You, Gianna were a splendid person, you were “my beloved… the beloved of my heart… the love of my soul.” in the words of the Song of Songs; the happy and wise mother of our children, and you always sought in every decision and every work the will of the Lord with prayer and the Eucharist.
Remember, Gianna, the evening of December 31, 1954? I still remember it so well as you certainly do. Together we enjoyed the ballet performance at the Scala Theater in Milan and then we welcomed the New Year in your home. In my diary entry that day I wrote: “This evening can be for me a decisive date for my life and my aspirations. I entrust myself to Our Lady of Good Counsel.”
From February onward of that year, we started seeing each other more frequently: we shared with one another our desires and aspirations, our hopes and certainties, and we began to understand each other better.
On February 21 you wrote to me: “I really wish to make you happy and to be what you desire: good, understanding and ready for the sacrifices that life will ask of us. I intend to give myself to form a truly Christian family.” On February 22 in my diary, I wrote: “Incipit vita nova” (quote of Dante meaning: the new life begins). And on March 7, I wrote: “The more I know Gianna the more I am convinced that God could not have allowed me to meet a better person.”
In addition to your humility, there was the certainty of a special effectiveness of prayer and unfailing help from God.
You humbly wrote to me on April 9, “Dearest Pietro, You know that it is my desire to see you and know that you are happy: tell me how you would like me to be for you and what I have to do to make you happy.” I have so much faith in the Lord and I am certain that he will help me to be a worthy wife for you. I like to meditate often on the Epistle for the Mass of the Feast of St. Anne: “An excellent wife, who can find her? …The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life” (Proverbs 31:10-12). Pietro, I could be for you the strong woman of the Gospel. But I feel so weak!”
On April 18, several days before our formal engagement, you made another thanksgiving hymn to the Lord and wrote me: “Just think, Pietro, the Lord has given us a great grace: how grateful we must be to him for this gift!”
I welcomed enthusiastically the proposal you made- that we celebrate our formal engagement with a special mass and Holy Communion to thank and invoke the Lord in the Church of your beloved Canossian Sisters.
Your life of faith and prayer, far from growing weak, only became more intense. On June 10 you wrote me: “I love you so much, Pietro, and you are always present to me beginning in the morning when during Holy Mass, at the moment of the offertory, I offer up my and your work, your joys, your sufferings continuing then throughout the entire day until evening.”
During that radiant summer of our engagement you were for me, more and more each day, the marvelous person who transmitted to me the joy of life, of climbing the heights and then quickly descending those snow-covered slopes; the joy of the marvels of creation and of your radiant smile, the joy of our new family that would soon come about, the joy of the grace of God.
In this way we arrived at our marriage. Once again you proposed that we prepare ourselves with intense prayer. You wrote to me on September
4: “Only 20 days remain and then. I am Gianna Molla! What would you say if we prepared spiritually to receive this Sacrament as if it were part of a Triduum? On the days of September 21, 22 and 23, Holy Mass and Holy Communion, you in Ponte Nuovo and I in the Shrine of the Assumption. The Blessed Mother will unite our prayers and hopes because our unity will give us strength. Jesus cannot help but hear us and assist us. I am certain that you will agree to this and I thank you.” And thus we began the triduum of prayer.
On September 13 you wrote telling how much you desired to start our new family and how much you desired the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. “With the help and the blessing of God we will do everthing so that our new family will become a little Cenacle where Jesus will always reign above all of our affections, desires and actions. My dear Pietro, there are only a few days remaining and I am really moved to draw closer to receiving the Sacrament of Love. We will become co-workers of God in the new creation; we will be able to give God children who will love Him and serve Him.
How many times have I recalled that spontaneous applause in the Basilica of Magenta when you entered and walked toward the altar of our marriage. Your brother Fr. Giuseppe blessed our marriage and exhorted us to be witnesses of the Gospel and to holiness. From that morning began for us the fullness of our new life: each new day that followed was filled with ineffable joy and peaceful, luminous peace; of trepidations and sufferings, right up until that Saturday morning that I saw you rise up to heaven.
You dreamed of being a wife and you desired to have many good and strong children. Pierluigi was born and your motherly joy was full and perfect. That joy would be renewed with the birth of Mariolina and then again with the birth of Lauretta. During each pregnancy, how many prayers, how much trust in Providence, how much strength in the face of suffering! With each birth, what hymns of thanksgiving raised up to the Lord!
And we delighted with great joy in our children, living for them and being so proud of them. You continued to possess a joy of life, and delighted in the beauty of creation, of snow-covered mountains, in concerts of symphonic music and the theater… just as in the days of your youth and our engagement. You were always busy in the home. I never remember seeing you bored or at rest during the day, except when you didn’t feel well!
