“Whatever God wants.” The life of St. Gianna Molla (1922-1962)

Have you ever heard of St. Gianna Molla? She’s a unique modern-day saint because she was a working mother of three kids! Your CatholicMonth.ly box this month includes a tote bag featuring her famous quote: “Whatever God wants.”

Here’s the remarkable story of this modern-day saint.

St. Gianna Molla didn’t just say “Whatever God wants”: She lived it.  Growing up in Italy in the 1930s, she suffered from poor health, which interrupted her high school studies for a year. She had lost both her parents by the time she began her medical degree. When she finished that degree in 1949, she could not join her brother, a priest, to the missions as a doctor because she lacked the physical health required for such a life. Her first three pregnancies were difficult, and the fourth led to intense suffering that ultimately took her life.

But God was at work through all the challenges she faced. When she had to stay home for a year during high school, she grew into a deeply spiritual, mature young woman. When she could not follow her brother to the missions, she found her true vocation — being a wife and mother. And she joyfully offered up the suffering of her pregnancies, even to the very end.

Gianna was a happy, faithful woman. She loved being a mother. She especially loved her husband Pietro. She enjoyed skiing, playing piano and going to concerts. She treated her medical practice as a way of serving the Lord through serving others. Above all, she was a deeply spiritual woman.

In 1961, when Gianna was pregnant with her fourth child, she developed a uterine tumor. She and Pietro began to have difficult conversations. Certain treatments were available, which would have left Gianna healthy and free — but they involved removing the uterus, which would have ended the life of the baby. Gianna consistently and adamantly told Pietro:  “If you must choose, choose the child.”

The tumor was successfully removed, but there was more to come. On Good Friday she was admitted to the hospital to deliver the baby. The girl, Gianna Emanuela, was born the next day in perfect health. But for Gianna, life on earth was coming to a close. She developed septic peritonitis. Her health worsened. She endured a week of terrible pain until she finally died.

She may have left the world as a young mother, but Gianna left to the world a shining example of everyday sanctity. Her life shows us that anyone can be holy, even if you’re busy raising kids and working a job. Moreover, she’s a great pro-life saint. She offered up a heroic sacrifice for the sake of her child.

Gianna Molla was canonized a saint in 2004. Her feast day is April 28, the day she passed away. She is the patron of mothers, physicians and unborn children.

St. Gianna Molla, pray for us! Have a blessed October, and see you next month.

Recommended reading: “Saint Gianna Molla: Wife, Mother, Doctor” by Pietro Molla and Elio Guerriero

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