Gianna, or Gianna Beretta Molla was born on 4 October 1922 in Magenta, Italy. She grew up in an atmosphere of deep piety, her parents were part of the Third Franciscan Order: they instilled in their children the gift of self and modesty. Gianna took her first communion at the age of 5. From then on, she walked in the footsteps of her parents and led a life of sincere devotion: She attended Mass and prayed the Rosary daily. In 1938, she participated in a retreat during which she wrote many resolutions. In one of them, she undertakes to: “Say the ‘Hail Mary’ every day, that the Lord may grant me a holy death”. At the age of 12, Gianna became a member of Catholic Action, a movement through which her faith matured. A key tenant of the movement is sacrifice.
Gianna's parents died one after the other in 1942, and it was in a climate of war that the girl began her medical studies in Milan. She endured the tragedy of the bombings, continuing her education and going to Mass every day. She believed deeply in the beauty of her vocation: “[...] it is a priestly mission. Just as priests can touch Jesus, we doctors can also touch him in the bodies of our patients”. Gianna received her doctorate in 1949 and specialized in pediatrics. She practiced in a clinic in Mesero.
Gianna is known to her loved ones for her love of life and others. She was noticed by Peitro Molla, an engineer whose family was close to her doctor's office. As they meet, their affection grew. They shared the same religious fervor and married in perfect love in 1955. Gianna writes to Peitro: “With the help of God, we will make our family a little Upper Room where Jesus will reign over our hearts.” Thus, in the years following the marriage, Gianna gave birth to her first three children.
In 1961, she was expecting her fourth child. In the second month of pregnancy, Gianna experienced a mysterious pain: she suffered from a uterine fibroma that needed to be removed. Aware of the risk that the operation posed to the baby, she begged the surgeon to save her child. The operation was successful, but the risks did not disappear. After many months, Gianna was ready to give birth. Again, she stated: “If you have to choose between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child. I insist, save the baby!” Finally, her daughter Gianna Emanuela was born on April 21, 1962. Unfortunately, Gianna suffered from complications, including severe abdominal inflammation. Despite the pain, Gianna refused the administration of narcotics: she felt lucidity as she approached death. She died on April 28, 1962.
“All the lord's ways are beautiful because they have the same end: to save his soul and to guide many others to heaven, for the glory of God” - Gianna Beretta Molla
On the day of the funeral of Gianna Beretta Molla, many people gather in the church of Our Lady of Good Counsel, too small to welcome them all. Gianna’s story was spreading: people began to dedicate their prayers to her. These movements of devotion became so popular that in 1980 the Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Carlo Martini, had the investigation of his beatification opened.
The first miracle attributed to her occurred in 1977 in Brazil (where Gianna aspired to be a missionary), in the city of Grajaú. In the Saint Francis hospital, a nurse and her colleagues prayed for the intercession of Gianna Beretta Molla, asking her to cure a patient in a very serious state of illness. At the same time, the patient declared that her pain had disappeared, and after examination, the doctors confirmed her miraculous recovery. Gianna would be beatified on 24 April 1994, the International Year of the Family.
The second miracle attributed to Gianna for which he was canonized occurred in 1999. A Brazilian woman suffered serious complications during her pregnancy: doctors observed the growth of a blood clot that could cause premature detachment of the placenta. They don’t expect the survival of the baby, and they worry about the mother’s survival. After 16 weeks, the amniotic membrane ruptured. She desperately tried to save her child’s life and received large intravenous fluid transfers, while the fetal heart rate was dramatically below average (16 bpm versus an average of 100 to 160 bpm). The situation was desperate: Bishop Diogenes Silva Mathes intervenes in the hospital to give the mother the anointing of the sick. He tells her about the blessed Gianna Beretta Molla, from whom he asks the intercession for the healing of the child and mother, then he gives her her image. Accompanied by her relatives, the mother begins to pray ardently for Gianna’s help. The fetus was only surviving by a thread in the womb. Yet, in the 32nd month of pregnancy, Gianna Maria, a healthy baby, was born miraculously. Her mother suffered from complications, but she healed and brought her child home.
Gianna Beretta Molla was canonized on May 16, 2004, and celebrated on April 28th, the day of her death. She is the last saint to be canonized by Pope John Paul II.
Recite this litany in your heart to ask for the intercession of Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, who was composed by Mother Anna Maria Cànopi of the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery.
“Lord take pity, Lord, take pity
Christ, take pity, …
Lord, take pity, …
Holy Trinity, one God, Have mercy on us
Jesus, son of God, born of Mary, Have mercy on us
Mary, mother of God and mother of the Church,Pray for us
Mary, mother of all mothers,
Mary, merciful mother,
Mary, queen of peace,
Saint Gianna, woman faithful to the faith,
Saint Gianna, serene woman filled with hope,
Saint Gianna, woman filled with ardent love,
Saint Gianna, Eucharistic woman of kindness,
Saint Gianna, true witness of the gospel,
Saint Gianna, full of confidence in divine providence,
Saint Gianna, chaste and faithful to conjugal love,
Saint Gianna, virtuous wife, joy of the bridegroom,
Saint Gianna, mystical woman, in daily service,
Saint Gianna, strong woman supporting the weak,
Saint Gianna, very tender healer of bodies and souls,
Saint Gianna, devoted to the sick and to the body of Christ,
Saint Gianna, mother of an industrious and happy family,
Saint Gianna, patient and calm mother in trial,
Saint Gianna, who gave her life for the life of the child,
Saint Gianna, woman of resplendent inner beauty,
Saint Gianna, woman who left the world her sweet smile,
Saint Gianna, a witness who left the world her sweet smile,
Saint Gianna, a witness to Christ’s love, victorious over death,
Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, take pity on us
Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, take pity on us
Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, give us peace.”