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St. Gianna Beretta Molla's Story

St. Gianna Beretta Molla (1922-1962)

Feast Day: April 28th

Patron of mothers, physicians and pre-born children

“St. Gianna Beretta Molla is an example of a woman who made the most of the time and the gifts that God gave her. She was born the tenth child, of thirteen children on October 4, 1922 in Magenta, Italy. Gianna’s family was extremely devout and encouraged their children to develop their gifts for God. Gianna lost both her parents within four and a half months of each other. She decided to get a degree in medicine and surgery in 1949 at the University of Pavia. Drawn to care for children, she pursued another degree in pediatrics at the University of Milan in 1952. She wrote, “The sick are images of Jesus Christ...” Gianna had a great joy of life and loved to spend time in the mountains skiing and rock climbing. She met her husband Pietro Molla, an engineer ten years older than she, and they fell in love. He gave her a beautiful diamond ring and they announced their engagement, after which Gianna gave Pietro a gold watch. Seven months later on the night before their wedding, Pietro gave her a gold watch and pearl necklace with a note of love. These gifts are beautiful gestures of love, not material gestures; gifts of love are important in marriage. Pietro wrote to Gianna, “The beautiful watch you gave me accompanies me through the most beautiful time of my life: the time of our love and our family.”

They married on September 24, 1955. The couple eagerly wanted children. Gianna gave birth to Pierluigi in 1956 after a very difficult pregnancy, as all her pregnancies would prove to be. Mariolina was born in 1957. At this time Gianna, who was continuing to practice medicine full time, faced another difficulty with immense grace. As the pressures of their lives mounted, with two careers and two small children; Pietro decided he needed to retreat by himself for a while in order to focus more on his work. He left for Sanremo. Gianna at this time, was left to care for the children. She was very understanding about his need to focus on his work. She was secure in his love for her and so Gianna did not share with him what she was going through.

Gianna was becoming exhausted with her medical practice and caring for Mariolina who did not sleep well at night; also Pierluigi was not doing well. Gianna wrote many letters to Pietro, telling him how much he was missed. The letters were filled with gentle encouragement for him to return to her and the children, which thankfully did happen. Baby Lauretta was born, again after another difficult pregnancy, in 1959, followed by two more miscarriages. As she was expecting her sixth child, (3 living children & 2 miscarriages), when she was told by doctors there was a benign tumor rapidly growing in her uterus. This could endanger not only her, but also the child, by causing compression of the growing baby, preterm labor or a serious infection. The doctors gave her three options, the first two being safest for her: a complete hysterectomy or abort the baby, remove the tumor and leave the potential for future pregnancies. Both of these options would cause the death of the child she was carrying. The third surgery option presented the most difficulty and also the most danger for Gianna: perform delicate surgery on the uterus and hope the uterus did not collapse. Blood loss would be difficult to control with this option and the possibility of a fast bleeding hemorrhage from the surgical incision possibly reopening added to the risk. As a medical doctor she knew and understood all this herself.

Gianna had been formed in faith to understand that if the mother and child’s life is in danger, the child’s life must be put first and protected at all costs. She wrote “With faith and hope I am trusting in the Lord even against science’s terrible sentence. I trust in God, but now it is up to me to fulfill my duty as a mother. I renew the offering of my life to the Lord. I am ready for anything they will do to me provided my child is saved.” The surgery was a success and one of her doctors said, “Behold, a Catholic mother.”

Gianna returned home and held her breath, as both she and the baby made it through the fifth month of pregnancy. She continued her mission of physician and mother until the day she entered the hospital on Good Friday 1962. Pietro wrote in a memoir of her, “Not once, in all those long months, did you say a word to me about your awareness, as a doctor, of what could happen to you. Surely, this was because you did not want me to suffer. I worried about how you were quietly putting our home in order – every corner, every drawer, and every personal object – as if you were leaving on a very long journey. But I did not dare to ask you why.” Labor was induced, but when contractions would not start a cesarean section was performed to deliver a healthy baby girl named Gianna Emanuela.

In just a few hours, St. Gianna’s condition began to deteriorate with severe abdominal pain, high fever, rapid weakened pulse and exhaustion. Gianna refused all pain medication because she wanted to remain alert to try to enjoy her baby daughter. Despite being given antibiotics for septic peritonitis, the suffering continued for a week. She was heard to whisper during this time, “Jesus, I love You. Jesus I love You.”

She knew she was dying and told her sister, “If you only knew how differently things are judged at the hour of death; how vain certain things appear to which we give such importance in the world.” She asked to be taken home after a week of suffering, on the Saturday morning after Easter. St. Gianna died a few hours after her arrival home at 8:00 a.m., April 28, 1962.

I must point out the contrast between these women and I pray you have the eyes and heart to see it for yourself.

Gianna Beretta Molla accomplished so much, attaining degrees in medicine, surgery and pediatrics, and started her own medical practice before the founding feminists. How is this possible when women were so “oppressed”? The answer is Gianna lived in a Catholic Christian country. Do you doubt this? If so look around the world and see where women are treated well – you will always find Judeo Christian culture in those countries. She loved her husband and gave him support and understanding. She was not competing with him or shoving childrearing chores on him so she could pursue her interests. Most importantly, Gianna loved being a mother and did not resent it. She saw her children as immense precious gifts and did not leave them to raise themselves or be raised by others while she pursued her career. When you see the pictures of St. Gianna with her children, you see the love she had for them and that she took very good care of them. But did the “world” raise her up, put her in the glass elevator and hand her the microphone? No – the world raised up Betty Friedan. Betty, who came from an extremely unhappy home, (Friedan said, “All mother’s should be drowned at birth.”) went on to create an extremely unhappy home, which along with her three children she left, to pursue the spreading of her communist feminist message. Her message has caused discord, dissatisfaction, disassociation and dysfunction on massive scale.

Betty left a legacy of selfishness, personal conflict and destruction. Gianna left a legacy of Christ centered self sacrifice, personal commitment and love.”

Copyright Suzanne Fowler, Building the Family Cookbook, 2002. Over 10,000 sold.

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