St. Gianna, A Saint for LIfe
For many today, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is primarily understood with a thrift-store-identity, but for its members, it is much more than that. It is a means of growing spiritually by “seeing Christ in the poor” that are served in their stores and in the community. Like St. Vincent, they know that the poor will not thank you for the bread given them because they feel shame and anger at their poverty and the need to accept charity. Thus, their response is seldom one to make the giver feel particularly appreciated. Vincent, like His Master Jesus teaches that giving is an act of selfless love, expecting no reward and humbling when it is received. This would be especially hard for a teenager who wants and needs recognition for their actions and good works.
Nevertheless, as a teenager, Gianna Beretta heard the call to serve her Lord and became a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. She found her niche among the elderly and the poor. For a teen, this was certainly not as much “fun” as, perhaps, serving cute little children. The elderly are often in pain and can be very cranky. But this was her call and she embraced it with all her heart.
After finishing medical school, Gianna opened a clinic among the poor. She could have chosen to work in a fine hospital with its many benefits and great prestige, but she chose again to be among the needy, the elderly and poor mothers with babies. She was by nature a joyful person and brought this joie de vivre into her work and family.
Since Roe v Wade was abolished, the airwaves are full of vitriol for those who are pro-life. Political candidates who choose to protect the unborn are vilified, lied about and the targets of false science. Ironically there is much anxiety about the lack of jobs but it’s really more about the lack of workers. Since 1973 over 50 million potential workers were aborted. Where do people think the workforce comes from? There are plenty of jobs but no one to fill them. So what will happen when there are no servers in restaurants or fast food places? Where are the young farmers, nurses, doctors and teachers, construction workers, plumbers, electricians? They are in some mass grave or disposal site. The sexual permissiveness and self-centered life styles of the past 60 years will leave this generation with no services, food scarcity, medical personnel etc. If the cost of living is high now just wait a few years. The hippy generation has reached old age and worries about health care and what their children will do to them when they can no longer care for themselves. will there be any quality nursing homes?
The Church has presented few models for a holy family life, but in Gianna we have a modern, professional woman with a Vincentian heart, a true role model of Christian action in a family that became a true domestic church. Early on Gianna entrusted her future to the Blessed Mother.
On a pilgrimage to Lourdes in 1954, Gianna asked Mary whether she was to marry or to enter religious life and go the missions. Mary’s answer was to bring Pietro into her life as soon as she returned home. Gianna made it clear to him that she wanted a truly Catholic family in which God is the center of their home, a home that would be like a little cenacle where God reigns in their hearts, enlightens their decisions and guides all their plans. Each of their three children was dedicated at birth to Our Lady of Good Counsel. But her fourth pregnancy was blighted with the presence of a tumor that threatened her own life and the life of her unborn child. Unlike today’s commercials where women choose themselves over their child, Gianna gives a different example.
A woman of prayer, Gianna turned to Mary and her Divine Son. God is love and where there is love, there is God. As a doctor, she knew what lay ahead. This cross was enormous. She asked herself, "What would Love do?" There is no greater love than to lay down your love for another. This is the unselfish love Christ demonstrated on the cross. What else could she say but, “Thy will be done.” She told her doctor, “Save my child first and if possible save my life, too.”
In a silly kids movie called, “Mars Needs Moms”, there is a very profound Christian message about the self-sacrificing nature of motherhood even unto death. That is what St. Gianna has given us by her example in the midst of this century’s culture of death, Gianna is a beacon of Christ’s light and love in her total self-giving. Her example is so contrary to the selfishness in our modern culture. She is indeed a hero for our young people and a modern day saint. As we approach the November elections, Christians must look to the example of Jesus and his saints when we choose candidates for office. Those who choose not to vote let the forces of darkness win.