Living Examples of Life and Love
By Sofia Isabel Castillo, grade 8
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). In this Scripture verse, Jesus commands us to deny ourselves and follow Him, because He wants us to take part in His sacrificial love and carry our crosses with joy, making an eternal impact on the world. Denying ourselves of our will is challenging, but Our Lord never promised us it would be easy. He wants us to trust and rely on Him. When we follow His teaching, we help build a culture of life, which is being fought for today. St. Gianna Beretta Molla was a heroic model of one who embraced suffering with love and joy as she defended life in the womb. According to her, “Love and sacrifice are closely linked, like the sun and the light. We cannot love without suffering and we cannot suffer without love.” This woman who said “yes” to God’s will and placed her trust in Him influenced the world for the better!
Gianna Beretta was born in 1922 in Magenta, Italy. As a young adult, she served children and the elderly in Catholic Action and the St. Vincent de Paul Society. She became a medical doctor, caring for mothers, babies, the aged, and the homeless. Subsequently, Gianna married Pietro Molla, and the happy couple bore three beautiful children: Pierluigi, Mariolina, and Laura.
Gianna continued her profession as a family physician throughout this time. When she discovered she was pregnant with a fourth child, joy overcame her! However, suffering would accompany Gianna and her family. A tumor had developed in her womb, and an operation to remove it would be too risky for her and the baby. Nevertheless, Gianna was not intimidated by this devastating news. Although the doctors tried to persuade her to have an abortion, she refused, wanting her child to be saved, which would eventually cost her her life.
After giving birth to her daughter, Gianna Emanuela, this sacrificially loving mother died a few days later at the age of 39. However, her legacy of defending human life still lives on through her daughter. Gianna Emanuela is alive today and continues her mother’s career as a medical doctor as well as her mission of protecting the worth and dignity of human beings.
Gianna Molla’s courageous example inspires my life. After reading her touching story, I realize the importance of true sacrifice in both small and great ways. My family and I are more aware of the basic needs of those around us, and we are willing to deny ourselves little treats and pleasures in order to assist others who are less fortunate and need our support. For instance, we buy baby wipes, diapers, and clothes to donate to pregnancy centers, and we even crochet hats, booties, and blankets for babies. Another way we sacrifice to build a culture of life is standing in front of abortion clinics as pro-life witnesses. While we hold up pro-life signs, my family and I pray the rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet in front of Planned Parenthood. Even my four-year-old brother prays with us for the babies in the womb.
In addition to being living witnesses to the value of life in the womb, we also build a culture of life in other ways. My parents take my siblings and me to the Catholic Social Services in a nearby town where we serve in the food pantry. Even though I don’t always feel like waking up early to do laborious service, I remember Christ’s words and Gianna Molla’s example and strive to obey with a cheerful and ready heart. Furthermore, whenever we make cards for the imprisoned, take food to mothers who had babies, or visit the elderly in nursing homes, we are doing as Jesus asked us to do in Luke 9:23: denying ourselves and taking up our crosses.
One final way we build the culture of life is to place our sicknesses, hurts, and burdens at the foot of the cross and unite them with those of Jesus’. When I am feeling under the weather or my schoolwork is tough, I offer these trials up for the conversion of sinners and the poor souls in purgatory. Therefore, I use my sufferings to gain a greater merit and cultivate a spirit of life and love!
To take up our crosses daily and follow Jesus is difficult to do. However, if the saints, especially St. Gianna Molla, did it, then so can we. Their examples teach us to die to our selfishness and embrace God’s loving will so that we can be free of sin and live our lives with hope and trust, even through hardships.
St. Gianna Beretta Molla urges, “Let us love the cross and remember that we are not carrying it alone—Jesus is helping us; and that, as Saint Paul says, ‘We can do all things in Him Who empowers us.’” May we all strive to carry our daily crosses patiently and joyfully, in whatever way, shape, or form they may come to us, and thus build a culture of life!
© 2018 Sofia Isabel Castillo. Published with permission.