St. Gerard Majella Rescues Another Mother and Child
A family relates tale of a child’s healing for the feast day of the ‘mother’s saint.’
On Nov. 12, 2018, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Diana Richardson received an ultrasound picture from her son Chad’s wife, Lindsay, that asked, “Prayers for baby. We have to go back for another ultrasound in four weeks. Baby has cysts on its brain, which may mean Trisomy 18, and feet were turned, which would mean casts on legs immediately after delivery, along with a problem with the umbilical cord — it’s not inserted into the placenta. It’s just hanging by a string. I’m a little overwhelmed, so love and prayers for us and baby ‘G’ please.”
“This news couldn’t have been more heart-wrenching,” Richardson recalled to the Register. She understood Trisomy 18 is a chromosomal abnormality affecting the organs, and only about 10% of children born with it live to their first birthday.
She quickly reached out “to a dear priest friend of mine, Father Carlos Martins, and asked what saint we could pray to for intercession,” she remembered. He recommended St. Gerard Majella, patron saint of expectant mothers, whose feast day is Oct. 16.
“As Diana was communicating to me over the phone the medical afflictions of her grandson, a vivid image of St. Gerard Majella filled my mind. It was clear, bold and persistent,” Father Martins, of the Companions of the Cross and the director of Treasures of the Church, recalled to the Register. “I felt he was saying, ‘I will take care of this. Send me to that baby.’ I said, ‘Diana, I know someone who will help your grandson.’”
Richardson found a prayer to St. Gerard, modified it to include Lindsay’s name as part of the intention, and then printed several copies to hand out: “We needed an army praying for this little baby.”
She went to her parish’s adoration chapel to pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament and beg the Lord for a miracle. As she was leaving, a friend on the church’s staff walked in, and Richardson gave her the prayer card. The friend smiled and told Richardson, “I’m actually named after him. I pray to him every day.” The friend explained how her mother prayed daily to him when she was pregnant, and when the baby arrived, she named her Geralyn.
“For a second I sat there a bit stunned that she knew this saint and was named after this saint,” Richardson explained about Geralyn’s story. “I knew immediately that God had just unequivocally validated that St. Gerard was the saint I should be seeking intercession from.”
(Italian) Household Name
Although St. Gerard Majella is a leading saint for intercession in cases of pregnancies and birth, mothers and babies, and married couples wanting to conceive, he’s not as well known in America as he is in his native Italy, as his feast day is the same day as St. Margaret Mary Alacoque’s, and he doesn’t appear on the United States liturgical calendar. But he and his feast are well celebrated in churches named after him, including at the National Shrine of St. Gerard in Newark, New Jersey.
Those seeking his intercession realize why his 18th-century contemporaries called him “Wonder-Worker.” So well-known was the miracle-working of this lay-brother Redemptorist, who died in 1755 in Materdomini, Italy, at age 29, that the order’s founder, St. Alphonsus Ligouri, himself initiated the cause for his canonization.
For more than two centuries, expectant mothers, those wanting to be mothers, and those praying for them have turned to St. Gerard for intercession and help. Innumerable answered prayers are linked to his intercession. By the late 1800s, immigrants from villages and towns near Naples, where the saint lived and worked, carried their devotion to America, including at the shrine in Newark.
St. Gerard has become beloved to the Richardson family.
Father Martins loaned a relic of St. Gerard to the Richardsons. He had gotten it from the Redemptorist order.
“He is one of their saints, and their general postulator — Benedicto D’Orazio — issued the relic in 1924. It eventually became part of the Vatican exhibit that I now direct,” Father Martins said.
“I could feel his presence immediately,” Richardson explained. After carrying the relic to her parish’s adoration chapel to earnestly invoke his help, she brought the relic to Lindsay and told her not to let St. Gerard out of her sight and “pray with him often and beg him to beg God to heal the little angel she was carrying.”
Richardson kept handing out the prayer cards for St. Gerard’s intercession to family, friends, fellow parishioners, priests and a dear friend in a convent. She prayed, telling God that her son and daughter-in-law “were good and loving Christian parents that longed to bring another precious soul into this world. They will love him Lord, as you would want him to be loved, and they will teach him to love you.”
Early Christmas Gift
Before the Blessed Sacrament, Richardson recalled a sudden, inexplicable inspiration that the family would have great joy at Christmas, and her heart was suddenly filled with hope. As she explained, “The relic was with Lindsay at that moment. Perhaps the healing occurred within her womb at that very moment. God’s mercy was poured down upon that precious new life and his family.”
Hundreds of people were praying for the baby as Lindsay’s next ultrasound approached on Dec. 11.
