Gerard Majella (1726-1755) is today popularly known as “The Mothers’ Saint.” How did this come about? It does seem odd that a male religious should be the saint for mothers, mothers-to-be and those wanting to become mothers. The origin comes from an incident that happened in the last months of his short life:
Once, as St. Gerard was leaving the home of his friends, the Pirofalo family, one of the daughters called after him because he had forgotten his handkerchief. In a moment of prophetic insight Gerard said: “Keep it. It will be useful to you some day.” The handkerchief was kept treasured as a precious souvenir of Gerard.
Years later the girl to whom he had given it was in danger of death during childbirth. She remembered the words of Gerard, and called for the handkerchief. Almost immediately the danger passed and she delivered a healthy child.
This wonderful story was the beginning of devotion to and belief in the miraculous powers of St. Gerard in favor of women who are soon to become mothers, who long to be mothers or who already are mothers.
It was really not the Redemptorists who first promoted this devotion to St. Gerard. The popularity of this devotion is due, first of all, to all the Italian women and mothers who believed and promoted this confidence and trust in the intercession of St. Gerard. It was Italian mothers who spread this devotion throughout Italy and Italian immigrant women who took the devotion with them to many parts of the world, including the USA.
The Redemptorists also have promoted devotion to St. Gerard throughout the world, beginning with the Shrine-Sanctuary of St. Gerard Majella in Materdomini, Italy, where he is buried. To this day mothers are the greatest supporters and promoters of devotion to St. Gerard, because they feel and know firsthand the power of his intercession.
The word comes from the Latin ligare, which means to bind or connect. The word religion comes from the same root and means to reconnect, to bind together again, which is what all good religion is intended to do: to reunite or connect us to God and to one another, because we have a sinful tendency to get “disconnected.” A league then is an association or union of people formed and bound together or united in order to promote the interests of its members, or for some common action.
The League of St. Gerard then is an association of dedicated people, under the patronage of St. Gerard, who wish, like him, to commit themselves to following Christ and doing God’s will. This association, now sponsored by the Redemptorist Missionaries of the Province of Denver, is designed to promote devotion to St. Gerard Majella, the Mothers’ St., and to create an ever-growing prayer community that prays constantly for:
The gift of motherhood • for women having difficulty conceiving • for pregnant women • for women enduring a complicated pregnancy • for safe deliveries • for new, first-time mothers • for women who adopt • for mothers who struggle in poverty • for mothers of children with special needs • for pregnant women or mothers with HIV/AIDs and other compromising illnesses • for mothers of the incarcerated or who are incarcerated themselves • for mothers of soldiers • for single mothers • for foster mothers • for birth mothers • for teenage mothers • for mothers who have lost a daughter or son • for grandmothers and great grandmothers • for sick children • for respect for all life from conception to natural death • for women who have had an abortion • and all other intentions that are sent.