St. Gerard Majella was born in 1726, in Southern Italy, to a large and poor family. Majella grew up in poverty, and throughout his life had a deep love for the poor. St. Gerard was apprenticed at the age of 12, and after a few years became a journeyman tailor. He divided his earnings between his poor mother, his family, and the poor. As a young man, St. Gerard was extremely pious, and ceaselessly mortified his body.
St. Gerard twice tried to join a local monastery, but was refused. However, Majella did not give up, as his vocation was very strong. At the age of 23, he joined the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists) and became a professed lay brother. That is, he took religious vows, but still lived and worked in the community.
Majella stayed close to the poor, and worked at very many different jobs while still living an exemplary Christian life. He lived among the poorest of the poor. Majella later became a spiritual advisor to several religious communities because of his piety. St. Gerard was tireless in his efforts to help the poor, and was a model lay brother. Soon he became renowned far and wide for his holiness and miracles, and was revered as a ‘Man of God’. Many people sought out his blessing.
Gerard’s health was never good, and he died at the age of 29.
In 1893, Majella was beatified and, in 1904, he was canonized.
There are many miracles associated with St. Gerard Majella during his short life.
He multiplied bread to feed the poor, and rid the farmland of a plague of mice, thereby saving that year’s harvest. St. Gerard Majella also restored a boy's life after the boy had apparently fallen to his death.
One day, a handkerchief was given by the saint to a young girl. He asked her to keep it, as she would need it someday. When the girl grew up, she married and became pregnant, but as she was giving birth, it was feared that she would lose the baby. She called for Gerard Majella’s handkerchief and applied it to herself. She immediately she felt better, and her child was delivered safely.
Because of this and other miracles, St. Gerard Majella is the patron saint of women in childbirth.
St. Gerard Majella believed that the poor were the image of Christ:
"The Most Blessed Sacrament is Christ made invisible. The poor sick person is Christ again made visible.”
He also believed that a Christian should concentrate on the spiritual and the life to come:
"Consider the shortness of time, the length of eternity, and reflect how everything here below comes to an end and passes by. Of what use is it to lean upon that which cannot give support?"
St. Gerard Majella is an inspiration to all those who want to live a spiritual life in the everyday world.