Modern Day Saint

Gianna Beretta Molla

Gianna Beretta was born in Magenta (Milan), Italy, October 4, 1922. She received an excellent Christian education from her parents. As a result, she experienced life as a marvelous gift from God.

During the years of her secondary and university education, she did charitable work among the elderly and needy as a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.  She also provided assistance to Catholic Action. After earning degrees in Medicine and Surgery from the University of Pavia in 1949, she opened a medical clinic in Mesero in 1950. She specialized in Pediatrics at the University of Milan in 1952 and thereafter gave special attention to mothers, babies, the elderly and poor. While working in the field of medicine she increased her service to Catholic Action, especially among the “very young.”

She became engaged to Pietro Molla, and they were subsequently married on September 24, 1955, in the Basilica of St. Martin in Magenta. To this marriage, three children were born -Pierluigi, Mariolina; and Laura. With simplicity and equilibrium she harmonized the demands of mother, wife and doctor with her passion for life.

In 1961, she again became pregnant, but near the end of the second month of pregnancy, she was touched by suffering and the mystery of pain caused by a fibroma which had developed in her uterus. Before the required surgery, and conscious of the risk that her continued pregnancy brought, she pleaded with the surgeon to save the life of the child she carried and entrusted herself to prayer and Providence. Her baby’s life was saved, for which she thanked the Lord. She met the seven months remaining until the birth of her child with 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.

Although trusting as always in Providence, a few days before the child was due she was ready to give her life in order to save that of her child: “If you must decide 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 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.

“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.


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