By Susan Ciancio

Building a culture of life includes taking care of those who need help, being a voice for the voiceless, putting others before yourself, and treating others with great love. Gianna Beretta Molla did all these things and more.

Gianna was born in Italy in 1922 to a large Catholic family and grew up steadfast in her faith. As a young woman, she joined the St. Vincent de Paul Society and helped build a culture of life by serving the poor and the elderly.

She went to school and studied to be a doctor, specializing in pediatrics. In 1949, she earned her degree, then opened a clinic the next year.

Five years later, Gianna married Pietro Molla. Friends and family remember that she brimmed with joy as a new bride. Three children and two miscarriages followed. Gianna loved being a mother and a wife and devoted herself to her family and her medical practice.

In 1961, Gianna was again pregnant, but this time she felt pain and knew something was wrong. Doctors ran tests and found that she had a fibroma in her uterus. They told her the best course of action for her own health would be to terminate her pregnancy. Gianna knew she could never do that. Indeed, she didn’t want to do anything that could endanger her baby, so she made the decision to have surgery to remove just the fibroma. The pregnancy continued, but Gianna constantly worried about the baby and whether she was in pain. She told her husband on more than one occasion that the doctors must prioritize saving the baby over her.

On April 21, 1962, Gianna delivered a baby girl. The baby was healthy, but Gianna suffered from complications and died seven days later. As she lay dying, she repeated the words “Jesus, I love you.”

Gianna not only put her children before her, but she worked selflessly every day to better the lives of the people in her town. She serves as a beautiful example of how a mother, a wife, a doctor, and a human being should live.

Because of her extensive writing and because of the stories written by those who knew her, Gianna left us many inspirational quotes to ponder. We can use these quotes to help us on our journey as we, too, work toward improving ourselves and building a culture of life in our own homes and communities.

During difficult times, when you feel overwhelmed or stressed, look to St. Gianna for inspiration. Below are five quotes that will help you on your journey. As you read them, think to yourself: How can I live by her words and apply them to my life?

Love is the most beautiful sentiment that the Lord has put into the soul of men and women.”

Gianna wrote this to her husband, but we can apply it to anyone. God put us on this earth to know, love, and serve Him. That is our primary objective. But, in doing so, we must also love and serve others. We must take care of our families, speak kindly to strangers, help others, and see Christ in everyone. Love is the most important thing we have in life. It fuels our faith, it fuels our family life, and it fuels our communities. We would have nothing if we didn’t have love. That is why we must foster it with our actions and interactions with everyone we meet.

How will you show your love to someone today?

“One earns Paradise with one’s daily task.”

Every day, we work toward attaining eternal life with God. Everything we do, big or small, helps us get one step closer to—or one step further away from—God. That’s why we must make every moment and every action count—because they literally do! Building a culture of life doesn’t have to be something that changes the world. It only needs to be something that changes somebody’s world—even if for just a moment.

What’s one task that you can do today that will bring you closer to God?

“Love and sacrifice are closely linked, like the sun and the light. We cannot love without suffering and we cannot suffer without love.”

When we open our hearts and our very selves to loving someone else, we are also opening ourselves to pain. Yes, there could be pain that comes from that person leaving us, but more often pain comes from loving someone so much that what hurts them also hurts you. Our lives become intertwined with those we love, so when they’re sick, treated poorly, sad, or experiencing pain, we too experience that pain because we love them. And, when we love someone so much, it’s only natural that we make sacrifices for this person—like St. Gianna did for her baby girl.

What sacrifice can you make for someone you love today?

“The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for all that He, in His goodness, sends to us day after day.”

We all have many blessings in life. Though sometimes we may find it difficult to see them or to focus on them because times are stressful, we must always step back and take a moment to cherish all that we have. Thank God for even the little things in life. My father always used to say, “Happiness is wanting what you get, not getting what you want.” In other words, be thankful for what you have in life. If you’re always wishing for things you don’t have, you will find yourself miserable. But if you look around at your blessings, appreciate them, and then truly thank God for them, you will understand the true meaning of happiness, for happiness doesn’t come from things. We create our own happiness; it comes from within.

Which blessings can you thank God for today that you normally don’t think about?

“Love your children. In them you can see Baby Jesus. Pray for them a lot and every day put them under Holy Mary’s protection.”

We shouldn’t merely feel love for our children and then not follow through with actions. We must show our love through the things we do for them and how we talk to them. Our treatment of them is the outward sign of our love. We can’t be perfect parents, but we can try. And when we mess up or hurt our children unintentionally, we must apologize to them. Our apology will also show that we love them, for they will know and understand that we are humbling ourselves to apologize out of love. And during those times when we do struggle, we should remember to say a prayer to our spiritual mother, Mary. She is always there to guide and protect us and our children.

What will you do for your children today to show your love?

We can learn so much from the saints. Their lives are blessings to us, and their words serve as guides for us to live by. These Catholic heroes are in heaven waiting to intercede for us. We need only ask.

St. Gianna, pray for us!  

Image courtesy of catholic.org.