Blog Template Theology of the Body: Saint Gianna Molla

Monday, May 03, 2010

Saint Gianna Molla

This saint for our times was a wife, mother, and a highly skilled professional who lived between 1922-1962. She played tennis; she went skiing with her husband; she dressed well; she took her babies on picnics. When a tumor was discovered inside her body during her fourth pregnancy, her doctors urgently advised its surgical removal, which would inadvertently result in the death of her unborn baby. Although the Church's moral law would have permitted such a therapeutic procedure, in as much as it did not have as its end or goal the deliberate killing of her child, St. Gianna chose the heroic option and gave her own life so that her baby could live. In so doing, St. Gianna demonstrated the heroic virtue that is only made possible by God's supernatural grace, which had worked quietly in her life before her choice, and which manifested itself for the glory of God and the flourishing of the world at the appropriate time. St. Gianna joined the Church's ranks of martyrs simply by living out her motherhood to its fullest extent; her children attended the ceremonies surrounding her canonization in 1994.

As I prepare for motherhood, I've often thought about my own mother, her own heroism, and her own manifold gifts of herself to her children. My mother is a famously exquisite creature, but she offered up her body for eight pregnancies, six deliveries, and the tumultuous adolescent and adult years that followed for each of us. She chose a grubbier path than many of her friends because she believed such would be best for her babies; home deliveries, life in the country, organic gardening, homeschooling, and she accepted the criticism that came with ther choices heroically, and with a sense of humor. She was even willing to accept criticism from her children, when her loving choices sometimes seemed experimental. And with her choices, she did her part to preserve her children in chastity, curiosity, and a lot of joy in a jaded, degraded era. Most importantly, she taught us to pray- to take long walks and to rejoice in God's beauty, to console ourselves with the victorious Psalms when we were afraid, to sing and dance with the angels when we felt defeated.

And as I enjoy my own motherhood for the first few months of my baby's prenatal life, I'm beginning to understand all of the mystical awe that surrounds the relationship between mother and child. There is truly nothing like it in the world. What I already feel for my baby has got to be something like the holy love with which God looks on His creatures, simply because it is unspeakable. And the tiny sacrifices that I have to make for my baby now- little bits of physical discomfort, no champagne, carrots instead of chocolate- only make me love my baby more. They also make me pause in deep respect for all that my mother has done for me, and they make my historical complaints about some of her decisions seem terribly short-sighted.

They say that saints, those who are closest to the heart of the Father, were often people who were very difficult to live with. The record does not show this, but I wonder whether some of St. Gianna's children were ever tempted to complain about their mother leaving them for the sake of their youngest sister. Probably even the most saintly mother has done or said things that her children do not know how to accept. In this way, the saintly hearts of those who are very, very near to Heaven calls to the latent love of God in our own hearts, and requires that His love in us grow bigger, wider, higher, so that we too may become filled with what has filled them. And certainly this is the fundamental role of mothers in our lives- no matter what conflicts may have born on our relationship with our mothers, the very fact that we have life from them bears testament to the fact that their love was (and maybe is) larger than ours.

St. Gianna Molla, pray for all mothers.