Gianna Beretta Molla (1922-1962)
Gianna Beretta Molla (1922-1962)
Born October 4, 1922 Magenta, Italy
Died April 28, 1962 Monza, Italy
Beatified April 24, 1994 by Pope John Paul II
Canonized May 16, 2004 by Pope John Paul II
Feast April 28
Patronage mothers, physicians, preborn children
Gianna Beretta was born in Magenta (Milan) October 4, 1922. Already as a youth she willingly accepted the gift of faith and the clearly Christian education that she received from her excellent parents. As a result, she experienced life as a marvellous gift from God, had a strong faith in Providence and was convinced of the necessity and effectiveness of prayer.
She diligently dedicated herself to studies during the years of her secondary and university education, while, at the same time, applying her faith through generous apostolic service among the youth of Catholic Action and charitable work among the elderly and needy as a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. After earning degrees in Medicine and Surgery from the University of Pavia in 1949, she opened a medical clinic in Mesero (near Magenta) in 1950. She specialized in Pediatrics at the University of Milan in 1952 and there after gave special attention to mothers, babies, the elderly and poor.
While working in the field of medicine-which she considered a “mission” and practiced as such-she increased her generous service to Catholic Action, especially among the “very young” and, at the same time, expressed her joie de vivre and love of creation through skiing and mountaineering. Through her prayers and those of others, she reflected upon her vocation, which she also considered a gift from God. Having chosen the vocation of marriage, she embraced it with complete enthusiasm and wholly dedicated herself “to forming a truly Christian family”.
She became engaged to Pietro Molla and was radiant with joy and happiness during the time of their engagement, for which she thanked and praised the Lord. They were married on September 24, 1955, in the Basilica of St. Martin in Magenta, and she became a happy wife. In November 1956, to her great joy, she became the mother of Pierluigi, in December 1957 of Mariolina; in July 1959 of Laura. With simplicity and equilibrium she harmonized the demands of mother, wife, doctor and her passion for life.
In September 1961 towards the end of the second month of pregnancy, she was touched by suffering and the mystery of pain; she had developed a fibroma in her uterus. Before the required surgical operation, and conscious of the risk that her continued pregnancy brought, she pleaded with the surgeon to save the life of the child she was carrying, and entrusted herself to prayer and Providence. The life was saved, for which she thanked the Lord. She spent the seven months remaining until the birth of the child in incomparable strength of spirit and unrelenting dedication to her tasks as mother and doctor. She worried that the baby in her womb might be born in pain, and she asked God to prevent that.
A few days before the child was due, although trusting as always in Providence, she was ready to give her life in order to save that of her child: “If you must decided between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child - I insist on it. Save him”. On the morning of April 21, 1962, Gianna Emanuela was born. Despite all efforts and treatments to save both of them, on the morning of April 28, amid unspeakable pain and after repeated exclamations of “Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I love you», the mother died. She was 39 years old. Her funeral was an occasion of profound grief, faith and prayer. The Servant of God lies in the cemetery of Mesero (4 km from Magenta).
“Conscious immolation», was the phrase used by Pope Paul VI to define the act of Blessed Gianna, remembering her at the Sunday Angelus of September 23, 1973, as: “A young mother from the diocese of Milan, who, to give life to her daughter, sacrificed her own, with conscious immolation”. The Holy Father in these words clearly refers to Christ on Calvary and in the Eucharist.
Gianna was beatified by Pope John Paul II on April 24, 1994, during the international Year of the Family.
CANONIZATION OF SIX NEW SAINTS
HOMILY OF JOHN PAUL II
Sixth Sunday of Easter, 16 May 2004
1. "Peace I leave with you" (Jn 14: 27). During the Easter season, we frequently hear this promise of Jesus to his disciples. True peace is the fruit of Christ's victory over the power of evil, sin and death. Those who follow him faithfully become witnesses and builders of his peace.
It is in this light that I wish to contemplate the six new Saints, offered to us today by the Church for universal veneration: Luigi Orione, Hannibal Mary Di Francia, José Manyanet y Vives, Nimatullah Kassab Al-Hardini, Paola Elisabetta Cerioli, Gianna Beretta Molla.
