We have named our daughters for two modern saints – both strong, intelligent women and mothers who led beautiful lives and are great role models for women today. Our youngest (now 4 months old) is named for St Gianna Beretta Molla. And on the feast day of each girls’ saint we celebrate their “name day”, and the saint that they are named for.
St Gianna Beretta Molla is a recent saint, she only died in 1962.
Gianna Beretta was born in Milan on October 4, 1922 (which happens to be our wedding anniversary). She experienced life as a marvellous gift from God, had a strong faith in Providence and was convinced of the necessity and effectiveness of prayer.
She did well at school and university and in her spare time helped at Catholic Action, with charitable work among the elderly and needy and as a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. She earned degrees in Medicine and Surgery from the University of Pavia in 1949, and opened a medical clinic in 1950. She specialized in Pediatrics at the University of Milan in 1952 and there after gave special attention to mothers, babies, the elderly and poor.
She married Pietro Molla on September 24, 1955. She embraced her vocation to marriage with complete enthusiasm and wholly dedicated herself “to forming a truly Christian family”. In November 1956, she became the mother of Pierluigi, in December 1957 of Mariolina; in July 1959 of Laura. At the same time she was a working mother, continuing her duties as a doctor as well as being a committed mother and wife.
In September 1961 she was in her second month of pregnancy with her fourth baby. She felt pain and it was found that she had developed a fibroma in her uterus. Before the required operation, and conscious of the risk that her continued pregnancy brought, she pleaded with the surgeon to save the life of the child she was carrying, and entrusted herself to prayer and Providence. The baby was saved, for which she thanked the Lord. She spent the seven months remaining until the birth of the child in incomparable strength of spirit and unrelenting dedication to her tasks as mother and doctor. She worried that the baby in her womb might be born in pain, and she asked God to prevent that.
A few days before the child was due, although trusting always in God, she was ready to give her life in order to save that of her child: “If you must decided between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child – I insist on it. Save him”. 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. Jesus, I love you”, Gianna died. She was 39 years old.
St Gianna was canonised by Pope John Paul II in 2004. Her husband and her daughter Gianna were present at the canonisation in Rome.
So today, though our Gianna is still only small, we will celebrate her name saint by doing something special with our girls while Joseph is still on holiday.