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May 2003 Newsletter

No Greater Love
The Story of Blessed Gianna Beretta Molla

From The Society of Blessed Gianna Beretta Molla website

“There is no greater love, says the Lord, then to lay down one’s life for a friend.”-John 15:13

Blessed Gianna Beretta Molla, died in 1962 as a martyr of maternal love. In September of 1961, at the age of 39, Blessed Gianna was pregnant with her fourth child when physicians diagnosed a large fibroid tumor of the uterus, which required surgery. The surgeon suggested that Gianna undergo an abortion in order to save her own life. She refused. Gianna's decision was prompt and decisive: "I shall accept whatever they will do to me provided they save the child." She underwent the surgery but her fate was sealed. The following year, on Good Friday, Gianna was admitted to the hospital. Her daughter was born the next day but Blessed Gianna died seven days later, on April 28, 1962 of a serious infection.
Blessed Gianna Beretta Molla was born in Magenta (Milan), Italy, on October 4, 1922, the 10th of 13 children. Already as a young girl she willingly accepted the gift of faith and the clearly Christian education that she received from her parents. As a result, she experienced life as a marvelous gift from God, had a strong faith in Providence and was convinced of the necessity and effectiveness of prayer. She diligently dedicated herself to studies during the years of her secondary and university education, while at the same time, applying her faith in generous apostolic service among the elderly and needy as a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. 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 thereafter gave special attention to mothers, babies, the elderly and the poor. Her viewpoint on abortion was direct and unambiguous: "The doctor should not meddle. The right of the child to live is equal to the right of the mother's life. The doctor cannot decide; it is a sin to kill in the womb."
While working in the field of medicine--which she considered a "mission" and practiced as such--she increased her generous service to Catholic Action, especially among the "very young" and at the same time, expressed her love of creation through skiing and mountaineering. Through her prayers and those of others, she reflected on her vocation, which she also considered a gift from God. Having chosen the vocation of marriage, she embraced it with complete enthusiasm and wholly dedicated herself "to forming a truly Christian family." She became engaged to Pietro Molla and they were married on September 24, 1955 in St. Martin's Basilica in Magenta. In November 1956, to her great joy, she became the mother of Pierluigi; in December 1957 of Mariolina; in July 1959 of Laura. With simplicity and poise, she harmonized the demands of mother, wife, doctor and her passion for life.
Pregnancy was always a difficult experience for Gianna. During each of her pregnancies, she experienced excessive vomiting. She also experienced intestinal binding and dysfunction, and other gastric disturbances. These caused her much pain. Her first pregnancy went 25 days beyond her due date, and had a labor that lasted 36 hours. In September 1961, Gianna underwent surgery to remove the large uterine tumor found during her final pregnancy. It was causing her pain and pressing on the baby in her womb. She stated: "Yes, I have prayed so much in these days. With faith and hope I have entrusted myself to the Lord... I trust in God, yes; but now it is up to me to fulfill my duty as a mother. I renew to the Lord the offer of my life. I am ready for everything, to save my baby." On Good Friday, April 20, 1962, Gianna went to the Monza Maternity Hospital to deliver her fourth child. Only a few days prior to the delivery she told Pietro: "If you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child--I insist on it. Save the baby." On the morning of April 21, 1962, Gianna Emanuela was born. Despite all efforts and treatments to save both of them, on the morning of April 28, amid unspeakable pain and after repeated exclamations of "Jesus, I love you," the mother died.
On April 24, 1994, Pope John Paul II beatified Gianna Beretta Molla. The Pope praised Blessed Gianna as a happy spouse and mother who offered her life in sacrifice for the child in her womb. Blessed Gianna, beatified in the Year of the Family, was proposed by the Pope as a model for all mothers. In a 1995 address, Pope John Paul II also offered her as a model for the pro-life movement and a sign of contradiction to the "culture of death". "What a heroic witness is her true chant for life, in violent contrast with a certain mentality pervasive today. May her sacrifice infuse courage…in the movement for life and in similar organizations so that the intangible dignity of every human existence be recognized, from the moment of conception up to natural decline..." The officially recognized miracle for Gianna’s beatification took place in November 1977 at a hospital in Brazil. Lucia Silva Cirilo miraculously recovered from a grave infection following a caesarean section. Her recovery has been attributed to the intercession of Blessed Gianna.
The Society of Blessed Gianna Beretta Molla promotes holiness in the family and the sanctity of human life. They are also promoting the finalization of her canonization. Pietro Molla, her husband, has told the Society that many mothers turn to the intercession of Blessed Gianna because she confronted the same problems as they did and thus is able to help them. Many people report they credit Blessed Gianna with cures, tranquility of spirit or peace in their families. The Society offers a weekend presentation in which people are invited to venerate Blessed Gianna’s gloves and ask for her intercession. “So extraordinary were the mighty deeds God accomplished at the hands of Paul that when face cloths or aprons that touched his skin were applied to the sick, their diseases left them…”-Acts 19:11-12. The Society’s website can be found at
“Sadly, we live in an age where life and death decisions against the unborn child are made with an ever-greater casualness, and pregnancies are terminated for reasons that can only be termed trivial. Blessed Gianna's example of heroic commitment to the life of her own child throws into clear relief the scandal of the easy-abort mentality of our day. She believed that the privilege of being a mother, of being a cooperator with God in bringing forth new life meant always defending and protecting her children, whether in or out of the womb, even to the point of giving up her own life on their behalf. Even though it is rarely to the point of death, every mother is aware of this profound maternal reality of being immolated and making great silent sacrifices on behalf of their children.”-- Rev. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D.

Happy Mother’s Day, Blessed Gianna! Pray for us!
Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers!

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