Saints and Theology of the Heart- Life of Saints

St Gianna

Feast: April 28

Gianna Beretta Molla, born on October 4, 1922 in Magenta, Italy took advantage of every opportunity she was given to live a holy and devout life to God. Since the beginning of her youth, she openly accepted the gift of faith and the solid Christian education her parents provided her with.  She was the tenth of thirteen children in her family, who four of them did not make it to adulthood. Despite life’s trials, Gianna always saw life as a gift, emphasized the effectiveness of prayer and in every circumstance relied on the divine Providence of God. Furthermore, she diligently applied herself to her studies, while at the same time she was active in youth of Catholic Action and served the elderly and needy as a member of the St. Vincent de Paul society. In 1949, Gianna obtained her Master’s Degree in Medicine and Surgery and eventually specialized in pediatrics at the University of Milan in 1952. She utilized her strong education background as a mission to help others. She opened a medical clinic in Mesero and then specialized in pediatrics so she could care specifically to mothers, babies, the elderly and the poor. Outside of the field of medicine Gianna still committed herself to Catholic Action in her generous service to the youth and shared with them her joy and admiration of nature through skiing and mountaineering.

Always open to the Lord’s will, Gianna Beretta followed her calling the vocation of marriage. According to Gianna a vocation “is a gift from God and therefore comes from God. If then it is a gift from God, it is up to us to do all in our power to know God’s will. We must go along that way, if God wills it, not forcing the door; when God wills it, how God wills it.” In 1954 she met Pietro Molla, an engineer who worked in her office and they eventually married on September 24, 1955 in the Basilica of St. Martin in Magenta. As a loving wife, she fully embraced her vocation calling to marriage because she had the strong conviction of forming a genuine Christian family while still balancing the demands as a doctor and other works of charity.  The couple eventually had three children:  Pierluigi in 1956, Mariolina the following year and Laura in 1959. On September, 1961, Gianna became pregnant with her fourth child, and towards the second month of pregnancy she developed fibroma in her uterus. This was the beginning of many trials and difficulties she had to confront.  Based on the diagnosed condition and its potential consequences, the doctor advised her to have an abortion. Since Gianna highly honored and respected the dignity of human life and teachings of the Church, under no circumstance did she choose to take a life. Against the doctor’s advice she chose to have the surgery and potentially sacrifice her life to preserve the life of her child after the birth. With great faith, prayer, and trust in the Lord’s divine Providence the operation was performed. Her child was saved, which she gave thanks to God. As Gianna Beretta prayed, she most especially asked the Lord for her baby in her womb to be without pain.

Despite the recuperation after her surgery and her seven month preparation for the birth of her child, Gianna willing chose to remain faithful to her mission as a mother and doctor. As the day of the birth approached a few days before the child was due she was ready to sacrifice her life for her newborn child. She stated: “If you must decided between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child - I insist on it. Save him.” On April 21, 1962, the year in which Good Friday fell, her daughter Gianna Emanuela was born. In spite of all efforts to save both of mother and the baby on the morning of April 28th the mother, Gianna Beretta died at the age of thirty nine.  She experienced an unspeakable pain and death, but even during those brutal moments she exclaimed: “Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I love you.”  Gianna Beretta was eventually canonized a saint on May 16, 2004. She is the patron saint of mothers, physicians, and pre born children. Her life giving sacrifice and her close union with the Lord touched the lives of many throughout the world. Pope Paul VI compared her life and death to Christ on Calvary and in the Eucharist. Her body lies in the cemetery of Mesero.


** Read excerpts from St. John Paul II's Homily at the Canonization of St. Gianna Beretta Molla...


Return to Main Page of the Saints..

Return to main page
This page is the work of the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary