It was a tremendous blessing for me to have the opportunity to meet Dr. Gianna Emmanuela Molla, the daughter of St Gianna Beretta Molla at this week’s World Meeting of Families. She was there representing the St. Gianna Physician’s Guild, whose mission is to unite and encourage Catholic physicians, and those in the health care profession, to promote and defend Catholic principles in a public way by word and example, and to inspire sanctification in their lives. Her inner beauty and humility radiates through her as she carries on the legacy of her mother, who was herself a Catholic physician.
Below is an excerpt from the Women of Grace Foundational Study Program, “Full of Grace: Women and the Abundant Life” which features a short biography of St. Gianna Beretta Molla and a prayer composed by Emmanuela in tribute to her mother’s life and legacy.
St. Gianna Beretta Molla, (Martyr of Maternal Love 1922 – 1962)
St. Gianna is called a “martyr of maternal love” for her heroic pro-life witness. In a letter to her future husband a few days before their marriage, she wrote: “Love is the most beautiful sentiment the Lord has put into the soul of men and women.” She lived out these words in every aspect of her life. As a pediatrician, she devoted her leisure to teaching young men and women about Jesus and His Church. As a wife and mother, her enthusiasm for her vocation was obvious to all.
At the age of 39, while pregnant with her fourth child, Gianna was diagnosed with an ovarian cyst. Rejecting her doctors’ advice to have an abortion, she underwent surgery to remove the painful cyst, which was endangering the baby in her womb. She said, “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.” As the time came for her delivery, Gianna instructed her husband Pietro, “If you must decide between me and the baby, have no hesitation. Choose—and I demand it—the baby, save him.”
On Good Friday, April 20, 1962, Gianna delivered her child, Gianna Emmanuela. A week later, the young woman died from a painful infection, a contemporary witness of the importance of motherhood and the boundless love to which women are called. Her husband and children were among those present at Gianna’s canonization on May 18, 2004 in Saint Peter’s Square.
On the Feast of All Saints in 1999, a stained glass window of Blessed Gianna was installed in the chapel of the Newman Centre of Toronto. Gianna’s daughter, Dr. Gianna Emanuela Molla, composed a prayer for the dedication ceremony (below). This week, reflect on her words, and consider how they encourage you to imitate St. Gianna’s example of motherhood more fully in your own life.
Three days ago, when Padre Tom showed me the church windows for the first time and I saw my mother smiling, I was filled with joy and so pleased, because I have always imagined her in this way, knowing that the message of her life couldn’t be represented better.
Every moment of her entire existence was a real testimony of Christian love and faith, lived concretely and with joy in everyday life…. She is always with me, and since the momentous day of April 24, 1994, I have felt myself to be part of an ever-growing family comprised of so many people throughout the world who, like me, pray to her, confide in her, and feel close to her. I believe that this is also the design of Divine Providence, that now I shall never be alone.
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.
St. Gianna Beretta Molla, pray for us.