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St. Gianna (Beretta) Molla

Patrick A. O’Donnell, SFO

January 01, 2010
   
 

“If you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child—I insist on it.  Save the baby.” St Gianna Molla

Every day is a preparation for the moment one might be called to make heroic choice.  St Gianna Molla took such words to heart and proved to make the heroic choice she faced with unflinchingly and resolutely, to lay her life down for her preborn child’s life in imitation of Christ laying down his life for His Church.

Gianna’s preparation began upon being born on the feast day of St Francis, October 4, 1922 in Magenta, Italy to Alberto and Marie Beretta, two Secular Franciscans.  She was the tenth child of 13 with five of them dying in early age.  Her parents considered their children’s education as a manner for God to work through and prepare their souls for his work through them.  The parents were not poor, but lived with great simplicity, modestly and with much joy.  Their children’s religious training was serious matter for the parents and had the children accompany them to daily Mass each morning and in praying the Rosary every evening.  With daily prayer and study under her parents and her oldest sister Amelia, Gianna was ready for and was granted permission to receive her First Communion at the age of 5 and received Confirmation two years later.  She would be a daily communicant until the day she died. 

At the age of fifteen, Gianna lost her sister of 26 years age.  She had been Gianna’s confidant and was certainly an emotional loss for her.  But, the following year she went with another sister to a retreat on the spiritual exercises of St Ignatius that would affect her for the rest of her life.   

Her parents both died by her age of twenty and her siblings and she moved to their grandparents home.  It was at this time and through her studies that Gianna became involved in Catholic Action and the Society of St Vincent de Paul, working among the elderly and needy.  She often exhorted the members to “be living witnesses of the greatness and beauty of Christianity.”  She also often encouraged them not to be afraid to defend God, the Church, the Pope and his priests.  Saint Maria Goretti was an inspiration for her.  She would later frequently be elected to positions of leadership of Catholic Action.  She took to heart their motto of prayer, action, and sacrifice.

Her parents encouraged their children to pursue a profession that would enable them to serve humanity.  Of her nine surviving siblings, there were two priests, one nun, two physicians, one engineer, and one pharmacist.  In Gianna’s case, she sought a medical degree and practice.  Throughout her studies, Gianna invoked Our Lady of Desperate Cases.  She would earn her degree in medicine and surgery in 1949 and specialize in pediatric care in 1952. 

Discerning it not to be the will of God for her to do missionary work in Brazil, she commented that, “All the Lord’s ways are beautiful because their end is one and the same: to save our own soul and to succeed in leading many other souls to heaven, to give glory to God.”  She instead established her medical practice, collaborating with her brother who was also a doctor, in Meser (near Magenta), Italy.

She established her medical practice and would not let her work interfere with her pursuit of sports and interests.  She was a skier and mountain climber.  She enjoyed fashion, the symphony, and opera.  She also included painting among her recreations.  She was the one who would organize outings, parties, and games with the intention of encouraging her friends in the love of God and neighbor.   

As a doctor, Gianna would view her medical work as her ”mission” to help the suffering members of the Body of Christ.  Her patients were viewed as a whole being, body and soul, before God.  She would say of her profession:

 “Everyone works in the service of man. We doctors work directly on man himself... The great mystery of man is Jesus: 'He who visits a sick person, helps me,' Jesus said... Just as the priest can touch Jesus, so do we touch Jesus in the bodies of our patients... We have opportunities to do good that the priest doesn't have. Our mission is not finished when medicines are no longer of use. We must bring the soul to God; our word has some authority... Catholic doctors are so necessary!” 

She would often be confronted with situations with parents panicking over a troubled, risky of unwanted pregnancy.  She her role as their physician as one to encourage them through the darker moments and did just that.  She also often volunteered her services to local organizations.  Pertaining to the cases where a mother’s life is in danger, she expressed her belief in the sacredness of all life in her writing:

 “The doctor should not meddle.  The right of the child is equal to the right of the mother’s life.  The doctor can’t decide; it is a sin to kill in the womb.”

She began a friendship with Pietro Molla in 1954; and they were engaged and married in April and September of 1955, respectively.  Between 1956 and 1959, St Gianna gave birth to one son and two daughters: in order Pierluigi; Maria Zita; and Laura. 

Her fourth pregnancy took on a serious complication by the end of its second month.  Doctors had diagnosed her to have a cancerous tumor in her uterus that threatened her life and required surgery immediately.   There was a sense among the doctors that maybe the abortion of her baby would be best for Gianna’s health.  Gianna was adamant that the surgery was to bring no harm to the child she was carrying.   Knowledgeable of the health risks that surgery and the continued pregnancy would bear for her, Gianna told the surgeons:

“Yes, I have prayed so much in these days.  With faith and hope I have entrusted myself to the Lord…I trust in God, yes; but now it is up to me to fulfill my duty as a mother.  I renew to the Lord the offer of my life.  I am ready for everything, to save my baby.”

