Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sunday, April 27, 2008

An outstanding wife and mother..."

These were the words which Servant of God, Pope John Paul II, used to described Gianna Molla during her beatification ceremony in April 24, 1994. Ten years later on May 16 she was canonized a saint. Pope John Paul also described her as " a mother who, in order to give life to her baby, sacrificed her own in deliberate immolation." She died on April 28, 1962 at the age of 39.

Gianna Beretta Molla is the first married laywoman to be declared a saint (though there are many widows who are declared saints). She is also the first canonized woman physician—a professional woman who was also a working mother four decades ago, when this was unusual.

She was brought up in a devout Catholic household. She became a medical doctor, specializing in pediatrics. She was recognized for her exceptional loving care of her patients. This brought her to the attention of many people. She was strong in her Catholic faith and used her profession to bring health not only to the body but also to the soul.

Before her wedding in 1955, she wrote to her fiance, Pietro Molla: "With God's help and blessing, we will do all we can to make our new family a little cenacle where Jesus will reign over all our affections, desires and actions.... We will be working with God in His creation; in this way we can give Him children who will love Him and serve Him."

During her fourth pregnancy, she was advised to have an abortion because she had a large ovarian cyst. She would not consider ending the life within her, but had the tumor successfully removed. However, just before the birth, it was discovered that it would be difficult and possibly life threatening delivery. Gianna made her husband promise that if it were necessary to choose between saving her and saving the baby, he should choose the baby. On Good Friday 1962, she gave birth to a girl; unfortunately, she herself developed a fatal infection. After a week of suffering this painful inflammation, Gianna died. The date was April 28. As she lay dying, she repeated "Jesus, I love you." The new baby girl was named Gianna Emanuela and became a physician who specializes in Alzheimer's disease.

The miracle recognized by the Roman Catholic Church to canonize Gianna Molla involved a mother, Elizabeth Comparini, who was 16 weeks pregnant in 2003 and sustained a tear in her that drained her womb of all amniotic fluid. Because a normal term of pregnancy is 40 weeks, Comparini was told by her doctors the baby's chance of survival was "nil."

Through praying to Gianna Molla and asking for her intercession, Comparini delivered by Caesarean a healthy baby despite the lack of amniotic fluid for the remainder of her pregnancy.

Pope John Paul said that St. Gianna is a model for all mothers: "By holding up this woman as an exemplar of Christian perfection, we would like to extol all those high-spirited mothers of families who give themselves completely to their family, who suffer in giving birth, who are prepared for every labor and every kind of sacrifice, so that the best they have can be given to others."

Tomorrow evening, there will be a Mass in honor of St. Gianna. It is a pro-life Mass. We pray that we all live by the lesson of Jesus as our Saint did—that we are selfless in living life and selfless in protecting life from the moment of conception.

Fr. Stanley