Pregnancy is a joyous time of preparation, wonder, and abundant changes. But for a new mother it can also be a scary time. There’s so much to worry about as that tiny, vulnerable baby grows each and every day. That is why we invoke the help of Our Lady of Guadalupe and saints like St. Gerard. We say prayers, we contemplate their lives here on earth, and we do our best to take care of our growing baby.
I know personally the devotion to St. Gerard because my mom invoked his help when she was unable to get pregnant. She and my father originally wanted five or six children (they ended up with just me), but were having difficulty conceiving. She asked for his intercession and told him that, if she got pregnant, she would name a child after him. Thus, my middle name is a variation of Gerard. So I hold him close to my heart, and I prayed for his intercession when I was pregnant with all three of my children. He is a wonderful saint!
If you are expecting, consider beginning (or renewing) a devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe or St. Gerard. Either one is a wonderful intercessor during pregnancy. I explain why below.
Our Lady of Guadalupe
In December 1531, a poor man living in what is today Mexico City set off on a long walk to daily Mass. On the way, he encountered the Blessed Virgin Mary, who sent him on a very important mission—to ask the local bishop to build a church for her Son on Tepeyac Hill.
It took two attempts for Juan Diego to meet with the bishop, who then sent Juan away saying that he needed a sign. Juan Diego returned to the Blessed Mother and explained what the bishop requested. She pointed him in the direction of some roses, and he was overjoyed at the sight of flowers growing in December. He carefully wrapped them in his tilma and returned to the bishop. When he opened his tilma to allow the roses to fall on the floor, the bishop also fell to the floor, for on Juan Diego’s tilma was a stunning image of Mary—Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The image depicts Mary as
. . . a beautiful young Indian maiden with a look of love, compassion, and humility, her hands folded in prayer in reverence to the Almighty God. . . . Her rose dress, adorned with a jasmine flower, eight petal flowers, and nine heart flowers symbolic to the Aztec culture, is that of an Aztec princess. Her blue mantle symbolized the royalty of the gods, and the blue color symbolized life and unity. . . . Twelve rays of the sun surround her face and head. She stands on the moon, supported by an angel with wings like an eagle: to the Aztec, this indicated her superiority to the moon god, the god of night, and her divine, regal nature. Most important are the black maternity band, a jasmine flower, and a cross that are present in the image. The maternity band Mary wears depicts she is with child. That child, of course, is Christ Our Saviour.
Today, we invoke Our Lady of Guadalupe’s intercession during pregnancy because, not only is she our spiritual mother, but she depicted herself on the image as pregnant with Baby Jesus. She wants us to know that she loves and cares for us, especially during pregnancy. Just as we can run to our mothers in times of need, so can we run to our Blessed Mother, for she will hold both mother and baby in her mantle.
St. Gerard Majella
St. Gerard Majella was born in Italy, and from a young age, he wanted to devote himself to Christ. His father died when he was young, so it was up to him to work to help his mother. As a young boy, he worked as a tailor—a business he continued when he was older. He took care of his mother, giving half his wages to her and half to the poor.
Gerard’s real desire was to serve God. Because of his poor health, he was turned down the by the Franciscans, but he was accepted by the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. His superiors said that he was a model of obedience and piety. Though he was always weak and sickly, he did the work of three men—and without complaint. In addition, he is said to have had the gifts of prophesy, bilocation, visions, ecstasies, and infused knowledge.
One night, after leaving a dinner he shared with a local family, one of the young daughters ran up to him telling him he forgot his handkerchief. Using his gift of prophesy, he told her to keep it, saying she might need it someday. Many years later, after St. Gerard had died, this young woman was in labor and in danger of losing her baby and her own life. She remembered the handkerchief and asked for it to be placed on her belly. Immediately her pain stopped, and she gave birth to a healthy baby.
Since then, St. Gerard has been invoked as the patron saint of preborn children, of mothers, and of pregnancies.
