The life of Gianna Beretta Molla is a series of fascinating events, so fascinating in fact that most readers who come to know her only through her biography edited by Orizzonte medico, Citta Nuova, published by the Daughters of St. Paul, are under the impression the Gianna is more of a legendary figure than a historical person. Gianna, however, was a real person; she lived and worked in a concrete geographical setting, the Lombardy plain (Italy), between the years 1922-1962.
Born at Magenta, on 4 October 19922, she had her primary education at Bergamo and attended Grammar school on the Ligurian Riviera (at Genoa-Quinto al Mare and Albaro).She then attended university courses in Milan and Pavia, reading medicine and surgery. She obtained her doctorate on 30 November 1949 and was nationally registered as a medical doctor. She ran her own surgery at Mesero, where she practiced her profession until death in a generous service to children - she had specialized as a pediatrician - and to old people.
Gianna is remembered as a truly fulfilled, authentic woman, by those who knew her. Just a little sketch of her character and her interests. Gianna love mountaineering and was actually an expert in rock-climbing on the Alps; in winter she was a good skier on the snow fields. She had a deep interest in traveling, in a desire to know people and countries. She loved culture and artistic expressions, with a particular bent for music and painting. She could play the piano and loved to go to concerts and to the theater. When on her journeys, she would bring with her brushes and paints and fix on canvas landscapes and Madonna figures. She led with her personality, with her delightful smile, with her strong convictions. Her life was an uninhabited synthesis of faith and culture which exercised a powerful influence on those who came into contact with her.
Her most noble passion, however, that which sublimated her life, was to love God in people and to serve them for the love of God. While a university student, residing at Magenta, she was active in Catholic Action. in which she also held posts of responsibility. She held meetings and gave talks, awakening in young people the desire and the commitment to live for Christ and for the Church. She drew some Catholics Action members into the St. Vincent de Paul's Conference, with the aim of training them to help the poor, the sick, to offer a smile and a helping hand to elderly people who lived alone in the scattered country houses of the Magenta countryside.
Gianna had dreamed of offering her services, in her capacity of medical doctor and surgeon, as a lay missionary in Brazil, to help her Capuchin brother, Father Alberto Beretta, himself a doctor and director of a hospital in the Maranhao region. God, however, wanted her as a missionary in her own family, at the service of life.
On 24 September 1955, she married engineer Pietro Molla, industrial director of the Saffa of Milan, and transferred to Ponte Nuovo di Magenta.
Gianna, now Mrs. Molla, wanted children to whom to give herself as a mother. She did have three, a boy and two girls, all lovely and happy children. She was very fond of them and would give herself totally, transmitting her joy, her sense of purpose in life, her Christian faith in a concrete way. After two months of a new pregnancy, she was affected by a large fibroma in the womb.
As a doctor, Gianna was fully aware of the seriousness of her case and consciously faced the dilemma whether to save her own life or that of her baby in the womb. Her Christian faith, which she had imbibed in her own large family (she was the tenth of thirteen children, among whom two priests and a nun) decided her choice: to sacrifice herself to save her child. This Gianna asked of her husband, this she demanded of the doctors, before submitting herself to an operation, at the Monza hospital, to remove the fibroma. Her often repeated plea was unmistakably clear: "save my baby!"
Abortion was proposed to her as the speediest and surest means of dealing with the fibroma. She rejected it absolutely , recalling God's commandment: "Thou shalt not kill." She thus bore witness to her faith and obedience to the Christian principle: "It is a sin to kill in the womb". Repeatedly she declared: "I'm ready for everything, so long as my baby can be saved." Her "readiness for everything" was based exclusively on God: only in Him did she find the strength to carry out her decision to the end. She prayed over it with faith and perseverance and insistently asked friends for prayers, that she might be able to say "yes" to life.
With these precise dispositions she underwent surgery on 6 September 1961, and then, with courage and deep trust in God, she continued her pregnancy, living in a state of continuous risk for seven months. She had the joy of giving to her husband, her family, and to the world, a new infant life, little Giannina, on 21 April 1962, which by a happy coincidence happened to be Holy Saturday. Seven days later, 28 April, Gianna died at the age of thirty-nine, a martyr of a mother's love.
On Sunday 23 September 1973, Pope Paul VI, during the Angelus Message, recalled this extraordinary gesture of "a mother of the Diocese of Milan who in order to give life to her baby, sacrificed her own life in deliberate immolation". In a moving tone he pointed her out as an example to a world which is too ready to kill.
