Here’s where the ordinary meets the supernatural, where blind faith meets science and the brutal basic facts of biology. Childlessness is a dark valley, made darker often by the hard choices women (and their partners) have to make, made worse by the unconscious or conscious cruelty of those of the smugger persuasion and situation. Childlessness is, undoubtedly cheaper, in these difficult times – but the cost is more then financial. I write from the West – but in many places still, ‘barrenness’ brings with it a terrible fate. Think of the stories of the Bible, even, in which the failure to produce an heir is seen as the fault of the woman: the story of Isaac and Ishmael, of Sarah and Hagar, contains within it much fear, much sorrow and downright cruelty. Think of Saint Elizabeth – who was ‘too old’ to bear a son.
I have a friend who is going through a long time of trying and failing to get pregnant and stay pregnant. She is trying all routes to a healthy conception – and there are many. The wizards of the modern world, psychotherapists, will tell you that therapy can cure psychological sterility. Spiritual healers, shamans, mindfulness experts and all manner of snake-oil salesmen [sic] will flog you cures, exhort you to think positive. Modern witchdoctors ply their trade in assisted reproduction – a long, hurtful and costly business (see the memoir Avalanche for the full story of a determined person seeking a child). Reproduction is half magic and half science. I think that therefore it is entirely legitimate to consider Saint Gerard Majella – the patron saint of expectant mothers. St Gerard is invoked for aid in conception, for the health of the mother and child and for safe delivery. “Majella” is a Christian name for some ladies: if you’ve met one of these ladies – now you know where it comes from!
The Redemptorists of Dundalk in Ireland have a particular devotion to Saint Gerard Majella and to Our Lady of Perpetual Help – their Solemn Novena can be found here. The Transalpine Redemptorists of Papa Stronsay can send people relics of Saint Gerard Majella. For free.
Here is a short prayer from Dundalk:
Prayer for the gift of a child
Dear Lord, we know your great love for us and for all your children.
It was out of love that you created all things. Your love fills us with new life. Make the partnership of our love fruitful.
With the prayers of St Gerard to assist us we come before you in trust and confidence. We make our prayer through your Son, Jesus Christ.
St Gerard, pray for us.
My little prayer: Dear Saint Gerard Majella, please help my friend and help all those wishing a safe and happy conception and delivery.