As my kids settle into their new school routines each September, I am always thinking of friends in the communion of saints who can intercede not only for them, but for us as parents. The changes are hard on the kids, to be sure, but our natural instinct to worry about them could also use some prayer power, too! One of my go-to saints for this purpose is St. Gianna Beretta Molla.
St. Gianna is a modern saint who lived from 1922 to 1962. It’s startling to think that my parents were alive for part her life, that’s how close in time we are to her story! She was born into a large and devout Italian family, the tenth of thirteen children. Several of her siblings joined the religious life, and St. Gianna considered that as well, but ultimately decided to pursue medicine as a career, and later married a man named Pietro Molla. She specialized in pediatrics, and was involved in faith-based social groups such as Catholic Action. In fact, St. Gianna’s Catholic faith was such an important part of her life that she integrated it into her work as a physician, and then as a mother. She and Pietro were thrilled to welcome three children in the early years of their marriage.
In 1961, St. Gianna conceived her fourth child. Early on in her pregnancy, she was advised by her doctor that she had a fibrous cyst on her uterus. Eschewing the advice to have an abortion (which would make removal of the cyst less risky), Gianna chose to have the cyst removed and to carry her daughter to term. Following the delivery via Cesarean section, Gianna soon developed septic peritonitis and died. This daughter, Gianna Emanuela, inspired by her mother’s example, also went on to become a physician.
In May 2004, St. Gianna was canonized by Pope John Paul II, and her husband and two of their daughters were at the ceremony. This marked the first occasion of a husband being present for the canonization of his wife. There is a book memorializing letters between this husband and wife, called The Journey of Our Love: The Letters of Saint Gianna Beretta and Pietro Molla. This is such a sweet testament to the bond between this holy couple!
St. Gianna’s story touched me for several reasons. She was a lay woman, and to be frank, the majority of saints were religious. I can relate to her very much as a lay Catholic woman working outside of the home, and as a wife and mother. And even before I myself was married and had children, I was so inspired by her example of putting the life of her unborn child ahead of her own. For her, there was only one option, and that was to ensure that her baby survived. All of her actions were ordered toward this goal. I really admire St. Gianna, and with her vocation so similar to mine, I feel like she’s a friend, interceding for me and my children, and rooting for us up in heaven.
Do you have a devotion to St. Gianna Beretta Molla? Do let me know in the comments!
Copyright 2019 Tiffany Walsh