Saints are interesting people to learn about. Not only are their stories quite inspirational in nature, but their patronages have their own interesting origins. A quick Google search will reveal that the patron saint of pregnant women is, in fact, a man. While some people may find this rather curious, a closer look at Saint Gerard’s story reveals much more about this unexpected pairing. Keep reading to learn more!
Gerard was born on April 6, 1726 in a small Italian town near Naples. He was the youngest of five children, and his father was a tailor. Gerard was only 12 years old when his father died, and this obviously put the family in great financial stress. In an effort to help with the family expenses, Gerard took on an apprenticeship to learn about the tailoring trade. After four years of hard work, he began to work more fully. As he started to earn steady wages, he split his earnings– giving half to his family and half as a church offering for the souls in purgatory.
As Gerard started to mature, he tried to join a local Capuchin order but was denied entry due to his poor health. Instead, he joined the congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer and carried on his mission as a lay person. Most of Gerard’s missionary work involved spreading God’s word to the poor. He was very close to those on the outskirts of society and was often seen with those otherwise rejected by the public. He gained a local reputation, as his dedication to God was quite clearly evidenced by his good works.
Despite his good works, Gerard was still subject to persecution. When he was in his mid-twenties, he was subject to an awful rumor. A woman claimed to have romantic relations with him in an effort to tarnish his reputation. Amidst this awful allegation, Gerard did not grow angry but remained silent and turned to God instead. His prayers were answered, as the woman soon rebuked her own accusations thereby restoring Gerard’s reputation. It’s for this reason that Gerard is the patron of those who are falsely accused.
This was not the only time Gerard was known to invoke divine intervention. Several miracles and divine acts are attributed to him including the gift of bilocation, the ability to read souls, walking on water, and even multiplying bread to give to the poor. However, one of his most notable miracles resulted in the patronage he holds for mothers, expecting mothers, and childbirth.
Gerard was said to carry a handkerchief that was of great sentimental value to him. No one knows exactly why Gerard was so attached to the handkerchief, but speculation is that it belonged to his father. Regardless, Gerard took this handkerchief with him everywhere. One night Gerard was visiting a friend who had several daughters. As he went to leave for the evening, he dropped his handkerchief without realizing. One daughter picked it up and went to return it to Gerard. However, instead of taking it, Gerard simply said “Keep it, you may need it one day.” Years later, that daughter was in the middle of giving birth when several complications occurred. She called for the handkerchief to be brought to her, and upon receiving it she was able to complete her delivery of a perfectly healthy child. Gerard is still called on by expectant mothers, and those who wish to become pregnant so that they may have a safe and healthy pregnancy.
Gerard spent his life serving others. Sadly, he passed away at the young age of 29 in October of 1755. He was beatified in 1893 and was canonized in 1904. Saint Gerard’s story is one of unexpected lessons. He showed us that sometimes being turned away from certain opportunities can lead to even greater ones; that the truth will always prevail over deception; that small acts of kindness can make a world of difference; and that no dire situation is beyond the divine power of Christ.
Post written by Katie Karpinski