About St. Gerard – Patron Saint of Pregnancy, Childbirth & Mothers
Obedience is hard. For someone to have perfect obedience seems nigh impossible and quite frankly, completely undesirable. Obedience is a sacrifice of our will to another person’s will. Typically people don’t like to sacrifice their will to another, and when they see someone who constantly does they think something must be wrong with them. What’s so amazing about St. Gerard is that he had perfect obedience to God’s will. He willingly sacrificed his will to God’s in order to do God’s work. This sacrifice was a great act of faith and love, which Gerard showed all throughout his life.
Gerard grew up with three older sisters. His mama, Benedetta, told him ever since he was little how amazing and overwhelming God’s love was. Gerard grew up with a loving heart, confident in God’s love. His dad died when Gerard was only twelve, and Gerard was apprenticed out to a tailor. He eventually became a journeyman tailor, the halfway-there spot in an apprenticeship. Soon after, he set up his own shop, run out of his mama’s house. He ran a good business, and after he had set aside some of the profit for his mama and sisters, he donated the rest to the poor and to donations for prayers for the souls in purgatory.
When Gerard was twenty-three, Redemptorist missionaries came to his home town of Muro in Italy. After observing them in their missionary duties, he became convinced that he belonged in their order. Gerard asked if he could join their missionaries and was turned down because of his health. Gerard was not to be deterred from his vocation, and with the ingenuity imbedded in all young minds, tied his bed sheets together and escaped out his window to follow them.
The missionaries were twelve miles away from Muro when Gerard caught up with them. Not bad for a guy rejected because of health reasons. Gerard was reluctantly sent to the Redemptorist community in Deliceto, bearing a letter for the superior that read, in part, “I am sending you another Brother, who will be useless as far as work is concerned…” The Father was mistaken: Gerard was anything but useless. After taking his first vows, he plunged into the lifestyle with abandon. He did the work of three men, and was considered a “miracle of obedience”.
True, Gerard was perfectly obedient. He longed for unity with God’s will so much that no matter what His will was, Gerard would do it. Since Gerard saw his superior’s will as God’s will, he did everything and anything they asked him to do. So great was his obedience that they would merely think of something for him to do, and he would do it.
In obedience to God’s will, Gerard went on a lot of mission trips, running retreats, helping young girls join convents, helping the poor, saving souls, and performing miracles. There is a well- known story in St. Gerard’s life concerning one of the girls he helped get into a convent. Her name was Neria Caggiano. Neria found out that she was not cut out to be a nun, and within three weeks of joining the convent she went straight back home. As an explanation for her early departure, Neria slandered the sisters and their lifestyle. The people didn’t buy it. Gerard was already seen as a saint, and he was the one who recommended the convent. So Neria shifted her attack. She sent a letter to St. Alphonsus Ligouri, founder and superior of the Redemptorists. In said letter, she confided that Gerard was not in an appropriate relationship with one of the daughters in the house of a family he stayed with on his mission trips.
St. Alphonsus was quite rightly appalled, and called for Gerard to explain. Gerard took a page out of Christ’s book and said not a single word. Without evidence to point either way except the letter, St. Alphonsus gave Gerard a severe penance. He was to have no contact with the outside world, and was forbidden from receiving the Eucharist until further notice. Gerard, believing the affair to be God’s will, submitted humbly. Some time later, Neria fell severely ill. She wrote another letter to Alphonsus, confessing that the letter she had written about Gerard was slanderous and that he was innocent. Alphonsus, probably having suffered more misery over Gerard’s predicament more than Gerard did, was elated to hear of his spiritual son’s innocence. Gerard was content with God’s will being done.