2. "Men who have risked their lives for the sake of Our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 15: 26). These words taken from the Acts of the Apostles can be well-applied to St Luigi Orione, a man who gave himself entirely for the cause of Christ and his Kingdom. Physical and moral sufferings, fatigue, difficulty, misunderstandings and all kinds of obstacles characterized his apostolic ministry. "Christ, the Church, souls", he would say, "are loved and served on the cross and through crucifixion or they are not loved and served at all" (Writings, 68, 81).
The heart of this strategy of charity was "without limits because it was opened wide by the charity of Christ" (ibid., 102, 32). Passion for Christ was the soul of his bold life, the interior thrust of an altruism without reservations, the always fresh source of an indestructible hope.
This humble son of a man who repaired roads proclaimed that "only charity will save the world" (ibid., 62, 13), and to everyone he would often say that "perfect joy can only be found in perfect dedication of oneself to God and man, and to all mankind" (ibid.).
3. "Whoever loves me will keep my word" (Jn 14: 23). In these words of the Gospel we see illustrated the spiritual profile of Hannibal Mary Di Francia, whose love for the Lord moved him to dedicate his entire life to the spiritual well-being of others. In this perspective, he felt above all the urgency to carry out the Gospel command: "Rogate ergo... Pray then to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest!" (Mt 9: 38).
He left to the Rogationist Fathers and the Daughters of Divine Zeal the task to do their utmost with all their strength so that prayer for vocations would be "unceasing and universal". This same call of Fr Hannibal Mary Di Francia is directed to the young people of our times, summed up in his usual exhortation: "Fall in love with Jesus Christ".
From this providential intuition, a great movement of prayer for vocations rose up within the Church. I hope with all my heart that the example of Fr Hannibal Mary Di Francia will guide and sustain such pastoral work even in our times.
4. "The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you" (Jn 14: 26). From the beginning, the Holy Spirit has brought forth men and women who have remembered and spread the truth revealed by Jesus. One of these was St José Manyanet, a true apostle of the family. Inspired by the school of Nazareth, he carried out his plan of personal sanctity and heroically devoted himself to the mission that the Spirit entrusted to him. He founded two religious congregations. A visible symbol of his apostolic zeal is also the temple of the Holy Family of Barcelona.
May St José Manyanet bless all families and help them follow the example of the Holy Family in their homes!
5. A man of prayer, in love with the Eucharist which he adored for long periods, St Nimatullah Kassab Al-Hardini is an example for the monks of the Order of Lebanese Maronites as he is for his Lebanese brothers and sisters and all Christians of the world. He gave himself completely to the Lord in a life full of great sacrifices, showing that God's love is the only true source of joy and happiness for man. He committed himself to searching for and following Christ, his Master and Lord.
Welcoming his brothers, he reassured and healed many wounds in the hearts of his contemporaries, witnessing to God's mercy. May his example enlighten our journey and bring forth, especially in young people, a true desire for God and for holiness to proclaim to our world the light of the Gospel!
6. "The Angel... showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven" (Rv 21: 10). This marvellous image in the Apocalypse of John exalts the beauty and spiritual fruitfulness of the Church, the new Jerusalem. A unique witness to this spiritual fruitfulness is Paola Elisabetta Cerioli, whose life was full of good fruits.
Contemplating the Holy Family, Paola Elisabetta understood that families remain strong when the bonds among their members are sustained and kept together by sharing the values of faith and a Christian way of life. To spread these values, the new Saint founded the Institute of the Holy Family. She was convinced that in order for children to grow up sure of themselves and strong, they needed a family that was healthy and united, generous and stable. May God help Christian families to welcome and witness in every situation to the love of the merciful God.
7. Gianna Beretta Molla was a simple, but more than ever, significant messenger of divine love. 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".
Following the example of Christ, who "having loved his own... loved them to the end" (Jn 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 themselves totally to God and to others are able to fulfil themselves.
Through the example of Gianna Beretta Molla, may our age rediscover the pure, chaste and fruitful beauty of conjugal love, lived as a response to the divine call!
8. "Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid" (Jn 14: 28). The earthly events of these six new Saints spur us to persevere on our own journey, confiding in the help of God and the maternal protection of Mary. From Heaven, may they now watch over us and support us with their powerful intercession.