Religious of the Order of Malta
Memorial: 19 June
It is not known for certain whether he came from Poland or from Germany, but he was certainly a Knight of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. At the time of Frederick II he served in a little church at Caltagirone in Sicily, caring for widows and orphans devotedly and without thought of himself. He died about 1271 and is still honoured at Caltagirone, where his relics are venerated in the Basilica of San Giacomo.
Lord God, who brought blessed Gerland from the north to Sicily and inspired him to wear a hair shirt in place of the armour of the knights of our Order, arouse in us a zeal like his so that our lives may always aim at perfection. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(From: The Missal with readings of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes, & of Malta, London 1997)
While Gerard Mecatti was edifying Tuscany, there lived at the court of Frederick II, King of Sicily, a Knight called Gerland of Apollonia. Some say he was a German or a Pole; his origin is uncertain. We do know, however, that he had been sent to Sicily by the Grandmaster of the monastery of Jerusalem to take care of the property that the Order possessed there. In the city of Caltagirone, near Licata in which the court of the king resided, no one could have believed that the illustrious Gerland of Apollonia wore a hair shirt under the magnificent uniform of his rank; the wonder would have been even greater if the court had discovered that in the solitude of his room the Knight administered to himself painful scourgings. His fasting and abstinences were frequent and prolonged. But where his sanctity clearly appeared was in his liberal alms, the help and consolation he gave to the wretched and all those who stood in need of his charity. He did not hesitate to aid those who suffered from injustice and abandonment. At his death, which occurred in 1242, there was great grief among all the poor. He was buried outside the Walls of Caltagirone, rather near the city, and miraculous cures glorified his tomb.
Time passed, bringing wars, plagues and revolutions. The venerated tomb was forgotten by all. Then, one evening, the sleep of a devout man, called James Calatasinii, was troubled by a dream. He saw St. Constantine who revealed to him the place where the remains of the Chevalier Gerland lay, in a ruined church near Caltagirone; the saint pointed out the exact spot of the tomb. With several friends, James went to the place indicated, and soon the relics were brought to light. Immediately a powerful fragrance sweetened the air. This was on June 18, 1327, a little more than 84 years after the death of the Blessed Gerland.
The venerable body was brought to the church of Saint James the Apostle, patron saint of the city, amidst manifestations of popular enthusiasm. The bones were cleaned and washed in a wine which afterwards operated great cures to the number of 95, as is witnessed by a story written in a book attested to and signed by the magistrates and notaries of Caltagirone; this book is preserved in the town's archives. It was decided that the image of the holy man would be painted in the church where he rested and that his feast would be celebrated like the most solemn of the city; the feast day was to be observed on the 18th of June, the anniversary of the discovery of the holy body.
A courtier Knight follows a hermit Knight. Can there be a greater contrast? And yet, both lived by the same Rule and according to the same spirit: that flexible and strong spirituality of Saint John of Jerusalem which adapts itself to circumstances and makes sanctity possible everywhere and always to anyone who has the courage to enter on its path and pursue it. Therefore, no one among us has the right to hide behind the difficulties of his social position in order to live in worldly lukewarmness and looseness. There have always been saints everywhere, at all times and in all the classes of society. But, alas! everywhere and always the great number of indifferent, inconstant, flabby and weak people has been able to create the impression that sanctity is impossible. As if anything is not feasible, with persistence and the grace of God ! If there are few saints, it is because there are few "men". The Knight of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem is indeed a man. Therefore, he must be a saint!
(From: Ducaud-Bourget, Msgr. François: The Spiritual Heritage of The Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Vatican 1958)
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