Reflecting on life and love with St. Gianna Beretta Molla
St. Gianna Beretta Molla has been called an heroic soul, an icon of the contemporary Christian family, and her cause for canonization once caused a demonstration of opposition in the streets of Rome.
Who is this remarkable saint?
A retreat centered on St. Gianna Beretta Molla and presented by Dianne M. Traflet June 30 in Seton Hall University, South Orange, will include a bounty of information on the saint’s very contemporary life.
Traflet, assistant dean and assistant professor of pastoral theology at Seton Hall University, is the founder and co-director of the institute for Christian Spirituality in the university’s Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology.
Retreatants will hear how St. Gianna, canonized by Blessed John Paul II in 2004, journeyed through this life not only as a physician, but a woman of such great faith that she lovingly sacrificed her own life for that of her fourth child.
They will also, Traflet hopes, glean insight on the ways in which this professional woman and modern-day saint who lived from 1922 to 1962 and came to be considered the modern day “pro-life” saint, not only fought for her own life and that of her child, but lived out her vocation as loving wife and mother to three other children as well.
Over the past few decades, Traflet said, St. Gianna has emerged as an example of God’s plan for marriage – not only for our time but for all times. She is seen by faithful as an icon of the role of the Christian family in society today and a symbol of the importance of incorporating faith into daily life.
An acknowledged expert in and writer on the spirituality of St. Edith Stein, Traflet has been deepening her own knowledge of St. Gianna since 1994 when she unwittingly came face to face with women protesting Molla’s beatification.
In Rome, pursuing her ongoing studies on St. Edith Stein, Traflet “fell upon this (gathering) of women” at a candlelight vigil, pretending to be “barefoot and pregnant” as they protested the pope’s decision to Beatify Molla. “I thought, ‘who is this person they are demonstrating against.”’
That encounter became the catalyst that led Traflet to embark on studies about the woman who would be canonized some ten years later. “I began learning more about her and went to her beatification and canonization,” said Traflet during a recent telephone interview.
Along the way, she met St. Gianna’s husband, Pietro, and Gianna Emanuela, the daughter she so heroically carried to term, the daughter whose very life she advocated for as it became clear her own was in jeopardy.
Gianna Emanuela would follow in her mother’s footsteps, Traflet noted, becoming a physician.
Through these experiences and her studies, Traflet said that she learned of St. Gianna’s great love of the Sacrament of Marriage and the inspiration she has been for many, many married women who seek to live out the Gospel as she did, through the vocation of marriage.
Countless women, Traflet said, are moved by the “great heroic” sacrifice St. Gianna made in opting to take all the steps necessary to deliver her fourth child when doctors discovered a large uterine tumor early in the pregnancy.
St. Gianna insisted that surgeons not remove her entire uterus, which would have aborted the baby, but only what was necessary to allow the baby to reach term. Though the rest of the pregnancy was uneventful and a normal birth was expected, St. Gianna died from an infection seven days after giving birth.
“What made it so horrific to me when I saw these women in Rome, was that they really did not get that she did have an operation (to save her life) but she opted not to kill the baby,” said Traflet.
Those who come to the retreat, she said, can expect to focus on the story of a great soul, she said. “This is not just about the end of her life,” said Traflet, it’s an examination of her heroic life and a consideration of the ways her example is proof that all people are called to live lives of holiness.
The retreat, which runs from 9:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., will be held in the Chancellor’s Suite on the ground floor of the Bishop Dougherty University Center at Seton Hall University, 400 South Orange Ave., South Orange. A fee of $10 will include light refreshments and lunch.
For more information, call Kris Hudak at (973) 761-9633 or message [email protected][[In-content Ad]]