St. Gianna Beretta Molla, is not only a contemporary saint, but a saint for the contemporary woman! This was a woman who loved God, loved her husband, loved her children and raising them, and even had time to devote herself to charity and a profession, a physician no less! What an inspiration St. Gianna is to us modern-day women, who also try to juggle faith, family, and work. On top of that, she is always seen with a smile on her face, evidence of the true joy she experienced from living this ordinary life for the Lord!
St Gianna was born October 4, 1922 in Magenta, Italy as the tenth of thirteen children to her parents, Maria and Albert Berreta. She grew up in the Lombardy Region of Italy in a loving home, where she was educated and involved in her faith and parish life. She was an active member of The St. Vincent de Paul Society, helping the poor and less fortunate, and the Catholic Action movement, that worked with the elderly and needy. Gianna studied medicine and surgery at the University of Pavia and received degrees in both in 1949. Gianna decided to specialize in pediatrics at the University of Milan. After her graduation she opened a medical office in Mesero. This is where she would come to meet her husband, Pietro Molla.
Pietro Molla was an engineer and in 1954, he and Gianna began a very loving romance, a romance of the heart, founded in the Lord and filled with admiration and respect. They were married less than a year later. They exchanged love letters leading up to and throughout their marriage. In one such letter before they were married, Gianna wrote to Pietro, “Love is the most beautiful sentiment that the Lord has put in the soul of men and women.”
In return, the day before their wedding Pietro gifted Gianna with a watch, a pearl necklace, and these words, “Let these crown the wonder and the brightness of your beauty and your virtues on our wedding day. May the watch always mark the loveliness and most peaceful times of our life, and may this pearl necklace be a sign of the enchanting light of our love. They are given to you…by your Pietro with the greatest love.”
Pietro and Gianna were gifted with three healthy children, Pierluigi, Mariolina, and Laura Zita. The pair handled marriage, family life, and occupations with grace and joy. Their faith always in the Lord and prayer ever at their lips.
In 1961, Gianna became pregnant with their fourth child and in her second month it was discovered that she developed a fibroma tumor in her uterus. She was in unimaginable pain. The doctors presented her with three choices, an abortion, which would spare her life, but obviously take that of the baby, a complete hysterectomy, that would also take the baby’s life and all of Gianna’s reproductive organs, or surgery to attempt removal of the fibroma only.
Gianna turned to prayer. In her own words, “With faith and hope I have entrusted myself to the Lord… I renew to the Lord the offer of my life. I am ready for everything, to save my baby.”
Gianna made the most difficult decision in an effort to preserve the life of her baby, she decided to undergo surgery to remove the fibroid tumor from her uterus. She was adamant with the doctors and with her husband, “If you must decide between me and the baby, have no hesitation. I insist on it, save the baby.”
The tumor was successfully removed and the baby was safeguarded through the surgery and the remainder of the pregnancy. Gianna was grateful to the Lord for the protection of the life of her baby! Although Gianna suffered many difficulties for the remainder of her pregnancy, she continued to dedicate her time to her jobs as a loving wife to her husband, a nurturing mother to her young children, and as a doctor in her community.
At last, Gianna Emanuela was born via cesarean section on April 21, 1962. While doctors tried different treatments and procedures, seven days later on April 28th, Gianna died from an infection called septic peritonitis. She was 39 years old.
St. Gianna Beretta Molla was beatified by Pope John Paul II on April 24, 1994. She became Venerable after he confirmed that she had lived a model Christian life of heroic virtue. Then on May 16, 2004, Pope John Paul II proclaimed Gianna Beretta Molla, a Saint, at her canonization in St. Peter’s Square.
Pietro and their four children attended her canonization ceremony. This historic moment was the first time in the Catholic Church a husband witnessed his wife being canonized a Saint. His heart must have been filled with joy at the sight of his Saintly bride, the love of his life, in perfect union with the Lord!
How are you like St. Gianna Beretta Molla? Do you find your schedule to be jam-packed with duty and responsibility? Do you turn it over to the Lord?
Have you been moved in faith to make a difficult decision before? In what ways did you rely on God? Did you seek Him in prayer?
Do you sometimes find difficulty in relationship, maybe within your marriage or other close relationships in your life? How can the example of St. Gianna and Pietro’s marriage help you? How can you bring the light of Christ to that person?
Do you rely on God for help in even the mundane, ordinary tasks of your daily life? Offer everything up, your life can be a prayer!
Ask St. Gianna for her intercession, in any of the above, by praying this prayer below, written by her own daughter, Dr. Gianna Emanuela Molla:
"God, You who are Father, we give You praise and we bless You, because in Gianna Beretta Molla You…have made known a woman who witnessed [to the truth of] the Gospel as a young person, as a bride, as a mother and a doctor.
Through the gift of … [her] life, we learn to accept and honor every human being…
Through her married love, she became a sign of Your love for the Church and for humanity.
Holy Spirit, font of every perfection, give us wisdom, intelligence, and courage. Grant that, like St. Gianna [my mother], and through her intercession, we may put ourselves at the service of every person, in our personal, family, and professional life…
and so to grow in love and in holiness. Amen."