At Bishop Eton parish in Childwall, the shrine to Saint Gerard Majella has been undergoing a facelift, culminating in the installation of a new hanging textile which conjures the Italian landscapes where the Redemptorist saint ministered. The hanging, which was designed and painted by Gill Roberts, and embroidered by David Peglar and Gill Roberts, depicts the town of Caposele in Tuscany where the saint lived and worked.
Gerard Majella is an unlikely candidate to be patron saint of mothers and babies. He was a lay brother in the Redemptorist Order, living in remote parts of central Italy during the 18th century and dying at the tender age of 29. However, he became a legend in his own lifetime: a man of deep prayer who was also compassionately perceptive and blessed with the gift of healing.
On one famous occasion he was visiting a family and he dropped his handkerchief. When the young girl picked it up, he told her to keep it as one day it could be of use to her. Years later, with the same young woman facing life-threatening complications during a pregnancy, she sought out the handkerchief and asked Gerard to intercede for her. She was cured and gave birth to a healthy child. As a result, devotion to Gerard among pregnant mothers spread around the district and eventually across the rest of Italy and around the world. He was canonised in 1904.
As the Church prepares for the second session of the Synod on the Family later this year, the Redemptorists at Bishop Eton are renovating their shrine to St Gerard and encouraging parishioners to deepen their devotion to this remarkable saint. At a time when the sanctity of all human life is under threat in so many ways, St Gerard stands out as a champion of the family, whose prayers we would all do well to invoke.