Thursday, 5 July 2012

St. Gianna Beretta Molla

St. Gianna Beretta Molla, by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012
This drawing shows the three children Gianna and Pietro had at the time she became
pregnant with her fourth and last child

Today I want to show you three different drawings of a wonderful saint of our time -- St. Gianna Beretta Molla -- a wife, mother, physician and devout Catholic.  In her life and death she shows us how to live our faith so that everyone who sees us will see not us, but Jesus.  First, though, let me tell you briefly the story of her life of heroic virtue.

Gianna Beretta was born in Milan on October 4, 1922 into a loving Catholic home. As she grew into a young woman, she diligently dedicated herself to studies during the years of her secondary and university education, while, at the same time, applying her faith through generous apostolic service among the youth of Catholic Action and charitable work among the elderly and needy as a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

After earning degrees in Medicine and Surgery from the University of Pavia in 1949, she opened a medical clinic in 1950. She specialized in Paediatrics at the University of Milan in 1952 and thereafter gave special attention to mothers, babies, the elderly and poor.

She became engaged to Pietro Molla and was radiant with joy and happiness during the time of their engagement, for which she thanked and praised the Lord. They were married on September 24, 1955, in the Basilica of St. Martin in Magenta, and she became a happy wife. In November 1956, to her great joy, she became the mother of Pierluigi, in December 1957 of Mariolina; in July 1959 of Laura. With simplicity and equilibrium she harmonized the demands of mother, wife, doctor and her passion for life. In September 1961 towards the end of the second month of her fourth pregnancy, she was touched by suffering and the mystery of pain; she had developed a fibroma in her uterus.

Before the required surgical operation, and conscious of the risk that her continued pregnancy brought, she pleaded with the surgeon to save the life of the child she was carrying, and entrusted herself to prayer and Providence. The life was saved, for which she thanked the Lord. She spent the seven months remaining until the birth of the child in incomparable strength of spirit and unrelenting dedication to her tasks as mother and doctor. 

A few days before the child was due, although trusting as always in Providence, she was ready to give her life in order to save that of her child: “If you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child - I insist on it. Save him”. On the morning of April 21, 1962, Gianna Emanuela was born. Despite all efforts and treatments to save both of them, on the morning of April 28, amid unspeakable pain and after repeated exclamations of “Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I love you", St. Gianna died. She was 39 years old. Her funeral was an occasion of profound grief, faith and prayer.

“Conscious immolation", was the phrase used by Pope Paul VI to define the act of Blessed Gianna, remembering her at the Sunday Angelus of September 23, 1973, as: “A young mother from the diocese of Milan, who, to give life to her daughter, sacrificed her own, with conscious immolation”. The Holy Father in these words clearly refers to Christ on Calvary and in the Eucharist.

Gianna was beatified by Pope John Paul II on April 24, 1994, during the international Year of the Family. Her husband and children were present.   St. Gianna is the patron of mothers, physicians and pre-born babies.

St. Gianna Beretta Molla, by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012
This is the same drawing as above only St. Gianna is holding her daughter
and the other family members are not present.
I have wanted to draw an icon on St. Gianna ever since I first became acquainted with her -- through watching a film about her life by Fr. Tom Rosica on Salt and Light TV.  Those folks produced a wonderful DVD about the life of St. Gianna and her family, including interviews with her husband and adult children.  The DVD is entitled LOVE IS A CHOICE and can be purchased from

Anyway, I have yet to do a drawing that satisfies.  Each effort seems to fall far short of expressing how I feel about this contemporary saint.  Just below, you see a photo of St. Gianna with her husband and son.  For me it expresses just a bit of joy this couple experienced because of their openness to life.

St. Gianna Beretta Molla with husband Pietro and son

St. Gianna Beretta Molla with daughter
Above is St. Gianna with one of her daughters up in the mountains she and Pietro loved so much -- the place they and their children loved to spend their free time.  How beautifully the mountains express our journey to God.

St. Gianna Beretta Molla, by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012
This drawing represents St. Gianna's and Pietro's desire on their wedding day to make their
family like the holy family. The icon of the Holy Family in the background was done by me in 2009. The names of her children are shown on the ribbons of her bouquet

Above is another effort I made to try to express what I feel about this saint.  From the sentiments expressed in the letters they wrote to one another during their engagement, it seemed to me that they wanted to live like the Holy Family -- with Jesus always at the centre of their family life.

Below is a photograph taken on their wedding day -- the day that actually entered into that covenant relationship with God -- the Sacrament of Matrimony.  They both felt marriage was their vocation and they had been preparing for it for many years.  They brought this commitment and dedication with them at they met at the altar that day.

St. Gianna and Pietro on their wedding day
 St. Gianna Beretta Molla, pray for us.