With a petition dated Rho (Milan) 11 April 1978 and signed by Cardinal Giovanni Colombo, Archbishop of Milan, and by 16 bishops, the Lombardy Episcopal Conference asked for the opening of the cause of beatification of this wife and mother, declaring her to be "an example fully relevant to our times in which the right to life is often disregarded and trampled upon".
The Conference of Bishops went on: "This mother is a martyr and has given a sublime example of Christian heroism. For the love of God and in obedience to his commandment that forbids to kill, she has paid deep respect to life, which is always a gift of God to men, and has sacrificed her own young life to say ‘yes' to the Christian law of love. It is the shining example of this woman - a wife and a mother - which we archbishops and bishops of the Lombardy region, would like, also in the name of our faithful, to propose today to the entire Church and to society in which, through selfishness and violence, it has become all too easy to kill, whether it is done in an open or in a hidden way. In this world of ours which is moving towards the legalization of abortion, the Servant of God Gianna Beretta Molla becomes a courageous example of Christian behavior".
The bishops of the Lombardy Episcopal Conference further state: "This example of lay sanctity, lived out in the marriage state as taught by Vatican II, will act as an encouragement for many Christians to seek God in their married life. They may be inspired by her and pray to her... Her conscious sacrifice may throw light on the importance of the Christian family, Catholic schools, the Catholic Action for the formation of the Christian personality. It is in institutions such as these that the young Christian imbibes those Christian principles that will give a direction to his or her life and to which he or she will subordinate life itself, as Dr. Beretta has done with full awareness".
"Truly, heroism in Christian life is like a flower which rises at the top of a stem whose nature God alone knows perfectly, but which nevertheless makes us understand that every Christian vocation lived out according to God has an influence on the whole Church".
To show this, Pope John Paul II, on 15 March 1980, signed the introduction of the beatification cause for this wife and mother who, always wearing her most welcoming smile, built to her life on the gospel, placing herself at the service of all. Her smile witnessed to the civilization of love. The inquiry into the heroicity of her life will close in Milan on 21 March: the documentation will then be sent to Rome to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
As Jesus said: "There is no greater love than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend" (John 15:13).
The Servant of God, Gianna Beretta, is a call to love. She transmitted it, as a doctor, to numerous mothers in difficult pregnancies: she proclaimed it loudly, by the convincing power of her sacrifice, to our world concerned with progress and "quality of life" as it approaches the year 2000. Our time is affected by deep-seated ills: by selfishness and violence whereby it has become all too easy to kill: in homes, in the streets, in the football stadium and in the womb. Gianna is to be seen as a sign of the times to protect, welcome and respect life.
As a follow-up to Francisco's article in 1986, we have these words from another writer Joseph W. Cunningham who contacted Gianna's widowed husband Pietro a few years ago and wrote:
Recently, I telephoned Pietro Molla, eighty-six year old husband of Blessed Gianna, to gain insights into her character. In seven years he lived with her, laughed Pietro, he "never realized he had been living with a saint!" Often we think of saints as having mystical visions and extraordinary graces. Blessed Gianna had no visions, but strove to live God's will in her everyday life – the "ordinary" way to holiness.
When the children were young, Pietro told them they could pray to their deceased mother for help. When she was beatified in 1994 by Pope John Paul II, the Church ratified Pietro's trust.
In his beatification address, the Pope said that since Gianna had been a surgeon, she was well aware of the suffering confronting her in not having the operation to remove an ovarian cyst. She did not avoid the sacrifice, confirming the heroism of her virtue. Pietro recalls her saying, "One cannot love without suffering, or suffer without love."
In a 1995 address, John Paul also offered her as a model for the pro-life movement and a sign of contradiction to the "culture of death". "What a heroic witness is her true chant for life, in violent contrast with a certain mentality pervasive today. May her sacrifice infuse courage…in the movement for life and in similar organizations so that the intangible dignity of every human existence be recognized, from the moment of conception up to natural decline..."
Blessed Gianna Molla was beatified in the Year of the Family. The society promoting her cause thus offers her as an advocate for mothers and souses, as well as for health care workers and professional women. Pietro Molla says that many mothers have turned to Gianna for help. Many people have credited her with physical cures, tranquility of spirit and peace in their families.
As a protector of mothers, it seems no coincidence that one of the miracles attributed to her intercession was the recovery of one Lucia Cirilo of Brazil from a grave infection after a caesarian section
From all we have read about this inspiring woman, she is truly one who can be considered the patron saint of the unborn and pregnant mothers and an ideal role model for all gynecologists today and the standard bearer in Heaven for the Sanctity of Life.