Everything you wished to do and all of your actions were always consistent with your faith, with the spirit and the apostolic work of charity that was part of your youth… always with full trust in Divine Providence and crowned with your spirit of humility.
In every circumstance, you always entrusted yourself to the will of God. How well I remember that each and every day, you took time for prayer and meditation, your conversation with God and your thanksgiving for the incredible gift of our marvelous children. And you were so happy!
You so desired to have another baby, and you prayed and had others pray that the Lord would grant us this wish. The Lord heard you, but this divine grace would also require the gift of your own life. And you gave that very gift.
You loved our three children no less than you loved the baby that was within your womb. Of that I am certain. For you the motherhood of that baby within had the same rights as did the lives of Pierluigi, Mariolina and Lauretta. The right to life of that baby that grew within you demanded the complete sacrifice of yourself that you you would have to give in such sad circumstances.
You knew that the maternal care of raising, educating and forming our children had no comparison, but in your humility and above all in the fullness of your trust in Divine Providence, you were convinced of not committing an act of injustice against our three children. You knew that in such a sorrowful circumstance, the one who needed you most and relied completely upon you was the baby in your womb. You considered no less your obligation to raise our children, teach and form them after their conception and birth. You did all of this ever trusting in Divine Providence, even if this new maternity would cost you your life.
Several days before the birth, with a firm yet peaceful tone of voice, and such profound emotion in your face that I can never forget, you said to me: “If you must choose between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child: I demand that you must save the baby.”
I understood, even if you had done everything to hide it from me, your pain of mother and wife in this dilemna. When such a choice would cost you so much- you who loved our children, your husband and life itself! How I trembled and suffered with you.
The morning of Holy Saturday, April 21, 1962, we had the unforgettable joy of the divine gift of life in the child for whom we longed: Gianna Emanuela. After several hours, your unspeakable sufferings began that were beyond your strength, and they made you call upon your own mother who was already in paradise. You knew that you were about to die and you felt the pain of leaving behind our little children, but you never confided this to me.
When you held in your arms our little one, you looked at her so affectionately, with a look that betrayed the unspeakable suffering that you were unable to enjoy- to raise and see this child ever again. You asked me on Wednesday night to take you back home, but the doctors caring for you were strongly against this desire. You returned to our home on Saturday morning in extreme agony. You may have even heard the voices of our children who were waking up in the room next to ours. In that very moment you entered paradise.
Our earthly meeting, our earthly enchantment was finished, but we felt you, as we still do, so close to us and protecting us from heaven. Gianna, it has been 43 years since the Lord called you unto Himself in paradise, among the hosts of His Angels and His Saints. And it has been 41 years since our dearest Mariolina joined you in Paradise, an Angel among the Angels.
It is 43 years since your kindly, visible presence and your sweet smile are no longer here with us- in fact, these years have outnumbered the years that we were together on earth- so short, yet so rich in joys and affections. Our children, our “treasures” as you called them, have grown up, and have truly understood what a Holy Mother they had, and what an admirable, Christian and maternal witness she offered.
How many remembrances, dearest Gianna have you left us. Your Rosary beads, your little daily prayer books, your letters are relics for us; as are your paintings- Madonnas, flowers, country sides- the piano and also the two fashion magazines that you had me buy for you in Paris where I traveled on business in March 1962. You even told me: “If the Lord wants me to be here, I will have a good time!” These relics speak to us of your deep piety, of your Eucharistic life, of your devotion to our Heavenly Mother, of your joy of life and of your faith in Divine Providence.
And Our Lord, in his infinite goodness and mercy, has blessed us once again, with a gift and a singular and immeasurable grace: he has given us back a wife and a holy mother! Yes, my beloved Gianna, I relive with deep emotion and feeling May 16 of last year , when our Holy Father Pope John Paul II proclaimed you a Saint- as “Mother of family” for the Universal Church, before thousands of faithful who filled St. Peter’s Square- that special place of our unforgettable honeymoon 49 years earlier.
Many times I think, say and repeat, even to our children, that eternity will not even be enough to thank the Lord for the singular gift that he gave me among so many gifts that I received and continue to receive from Him throughout my long life: to be a direct and privileged witness of so many graces and blessings!
I bow before the inscrutable designs of Divine Providence, and I remain speechless when I recall the exhortation to holiness of your brother, Don Giuseppe, spoken to us during the Holy Mass of our wedding day. How prophetic was his message!
Now, while you are still present to me, I kneel before you, my holy wife, and I entrust to your intercession with Jesus and our Heavenly Mother, our children, myself and all of our dear ones, for all who knew you, loved you and still carry you in their hearts, for all who turn to you each day, and you know that they are so many, always growing in number: mothers, young people, couples, doctors, religious, in Italy and throughout the world.
My beloved Gianna, help me to be as much as possible worthy of you. Please remain always close to us and pray for us.
Your beloved Pietro