If you are pregnant, or know someone who is, keep her and the baby in your daily prayers. Pray for the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, or say the novena to St. Gerard below, which reflects on the virtues he exemplified in his daily life and a mother’s desire for her preborn child to share in these virtues so that the child will someday also share in eternal life with God.
Novena to St. Gerard
Say an Our Father and a Hail Mary after each reflection.
Day 1: St. Gerard, from a young age you knew you wanted to devote your life to God—to not only serve Him, but to serve others. Your life is a beautiful example of doing good for others. And your life of service was not only an inspiration to those who knew you, but to those who have read and still read about your life. Please watch over this baby. Keep him safe, and help me raise him with a love of God and fellow man so that he serves others and God with the same love and grace you did.
Day 2: St. Gerard, you loved children so very much. They would flock to you to learn to pray and to listen to your stories. I can picture these children as they sat at your knee hearing the word of God and learning to speak to Him with love, devotion, and gratitude. I know that prayer brings us closer to God and that it’s incredibly important for our souls. Please help me to be just like you and to teach my child the ability to pray fervently and faithfully, even when it seems her prayers aren’t being answered. Help me teach her that God always listens.
Day 3: St. Gerard, a woman once accused you of lechery—an accusation you bore with silence and great patience. She eventually confessed that she lied, and when your superiors asked you why you remained quiet, you said you thought patience was needed in that circumstance. You did not disparage the woman. You waited patiently in prayer. It must have been very difficult for you, but you knew the truth was on your side. It’s often very difficult to wait for things patiently. I await the birth of this baby with such anticipation that sometimes I can’t stand it. I pray every day for him or her. Please not only help me become more patient, but help me exhibit patience as I raise my child. And help my child learn from my example to become patient not only with others, but in his prayer life.
Day 4: St. Gerard, even though you were weak and small in stature, you did more work than anyone in the monastery. The responsibility and work ethic you showed are models for all, as any job worth doing is worth doing well. Help me as I work hard every day to take care of my body and the baby growing inside me. Help me to stay healthy and keep my little one healthy. And, when my baby is born, help me to teach him or her to take pride in work, to work hard, and to give all the glory to God for life’s successes.
Day 5: St. Gerard, you were known for your incredible kindness to everyone around you. In this day and age when anonymity reigns on the internet and people feel that they can say whatever they want, we must sometimes take a step back and examine our own behavior and what we model to others—especially our children. Help me to model kindness as I begin my journey into motherhood, even when I’m angry or upset. Help me teach my baby to follow your example and treat others with the respect and dignity they deserve.
Day 6: St. Gerard, your superiors at the monastery always said that not only were you obedient when they were around, but that you were obedient when they weren’t around—and that you even seemed to know their needs. Sometimes it’s difficult to obey, but we know that God walks with us and guides us, if we allow it. Help me to be an obedient child of God. And help me to teach my child to not only obey me as a parent, but to obey God’s laws. For it is only through this obedience that he will spend eternity with God.
Day 7: St. Gerard, even though you were a lay brother, you still took the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. You showed immense temperance (self-control), not only in daily life, but when you were accused of something you did not do. It would have been easy to let your emotions take over, but you did not. Help me to retain control of my emotions and to teach my child to do so as well. In this world of “say whatever you want, and think later,” help me to teach her to think first before she talks.
Day 8: Dear St. Gerard, your immense generosity and work with the poor earned you the nickname Father of the Poor. I understand that there really is no room in this world for a “me first” mentality. We must all learn to put God and others first in our lives. I know that I will always put this baby before me in my life, but help me to lead by your example so that he learns to care for others just as you did.
Day 9: Dear St. Gerard, you showed the utmost respect to everyone around you—your superiors, your peers, your friends, the poor, and even those who hurt you. You treated others as Jesus would treat them. Help me to treat others with this same respect. And help me to teach my child to see the face of Christ in everyone she meets.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.