Saint Gerard
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Patron of Motherhood

Prayer Service


Tuesday evening, May 16, 2000, a mass and prayer service in honor of Saint Gerard Majella was held at Sacred Heart Parish in Stamford, Connecticut. Each year Fr. Thomas Nicastro, Jr. gathers devotees and hopeful parents alike to his parish for a special mass honoring Gerard, and to invoke the saint's special blessing. Fr. Nicastro grew up in Saint Lucy's parish in Newark, New Jersey, which houses the national shrine of St. Gerard. Today he is the U.S. national delegate for the international shrine of Saint Gerard at Materdomini in Caposele, Italy.

The faithful started gathering about an hour in advance of the service to secure a seat and perhaps pay a visit to the almost lifesize statue that stands year round at the left side of the altar. According to old Italian tradition, pilgrims pin dollar bills on the statue and pray for favors. A generous offering of literature, prayer cards, pins, and third class relics were available to all who approached the altar.

My wife and I arrived 2 hours in advance, not knowing what to expect. Of course we were driving from Long Island, New York, and didn't want to risk missing the event, or a seat. Ironically, we had read the article about the saint in the May 7th issue of Catholic Faith and Family, learning about the service only the night before. We decided on the spot that this was a must. Our pilgrim spirit grabbed us, and we knew we had to be there. While I spent the day trying to get home early from work, my wife spent a few hours researching Saint Gerard on the internet. She easily came up with a number of excellent pages on this fascinating Catholic personality, and by the time we arrived in Stamford, we thought we were experts on Gerard. In fact, the homily by Fr. Gerard Knapp, a Redemptionist priest who was invited to take part in the celebration, gave interesting insights on many of the facts about Saint Gerard that we had learned earlier that day.    See St. Gerard History

Saint Gerard is really much more than a fascinating Catholic personality. He is hailed as the "Protector of Mothers." His life is a powerful example of humility and total devotion to the will of God. In a very real way, he imitated the life and works of Jesus. Because of his stirring works, most particularly in the intercession with mothers and unborn children, hopeful couples of all ages gathered in union with those happy parents giving thanks for his intervention in helping them to conceive or bear healthy children. The Catholic Faith and Family article reported that more than one couple at the parish attribute their success in childbearing to the saint, and return each year to the service with increasing numbers of followers. Fr. Nicastro asks that anyone whose prayers to Gerard are answered report their good news to the parish. As a first time attendee, I can claim with certainty from the outpouring of love experienced within these

church walls in one single evening that Saint Gerard is adored and confidently recognized as intercessor for these parents' intentions. During the service Fr. Nicastro invited the congregation to enjoy this special celebration with Gerard as patron not only of mothers, but fathers, and the cause of all children, born or unborn. After inviting Fr. Gerard Knapp to lead the opening blessings of the service, Fr. Nicastro celebrated the mass. In a homily Fr. Knapp, a Redemptionist like the saint, spoke animatedly and joked that there were many similarities between himself and his namesake … except of course sainthood. In fact you may note a physical resemblance to the saint from the photo on this page. He then proceeded to recount the moving events of the saint's life, highlighting the fact that this frail person, once considered "useless," became one of the most pervasive miracle­workers of modern Catholicism.

Following the mass, Fr. Nicastro invited groups to come to the altar to venerate the first class relic of Saint Gerard (a small bone fragment contained within a brass, cross–shaped reliquary) and take part in a symbolic and prayerful laying on of the "handkerchief", a replica of Gerard's real handkerchief to which the famous cure of a mother in childbirth is attributed. During this part of the service he recited over each individual devotee prayers for the intercession of Saint Gerard. The groups called were chosen to be as inclusive of everyone as possible, representing married couples praying to conceive, expectant married couples praying for healthy childbirth, married parents giving thanksgiving for newborn children, and most parents or guardians with children they want blessed. Many babies and children were present for the service,

adding to the wonderful feeling of community and family.

The service ended with Fr. Nicastro's blessing and words of gratitude, including a special message in Italian for the traditional Gerard devotees. Finally, all were welcomed to a reception where a host of treats, many Italian–style and homemade, were offered with coffee, which was especially welcome for our long drive home. We had the pleasure to meet Fr. Nicastro at the reception and again, we congratulate him for his most successful and inspiring veneration of St. Gerard. Our prayers are with him and his parish, and for continued admirable service to the cause of St. Gerard and all parents and children in our community. We hope his example will continue to blossom with increasing recognition and devotion to Saint Gerard, and look forward to seeing him again next year.

Gary Galante
author of

St. Gerard Majella pages