She faithfully attended Mass, loved her husband and children, cared for her patients and taught the Catholic faith. She also took time to have fun. She especially loved to ski and spend time outdoors.
This description could fit many Catholic women today. And that’s the beauty of the witness of St. Gianna Beretta Molla, whose feast day the Church celebrates April 28. Because she lived in the world as a wife, mother and physician, she shows us how we too can achieve holiness in our daily lives.
Living in the turmoil of the 20th century, St. Gianna sanctified her corner of the world, relying on her love for Christ to guide her marriage, motherhood and career. She loved God by loving his people and his creation. She embraced God’s plan for her life with open arms. As she said, “God has traced a way for each one of us. … Both our earthly and eternal happiness depends on following our vocation carefully.” In doing so herself, she made each moment holy.
St. Gianna exemplified the Church’s teaching on the role of the laity:
“For all their works, prayers, and apostolic undertakings, family and married life, daily work, relaxation of mind and body, if they are accomplished in the Spirit — indeed even the hardships of life if patiently born — all these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. In the celebration of the Eucharist these may most fittingly be offered to the Father along with the body of the Lord. And so, worshipping everywhere by their holy actions, the laity consecrate the world itself to God, everywhere offering worship by the holiness of their lives” (Catechism, No. 901).
St. Gianna never wavered from her vocation, even when it meant her own death. When she was diagnosed with a uterine tumor during her fourth pregnancy in 1962, she refused to have a hysterectomy that would have aborted her child. She chose surgery to remove the tumor and continued with the pregnancy. Just days after giving birth to her daughter, she succumbed to an infection. She was only 39.
Gianna had given her own life so that her child could have life. “The extreme sacrifice she sealed with her life testifies that only those who have the courage to give of themselves totally to God and to others are able to fulfill themselves,” Pope John Paul II said during Gianna’s canonization on May 16, 2004.
St. Gianna is a source of inspiration for me as well as a role model because she was what I try to be — a woman witnessing her love for Christ in all areas of life. As a young, single woman, I pray daily that I discern God’s will, in the hope that I may one day serve him as a wife and mother. For now I strive to serve the Lord through my work and my relationships with family, friends and others — just like St. Gianna did.
Instead of trying to trust the wisdom of the world, St. Gianna reminds us all that we need to put all of our trust in God. She knew that true happiness comes in trusting God.
May we always pray as she did: “Lord, keep your grace in my heart. Live in me so that your grace may be mine. Make it that I may bear every day some flowers and new fruit.”
Amy Smith writes from