Friday 22 January 2021

Gianna Molla - Jean Olwen Maynard - CTS 20th Century Martyrs

Gianna Molla 
CTS 20th Century Martyrs
Jean Olwen Maynard
Catholic Truth Society
CTS Booklet B660

This was the eighth volume in the CTS 20th Century Martyrs series that I have read. It is also the seventh by Jean Olwen Maynard. Over the last few years, I have read over 175 books and booklets from the Catholic Truth Society, and still have almost that many on my wish list. I believe there are nine volumes in this series. And about half of them have eBook editions. This is one that does not, so I tracked down a physical copy. I believe there are few Catholic who have not heart at least the name Gianna Molla. I knew the name and the details I was not aware of the whole story. This is that story.  This volume though small gives us her story. On the back cover in large bold letters is:


But in her case it was different. Hers was not the martyrdom at the hands of another, it was the self sacrifice to save her unborn child. The description of this volume is:

“Gianna Molla died putting her child’s life before her own.  What could inspire in someone such selfless courage and love?  The cancerous growth in her womb had been detected early in the pregnancy, but Gianna opted for an operation which, if successful at all, would put herself, rather than her unborn child at risk.  Her child lived, but Gianna died a week after the birth, filled with joy at this new life.  Her testimony to a ‘love beyond death’ - the powerful love of Christ - still resonates loud and clear today.  gianna was declared a saint on 16 May 2004.”

This volume was first published in 2000 and updated sometime after as it makes reference to her canonization in 2004. 

The chapters in the volume are:

Early Family Life
Spiritual Life
The Lord gives and the Lord takes away
Growing in faith
The political backdrop
Gianna’s early life
The move to Genoa
A deeper relationship with God
The deaths of Alberto and Maria
Planting Vocations

A youthful role-model
Doctor Gianna
The fight for life
Anyone who loses his life shall find it
Searching for a vocation
A new home - a new life
Starting a family
Gianna’s third pregnancy
The family reunited
Praying for another child

Gianna’s Illness
Gianna’s Decision
A daughter of heaven

The cause for beatification

The book begins with these words:

“Gianna Molla was not yet 40 when she died, but she had packed far more into her life than most people. Combining a demanding professional career, as a doctor in general practice, with being a wife and mother, she was able to maintain quality relationships with her husband and family, her colleagues and patients and friends, and still have time for sport and music. She already had three gorgeous children, but hoped for a fourth. Two months into a new pregnancy, she was diagnosed with cancer of the womb and advised to have a hysterectomy to remove her womb.”

It was advice she would not heed. She was aware of the risks. But every decision she made was for the life of her child. She loved life, she loved her husband, family, and friends, but she was certain that the child should live. And so, it did. 

But this story does not begin with that troubled pregnancy. It began with her own family life and formation. It began with the faith that her husband and her shared. And it was fed by her devotion and love of Mary. In this volume almost a third of the book is dedicated to her own upbringing. Then about half the book to her life as an adult. And finally the illness and death. The book ends with these words:

“Gianna Beretta Molla was declared Blessed by Pope John Paul II, on 24 April 1994. Pietro and their children were present at the ceremony. She was canonized, declared a saint on 16 May 2004.”

This is a deeply moving story. And one of a very recent saint. She lived a full life and has left a lasting influence. Her life does ring out loud and clear to us today. About living to serve, and about the sanctity of life. The daughter she died to save has recently written a volume called Saint Gianna Molla: Wife, Mother, Doctor by Pietro Molla and there is a collection of letters: The Journey of Our Love: The Letters of Saint Gianna Beretta and Pietro Molla edited by Elio Guerriero, that are both now on my wish list to go deeper in the life of this Saint.

This book is for the most part is an easy read. It is a truly wonderful witness. An amazing story well worth the read.  An excellent volume in an important series.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2021 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books in the 20th Century Martyrs Series:
Sophie Scholl and the White Rose: Resistance to the Nazis - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky
Johann Gruber & Jacques Bunel Victims of the Nazis - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky
Maximilian Kolbe, F. Jagerstatter, K. Leisner, R. Mayer: Victims of the Nazis - Franz Jagerstatter
Edith Stein, Marcel Callo, Titus Brandsma: Victims of the Nazis – Matthew Monk
Saint Maria Goretti: Teenage Martyr for Chastity - Glynn MacNiven-Johnston
The Atlas Martyrs – Jean Olwen Maynard

Jerzy Popieluszko Victim of Communism - Grazyna Sikorski
Isidore Bankanja - Jean Maynard

Gianna Molla - Jean Olwen Maynard
Oscar Romero: Martyr for Faith - Ashley Beck
Pedro Poveda - Bernadette Lally

Published work by Jean Olwen Maynard:
Privately published by religious orders/parishes:
Greyfriars Convent, Elgin (2006)
A History of St Mary and St Michael’s Parish, Commercial Road, East London (2007)
Sisters of Mercy Bristol (2008)
150 Years of Mercy: A History of the Sisters of Mercy Commercial Road East London (2009)
The Saint of Hoxton (2011)
Saint Monica’s Church Hoxton Square (2018) 
150th anniversary history brochure for Parish of Guardian Angels, Mile End (2018)
150th anniversary history brochure for Parish of Our Lady and St Catherine of Sienna, Bow (2020) 
Immaculate Heart of Mary and St Dominic, Homerton 1873-2023 – 150 Years: A History of the Parish (2023)

CTS Booklets:
Isidore Bakanja 
Joseph Vaz

Between Christendom and Islam, The Martyr Mystic Christian de Chergé and the Atlas Cistercians in Algeria, in: Catholic in Religious Dialogue: Monasticism, Theology and Spirituality, ed Anthony O’Mahoney and Peter Bowe OSB, Gracewing, 2006
Campaign for the Catholic Workhouse Children, in: British Catholic History, Vol 31: Issue 4 Oct 2015

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