November 1 heralds a time of serious reflection and prayer with the Saints and Blesseds of our Catholic tradition. Holiness is not a gift reserved for a few. We can all aspire to it, because it is a goal within our capacity -- a great lesson reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council and its call to universal holiness (Lumen Gentium
Blessed John Paul II proposed to us a model of holiness lived day in, day out. A saint is an authentic, concrete person whose testimony of life attracts, teaches and draws, because it manifests a transparent human experience, full of the presence of Christ. The call to holiness excludes no one; it is not the privilege of a spiritual elite. They are ordinary persons: a doctor, a university student, a nun who was a former slave, a priest who endured the Soviet gulags, a married couple, a catechist, a young mountain climber. They are friends of Jesus and therefore friends of each one of us.
St. Gianna Beretta Molla, the Patron Saint of Salt + Light
Gianna Beretta Molla was born in Magenta (near Milan) on October 4, 1922. She was the tenth of thirteen children of Alberto and Maria De Micheli. A good student both at high school and university, she lived her faith with generosity among the young women who were part of the Catholic Action.
Gianna also put her faith in action amidst the elderly and needy through the work of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. She loved life, music, art, skiing and mountain climbing! In 1949 Gianna received a degree in medicine at the University of Pavia. The following year she opened a clinic in Mesero and continued her studies with a specialization in pediatric medicine at the University of Milan in 1952. For Gianna, being a doctor was not just a profession but also a vocation.
At first, Gianna thought she could be a lay missionary in Brazil to help her brother, Father Alberto, a doctor and Capuchin missionary in Grajaù, Brazil. (The cause for his canonization is now formally opened.) Later on, Gianna felt that God had chosen marriage for her and she followed this choice with her innate enthusiasm. Her wish was "to form a truly Christian family".
On September 24, 1955 Gianna and Pietro Molla were married in St Martin's Basilica in Magenta. In November 1956, her first son Pierluigi was born. Mariolina was born in December 1957 and Laura in July 1959. Gianna was a happy mother who knew how to balance her duties as mother, wife, doctor in Mesero and in Ponte Nuovo (near Magenta) with her great "joie de vivre".
In September 1961, toward the end of the second month of pregnancy with her fourth child, the young Italian doctor and mother of a family, had to make a heroic decision. Physicians diagnosed a serious fibroma in the uterus that required surgery. The surgeon suggested that she undergo an abortion in order to save her own life. 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 the baby.” She gave herself entirely, generating new life.
[singlepic id=225 w=600 h=500 float=right]On April 21, 1962 Gianna Emanuela was born by caesarian section at the hospital in Monza. Immediately after the operation, Gianna's general condition started to worsen. She had a very high fever and terrible abdominal pains caused by septic peritonitis. On April 28, 1962, at dawn, Gianna was taken back to the family home in Ponte Nuovo where she died at 8 a.m. She was 39 years old. She was buried in the cemetery of Mesero. She soon became known for the sanctity of her life and her final gesture of great love.
Pope John Paul II beatified Gianna in 1994 and canonized her in 2004. She was the last saint proclaimed by Pope John Paul II. Gianna’s husband and children were present at each of the ceremonies. Gianna’s husband Pietro (who died on April 10, 2010) and family are very close friends and great supporters of Salt + Light Television Network. Shortly after we began our work in 2003, we named St. Gianna as the patron saint of Salt + Light!
Gianna’s action at the end of her life, in saving young Gianna Emanuela, her daughter, was heroic in that she prepared for her final action every day of her life. Her final decision for life was the natural flowering and culmination of an extraordinary life of virtue and holiness, selflessness and quiet joy. St. Gianna Molla continues to remind the church and the world of the necessity of a consistent ethic of life, from the earliest to the final moments of human life. Gianna would write and say: “One cannot love without suffering, or suffer without love.”
In an age when permanent commitment is widely discouraged, when human life is cheap and disposable and family life is under siege, when abortion is all too available, when sacrifice and virtue are absent in so many lives; when many in the medical profession have little concern for the dignity and sacredness of every human life; when suffering is seen as a nuisance without any redemptive meaning; when goodness, joy, simplicity and beauty are suspect; St. Gianna Beretta Molla shows this world, gripped by a culture of death, an alternative gospel way of compelling beauty.
St. Gianna Icon Installed in Salt + Light Chapel
This year for the Feast of All Saints, we have the privilege of welcoming the new icon of Salt + Light’s patron in our Holy Cross chapel. The magnificent icon, entitled “St. Gianna Beretta Molla with her husband Pietro and daughter Gianna Emanuela Molla” was written by Toronto iconographer Ted Harasti. The icon in Greek Byzantine style is a gift to us from Ted. To him and his family we offer our deepest thanks and the promise of our prayers.
May St. Gianna watch over all those who work for life, defend the dignity and sacredness of life in Canada and throughout the world. May St. Gianna intercede for all of the viewers and friends of Salt + Light Television.
Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB
CEO, Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation