As a child, Gerard Majella (d. 1755) was so good and prayed so intensely that his mother told the neighbors that her boy “was born for heaven.” He took up the trade of a tailor, but Gerard longed to enter religious life. So at age 26, he closed his shop and joined the Redemptorists, a new order of priests and brothers. In a short time, the Redemptorists came to look upon Gerard as their prize recruit. He never broke any rules, apparently he never committed any sins, yet he was personable and popular with everyone who met him, whether they were fishermen or members of the Italian nobility.

Soon there were reports of Gerard working miracles. No fewer than 20 individuals made known to St. Alphonsus Liguori, the founder of the Redemptorists, that Gerard had revealed to them sins they had been unwilling to mention in confession. A poor family said that through Gerard’s prayers, their meager supply of wheat was miraculously replenished for months on end. A mother and father swore that after their son had fallen off the edge of a cliff, Gerard had brought the child back to life.

One day Brother Gerard was leaving the home of his close friends, the Pirofalo family, when one of the daughters ran after him — he had dropped his handkerchief. “Keep it,” Gerard told her. “Someday you’ll find it useful.” Within a few years, Gerard had died and this same young woman had married and became pregnant. When it was time for the baby to be born, the labor went badly; the midwives were certain they would lose both the mother and the child. In her fear and agony, the woman remembered what Gerard had said; she asked for the handkerchief. Pressing it against her belly, she prayed to Brother Gerard to help her. Immediately the woman’s labor pains diminished and she delivered a strong, healthy child.

As the Redemptorists spread across Europe and then to the Americas, they told the story of the young mother who had been saved by the intercession of St. Gerard. Ever since, countless expectant mothers and women who are having trouble becoming pregnant have turned to St. Gerard for help.

In addition to being the patron saint of pregnant women, St. Gerard is also the patron of lay brothers, people falsely accused and the pro-life movement. His feast day is Oct. 16.