Wednesday, November 01, 2006

St. Gianna and Gianna

As it is All Saint's Day today, it seemed appropriate to mention one of my personal favorite saints. St. Gianna Beretta Molla is, among other things, patron saint for mothers and physicians. She has also interceded in difficult pregnancies (for those of you who know me well, you can see why she's a favorite of mine!). Her feast day is April 28th. You can read more about her here and here

Her daughter, Gianna Emanuela, herself a medical doctor, gave the following testimony at Maracana Stadium in Brazil during the Second International Celebration of the Family (1997). "Dear Mom, thank you for having given me life two times: when you conceived me and when you permitted me to be born… My life seeks to be the natural continuation of your life, of your joy of living, of your enthusiasm, and it finds its full meaning in the engagement and dedication to whoever lives in suffering. Dear mom, intercede always for all mothers and all families who turn to you and entrust themselves to you." Reportedly, her words brought tears to the eyes of Pope John Paul II.

A few days ago, I stated that the best gift is not the gift at all but the giver. The same holds true for the gift of life, where it's Giver with a capital "G". St. Gianna, in her own small, earthly life as mother, lived that belief with heroic understanding. Her committment to living the Gospel, even when self-sacrifice was required, points us ever closer to the heart and mind of Christ.
When I happened upon this story, I assumed that Gianna was the name given by the adoptive mother in the story. Instead, I realized, Gianna was the name given by her birth mother. Was this an example of St. Gianna's intercession--only God knows, but one thing we know for sure: a great miracle happened in this other Gianna's life. What is also certain, is that this young Gianna also possesses a heroic understanding of the gift of life and in that, the Giver. This young woman, whose own life bears the daily pains and struggles of her birth mother's *choice* says, "Can't we just give a little and say, 'I may not be the best mother for this child, but I love this child enough to sacrifice for it'?" she asked. "Isn't that the ultimate love?"

For Catholic Christians, the saints are shining examples of lives that mirrored Christ. We look to them, in their intimacy with the Lord, to point us closer to Christ. As an adoptive parent, often times we are bestowed the title of "saint" for helping children who might otherwise go unhelped---but as kind and wonderful and mutually beneficial as that is---it's no miracle. The gift of life is, has and always will be a miracle in the purest sense of the word. God gives that gift and we can *choose* to accept it or reject it. Sometime last spring, a young Ethiopian woman, joined the rest of the saints in heaven when she made the choice to give life to a miracle--our Baby T--and sacrifice her own in so doing. St. Gianna Beretta Molla, Pray for us.

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