St Gianna Beretta Molla

(entered heaven on this day, 1962)

Dear Joan,

I think you’re creating unnecessary dilemmas.  You’re about to enter into the professional world.  You have a good education behind you, plenty of opportunity, a strong faith, and a healthy social life.  I don’t see why you think that professional success can only be had if you decide not to get married.  It’s not an “either or” situation, necessarily.  As long as you keep Christ first and decide to follow his will no matter what, you can’t go wrong.  Take today’s saint, for example.

Gianna was from Milan, Italy.  She is famous as the “pro-life” saint, because when serious complications in her fifth pregnancy arose, she insisted to her husband and her doctor that everything should be done to save her child, regardless of what happened to her.  Friends tried to dissuade her, pointing out that she had other children to take care of, but she said, “I must fulfill my duty as a mother…” meaning, of course, that she must give life to her child.  Even Church moralists agreed that she would be acting morally if she allowed the doctors to try and remove her ovarian cyst, although the operation would put the child at a risk.  But she insisted that everything be done in favor of her daughter, who was born, healthy, at midnight on Holy Saturday, 1962.  For the following week Gianna suffered unspeakable pain as internal bleeding and other complications poisoned her system until she died, only 40 years old.

That much most people know, and that’s enough to demonstrate the heroic virtue that saints must show.  But few know about the rest of her life.  She was, in so many ways, a normal, modern woman.  She excelled in her studies and became a medical doctor.  Her husband was a successful businessman who traveled extensively, and yet together they formed a healthy, happy home life with their four children.  She loved to ski, to go to the theatre.  She followed the latest fashions and traveled with her husband as frequently as possible.  She was fun-loving, outgoing, good-looking… She was a lot like you.  And her holiness, which didn’t spontaneously appear all of a sudden in the midst of her crisis, but was cultivated throughout her life, only added joy and energy to this holy woman of the world.

And that’s my point.  What the world and the Church need today more than ever are integral Christians, Christians who live in the world with joy and simplicity and normality, and yet whose love for Christ informs everything they do.  This is essential to bringing Christ and his grace to the spiritually starving world.  Don’t you think that Christ is calling more young women to follow in St Gianna’s footsteps?  Do you think maybe he’s calling you there?  Listen closely, and go wherever he tells you.

Your loving uncle,


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