The feast of Saint Gerard in Frosinone, a historically “Gerardian” city

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When in 1776 the Redemptorists arrived in the city of Frosinone and, settling in the sanctuary of the Madonna delle Grazie, opened a community there, they all carried in their hearts the name of their brother, who had died at the age of just 29 two decades earlier. It was Gerard Majella. All the fathers had known him and, considering him a saint, they immediately made an effort to make his figure known to the people of Frosinone.

Even the young student Clemente Hofbauer, who finished his studies in preparation for the priesthood in Frosinone and celebrated his first Holy Mass in our church, was enthusiastic about the figure of the then servant of God Gerard Majella. Before leaving to lay the foundation of the Congregation beyond the Alps he wanted to transcribe the life of Saint Gerard by Fr. Giuseppe Landi, attributable to Fr. Gaspare Caione, and take the Saint with him to Warsaw.

Over time, the devotion of the people of Frosinone to Saint Gerard has grown more and more, thanks to the fact that over the years miracles and graces obtained through the intercession of the holy Redemptorist brother have multiplied.

And this is how Frosinone became the “second most Gerardian city in Italy”, preceded only by Materdomini.

In 1905 the Rector Major of the Congregation, Fr. Mattia Raus, gave the community a gift of an illustrious relic and a precious plaster statue of the Saint, which is carried in procession every year. Furthermore, in 1911 the Fathers founded the Association of the Gerardines, a female confraternity in honour of St. Gerard.

In Frosinone, Saint Gerard is traditionally celebrated on the last Sunday of September because in October many people go on a pilgrimage to his tomb in Materdomini.

This year the Gerardines celebrations, organized by the parish priest Fr. Luis Perez and the superior Fr. Sergio Santi, opened with the novena preached by some priests of the diocese, while the last three days were entrusted to the reflection of the Redemptorist Father Filippo Strippoli.

Fr. Philip spoke to everyone about some aspects of St. Gerard’s life and spirituality: his response to the vocation, his obedience to the will of God, his closeness, and his openness to all, including women (a very modern attitude for that time).

On the eve of the feast, a mass was celebrated on Saturday 23 September. Holy Mass with the anointing of the sick and in the afternoon a meeting with the children and the traditional blessing of the sandwiches followed. Mass attended by the bearers of the statue. The city’s polyphonic choir performed the solemn Vespers in honour of Saint Gerard, composed of our late brother and musician Fr. Giacomo Cirelli.

On Sunday many participated in the Masses and went to confessions. In the afternoon, the solemn Eucharistic celebration took place, presided over by Msgr. Nino Di Stefano, Vicar General of the Diocese of Frosinone-Veroli-Ferentino, with the participation of his brothers and diocesan priests.

After the  Mass, the solemn procession took place with the statue of the saint, carried on the shoulders of the men of the Confraternity, which passed through the main streets of the historic centre. Fr. Antonio Cirulli led the procession. Provincial Superior, who brought the relic of the Saint, and the preacher Fr. Filippo Strippoli.

On the panoramic avenue and the main square then Fr. Philip shared a brief reflection and imparted a blessing to the sick and the city with the sacred relic. The Mayor of Frosinone and the civil authorities also participated in the procession.

Many people participated and, as the procession passed, they joined their voices with those of the bearers who shouted, “Long live San Gerardo!”

Gianluigi M. Colucci CSsR