Gerard Majella


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St Alphonsus (1696—1787)


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Redemptorist lay brother. Born at Muro Lucano, fifty miles south of Naples, the son of a tailor, Gerard was a devout child who, on his father's death, was apprenticed to a tailor and then became a servant to the bishop of Lacedogna. In both these occupations he encountered considerable personal difficulties. He then returned home to live with his mother and three sisters, was notable for his extreme generosity, and spent long hours in prayer. He had already tried to join the Capuchin branch of the Franciscan Order but was refused because of weak health. The Redemptorists, however, accepted him with some misgivings at Deliceto (Foggia); following the direct intervention of the founder Alphonsus Liguori, Gerard was professed as a lay brother in 1752. After three eventful years during which stories of clairvoyance, prophecy, the gift of reading the secrets of hearts, charity to the poor, and supposedly miraculous healings were related of him, he died of consumption at the age of twenty-nine, in the monastery of Caposele, Avellino. The marvels related of him must not obscure the fact that most of his time was spent in humdrum duties as porter, tailor, and gardener. He was beatified by Leo XIII in 1893 and canonized by Pius X in 1904. He was praised as the patron and model of lay brothers in their humble, hidden lives, but paradoxically he has also been acclaimed as the ‘most famous wonder-worker of the 18th century’. Feast: 16 October.

Propylaeum, pp. 458–9;Compendium vitae, virtutum et miraculorum necnon actorum in causa canonizationis B. Gerardi Majella (1904);contemporary Life by A. M. Tannoia, Vita del servo di Dio Fr. Gerardo Majella (1811), Eng. tr. in Lives of the Companions of St Alphonsus (1849), pp. 243–453;O. Vassall-Phillips, Life of St Gerard Majella (1914);J. Carr, To Heaven Through a Window (1946);B.L.S., x. 112–14;Bibl. SS., vi. 192–6.

Subjects: Christianity.

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