A mother's love for her child is a love which is both tender and fierce: tender in the need to care for and cherish her offspring, fierce in the need to protect them. St. Gianna Beretta Molla was no exception - she cherished her children and made the ultimate sacrifice, giving her life for one of theirs.
Maria and Albert Beretta were Third Order Franciscans whose lives revolved around their faith in Christ. Little Gianna was born to them on October 4, 1922, the tenth of thirteen children. She was raised in an atmos-phere of complete faith, attending daily Mass and reciting prayers each night as a family. Her parents taught all of their children to live simply, devoting much of their time to charita-ble works, especially regarding the missions.
Gianna had her heart set on mis-sionary service of some type, and studied medicine while also giving time to the St. Vincent de Paul Soci-ety and Catholic Action. Two of her siblings became missionaries, a priest and a sister, and another became a diocesan priest. But God had other plans for Gianna, and she met Pietro Molla at a priest friend?s first Mass on December 8, 1954. They become friends, sharing their hopes, dreams and faith. The following year they were married, and by July of 1959 they had three children, with Gianna juggling the busy but joyful life of doctor, wife and mother.
Then, in September of 1961, when she was pregnant with her fourth child, a uter-ine tumor was discovered. She had the surgery to remove it, but not before she prayed and asked the surgeon to do every-thing possible to spare her child. The surgery was successful, and the next seven months of the pregnancy, though difficult, went well. When she was about to give birth, realizing she would need a Caesarian section, she told the doctor: If you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child - I insist on it. On April 21, 1962 she gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Gianna Emanuela; but she contracted septic peri-tonitis during the surgery and died seven days later on April 28th at the age of 39. Pope John Paul II said this of St. Gianna Beretta Molla at her canonization on May 16, 2004:
Following the example of Christ, who having loved his own... loved them to the end? (John 13: 1), this holy mother of a family remained heroically faithful to the commitment she made on the day of her marriage. The extreme sacrifice she sealed with her life testifies that only those who have the courage to give of them-selves totally to God and to others are able to fulfill themselves.
Some thoughts on her life as pertaining to our own spirituality:
St. Gianna?s upbringing was surely a strong witness to the beauty of a Christian family. The atmosphere of the Beretta house was that of a spirit of sacrifice, authentic daily prayer, close attention to others and a gener-ous devotion with the complete giving of one?s life. The children learned to be content with little, to renounce all superfluity and to save in order to give to others. (www.saintgianna.org)When the spirit of Christ pervades a home, there is no doubt that saints are being formed. It is up to each of us to teach our children to love God and to love their neighbor as them-selves. In this way our homes are built on the rock of faith, not on the shifting sands of society?s norms. If we truly want to give our children the best, let?s give them the best of God.
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one?s life for one?s friends. (John 15:13) Gianna Beretta Molla sacrificed her own life for her child?s, not allowing anything to be done to disturb the pregnancy. She insisted on putting her child's life before her own. Sadly, that is not always true today. So many young lives are destroyed in the womb by the lie which tells women that their lives are more im-portant than their child?s. Many do not yet recognize the sacred gift they carry. With Saint Gianna?s Intercession, we pray that all mothers will love and cher-ish the tiny miracles their bodies hold.
Saint Gianna, pray for us!
Prayer of St. Gianna Beretta Molla
Jesus, I promise You to submit myself to all that You permit to befall me; make me only know Your will. My most sweet Jesus, infinitely merciful God, most tender Father of souls, and in a particular way of the most weak, most miserable, most infirm which You carry with special tenderness in Your divine arms, I come to You to ask You, through the love and merits of Your Sacred Heart, the grace to comprehend and to do always Your holy will, the grace to confide in You, the grace to rest securely through time and eternity in Your loving divine arms. Amen!