St Gerard Majella and St Margaret Mary Alacoque

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Lay brother. Born in 1725, in Basilica, Italy, Gerard trained and worked in his father's trade as a tailor before joining the Redemptorist noviciate at Deliceto in 1749. St Alphonsus Liguori recognised his extraordinary spirituality and ordered that he be professed early. Although he worked in ordinary jobs, as a porter and a gardener, his life was marked by a series of extraordinary phenomena, including ecstasies, bilocation, prophesies, healings and the ability to read people's hearts. He was exceptionally caring to the poor and those with troubles. Though he never became a priest, clergy and communities of nuns came to seek his advice and spiritual direction.

Gerard died of TB in 1755, when he was just 29. He was beatified in Rome on January 29, 1893, by Pope Leo XIII, and canonised less than twelve years later on December 11, 1904, by Pope Saint Pius X. Pope Pius X praised him as the patron and model of lay brothers in their humble hidden lives. Paradoxically, he was acclaimed the 'most famous wonder worker of the 18th century.'

His intercession is sought for children, unborn children, women in childbirth, mothers, expectant mothers, motherhood, falsely accused people, good confessions, lay brothers and Muro Lucano, Italy.

One miracle in particular explains why Majella became known as the special patron of mothers. A few months before his death, Gerard visited the Pirofalo family and accidentally dropped his handkerchief. One of the Pirofalo girls spotted the handkerchief moments after he'd left the house, and she ran after Gerard to return it. "Keep it," he said to her. "You may need it some day".

Years later when the girl--now a married woman--was on the verge of losing her life in childbirth, she remembered the words of the saintly lay brother. She asked for the handkerchief to be brought to her. Almost immediately the pain disappeared and she gave birth to a healthy child. This was no small feat in an era when only one out of three pregnancies resulted in a live birth, and word of the miracle spread quickly. Because of the miracles God worked through Gerard's prayers with mothers, the mothers of Italy took Gerard to their hearts and made him their patron. At the process of his beatification one witness testified that he was known as "il santo dei felice parti"--the saint of happy childbirth.

This devotion has become very popular in North America, both in the United States and Canada.

In 1977, St. Gerard's Chapel in St Lucy's Church, Newark, New Jersey, was dedicated as a national shrine. Each year during the Feast days which include October 16, there are the traditional lights, music, food stands and the street procession. Devotees visit the Shrine also throughout the year to pray to and petition the help of St Gerard.

The St Gerard Majella Annual Novena takes place every year in St Josephs Church, Dundalk, Ireland.

Today is also the Feast of St Margaret Mary Alacoque see: www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-margaret-mary-alacoque/

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