The surgery would be successful in removing the large ovarian cyst and not harming the child that she was carrying.  The cyst proved to be cancerous and she continued to carry the child for the remaining seven months.  Throughout this pregnancy, Gianna invoked Our Lady of Desperate Cases.

A few days before the baby was due, she again stated that she was prepared to give her life in order to save her preborn child’s life.  She had said, “If you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child—I insist on it.  Save the baby.”

Near her due date, Gianna was admitted to Monza Maternity Hospital.  Her daughter, little Gianna Emanuela, was born the next day, on Holy Saturday.  It was clear then that Gianna also had a life-threatening septic peritonitis; an abscess in the abdomen with or without buildup of fluids.   She suffered great pain and would not take pain medication because she felt it would not be right to appear before the Lord without much suffering.  The physical pain was only exceeded by her pain for leaving her four children without a mother.  Seven days after delivering her fourth child, Gianna succumbed to death. 

Pietro Molla said of his wife after her death, "Above all, I remember her total trust in Providence and her full and perfect joy at the birth of each child."  He added, "Gianna's decision to offer her own life to save that of her child had deep roots: in marriage -- which she felt to be a sacrament, the sacrament of love --and in the heroism of her maternal love and her total conviction that the right to life of the unborn is sacred."

A miracle attributed to her intercession was experienced by Elisabete Arcolino Comparini. In early 2000, the third child Elisabete had conceived began to have serious problems.  In the third month of pregnancy, the young mother lost all the amniotic fluid. Without that natural protection, the fetus should have died. But the baby girl was born in May 2000, an event inexplicable to science. Her parents, who had decided to pray through the intercession of Blessed Gianna, called the baby Gianna Maria.

On April 24, 1994, Pope John Paul II beatified Gianna Beretta Molla at St Peter’s Square in Rome and on May 16, 2004, he then canonized her as a saint.

St Gianna Beretta Molla was a Pro-Life Saint who lived in the lay state as a wife and a mother of four children, and worked as a physician in pediatric care.

There is the Shrine of Saint Gianna located in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, PA at the Nativity of Our Lord Church at 625 West Street Road in Warminster, PA  18974.  Their phone number is 215-672-3551.

Prayers of Saint Gianna Molla

God our Father we praise You and we bless you because in St Gianna Beretta Molla you have given us one who witnessed to the Gospel as a young women, as a wife, as a mother, and as a doctor. We thank you because through the gift of her life we can learn to welcome and honor every human person.

You, Lord Jesus, were for Gianna a splendid example.

She learned to recognize you in the beauty of nature.

As she was questioning her choice of vocation she went

in search of you and the best way to serve you.

Through her married love she became a sign of

your love for the Church and for humanity.

Like you, the Good Samaritan, she cared for everyone

who was sick, small or weak. Following your example,

out of love she gave herself entirely,

generating new life.

Holy Spirit, Source of every perfection, give us wisdom, intelligence, and courage so that, following the example of Saint Gianna and through her intercession, we may know how to place ourselves at the service of each person we meet in our personal, family and professional lives, and thus grow in love and holiness.

Amen.

Reflections of St Gianna Molla

"Whatever God wants".



"If one were to consider how much Jesus has suffered, one would not commit the smallest sin."



"When one does one's own duty, one must not be concerned, because God's help will not be lacking".



"Our body is a cenacle, a monstrance: through its crystal the world should see God."



"The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for all that He, in His goodness, sends to us day after day."



"God's Providence is in all things, it's always present."



"Lord, keep Your grace in my heart. Live in me so that Your grace be mine. Make it that I may bear every day some flowers and new fruit".



"One earns Paradise with one's daily task".



"Why do you not succeed in doing good? It's because you do not pray enough."



"Also in suffering, let us say: Thanks be to God." for them. They are ready for everything, even to give their own blood so that their babies grow up good, healthy and strong ".



"Why do you not succeed in doing good? It's because you do not pray enough."



"0 Mary, into your maternal hands I place myself and I abandon myself completely, sure of obtaining whatever I ask of you. I trust in you because you are the sweet Mother, I confide in you because you are the Mother of Jesus. In this trust I place myself, sure of being heard in everything; with this trust in my heart I greet you "my Mother, my trust", I devote myself entirely to you, begging you to remember that I am yours, that I belong to you; keep me and defend me, 0 sweet Mary, and in every instant of my life, present me to your Son, Jesus."



Blessed Gianna composed this prayer of consecration to Mary:



"0 Jesus, I promise You to submit myself to all that You permit to happen to me, make me only know Your Will." 

Novena To Obtain Graces Through Saint Gianna Beretta Molla



God, our Father, you have granted to your church the gift of Gianna Beretta Molla. In her youth she lovingly sought you and drew other young people to you, involving them, through apostolic witness and Catholic who soothes the sufferings of men. Treasuring her example may we become generous Christians at the service of our brothers and sisters, especially those with whom you deign to share your Cross.



