I’m thankful to a friend who reminded me that today is the feast day of St. Gianna Beretta Molla and who, accordingly, suggested that I devote today’s post to her.
Gianna was an Italian Catholic pediatrician and mother of four. She is known for refusing life-saving medical interventions that would have resulted in the death of her fourth child with whom she was pregnant at the time.
While it would have been morally licit for her to opt for the interventions in an attempt to save her own life, since the loss of her child would have been wholly unintended and inadvertent, Gianna was willing to die in order that her unborn child might live.
How someone comes to such a decision with faith and courage is almost never momentary happenstance. As John Paul II put it– that Gianna knew how to offer her life as a sacrifice was the crowning of an exemplary existence.
In his homily during the mass at which she was beatified he said, “She, as a surgeon, was well aware of what she was facing, but she did not flinch from the sacrifice, thus confirming the heroic nature of her virtues.”
This fourth child of St. Gianna is Dr. Gianna Emanuela Molla. How beautiful it is to read of how she, in turn, leads a life of service, particularly through her decision to specialize in geriatrics and then to care for her father up until his death at age 98.
“But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way,” wrote St. Paul to the Corinthians.
With the life and death of St. Gianna, we have an example of “a still more excellent way” on which we can meditate. Her witness helps us to think about what it would mean for us to live in such a way that it could be said that we did not flinch from the sacrifice.