April 28th, Feast of St. Gianna Molla
Our infant daughter Gianna’s first hospitalization, even though it was her healthiest, was by far the hardest for me. During later ones we would have the slim hope of transplant to focus on, but during this one, as they tested the heck out of our little girl, we were coming to grips with the truth. Inside what looked like a normal baby was a liver full of cells that couldn’t make enough energy to keep her alive. Our baby was going to die. Again.
St. Gianna Molla kept me company during those few days, as I had just received a biography of her for Mother’s Day, a week or two before. There were two things that stood out to me in this particular account of her life. The first was of the very real pain her martyrdom caused her family. It is easy to gloss over this in saints from eras long past, or for priests or religious even. But here was Pietro Molla, Gianna’s beloved husband, sharing about how hard it was for him to raise their four children alone. How hard he tried to protect his kids from the limelight surrounding Gianna’s growing popularity and her cause for canonization. How awkward it was for him to allow his personal love letters to be published all over the world. It was hard for him to share his Gianna with the Church, when he would much rather her have just been his unspectacular, non-miracle-working, grocery-shopping, diaper- changing wife! Yet, he knew she was not his to keep to himself, and so he allowed the process to continue. In 2004, He and their three surviving children (their daughter Mariolina died a few years after Gianna did) were at her canonization ceremony. Wow.
Our Gianna was baptized and confirmed before she was old enough to sin, so we know she is in heaven. As the mother of a little saint, I can share some of Pietro’s sentiments: saint-making is tough! Especially at that moment in time, I did not want to share my Gianna with the Church. I did not want her to intercede for people or inspire them. I just wanted her to keep making diapers, and spitting up and wearing cute baby clothes, just like any other normal baby who lives to see their first birthday. I love St. Gianna Molla, and I am grateful for what she did and who she now is. But dang, she reminds me how real saints are, and that even when God is doing great and wonderful things, it still sometimes hurts!!
The second thing that struck me from that read of Gianna’s life was her unfailing trust in Providence. Can you imagine having to decide between giving your baby life and giving her a mother? St. Gianna didn’t want to die. She loved life, and especially her family. But she trusted God: that He was good as He claimed to be, and that He would take care of her family in her absence. Pietro talks in that book about the times that were darkest for him and the kids and how he could feel Gianna’s tangible presence. God did come through… through Gianna.
So this Saturday, as we celebrate 50 years of St. Gianna Molla’s new life in Christ, let’s let her example and her prayers help us along on our own difficult road of sanctification.