Glory be…



God, Sanctifying Spirit, who love the Church as your Bride, you poured into the heart of Saint Gianna a share of your Love so that she could radiate it in her family, and thus cooperate with you in the wonderful plan of creation, and give life to new children who could not know and love you.



We thank you for this model wife and, through her encouraging witness, we beg you to grant to our families the serene and Christian presence of mothers committed to transform them into cenacles of faith and love, rich with generous activity and who soothes the sufferings of men. Treasuring her example may we become generous Christians at the service of our brothers and sisters, especially those with whom you deign to share your Cross.



Glory be…



God, Sanctifying Spirit, who love the Church as your Bride, you poured into the heart of Saint Gianna a share of your Love so that she could radiate it in her family, and thus cooperate with you in the wonderful plan of creation, and give life to new children who could not know and love you.



We thank you for this model wife and, through her encouraging witness, we beg you to grant to our families the serene and Christian presence of mothers committed to transform them into cenacles of faith and love, rich with generous activity and sanctifying service.



Glory be…



O God, Creator and lover of mankind, you were close to Saint Gianna when, affected by illness, she was in the painful dilemma of choosing between her own life and the life of the child whom she was carrying in herself, a gift long-awaited. Trusting you alone, and aware of your Commandment to respect human life, Gianna found the courage to do her duty as a mother and to say “yes” to the new life of her baby, generously sacrificing her own. Through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Jesus, and after the example of Gianna, inspire all mothers to welcome with love the sparkle of new life. Grant us the grace we are praying for …………. and the joy to find in Saint Gianna who, as a model spouse and mother, after the example of Christ, gave up her life for the life of others.



Hail Mary… 

Litany of Saint Gianna Beretta Molla  

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us

Response: Have mercy on us

God the Father in Heaven.

God the Son, Redeemer of the world.

God the Holy Spirit.

Holy Trinity, one God.



Response: Pray for us



Holy Mary.

St. Joseph.

St. Michael the Archangel.

St. Gianna, filled with love for God.

St. Gianna, filled with love for children.

St. Gianna, filled with love for Our Lady and her Rosary.

St. Gianna, filled with love for the Most Blessed Sacrament.

St. Gianna, who sought the will of God in all things.

St. Gianna, generous with those in need.

St. Gianna, devoted to prayer.

St. Gianna, willing to lay down your life for the sake of the gospel.

St. Gianna, patient in suffering.

St. Gianna, united to Jesus on the Cross.

St. Gianna, called to the vocation of marriage.

St. Gianna, who welcomed children as a blessing.

St. Gianna, physician to the ill.

St. Gianna, faithful daughter of the church.

St. Gianna, witness to the sanctity of human life.

Response: Deliver us Lord through the

intercession of St. Gianna




From neglecting God through prayer.

From refusing to se God in the sick and poor.

From callousness to the sufferings of others.

From selfishness.

From a lack of trust in God’s providence.

From blindness to the dignity of the human person.

From denial that human life begins at conception.

Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world,

Spare us, O Lord.

Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world,

Graciously hear us, O Lord.

Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world,

Have mercy on us.



Let us pray. 

Lord of life, we thank You for the heroic witness of Saint Gianna Beretta Molla. You have taught us that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for others. Saint Gianna did this, not only as she gave birth to her last child, but also in her everyday life as she died to herself so that she could live wholly for You. What selflessness we see in her!  Help us, we pray, that through the intercession of Saint Gianna, our society may regain a sense of the sacredness of all human life. Fill us with her spirit of courage to suffer any struggle rather than deny You and the sanctity of human life. We ask You this through our Lord, Jesus Christ, your son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen 

(Composed by a priest from Alabama and offered to the Society of Saint Gianna Beretta Molla)



Nihil Obstat: Rev. Joseph G. Prior,

Censor Librorum



Imprimatur: Justin Cardinal Rigali

Archbishop of Philadelphia

Sept. 29, 2004

Bibliography

Books

St. Gianna Beretta Molla: A Woman’s Life [1922-1962] by Giuliana Pelucchi. Pauline Books & Media, 2002.

Love Letters to My Husband by Blessed Gianna Beretta Molla, edited by Elio Guerriero. Foreword by Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, S.J. Pauline Books & Media, 2002. 

Saint Gianna Molla: Wife, Mother, Doctor by Pietro Molla, Elio Guerriero, James G. Colbert. Ignatius Press

Video, DVD

Love Is a Choice - DVD (The Live of St. Gianna Molla) [DVD-VIDEO] by Fr. Thomas Rosica (Author) 

Internet Websites:

www.saintgianna.org

www.catholicinsight.com

www.lifesite.net/ldn/2004/may/04051708.html

www.marypages.com/GiannaBerettaMollaEng.htm

www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/saints/ns_lit_doc_20040516_beretta-molla_en.html 

www.savior.org/saints/molla.htm

www.scborromeo.org/saints/gianna.htm

www.michaeljournal.org/mollae.htm

www.lifesite.net/ldn/2005/jan/05012701.html

   
 
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