(By the way, if  you really feel that one of these drawings expresses something special about this saint, please let me know.  I need your input as I am still not satisfied with my efforts thus far and plan to continue trying to draw an icon of St. Gianna)



Well, first I must show you the latest photo of Braden Bozidar Pitt.  I think he is probably about 5 days old in this photo.  He continues to look very wise and solemn.  I am not sure what this portends or if it is only a matter of needing a good pat on the back.  Whatever the case may be, to me he grows more beautiful and wonderful daily.  Of course, I realize that I may be somewhat prejudiced in this matter!  Anyway, here he is...

What a handsome fellow -- and so wise looking.  By the way,
I have learned that Bozidar means "gift from God" -- and that he is indeed.
 My friend, Karen, sent me a photo this week of a cat.  Karen is the friend I used to meet daily for coffee.  We had been meeting this way for a number of years before she decided to move to Vancouver.  We have maintained our friendship through the magic of the Internet.  Recently, she came across a photo of a cat which she felt very much reminded her of me.  I used to be such an alert person -- the kind of person who could sit down with a book and read non-stop for four hours.  Now, well, take a look at this photo and you will have a good idea of how I read books these days.

Just change the hair colour a bit and remove the tail and you would have a perfect picture
of me reading a book!



Black cat in a shoe box
 I have posted these two images here to show you the similarities between a black cat and black sports shoes.
Black sports shoe
The reason for doing this is to demonstrate how easily one could be mistaken for another in dim light -- such as the low light level you would find inside a coat closet which depends on a light source from the hallway ceiling light.  These factors recently played a part in giving me one of the worst frights I have had in some time.  Let me explain.

I normally keep the black sport shoes I wear to the gym on top of a storage box which sits in the bottom of the coat closet near the entrance to my apartment.  This closest has heavy sliding doors which normally stay closed.  Thus, when I am getting ready to go to the gym I simply open one door, reach in, grab my shoes, close the door and then proceed to put my shoes on -- usually the last act I perform prior to leaving for the gym.

Well, a few days ago as I was rushing to get to the gym before the lunch time crowd arrived, I opened the door of the closet as usual, saw what I thought was my gym shoes sitting in their usual place on the box and quickly grabbed them.  Well, as you have probably guessed by now, what I grabbed turned out not to be my gym shoes but a black, very upset cat who had been dragged from deep sleep by my quick motion.  I do not know who was more alarmed -- me or Suki. 

Of course, it felt for a moment as though I was going to start having heart problems again as my heart gave a lurch because of the fright I experienced when picking up shoes that moved and yowled and hissed.  It was so unexpected that I really had a difficult time for a second as I tried to figure out what was happening.  Once I realized that I had grabbed my cat by mistake, my next question was "what was she doing there in the first place?"

Somehow she had managed to open the door at the opposite end of the closet and make her way over all manner of boxes and such until she reached my "shoe box" where she managed to squeeze herself into a tiny space between the door and my sports shoes.  There she had gone to sleep and was sleeping soundly until suddenly awakened by my hand grabbing her and pulling her roughly from her special spot.

My immediate reaction was to yell in fright, but then as I realized what was going on, I begin to yell in aggravation, calling that cat various unsavoury names while she began to lick herself furiously as though trying to remove all traces of my hands from her coat.  Within a moment, though, the fright response subsided and then I began to laugh at the antics of this crazy cat I am privileged to live with.  Suki, for her part, decided that since she was up she might as well ask if it was time for her to eat again!

I was late getting to the gym, but I really didn't mind as I kept chuckling whenever I recalled Suki's latest misadventure.

As for me, I went to the cardiologist today for a final follow-up.  As she said, I really did not need to see her again, but she always likes to make certain that even those patients who end up with a complete reduction in symptoms have not experienced a return or worsening of the original symptoms that brought them in to see her in the first place. 

I had to have another ECG and so I asked her about the results.  She told me that they were perfectly normal -- that they were the results one would usually find when doing an ECG on a young adult!  My heart seems to not only have been healed, but made healthy beyond my expectations.  Thanks be to St. John of God for his intercession on my behalf and thanks be to Almighty God for hearing St. John's prayers and the prayers of all my friends and family who were praying for me at that time.  I still feel very humbled by this entire experience.

Otherwise, things are going well for me other than my usual complaints.  I almost had another fall, but my guardian angel seems to be working overtime as I was able to catch myself just in the nick of time.  So I continue to sleep when necessary for as long as necessary which leaves me less time to do all the things I would like to do!  But I simply trust that I will mange to get those things accomplished that really need accomplishing.  God still holds me in the palm of His hand.

May the peace, joy and love of God fill the hearts of us all so that we may witness to His goodness and mercy each day of our lives.

"The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for all that He, in His goodness, sends to us day after day."
St. Gianna Beretta Molla, pray for us.

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