Prepare to be amazed! The 2nd miracle of St. Gianna Molla

I have posted this before, but it seemed appropriate to repost it today, the anniversary of the death of St. Gianna Molla in great year of 1962.  It is her feast day today.  This is one of the saints of our time whom I would like to see included in an updated version of the traditional Roman calendar, which could stand some touching up, frankly.

In 2005 I wrote a piece in the Catholic Online Forum on the 2nd miracle through the intercession of St. Gianna. 

I reproduce it here, somewhat edited, on her feast day.  The account of this miracle gave me shivers.  I had to share it.  Recently we heard news about a possible miracle for Ven. John Henry Newman and the process for the miracle at the Congregation (here and especially here).  Sometimes we don’t get many details about what these miracles are all about.

You perhaps can fall into wondering, "Was it really all that unusual?

You decide.

Here is my original post.  I wrote this when I was pretty much thinking only in Italian, so if it sounds odd here and there, that is why:

Since I have just recently finished over 100 hours of training at the Congregation for Causes of Saints concerning the history, theology and juridial dimensions of causes of beatification and canonization (investigating the life, heroic virtues, martyrdom, reputation of holiness, reputation of martyrdom, miracles, etc.), I figured I should put some of that training to use and occasionally produce some of it here with some comments that might be of use to others. After all, what training I get isn’t just for me: it has to be for the whole Church or it is worth only the cost of the parchment.

We had the chance to learn from and question the officials of the Congregation, the experts who collaborate with it, and the physicians and historians who are experts consultants. We had lectures from the Prefect, Secretary and Under-Secretary, the Promotor of the Faith (so-called "Devil’s Advocate" is a misnomer, really) and the Relator General. We had tours of the archives and attended the proceedings of the opening of a cause in the Roman phase. Abundant materials were provided and we were, naturally, allowed then to be thoroughly tested on them.

Going into the course I was not sure what to expect, but I brought a certain measure of sceptism about some things I had heard (mostly due to faulty and insufficient information, I see now). I heard stories of lives and of miracles which left me nearly with my jaw on the table as I listened and saw the documentation.

This was a privilege which for the rest of my priesthood will affect how I can help other people understand things about the life of grace in a way I could not before.

Ad ramos

Concerning the second of the two miracles worked by God through St. Gianna:

In mid November 1999 a Brazilian woman named Elisabete Comparini Arcolino discovered she was pregnant for the fourth time. An echogram on 30 Nov. showed that the developing child was within a small sac only .8 cm in length and 2.3 cm in diameter. The doctor said that it was doubtful that with such a beginning for the gestation that child would come to term. On 9 December a echo showed the embryo a 1.0 cm in length but also a huge increase in coagulation of blood (blood loss), measuring 5.2 x 3.5 cm. On 19 Dec they found the beating heart of the child, but also a deterioration of the placenta in the lower region of the uterus. A pessimistic prognosis was given. The doctor following the case, Dr. Nadia Bicego Vieitez de Almeida, who had handled Elisabete’s previous pregnancies, said that with the great loss of blood Elisebete would probably spontaneously abort or they would have to do the procedure sooner or later.

Contrary to expectations, the child’s heart kept beating and the pregnancy continued.

On 11 February 2000 Elisabete realized there was a serious problem and went to the hospital. The echo showed that the gestational sack’s membrane had broken at 16 weeks of gestation and, while the fetus was alive, there was now a total absence of amniotic fluid. The radiologist testified that there was no amniotic liquid to protect the child from exposure to the outside world and from the external pressure of the uterus itself. This meant that both the child and mother were in serious danger of infection, etc. Dr. Bicego recommended termination of the pregnancy. Elisabete was put on a regime of super hydration, 4 l. of phleboclysis (intravenous injection of an isotonic solution of dextrose or other substances) per day. On 15 Feb a new echo showed that there was no significant increase in the volume of amniotic fluid and the volume was insufficient to bring the pregnancy to term.

