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Franciscan Spirit Blog

Gianna Beretta Molla: A Saint for Mothers

May 15, 2020
Saint Gianna Beretta Molla with her daughter

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about being a mom, it’s that it’s not always easy. And that while we relish the tender moments, sometimes it involves making tough choices.

Enter St. Gianna Beretta Molla—pediatrician, wife, mother, saint.


A Holy—and Normal—Life

Gianna Beretta was born in Magenta (near Milan) in Italy, on October 4, 1922, the 10th of 13 children born to Alberto and Maria Beretta. Her parents instilled in their children a deep faith. In fact, two of Gianna’s brothers became priests and one of her sisters became a nun. And while Gianna was a very pious child and considered a religious vocation, her holiness would be found as a working mom.

Gianna found her life’s calling in medicine. She earned degrees in medicine and surgery from the University of Pavia in 1949, and opened a medical clinic in Mesero a year later.

In 1955, Gianna married Peter Molla. They subsequently had three children, Pierluigi, Maria Zita and Laura.

During her pregnancy with her fourth child, however, Gianna’s doctors discovered she had a tumor in her uterus. They encouraged her to terminate the pregnancy and undergo a complete hysterectomy. Gianna refused, but did allow surgery to remove the growth—fully aware of the danger that continuing the pregnancy presented.

Prior to the surgery, Gianna told a priest, “I have entrusted myself to the Lord in faith and hope, against the terrible advice of medical science, ‘Either mother or child.’ I trust in God, yes, but now I must fulfill my duty as a mother. I renew the offer of my life to the Lord. I am ready for everything, provided the life of my child is saved.”

In the final weeks of her pregnancy, she reiterated that if a decision had to be made between her and her child’s life, they should save the child. On April 21, Gianna gave birth to her fourth child—daughter Gianna Emanuela. Seven days later the mother died of complications from the birth.


A Real-life Saint

One of the stumbling blocks I have often had with many saints is that they seem so distant. Their lives and circumstances could not be any further from my own. But that’s not the case with St. Gianna.

In fact, as I look at photos of Gianna with her children, I am reminded of the personal pictures that crowd my home and office. I look at the snapshots of her holding one of her children, their faces pressed close together, and I see myself and my children.

St. Gianna Beretta Molla provides us moms with a great example of how sometimes the path to holiness lies in performing life’s ordinary tasks and facing its challenges in an extraordinary way. In short, she gives us hope that even saints can smell like spit-up, have to referee sibling squabbles and try to juggle home life and work. And that sometimes through our own sacrifices, we provide the greatest opportunities for our children. Case in point—her daughter Gianna Emanuela is now a physician herself.

Yes, thanks to St. Gianna Beretta Molla, I have someone I can pray to…mom to mom.


‘Messenger of Divine Love’

“Gianna Beretta Molla was a simple, but more than ever, significant messenger of divine love….Following the example of Christ, who ‘having loved his own…loved them to the end’ (John 13:1), this holy mother of a family remained heroically faithful to the commitment she made on the day of her marriage. The extreme sacrifice she sealed with her life testifies that only those who have the courage to give of themselves totally to God and to others are able to fulfill themselves.”—homily from the Mass of canonization

Faith and Family


Thu, 04/22/2021 - 04:55 AM
Saint Gianna Bereta Molla, please pray for me. You know I wrote your story in our local Seed Magazine, many years ago. I have made you know by the people in Africa. And now, here I am, without a family that I loved and cared for. Intercede for me in your Heavenly abode, and ask God to restore my dignity. That dignity that was taken away by those children and their mother. Pray for me and my continued forgiveness and happiness.
Sat, 05/08/2021 - 09:32 PM
My husband and I have been entrusting God in his will for a second child. It was discovered I have non cancer tumors in my uterus- Dr not concerned. I started praying to st.gianna about a year ago- on April 25 2021 we found out we are expecting ❤️
Mon, 05/10/2021 - 08:22 AM
I enjoy reading about the saints. Why weren't any miracles attributed to her mentioned? Thank you, Blessings, Shanny Davis
Fran Keller
Tue, 07/20/2021 - 03:33 PM
Fran Keller
7/20/21 2:30pm. St. Gianna stay at my grandaughter in law's side as she goes through labor right now. I have been praying to you since they lost their first son last year. Hear the prayers of this old lady and guide my great grandson into the world safely, healthy mentally and physically and safe birth for mom Dana. Thank you for your intercession St Gianna....gratefully. Fran
Sonia Fernandes 03-08-2021 - United Kingdom
Tue, 08/03/2021 - 07:05 AM
Sonia Fernandes 03-08-2021 - United Kingdom
I was expecting a child and during my 34 weeks scan the midwife said the baby can be breech and called again for a scan at 36 weeks. i prayed to the Lord Almighty and st Gianna to be with me and my child as everything was normal in previous weeks of pregnancy. during the scan I was told the baby is not breech and is absolutely fine. Praise the Lord. Thank You Jesus, St Gianna.
Thu, 01/20/2022 - 12:27 PM
St. Gianna, please watch over me as I am currently experiencing a miscarriage. I ask that you give me strength to endure the physical and emotional trauma I am experiencing. I pray that in the near future we are blessed with a healthy pregnancy and birth of our second child. Amen.
Cynthia k
Thu, 03/24/2022 - 01:35 AM
Cynthia k
St. Molla please pray for Angela and Pio who is 21 weeks along. Angela has been told that Pio would not survive, and Angela has cancer and the doctors told her to abort her son. She refuses and trusts in the Lord and his plan. She prays that Pio becomes a priest for God. Ricardo her husband is fully supporting her. Thank you!!
Tue, 04/19/2022 - 09:46 AM
I'll also pray to St Padre Pio for Angela, Pio and Ricardo.
Mike Reininger
Tue, 04/19/2022 - 01:33 PM
Mike Reininger
When my mother was pregnant with my younger brother, the Dutch medical doctor told my mom that he was confident he could save her providing she did not leave that medical table, but he wasn't so sure he could also save my younger brother too. So, my mom had to lay on that table for the next month or so until my younger brother was born. Both survived, thank God. I was able to have a younger brother to play with in my childhood. Today as adults, my younger brother and I are no longer chums. Another brother threw a wedge between us. That's life. It's complicated. Only my oldest brother and I are still Catholic. Life goes on.
Collette scotland
Tue, 04/19/2022 - 02:31 PM
Collette scotland
St gianni bereta molla , please pray for my daughter to have a healthy baby she has 12 weeks left of her pregnancy and she’s not had it easy .I will forever be indebted to you if you can speak to our lord to keep both my child and unborn first grandchild safe That she also has a healthy delivery and the baby is born healthy and they are both safe and well when the time comes .

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