|Photo Credit: Teresa Love|
J. R. R. Tolkein, The Two Towers
|Photo Credit: Teresa Love|
Some experts in pastoral theology or historical anthropology describe popular piety as an inferior or degraded state of faith when in reality it's a matter of expressing the relations with the Transcendent in a different way. It might seem that popular piety is somewhat deficient and can find its legitimization only in the liturgy of the Church and in the official cult. But that argument forgets that liturgy, too, is the result of the influence of theological currents on a given epoch and environment. In other words, liturgy, too, is a cultural product.St. Gerard, as most of you probably know, is the patron saint of expectant mothers and in the past several years, our family has had abundant reason to seek St. Gerard's intercession since we've had thirteen pregnancies in the past 10 years. However, I don't think I really started praying to St. Gerard until February of this year when there had been two recent miscarriages in my family, and my granddaughter was having a very difficult pregnancy. I decided at that time that he would be one of the saints I would write about and have since read some background material, much of which I have, unfortunately, forgotten.
"On seeing how miserably Gerard was dressed, [his Capuchin uncle, Eustachio Gabella] bought him a greatcoat; but when Gerard, coming out of the friary, met a poor man wrapped in rags, he took compassion on him, and immediately took off the coat and gave it to him." Tonnoia records that "his uncle was not best pleased."He was a sickly youth, and because of that, and also because of the objections of his mother (She locked him in the house when the missionaries were coming, but he escaped through the window.), he had a hard time being accepted into a religious order, but he finally convinced the Redemptorists to take him on trial. After three years, on May 17, 1749, he took his religious vows.
Bartolomeo Melchione had been a bright spark about town when a bachelor, but after a year of marriage, "he had become dull and heavy." Gerard cooked him a meal and then spent the evening singing songs with him. Melchione kept up a chorus all the way home to his wife. His friends thought it a miracle. And it must be supposed that his wife forgave Gerard for keeping Melchione out so late. A nice smile turneth away anger.He was an actor and love to play the fool, not only to make people laugh, but as an act of humility. Tannoia:
What affected him most as he contemplated the Passion was to see the way our Blessed Lord was reviled as a fool; he therefore resolved to simulate madness so that he could share in His humiliation.And Gerard's passion was the Passion. He longed to suffer the sufferings of Christ. He took part in many Passion Plays, and asked the other actors to beat him in the same way that Christ was beaten, and insisted that the crucifixion be as like the original as possible. Needless to say, his mother did not approve of this--once she fainted during a particularly realistic performance--and I'm pretty sure that his superiors did not let him go to these extremes, although I can't find the reference at the moment.
He laid open the deepest wounds of their souls to some, and set before others the duties of their station, and their infidelities in the performance of them.Maybe not always the most comfortable person to have around,
His miraculous apostolate for mothers also began during his lifetime. Once, as he was leaving the home of his friends, the Pirofalo family, one of the daughters called after him that he had forgotten his handkerchief. In a moment of prophetic insight Gerard said: "Keep it. It will be useful to you some day." The handkerchief was treasured as a precious souvenir of Gerard. Years later the girl to whom he had given it was in danger of death in childbirth. She remembered the words of Gerard, and called for the handkerchief. Almost immediately the danger passed and she delivered a healthy child. On another occasion the prayers of Gerard were asked by a mother when both she and her unborn child were in daTnger. Both she and the child came through the ordeal safely.One of the most difficult events of St. Gerard's life occurred when he was falsely accused of sexual misconduct by a woman whom he had counselled. He never defended himself because he believed that the rule of his order prevented him from doing so, and he was removed from ministry. In the end, the woman admitted that she had lied.
|St Gertrude the Great (1256-1302)|