Some months ago, I was in a Catholic bookshop looking for a certain book. By chance, I spotted a book entitled, Saint Gianna Molla. At the bottom of the cover, it said, “Wife, mother, doctor” under the picture of a beautiful young lady holding two babies in her arms. As I had never heard of Saint Gianna Molla, I purchased the book and have found it most inspiring. In case any of our Interim readers have not read it, I shall give you a brief and inadequate summary in the hope that it will inspire you to purchase it. I hope it is available in most of our Catholic bookstores.
Gianna was born on Oct. 4, 1922, the 10th of 13 children. They lived in Milan, Italy. In a very fine article on her, in the April edition of The Messenger, Mr. Alfred De Manche described her as follows, “She was a wife, mother and doctor who loved her family, who enjoyed mountain climbing, skiing, going to symphonies and the theatre, paintings and playing tennis. Though living an ordinary yet dedicated life, she was spiritually gifted with a love for Christ in the Eucharist and seeing all creation as God’s gifts to us, especially children.” The family name was “Beretta.” “Molla” was her married name.
When she had successfully completed high school, Gianna decided that she would study to become a doctor. The Berettas were a very intellectually gifted family. They produced two engineers, four physicians, two priests, a pharmacist and a concert pianist. In 1952, Gianna earned her specialization in pediatrics. In 1949, she graduated in medicine and surgery.
How Gianna and Pietro Molla became engaged is quickly told in the book. After a few casual meetings, the couple met at the end of 1954 at the celebration of the first Mass of Father Lino Garavaglia, now bishop of Cesena. They were attracted to each other and soon became engaged. Pietro was a well-qualified engineer and also a very sincere Catholic. They were married on Nov. 24, 1955. Pietro was 43 and Gianna 33.
I shall again take the liberty of quoting Alfred De Manche, as he is far more eloquent than I am. “At 33, Gianna married Pietro Molla. They had three children without any difficulties. In September 1961, at the end of her second month of pregnancy of her fourth child, she was found to have a life-threatening tumour in the uterus. Surgery was needed immediately. She pleaded with the surgeon to spare the life of her unborn child, knowing too well the grave risk of continuing her pregnancy and not having an abortion.
The surgery to remove the tumour was successful and she continued working for seven months until the birth of a lovely daughter – Gianna Emanuela, on Holy Saturday, 1961. (This daughter later became a doctor and a surgeon). Gianna had told her husband beforehand: “If you have to decide between me and the child, do not hesitate. Choose the child. Insist on it. Save the baby.” However, after giving birth, Gianna had severe pains due to septic peritonitis. She died a week later on April 28, at 39, repeating over and over again, ‘Jesus, I love You.’”
“On May 16, 2004, Blessed Gianna was canonized by Pope John Paul. The Holy Father spoke of the ‘extreme sacrifice’ she sealed with her life and he hoped that, through the example of St. Gianna Beretta Molla, our age may recover the pure, chaste and fruitful beauty of married love lived as a response to the divine call.”
The book, Gianna Molla – Wife, Mother Doctor can be purchased at Broughton’s Religious Books & Gifts, 2105 Danforth Ave., Toronto. Phone 416-690-4777 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 416-690-4777 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.