At this point, 15 Feb, the prognosis for the child was precisely zero. Two studies, one in Sao Paolo and one in San Francisco had looked at viability of pregnancies with a ruptured membrane at between 22-26 weeks, many more weeks after the case of Elisabete and her child. In the studies in every case examined every fetus was spontaneously aborted within 60 days of the rupture. In virtually all cases, a fetus of 16 weeks would abort with a few days.

Dr. Bicega and other doctors told Elisabete that they had to do an abortion to save her life, and gave her some time to make the decision. But Elisabete, as she testified, knew in her heart that she could not do that and that she must try to bring the child to term. When the doctor came for the decision, Elisabete’s husband Carlos Cesar requested that a priest come. He called the parish priest of San Sebastiano, Fr. Ovidio Jose Alves di Andrade. Dr. Bicega said she would return again in 15 minutes with the documents for their signature approving the abortion.

Present at the time Dr. Bicega came was a friend of Elisabete, named Isabel, who heard the exchange about the abortion. Isabel went to the hospital chapel to pray to Mary to help bring some clarity to the situation. There Isabel spent some time in prayer. When she was finshed and got up to leave, she saw pass by the door the diocesan Bishop Diogenes Silva Matthes who had come to the hospital to visit another person. Bp. Silva had been celebrant of the wedding of Elisabete and Carlos Cesar at San Sebastiano where they worked as catechists. Isabel told the bishop what was going on and he went to Elisabete’s room and there learned the whole story. The bishop said, “Betinha, we will pray and God will help us” and he asked Dr. Bicega to wait a while longer. Then the bishop left.

Shortly after the bishop left Fr. Ovidio arrived. He began to give Elisabete the sacrament of anointing. At that point the bishop returned. He had brought with him a biography of Bl. Gianna Beretta Molla. He said to Elisabete: “Do what Blessed Gianna did, and, if necessary, give your life for the child. I was praying at home and I said to the Blessed in prayer, ‘Now has arrived the opportunity for you to be canonized. Intercede before the Lord for the grace of a miracle and save the life of this little child.”

Elisabete had known about Bl. Gianna and how she died and how the first miracle for her cause was for a woman who had terrible complications from a caesarian section. After knowing about Bl. Gianna, Elisabete herself, in her third pregnancy and after two previous caesarian sections, had decided to give birth normally despite the problems that entailed. At that time the same Bishop Silva had given her a holy card of Bl. Gianna. Elisabete was terribly afraid but she asked Bl. Gianna for help and gave birth to a child weighing over 5kg.

Therefore, this time, reinforced by past experience and the help of Bl. Gianna and the same bishop, Elisabete told Dr. Bicega she would try to carry the child to term, so long at the child’s heart continued to beat. Various doctors at the hospital expressed their opinion that this was madness. However, Dr. Bicega later testified about that time: “But I, I don’t know if it was by intuition, through my own lack of courage, or if I was drawn by Elisabete’s faith which seemed to have no limit, decided to wait and see what happened.” Elisabete would later testify that for her: “Jesus’ greatest miracle was to change the doctor’s heart. She had been unmovable in her determination to perform abortions, but one day she said to me, ‘Your faith had made me think a great deal. Even I have faith now and so let’s wait for the death of the fetus”.

Elisabete left the hospital and went to the home of Carlos Cesar’s aunt, Janete Arcolino, who was a nurse. Dr. Bicego lent them the sonar machine so that they could monitor the heart beat of the child and told them to check her temperature and blood pressure every six hours. They continued the super hydration treatments and eventually began a cortisone treatment to prevent problems with the child’s lungs.

In the meantime, Fr. Ovidio testified later, the whole community was continuing to invoke Bl. Gianna, continuously asking for a miracle. The parish had been very pro-life and every month there was special blessing for women who were with child. Also involved in the prayers to Bl. Gianna was a community of Carmelite sisters who in turn had communicated the request to other convents in Brazil. For her part, Elisabete had a very hard time of things. Despite her faith in God and her past experience, there were times when she was terribly afraid she was going to die with her child. She felt herself sometimes quite abandoned by God and alone. She was worried about what would happen with her other three children if she died.

