we desire, but Saint Gerard teaches us that what ought to underlie all of our prayers is the desire that God’s will be done in our lives, whatever that may be. This may be the hardest and yet the most important prayer of all, and surely it is the prayer that will ultimately bring the greatest joy and fulfillment to our lives. St. Gerard Majella, pray for us!