Gianna Beretta Molla was born in Magenta (Milan), Italy, on October 4, 1922, the 10th of 13 children. From her earliest youth, Gianna accepted the gift of faith and received an excellent Christian education from her parents. After earning degrees in medicine and surgery from the University of Pavia in 1949, she opened a medical clinic in Mesero (near Magenta) in 1950. She specialized in pediatrics at the University of Milan in 1952 and gave special attention to mothers, babies, the elderly and the poor.On September 24, 1955, Gianna Beretta married Pietro Molla, an engineer, in St. Martin's Basilica in Magenta. Together they would have four children: Pierluigi, Mariolina, Laura and Gianna Emaunela. Gianna met the demands of mother, wife, medical doctor with simplicity and great balance. She loved culture, fashion and beauty. She played piano, was a painter, enjoyed tennis, mountain climbing, skiing and traveling.
In September 1961, towards the end of the second month of pregnancy with her fourth child, physicians diagnosed a serious fibroma in the uterus that required surgery. One of the options given to Gianna by her doctors was an abortion in order to save her own life. Gianna had to make a heroic decision. Gianna entrusted herself to prayer and Providence said to her doctor: "If you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child--I insist on it. Save the baby."
On Holy Saturday morning, April 21, 1962, her daughter Gianna Emanuela was born. Despite all efforts and treatments to save both of them, one week later on Easter Saturday, April 28, amid unspeakable pain and after repeated exclamations of "Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I love you," Gianna died. The young mother was only 39 years old. Beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1994 during the International Year of the Family, she was canonized ten years later by the same Pope on May 16, 2004 at the Vatican.
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. Her 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.
Prayer to Saint Gianna Beretta Molla
God, you who are Father, we give you praise and we bless you
because in Gianna Beretta Molla
You have given and have made known a woman who witnessed the Gospel
As a young person, as a bride, as a mother and a doctor.
We thank you because through the gift of her life,
We learn to accept and honor every human being.
You, Lord Jesus, were for her privileged reference;
She was able to know you in the beauty of nature
As she questioned her choice of life she was in search of You
and of the best way to serve You.
Through her married love she became a sign of your love
for the Church and for humanity;
Like you, Good Samaritan,
she stopped at the side of every sick person, small and weak;
After your example and for love,
she gave herself entirely, generating new life.
Holy Spirit, font of every perfection,
Give also to us wisdom, intelligence and courage
after the example of Gianna, [my mother,] and through her intercession,
In her personal, family and professional life,
we are able to put ourselves at the service of every person
and grow in this way in love and in holiness. Amen.
Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B.
C.E.O., Salt and Light Catholic Television Network, Canada