Dr. Bicega followed the pregnancy closely and noted that during the whole time there was no accumulation of amniotic fluid. If Elisabete gained any, as soon as she would move to get up to go to the bathroom, she would again lose it all.

When they had reached the 32nd week and when the baby weighed 1.80k, they decided for a caesarian section delivery, effected on 31 May 2000. The newborn daughter, Gianna, was in good shape with the exception of the left foot which was twisted, probably because of compression with the uterus.

The problems did not cease there. They found that Elisabete had a wound within a uterine muscle to which the placenta had adhered, thus remaining in place. She had a serious hemorrhage and her lungs collapsed and wound up in intensive care for three days. As part of her treatment Dr. Bicega wanted to interdict her cycle with a kind of false menopause, which would result also in Elisabete not being able to lactate, but Elisabete said she did want to do that.

The newborn was sent home on 17 June weighing 1.960kg. Later a surgical operation and therapy corrected the twisted foot. In July 2001 a pediatrician Dr. Maria Engracia Ribeiro examined the child completely and found her to be perfectly normal and healthy, intelligent and lively, with the strong personality. Another check on 17 January 2002 found no problems in any of the child’s development, with no immune or respiratory problems and was, for her age, in perfect health.

The case of the asserted miracle was studied by the “Consulta Medica” of the Congregation for Causes of Saints on 10 April 2003 who determined that despite the severe prognosis for the fetus and the mother as the result of the total loss of amniotic fluid at the 16th week, and despite medical treatment inadequate for such a grave situation, the positive outcome of the pregnancy and health of mother and child were unexplainable in medical terms. The decree super miraculo was promulgated by the Congregation in the presence of Pope John Paul II on 20 December 2003. Since Gianna Beretta Molla had been beatified on 24 April 1994, her canonization was celebrated on 16 May 2004.

I would put to you several points to consider, any of which might serve as a starting point for comments below:

  1. Saints are presented to us by Holy Mother Church for “the two I’s”: imitation and intercession.
  2. As all Christians are called to imitate Christ, we also must experience self-emptying and the Cross, abandonment to providence and self-donation. We must be willing to lose everything.
  3. We are not alone: the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant are closely knit, interwoven in charity. We on earth must intercede for each other and believe and ask for the intercession of the saints.
  4. God makes use of the weak to demonstrate His might and love.
  5. If we do not believe in miracles, we do not ask for them. If we do not ask for them, they will not be granted.
  6. Our life of faith is noticed by non-believers and they are not unaffected.
  7. What a difference a bishop can make.
  8. How often do you invoke the help of the saints and holy angels?
  9. God’s ways are not our ways.
  10. No one is too small to be an occasion of grace for others.
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28 Responses to Prepare to be amazed! The 2nd miracle of St. Gianna Molla

  1. G says:

    Oh, great…. now I’m going to go to cantor practice in TEARS!
    Beautiful story, Father.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

  2. Diane says:

    Fr. Z,

    I have to say that this has become one of my favorite posts. Not only is it an excellent example to ponder, but the bullet points you provided at the end were useful too.

    You have made some excellent posts on saints and others which have really stuck with me. I do hope you will continue with these kinds of posts periodically.

    Thanks

  3. Volpius says:

    I am not ashamed to admit it nearly brought me to tears to. With God all things are possible.

  4. Matt Q says:

    Thank you, Father Z, for mentioning the ten points. Basic spiritual truths and aesthetical practice of the Faith. It’s distressing though that just about any given parish one walks into never hears of this. Never. It’s all just be like Jesus and be nice to each other. Well, it needs to be pointed HOW to be like Jesus, and those ten points of yours are a great start.

