Just in time for the feast of St. Gerard Majella, Oct. 16, there’s a brand-new website dedicated to this powerful saint for all mothers and mothers-to-be.
The Redemptorists of the Denver Province are calling The Mothers’ Saint the official English-language website dedicated to this wonder-working saint who is one of their own. The site includes a video blessing for mothers. The new website will act as an online community of prayer and support for all mothers, mothers-to-be, and those trying to conceive. It will have resources for women and mothers looking for moral and spiritual guidance.
For more than two centuries, St. Gerard, a simple Redemptorist brother, has been popularly called the patron of mothers and motherhood and the protector of expectant mothers and their unborn children. He’s also known for helping infertile couples to conceive.
Gerard was already called a “wonder worker” even before he died in his native Italy in 1755. His prayers regularly turned extremely difficult pregnancies with few hopes for success or even survival into uncomplicated births with healthy babies.
St. Gerard has answered petitions to him by so many who have sought his intercession. His favorite reply to those bringing him their petitions before praying for them was: “It is nothing.”
In years past, several mothers and fathers have told me firsthand how St. Gerard interceded and answered their prayers; they often visit the National Shrine of St. Gerard at St. Lucy Church in Newark, N.J. Many go for the nine-day novena leading up to his feast day.
This year, on Oct. 16, the Redemptorists are offering women a special blessing at their own Shrine Church of St. Gerard Majella in Hollis, N.Y., (the first in the U.S. dedicated to Gerard) and three other parishes named for him.
Redemptorist Father Allan Weinert, project leader for the province’s Majella initiative, gives the online video blessing, which is the same given on his feast day.
When he traveled extensively to parishes all over the country, Father Weinert met many mothers who voluntarily told him of their devotion to St. Gerard.
The stories always had two parts.
“The first part was the heartbreak they experienced being infertile or the heartbreak when the mother was in very difficult medical circumstances,” he told me. Then, with their devotion to St. Gerard, they delivered a healthy child in a safe delivery or conceived.
“The second part was always the joy they experienced in each of their children and the gratitude they had to St. Gerard for his intercession and help.”
This eventually led Father Weinert to realize the Redemptorists had under promoted the devotion to the saint.
“There was a real grassroots devotion to him, but it wasn’t concentrated and in one place,” he said.
Now, this website provides that central venue for devotion, including offering a novena booklet with prayers for mothers’ various needs and situations. On the site’s bulletin board, mothers can express their concern to other mothers as well. St. Gerard prayer cards are available for download from the site or by calling, toll free, (866) 788-0343.
Soon to be available is the “St. Gerard handkerchief,” a sacramental that was tied to him when he was alive. According to one Redemptorist biographer, Father James Galvin, when Gerard was returning to his monastery of Materdomini after visiting friends, a young woman ran after him to return a handkerchief he had left behind.
Gerard told her to keep it because she would need it someday. Years later, dying in childbirth, she had his handkerchief placed on her. Immediately the danger passed, and she delivered a healthy baby and was fine herself.
Since then, handkerchiefs touched to Gerard’s tomb or relics have blessed countless mothers with happy, healthy, joyful births.
Right now, the St. Gerard sacramental handkerchiefs are always available and sent around the world from the National Shrine of St. Gerard in Newark by writing them (see website above) or by calling the church at (973) 803-4200.
Father Weinert relates how when children from these difficult circumstances are told the story of their birth, “you can’t image the gratitude and the appreciation they have for their parents’ struggle and the intercession of Gerard.”
He singled out the Patin family from Grand Rapids, Mich.
“When Gerry [Patin] was conceived and during the time his mother was carrying Gerry, she had difficulty with the pregnancy,” Father Weinert related. “At the hospital, the doctor attending the birth felt unable to help Gerry’s mother. The doctor was ready to tell Gerry’s father and brothers that his wife — their mother — and the new baby were not going to survive. Because of Gerry’s mother’s devotion to St. Gerard, she was able to give birth to a healthy child. And she made it through and survived.”
The parents named the baby after St. Gerard. Today he is Redemptorist Brother Gerry Patin, director and administrator of Our Mother of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Oconomowoc, Wis. At the devotional shrine there to St. Gerard, mothers and grandmothers can place their prayer petitions and be remembered in the Masses and devotions to the saint.
His three brothers are also Redemptorists: Father Larry and Brothers Andy and Gene Patin.
“Gerard is a treasure for us Redemptorists,” Father Weinert said. St. Alphonsus Liguori, the order’s founder, thought so: He himself initiated Gerard’s cause for canonization.