A Mother’s Love

Sometimes merely the statistics of the sin of abortion can numb our hearts to its’ true horror.  To read that each day in the U.S. there are more abortions performed (3,700) than the number of people who were murdered by terrorists on 9/11/2001 (2,974).  Or that there have been more than 48 million abortions in the U.S. since the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade.  Statistics can become just numbers on paper.  Instead, let’s look at the life of just one person who was NOT the victim of an abortion.  Her name is Dr. Giannina Molla and she is a physician who lives and works in a small Italian town.
 
Dr. Molla’s story begins, as do all our stories, with her parents.  Her father, Pietro, was an engineer who traveled a lot for his work projects around the world.  As a young man, he prayed to the Lord for someone who could be a Godly wife to him and mother to the children he prayed one day to have.  God answered that prayer when he met Gianna Beretta in 1946.  She was studying medicine in Milan and soon opened her own clinic where she had a practice specializing in serving mothers and babies, the elderly, and the poor.  Gianna and Pietro were married on September 24, 1955.
 
Soon Gianna’s medical practice was flourishing and she and Pietro settled into the joys of married life and started their own family.  In 1957, their first child, a son, was born.  With Pietro traveling extensively, we have their “love story” preserved for us in Gianna’s diaries and the letters they wrote to one another over the years.  They reveal their complete devotion to one another, to their children, and to their Catholic faith.  Gianna wrote of her marriage and family as her vocation in serving God in this life.  She said, “Love is the most beautiful sentiment that the Lord has put in the spirit of man.”  Over the next 3 years, the couple had 2 more children, both daughters.
 
In 1961, Gianna was expecting the couple’s fourth child when it was discovered by her doctor that she had a tumor in her uterus.  She was only 2 months pregnant when her doctor advised her to undergo surgery to have the tumor removed.  Gianna was adamant that the life of her child should be preserved, no matter what the cost to her own health.  If there was a choice to be made, she said, “choose the life of the child.”  Gianna persevered in her pregnancy knowing, as a doctor herself, the risks she took.  Their baby daughter, Giannina Molla, was born on April 21, 1962.  But Gianna’s life was slipping away from an infection caused by the tumor.  Surrounded by her devoted husband and their 4 young children, she wanted to die at home.  On April 28, 1962, Gianna Beretta Molla looked lovingly at her newborn daughter and whispered the words, “Jesus, I love You,” just before dying.
 
We need the example of Gianna’s life of complete devotion to her unborn child in today’s world.  Because of her life of extraordinary virtue and holiness, Gianna Beretta Molla was declared a Saint by Pope John Paul II on May 16, 2004.  The ceremony was attended by her husband and children, including Giannina, whose life began in her mother’s final suffering.  Today she continues her mother’s life of service in her own medical practice for the elderly.  In an age where permanent committments are so few, when suffering is seen as a nuisance that is without meaning, St. Gianna shows us how to live the Gospel of Life amid our culture of death.  She is a special example to us of “ordinary sainthood” in that she was a married, working mom.  Her unwavering love for Christ led her to put into practice His message of the Beatitudes.  We see in her life that the journey to Heaven is already holy ground.  Holiness is a direction, not a destination.  Saints are saints because they choose God in all the daily decisions of life.  This “small way” to holiness can give each of us hope for our own journey to Him. 
 
“Also in suffering, let us say, ‘Thanks be to God.’ “
                               — St. Gianna Beretta Molla (1922 – 1962)
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