  5. Diane says:

    With regards to point 1 and “imitation”…

    During lent, for the first time in my life, I decided to go without any television. I figured it would be a good way to pick up some spiritual reading time. With that, I began reading the life of St. Dominic Savio, followed by a book on Don Bosco, which I continue to read each night.

    While much of the TV I was watching, such as Food Network, was not bad per se, but it wasn’t as good for me as the spiritual reading I took up during lent and now find myself going back to. It is tempting to turn that TV back on when I get in bed, but I’ll attribute to my Guardian Angel that nudge toward’s the lives of the saints at bedtime.

    There is so much to learn from the saints. If I never turn the TV back on at all, there will never be enough time to go through all of their lives and writings.

  6. Mark says:

    Is #10 stated correctly?

    Shouldn’t the word “not” be omitted so that it reads:

    “No one is too small to be an occasion of grace for others.”?

  7. Michael C. says:

    I love this saint. I only we wish we got to see her portrayed not just as a good mother but also as the extraordinary woman of prayer she was. I fear that for most people, she’s seen as a canonized “mom” when really what makes her such a great saint is how she lived her life in relation to God. Imitation and intercession. Unfortunately, the latter often falls out of the picture when you’re talking about modern lay saints who are risk being seen as mere role models.

  8. James says:

    Diane,

    I am a university student and I very much enjoy reading about Saints and the Church when time presents itself. Could I please ask you for the titles of those two books on St. Dominic Savio and St. Don Bosco? I often find it difficult and unproductive to grasp through a bookstore’s shelves for authentic Catholic works, but if a good book on a saint is recommended I am always eager to search it out.

    And, Fr. Z, your posts are consistently inspiring and informative. I rarely comment on the blogs I read, but in this case I could not hold back. Please keep up the great work you do for Christ and His Church.

  9. MMajor Fan says:

    Bl Gianna is one of my favorites. I LOVE your list of the 10 points. I think they are very thoughtful and useful for many to ponder.

    The only thing I would gently change is 5. Yes, people need to ask and pray for miracles. But there are miracles granted unasked, sometimes to surprisingly unfaithful people. As you said, God’s ways…

    So I would say 5. should be to believe in miracles, ask, and pray for God to provide the best way. I’d drop the statement that if people don’t ask miracles don’t occur! :-)

  10. Michelle says:

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful post about St. Gianne. I prayed to Gianna for her intercession while expecting my fourth child and going through my fourth c-section. She helped me to have hope and faith for a healthy outcome for me and my baby. My fourth child was born safely on John Paul II’s birthday: May 18, 2005. Praise the Lord he is a healthy boy! Gianna offers much to learn from her example as a wife and mother with her abiding trust in God.

    Keep up the wonderful blog minsitry Fr. Z!

  11. john says:

    Thank you Father for this wonderful story!

    I’ve read the biography of St. Gianna from Ignatius and marveled what a believer she was.

    I now ask her intercession as both a doctor and a Saint for my wife who is in the hospital, not with any pregnancy complications, but with almost total loss of kidney functions. St Gianna Please Pray for Beverly.

    John

  12. Kradcliffe says:

    I’m a little bit confused… if a pregnancy threatens the life of the mother, is she allowed to induce labor, even if the fetus isn’t yet viable? Would the death of the fetus be an abortion, or just the sad outcome of the early induction?

  13. Peter Karl T. Perkins says:

    Yes, I support the addition of St. Gianna Beretta Molla to the calendar. The one place where change is legitimate even in the aftermath of a revolution is in the propers. That is established practice. Moreover, she is a favourite saint.

    The wife of a very good friend of mine suffered a massive stroke earlier this year. The doctors’ prognosis was dire. They even set a time-frame for her certain death. My friend put her recovery in the hands of Our Lady and St. Gianna. There was a miraculous and almost full recovery. The doctors treating here are calling this remarkable. The recovery process continues. We are praying that it will be complete. I am not making this up. I swear it. I had scores of people praying for her over the Internet.