"Victory" is such a defining word. Derived from the Latin victus which is the pluperfect of vincere "to conquer." Of course the greatest conquest was by Jesus who conquered sin through the Cross and His Resurrection. In all other conquests weapons have been the key ingredient in achieving the goal whether it were clubs and stones in ancient times or high-tech military artillery in our present age. With all the controversy over gun laws and the NRA here in America and the debate about licensing "Saturday night specials," there is a weapon we don't need a licence for and which we can carry at all times. It is one guaranteed to stun and derail our enemy...to achieve victory. There's no waiting period, no shakedown, no fears when we use this special weapon. We're referring, of course, to the Holy Rosary.
Thursday is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, dating back to 1571 in honor of the great Victory of Lepanto which saved Europe from Islamism through the recitation of the Rosary given to Saint Dominic by the Blessed Mother in 1208. Pope Saint Pius V declared tomorrow the feast of Our Lady of Victory and that was changed later to the universal Church as Our Lady of the Rosary. Lepanto was one of the last great naval battles waged in the Gulf of Corinth between the heavily favored and feared Ottoman Turks who espoused the Moslim belief and a gutty band of forces provided by King Philip II of Spain, termed the Holy League and commandeered by Don Juan of Austria who was, in truth, the illegitimate brother of Philip. Casualties were great on both sides for 7,500 Christians lost their lives, but the Turks lost 30,000 and that staggering amount for a sea battle ended their domination forever as a power on the Mediterranean. Right out of David and Goliath the undermanned, but determined Christian fleet managed to outmaneuver and overthrow the superior Turkish armada not because of their skills or ability, but chiefly because God heard His Mother's pleas for help and, because millions had turned to Our Lady through the Rosary at Pius' request, victory was achieved for the good guys. Pius died the following Spring and every pontiff since his successor Pope Gregory XIII has emphasized the devotion to the Rosary, but few have given the Rosary more emphasis than Pope John Paul II. Totally dedicated to the Mother of God, he reiterates over and over the need to pray the Rosary.
Today, less than three months away from the new millennium, there is a need for Our Lady's intercession like never before in history. The time is now to truly commit to her special devotion. Here in the USA, the "culture of death" demoralizes our society from the White House and Wall Street on down as well as in our own Holy Church where heresy, apostasy and schism infiltrate, ravaging our sanctuaries. Never has the Rosary taken on a more urgent need. Our Lady, in her countless messages, has said the Rosary "is our strongest weapon against the forces of evil" and that it will be "the links of the Rosary chain that will bind satan." There can be no greater finite victory than the ultimate defeat of the evil one which will mark the great Triumph of the Immaculate Heart which Mary first promised at Fatima and ever after that. This glorious victory will usher in the Reign of the Sacred Heart, the New Pentecost, the Age of the Holy Spirit, the Third Reign of the Third Millenium. Whatever you call it, while the ultimate conquest will be being reunited with God in Heaven, this triumph to come will be a victory above all victories on this feeble earth. As we all know, October is dedicated to Our Lady and "Respect Life." It is an ideal time to begin if one has not already committed to praying the Rosary daily. For those who have committed to this cause, don't stop! Please! The only way to end abortion, to rid the senate of pro-abortion senators so a bill like the Fetal Protection Bill can gain enough votes to thwart Clinton's veto is through prayer not physical confrontation.
The recipients of the TOP 100 CATHOLICS OF THE CENTURY honor the past two days and later in the week believe strongly in the power of the Rosary, not in confrontation in the manner of Operation Rescue which, over the years, while doing good, has angered many and ignited the other side because of the "in your face" attitude. That is not God's way and both Judie Brown and Father Paul Marx understand that. Blessed Gianna knows it from above. Our Lady has promised that if we pray the Rosary from our hearts, our prayers will be answered! Only through Mary's intercession will we weather the storms ahead. From Lepanto to the present, one thing is abundantly clear: any significant successes for Christian nations and cultures throughout history have occurred when Our Lady has been invoked. Each time she brings us to her Divine Son Jesus Who, through His Holy Spirit as the Sanctifier leads us to God the Father. That is the only way to victory! We don't conquer our enemies through force but through the gentle, but lethal weapon of the Rosary, killing them with our love, the love God showed us by dying on the Cross for our sins. That was the ultimate victory and He wants us to share in it with Him. History has proven that nothing is insurmountable with God on our side! That is what "victory" is all about! And the victory can be ours if we take up the Rosary and pray!