St. Gerard was born in southern Italy on April 6, 1726. His father died while Gerard was still young, forcing him to be apprenticed to a tailor. His frail health, quiet disposition, and gentle ways led him to being bullied by fellow workers and by his employers.
He was refused admission to the Capuchin Order on account of his youth, so he lived for a time as a hermit. His great love for Jesus crucified caused him to lead a very ascetical lifestyle. Getting to know the Redemptorists, he applied to them but was initially rejected because of his poor health. On his insisting, however, he was reluctantly accepted and sent to the novitiate with a note saying: “I am sending you a useless lay brother.”
Gerard was professed in July 1752, and quickly disproved the prediction of his uselessness by his excellent service as porter, tailor, and sacristan. His prayerfulness and dedication began to be too great to overlook and so he gained a reputation for sanctity. This brought a large number of persons to him for guidance in the spiritual life. He readily responded, revealing a remarkable gift for sensing the deep interior reality of a person. Because of this genius, of his ability to bring relief to the sick, and of his care for women in childbirth, many miracles were attributed to him and he gained the nickname “The Wonderworker.”
His popularity eventually led to accusations of sexual misconduct, which he bore patiently until they were proven false.
He died on October 16, 1755, worn out by his austerities and by tuberculosis. Very many Catholics throughout the world honor him as the special patron of new mothers and of families, and his reputation as “The Wonderworker” continues to our day.