    I favour adding propers for her feast day to our calendar (or just having her added to the calendar under the appropriate category of saint). I would also like to add the Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War and St. Pio of Pietrelcina. But there are others who are not as popular with traditionalsits. We can’t fit in all the scores of saints declared in the last pontificate. I don’t think that we should necessarily add a saint to the calendar every time the N.O.M. does. Also, such additions should be sensitive to the peculiarities of our calendar.

    P.K.T.P.

  14. Kradcliffe says:

    I don’t really understand why there would be two calendars of feast days. I thought the FORMS were different, but the rites the same?!

  15. Susan B says:

    Father Z., I have printed out these 10 points… “10 Theses?”… and have placed them on the windowsill above my kitchen sink. Thus when I am tidying up after our 4 rambunctious little boys, I have no doubt I will be inspired to be a better Mom, a better example for my kids, a better Catholic soul! [Thanks for that.] God bless you and thank you.

  16. Maribelle O. says:

    Hi, what a beautiful miracle. I just want to share with you that at same time, my daughter, Marisa, also is a miracle. I too ruptured at 16 weeks pregnant. Although the medical physicians insisted on termination of my pregnancy, my husband and I relied on our faith to protect her. She was born via c-section on June 26, 2000. Healthy as can be! I prayed for Mary’s intercession and several Saints. It is a true miracle!

  17. MMajor: Bl Gianna is one of my favorites

    Saint Gianna, actually. She was canonized on 24 April 2004.

  18. Diane says:

    I love it when I get to type “Te Deum” as my anti-spam word!

    James asked: Could I please ask you for the titles of those two books on St. Dominic Savio and St. Don Bosco?

    The books I have are out of print, but not hard to find on the web used. Both are the works of Rev. Peter Lappin. While they are aimed at younger readers, I find them nonetheless inspiring. Both books are basically a series of accounts from each of their lives.

    There are several releases for the one on Savio. I have the 1954 edition. Take your pick from these google searches!

    Dominic Savio – Teenage Saint

    Stories of Don Bosco

    This reminds me that I had started a post with excerpts from the book on Dominic Savio, if you care to look at them to get an idea.

    Scroll to the bottom of this link and work your way up. I was doing 9 days with Dominic Savio and have one last post to make. If you start at the bottom, you will begin with one of the earliest accounts in his life about his holiness and fervor.

    I found, exactly as Fr. Z points out in his first bullet, that by reading the lives and works of saints at night (or any time), it brings about an interior strength and zeal that I never imagined. It should inspire us to not only live virtuously, but to pray and to grow in Eucharistic and Marian devotion.

    Ordinary nightly television simply cannot do all of that!

  19. Fr. Rene Guesnier, O.S.B. says:

    I am an old priest and have tried for years to
    get a picture and/or a statue of St. Gianna so
    I can set up a little shrine in our church.
    Do you know where I can find one?

  20. Jane says:

    hank you for an awesome post, Father! I had no idea St. Gianna was THAT powerful.

    As regards to point #5, I like to say: I don’t believe in miracles, I depend on them. ;)

    I can see your Italian thinking coming through and I smile. As a teenager, I spent a long summer (all of June through October)in Italy. I came back thinking in Italian and found myself having to process the Italian thoughts into English words. How I wish I could do that now.

    Viva Italia! Viva Roma!

  21. Nick says:

    You make excellent points, Father. This story reminds me of the parable of the widow and the judge. God bless!

  22. Felix says:

    Father, you mentioned the Promotor of the Faith (“Devil’s Advocate”). i thought that this position had been abolished. Is this correct?