Lindsay described to the Register her feelings going into the doctor’s appointment: “My husband and I had so much peace from the first time we had heard the news. We had felt so calm because of the prayers we had received and the amount of people we knew were praying for us. We knew, whatever the outcome would be, that this baby would be loved.”
The surprising results: All signs of Trisomy 18 were gone. And the umbilical cord was now perfectly formed and inserted into the placenta.
“I could tell the ultrasound looked different,” Lindsay said. “He didn’t look like what I had seen before. The feet looked perfect. He had no spots on his brain. I cried then, even though the tech couldn’t tell me at that moment, but I knew he was perfect in our eyes.”
Lindsay had asked her doctor, “Is this a miracle?” He just smiled, she recalled. So she asked again. All he would commit to was, as she related to the Register, “There are no medical explanations.” He acknowledged he could not explain what had happened. He repeated, “If we could have asked for the best possible outcome today, I believe we have received it.”
Lindsay told the Register, “When the doctor stated, ‘I have the best possible news,’ I cried tears of joy, relief and an overwhelming amount of gratefulness for those who prayed and continue to pray for our sweet boy.
“Praise our merciful God,” Richardson said. “We rejoiced.”
When Father Martins was told of the results, he remembers he “was not in the least surprised a healing occurred. St. Gerard’s desire to be involved was absolutely clear and convincing.”
On April 1, 2019, when Brooks William Gloede was born, the family saw “the miracle with our own eyes,” Richardson said. Today, Brooks is a healthy toddler with two older brothers and one older sister.
“St. Gerard is truly a saint in our family,” Lindsay emphasized. “We pray daily to him. I say often to Brooks, ‘You will move mountains, my boy, because you have St. Gerard and Jesus beside you.’”
National Shrine of St. Gerard Majella
Patron of Mothers, Patron of Motherhood, Protector of Expectant Mothers — all are titles given by popular acclaim to St. Gerard Majella, a monumental pro-life champion. Over the decades, thousands of testimonies have rolled in to the National Shrine of St. Gerard (SaintLucy.net) in Newark, New Jersey, about how a novena to him was answered with a child whose birth, doctors said, was a medical impossibility, or how applying “his handkerchief” saved mothers dying in childbirth and turned difficult deliveries into nearly effortless ones.
The popular St. Gerard handkerchief originated as the saint was leaving after visiting a family. Their teenage daughter ran to return his forgotten handkerchief, but Gerard told her: “Keep it. You may need it someday.” Years later, as she was dying in childbirth, she remembered the handkerchief and asked for it to be put on her. Nearly at once, she recovered and the birth went fine.
Since then, handkerchiefs touched to the Gerard’s relic or tomb have had the same happy effect; mothers-to-be regularly ask for them to prevent complications and provide a safe, healthy delivery for mother and child. “St. Gerard patron of pregnant mothers pray for us,” proclaims a scroll on the handkerchief with the image of Gerard holding a crucifix and a lily.
Prayers to this “mother’s saint” have seen countless cases of these wonder-working answers.
St. Gerard’s shrine is located inside St. Lucy Church, which itself is reminiscent of a magnificent Old World cathedral and sometimes referred to as “The Italian Cathedral.”
Father Paul Donohue, a Comboni Missionary of the Heart of Jesus and the shrine director and pastor of St. Lucy’s, said that people write in, call and email for the St. Gerard handkerchief (and medals). He told the Register, “We get letters even from England, Scotland and Ireland. English-speaking countries follow us rather than the shrine in Materdomini, Caposele, Italy.” He always hears testimonies from women and families about healings. St. Gerard “not only heals pregnant women, but he helps people who are ill with cancer and other diseases,” he said.
The shrine chapel has a statue of St. Gerard, brought from Italy well over 100 years ago, standing beneath a half dome with mosaics of Gerard in heaven, surrounded by angels. Murals on the ceiling include his deathbed vision of Mary as Queen holding Jesus as a baby, both beckoning lovingly to him, and Gerard praying for a mother while he holds her baby.
Joseph Gonnela’s family helped bring the statue of St. Gerard to America 100-plus years ago and has been associated with the shrine since its founding. Gonnela highlighted books of testimonies of prayers miraculously answered through St. Gerard’s intercession recorded annually.
He gave one example to the Register of “a West Point grad from South Dakota who comes every year to give a donation. His daughter wasn’t able to have children. Now he has two grandchildren. We have a lot of this here. We have a bulletin board on display showing the children born the previous year as a result of St. Gerard’s intercession. He really caught on with the women of the world. Every week I send pamphlets and the handkerchief out, even to the Philippines, Ireland, the Congo. He’s universal.” — Joseph Pronechen