St. Gianna Molla, Pray For Me!, by Andi Sligh
Before we go to Reconciliation, Mr. Andi and I get small notecards to write down what we intend to confess and we take those in with us, then destroy them afterward. I don’t know if other families do it this way, but it helps us remain focused, forces us to be intentional in our assessment of ourselves, and probably saves the priest a little time, as I can be a bit (ahem…) verbose. Before Easter, as I dug around in the drawer for a notecard, Mr. Andi scoffed at the idea that I would have anything that I needed to confess. He declared, quite forcefully, “I’m married to a saint!”
“Well, that is the goal!” I told him, laughing. Ah, if only it were true! I’m still working on it.
The Church has gifted us with the histories of the saints - people we can look to for encouragement. Some have left copious writings of theological depth, while others were ordinary people who simply left their example for us to follow. Many of them can seem like characters in a folk tale because their lives were so different from ours. But there’s one saint I admire and connect with in a personal way, and if you don’t know of her, you should.
St. Gianna Molla was born in 1922 - one hundred years ago this October - which means she was born after all of my grandparents. Modern era? Check. She was a pediatrician, drawn toward caring for mothers, babies, and the elderly. I’m not a pediatrician, but with two special needs kids, we’ve spent quite a bit of time with ours - so much so that I have her personal cell phone number (yes, she is amazing!)
St. Gianna married an engineer (me, too!) and they had three children. While she was pregnant with her fourth a fibroma was discovered in her uterus which left her with limited options: abortion, a hysterectomy, or removing only the fibroma, which was risky for Gianna but had the potential to save her baby. She chose to save the baby even if it meant losing her own life.
After nearly two decades as a mother, I have no doubt that I would be willing to sacrifice my life for one of my children. That decision would probably have been easy to make in a vacuum, but remember Gianna already had three other children, all of whom were still young when she became pregnant with her fourth. I can imagine her doctors and friends saying to her, “But Gianna, do you really want to leave your children motherless? Be happy that you have these three. It’s okay to let this one go.”
Gianna’s daughter, named Gianna Emanuela, was born on April 21, 1962, and one week later St. Gianna died at the age of 39. In 2004, her husband and their children attended the ceremony where John Paul II declared her a saint. Unlike my husband, Gianna’s husband really was married to a saint, and he knew it without a doubt. Gianna’s children grew up without their mother, but her saintly example stayed with them.
St. Gianna trusted in God and His plan, and didn’t hesitate, which is what makes her such a positive example to follow. I have to admit that sometimes I’m a lot more in the “I need to try to control this situation” camp than I am in the “I trust you, God” camp. Like I said up top, I’m still working on it.
Andi Sligh is a wife and mother of two children with disabilities and three dogs. She is a lifelong Alabamian, Dr. Pepper addict, Catholic convert, and former engineer who rediscovered a love of writing when she became a mom. You can find more of her writing at https://andisligh.com/