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April 30, 2022 5 min read
Holiness is also built up, as we well know, by performing ordinary actions in an extraordinary way. Gianna Beretta Molla had the grace of being born into a truly Christian family in which the Gospel was not just a book reserved for priests, to be listened distractedly during Mass or destined to collect dust on the bedside tables.
Her father Gianni and her mother Maria had made faith in the Lord Jesus Christ the pillar of their whole life as Christians, spouses and parents. Gianna was the tenth of thirteen children, (of whom five died at an early age, three were consecrated: two priests and a nun). Thanks to the sacrifices of her father, employed in a cotton mill, everyone was able to study until graduation. He had no hesitation to eliminate all the expenses she deemed unnecessary, such as quitting her cigar. A man of convinced and proven faith, he got up at 5 every morning to start the day with Holy Mass. Of the same pious mold was her wife who, despite her burdensome family commitments, drew strength every day from Christ's sacrifice by taking her children with him. Many things could be told of Saint Gianna, all of them luminous and illuminating, but I would like to highlight the sublime vision she had of Christian love between man and woman through a letter addressed to Peter, her fiancé. It must be said that she had always wondered about that gift of God which is the Vocation and to this end she prayed and asked the confessor for guidance.
"Our earthly and eternal happiness depends on following our vocation well", these were her words about her. From the letters she wrote to her brother, Father Alberto, it is clear that she was considering the possibility of joining him to assist him, as a pediatrician, at her mission in Brazil. But God had other plans for her, and soon a "sign" confirmed that. She met, in fact, the engineer Pietro Molla during the celebration of the first Holy Mass of a priest, Father Lino Garavaglia, who invited them both.
On 11 March wrote:
“… Peter, if I could tell you everything, I feel for you! but I am not capable - you do it on my behalf. The Lord really loved me - you are the man I wanted to meet, but I don't deny that I ask myself several times: "Will I be worthy of him?" Yes, of you, Pietro, because I feel so nothing, so capable of nothing, that although I greatly desire to make you happy, I am afraid of not succeeding. And then I pray the Lord in this way: "Lord, you who see my feelings and my good will, you make up for it and help me to become a bride and a mother as you want, and I think that Peter also desires it". Is that okay, Peter?
With so much affection, I greet you, Your Gianna. "
From these testaments of love, which I invite you to read and meditate, the widower will say one day away: "The letters Gianna wrote to me during the period of our engagement express all the enthusiasm, plans and expectations of a full girlfriend. They are beautiful gusts, of a love overflowing with affection and tenderness, they are an invitation to enjoy the gift of life and the wonders of creation, to live the faith with joy and trust in Providence. They are very clear letters, of planning of the future on the horizons of that love which does not feel God as an intruder, but desires him to be present ”.
Here is the theme of holiness always summarized in the determined and strong-willed propensity to magnify every sacred aspect of existence, despising every form of trivialization. Gianna had made it clear that Jesus Christ is the All and that mortal sin is the true poison capable of making us lose this "All". Now it is better understood how their marriage, understood as the "sacrament of Love", was a garden of beauties, albeit fertilized by trials and sufferings, for which they prepared themselves with seriousness and commitment in the engagement.
They had three children, but in 1961, towards the second harvest of the fourth pregnancy, Gianna was touched by a bitter trial. A large fibroid in the uterus (benign tumor) required surgery. Before undergoing it she pleaded with the surgeon to save the creature she was carrying. The operation went well. The days of the birth, however, were a Calvary. Assisted by her sister Mother Virginia after the Caesar cut, which took place precisely in the days of the Easter triduum, our pious friend found herself immersed in her pains with her Jesus. “Only she rarely revealed her sufferings. She refused any sedative to always be aware of what was happening and present to herself.
Not only that, but to be lucid in her relationship with her Jesus, whom she constantly invoked” revealed her sister Virginia. “If you only knew what comfort I received by kissing your Crucifix!”, Gianna said to her, “Oh, if it were not for Jesus who comforts us at certain moments!”. "He drew the strength of his knowing how to suffer", Mother Virginia still remembers, "from the intimate prayer manifested in short expressions of love and offering:" Jesus I love you "-" Jesus I adore you "-" Jesus help me "-" Mother help me " - “Maria…”, followed by silent reflections ”. When childbirth was looming, without ever doubting her Providence, Gianna was ready to sacrifice herself for her son she was carrying. "She told me explicitly" - her husband Pietro remembers - "with a firm and at the same time serene tone, with a deep look that I will never forget: If you have to decide between me and the child, no hesitation: choose - and I demand it - the child. Save him ”.
Gianna was a girl full of life and she so much appreciated the good and beautiful things: music, painting, trips, and the mountains. She was enthusiastic and engaging, far from the asphyxiated and dark image that some people have of saints.
I had the grace of speaking on the phone, several times, with Emanuela Gianna, the fourth daughter, also a doctor, having written a song dedicated to Saint Gianna “Amore sia”. I must say that I will not forget, in the memory we made of her mother, how much she was keen to emphasize also the supernatural goodness of her father Pietro who had the strength to raise four children trusting God and accepting his mysterious and often daring designs.
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