“Love is the most beautiful sentiment the Lord has put into the soul of men and women.”
—St. Gianna Beretta Molla
Editor’s note: Dear reader, today is the feast of St. Gianna Beretta Molla, an Italian doctor and devout Catholic mother. In fact, you can easily call St. Gianna the twentieth-century witness to a mother’s self-sacrificing love.
After a exciting and beautiful life with her husband, Pietro, Gianna’s family experienced an impossible decision in 1961. While pregnant with her fourth child, Gianna received the news that fibroma had developed on her uterus. Her choices were dire: risk her own death but save the life of her baby, or undergo life-saving surgery but also save a child’s life. You’ll read about her decision below.
At her canonization 2004, Pope John Paul II declared that St. Gianna Beretta Molla was a “significant messenger of divine love.” We would like to introduce our readers (and your children and grandchildren) to her through this excerpt from A Storybook of Saints by Elizabeth Hanna Pham. Please read and join us in praying for the intercession of St. Gianna that we too can be witnesses to the life and love found in Christ.
Through the example of Gianna Beretta Molla, may our age rediscover the pure, chaste and fruitful beauty of conjugal love, lived as a response to the divine call!
— Pope St. John Paul II
A Short Story of St. Gianna
You don’t have to do this, you know. We can do a surgery and make it all go away.
The doctors pleaded with Gianna. Gianna was a doctor too. So she already knew all about the sickness growing inside her womb.
But Gianna was also a mother. And she knew that the most wonderful thing in the world was also growing inside her womb.
A baby girl.
This baby girl was small and weak and quiet. Only her mother could feel the soft movements of her tiny arms and legs. Nobody knew what she was going to look like or what she was going to do in the world.
To the world, she didn’t matter very much. That’s why the doctors told Gianna they wanted to remove her womb, even though the baby girl lived inside it.
If we don’t remove your womb, you will die from the sickness, they told Gianna.
But if they did remove her womb, the baby girl would die. What was Gianna to do?
Gianna prayed. And Gianna remembered Jesus. She remembered how Jesus told us not to be afraid of death. She remembered how Jesus told us that love is bigger than death.
This article is an excerpt from A Storybook of Saints. Click her or on the image to order your own copy.
She wanted to give her baby life, even if it meant she might lose her own. So Gianna told the doctors not to do the surgery to take out her womb.
Inside her mother, the little baby girl grew stronger and stronger every day. Gianna spent many wonderful days with her other children—teaching them, playing with them, cooking meals for them, singing with them, tucking them into bed at night, and praying with them. She knew that life on earth does not last forever, and so she spent those last days showing her children how much she loved them.
On Holy Saturday, the eve of the most wonderful day of the year, baby Gianna Emanuela was born. A week later, her mother, Gianna Molla, died.
Saint Gianna Molla’s four children are still alive today.
Although they miss their mother, they are happy because they know that when they were tiny, tiny babies, their mother’s love gave them life, protected them, and helped them grow strong.
And it still does today.
St. Gianna Beretta Molla (Born in Italy, 1922—Died in 1962)
While pregnant with her fourth child, Gianna developed a dangerous complication. The doctors suggested a surgery to save her life, but it would destroy the life of her child, so Gianna refused. She joyfully chose her child’s life over her own and died a week after her baby was born. But her sacrificial love flows down upon her children, and all of us, through her heavenly intercession.
This article is from a chapter in Elizabeth Hanna Pham’s book, A Storybook of Saints. It is available from your favorite bookstore or online through Sophia Institute Press.
If you are inspired by the life of St. Gianna, we recommend the article “Chiara Corbella Petrillo: 21st Century Witness to Love” by K.V. Turley where you’ll learn about the saintly life Chiara Corbella.