Often women wonder, how is it possible to do it all, to juggle a career, a family, and still have time for my own sanity? This modern saint tells us the secret, which lies in our total surrender to God and in loving Him above all else. This is the story of Gianna Beretta, whose love for God led her to fervently love every human person she encountered. She was born in Magenta, Italy in 1922 as the 10th of the thirteen children of Alberto and Maria Beretta. From a young age she was “other centered,” practicing works of charity as a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society and Catholic Action. Her joy and love for life was contagious. She thoroughly enjoyed the world around her, and was a woman of cultured tastes. Her hobbies included fashion, painting, and frequenting the opera. She also had an adventurous spirit and especially enjoyed skiing and mountain climbing. Despite her love for the beauty of creation, Gianna devoted her life to the crown of it: the human person.
Gianna studied medicine, and in 1949 graduated from the University of Pavia with degrees in medicine and surgery. She later specialized in pediatrics at the University of Milan. She opened a medical clinic, where she gave special attention to mothers, babies, and the elderly. Gianna considered her work as a doctor to be a mission from God. As a physician she had a profound reverence for the gift of human life; her coworkers said she was like a sister to every expectant mother she met, ready to care for their every need.
Although she originally felt drawn to join her brother as a missionary in South America, through the help of prayer and spiritual direction, Gianna discerned that the Lord was calling her to the vocation of marriage. In 1954, Gianna met Pietro Molla, an engineer. The many letters they exchanged during their engagement reveal their deep love for each other and the true beauty they recognized in Christian marriage. Gianna wrote to Pietro: “Love is the most beautiful sentiment that the Lord has put into the soul of men and women.” Shortly before their marriage in September, 1955, she wrote: “My dear Pietro, our wedding is just a few days away now, and I feel very moved to be so near receiving the sacrament of love. We will be working with God in his creation; in this way we can give Him children who will love Him and serve Him. ” Their marriage was soon blessed with three children.
In 1961, after suffering two miscarriages, Gianna became pregnant again with her fourth child. Early in her pregnancy doctors discovered she had developed a fibroma, a type of tumor, on the wall of her uterus. They advised that she either remove the tumor and have an abortion or have a total hysterectomy, which would also result in the death of her unborn child. Pietro and Gianna decided on a third option – that she would have the tumor removed and try to carry her child to term. With her medical knowledge, Gianna was aware that this choice would put her own life in danger, but she desired to save the life of her child. On April 21, 1962, Gianna gave birth to a beautiful, healthy little girl, named Gianna Emmanuela. Unfortunately, her birth marked the beginning of a week of extreme pain for Gianna, who passed away on Easter Saturday April 28, 1962. Gianna’s husband Pietro and her children were present when Pope John Paul II canonized Gianna on May 16th, 2004.