  23. Chardin says:

    Regarding induction of labor early: Remember Gianna’s act of heroism was not required, otherwise it wouldn’t have gained the attention it did. She delayed treatment of her cancer until which time her child delivered. She wasn’t required to do so. In the case of the child in Brazil, the immediate danger was to the child, not the mother. In these cases,the mother’s life becomes endangered once the uterus becomes infected as a result of premature amniotic fluid sac rupture and/or death of the baby and its putrification inside the womb. Neither of these things occured, miraculously. It seems to me that early induction of labor in this case would be a pre-emptive attempt to avoid potential risk of life to the mother, i.e. she wasn’t technically in danger yet.

  24. Chardin says:

    Regarding induction of labor early: Remember Gianna’s act of heroism was not required, otherwise it wouldn’t have gained the attention it did. She delayed treatment of her cancer until which time her child delivered. She wasn’t required to do so. In the case of the child in Brazil, the immediate danger was to the child, not the mother. In these cases,the mother’s life becomes endangered once the uterus becomes infected as a result of premature amniotic fluid sac rupture and/or death of the baby and its putrification inside the womb. Neither of these things occured, miraculously. It seems to me that early induction of labor in this case would be a pre-emptive attempt to avoid potential risk of life to the mother, i.e. she wasn’t technically in danger yet.

  25. Natalie Bays says:

    Two years ago I read the life story of St Gianna and was so moved and touched by her outstanding faith and her passion for life, that I was inspired to write a song in her honor. I was amazed last year that on the day I was recording the song in the studio, booked several weeks in advance, I suddenly realized it was the feast day of St. Gianna! A small thing perhaps but a little ‘wink’ from God!
    I hope you enjoy listening to it. You can find it at the following link
    and then clicking on the song Gianna.
    http://www.myspace.com/nataliebaysofficial
    God Bless
    Natalie

  26. Natalie Bays says:

    Two years ago I read the life story of St Gianna and was so moved and touched by her outstanding faith and her passion for life, that I was inspired to write a song in her honor. I was amazed last year that on the day I was recording the song in the studio, booked several weeks in advance, I suddenly realized it was the feast day of St. Gianna! A small thing perhaps but a little ‘wink’ from God!
    I hope you enjoy listening to it. You can find it at the following link
    and then clicking on the song Gianna.
    http://www.myspace.com/nataliebaysofficial
    God Bless

  27. John says:

    Several days ago, I posted a comment requesting St Gianna’s intercession for my wife who was in the hospital with kidney failure (probably) brought on by her diabetes. She had two times of dialysis. Yesterday morning, the admitting doctor told us that several times they weren’t sure that they were going to be able to keep her breathing. She is now at home (sitting at her desk talking on the phone to her mother) in apparent perfect shape. Her kidney doctor said her kidney function is up to 25% and going up. I printed out several copies of the picture of Gianna with holding her child and had one on my desk and gave one to my wife and asked everyone to pray to her asking her intercession. I’m sure glad that she (Gianna) listened and while I hasve been thanking her in private, I’d also like to thank her in “public.”

    John

  28. laura says:

    Fr. Guesnier – I tried searching online for you for a statue of St. Gianna and also couldn\’t find one. Perhaps, you could frame an image of her and use that in the shrine?

    Besides being a wonderful saint to imitate (as I\’m also a wife and mother), I\’ve seen firsthand another of her miracles. I was dating a guy back in college whose Grandmother had a heart attack. She was like a second mother to him and a strong force in the family. She went in for a surgery that was suppossed to take several hours. That time came and went. Eventually the drs came out and said there were complications, but they would be out soon. Another couple of hrs went by. They came out and told the family (and me who was waiting with them) that there were complications that couldn’t be fixed. Her chest was so swollen, they couldn\’t close it (meaning she’d probably get infected and die if she even lasted the night). She had approximately 5% chance at survival. They told the family she was going to die and to come say goodbye.

    She did make it through the night, but was still expected to pass at any time. I went back to my small Catholic college (Christendom) and made copies of the novena to Bl. Gianna (at that time she was Bl). I passed them out to students explaining the situation, begging for prayers. Slowly, she began to recover and is living a full life this day. We know her recovery couldn’t have happened without St. Gianna’s intercession!