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

Today is the Dies Natalis of St. Gianna Beretta Molla (+28 April 1962 at 39 years of age).  That is to say that St. Gianna died and was born into heaven today (thus, “birthday… dies natalis”).

I have posted this before, but it seemed appropriate to repost it today. St. Gianna is one of the saints of our time whom I would very much like to see included in an updated version of the traditional Roman calendar.

This is about the 2nd miracle through the intercession of St. Gianna, which lead to her canonization.  A person who cause for canonization has been officially advanced is called a “Servant of God”.  If they are determined to have died while living a life of “heroic virtue” they are declared “Venerable”.  After that, if a miracle is authenticated by their intercession, they are beatified and called “Blessed”.  After another miracle they are canonized and called “Saint”.

The account of the 2nd miracle for the canonization of St. Gianna gives me shivers.  Sometimes we don’t get many details about what these miracles are all about.  We know quite a bit about this miracle.

This is adapted from my original post when I was speaking and thinking mostly in Italian, so it might sound odd here and there.

Thus, my post from many years ago continues: 

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 December 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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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Classic Posts, Emanations from Penumbras, Just Too Cool, New Evangelization, Non Nobis and Te Deum, Our Catholic Identity, Pray For A Miracle, Saints: Stories & Symbols, The future and our choices and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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

  1. heway says:

    Yes, I am familiar with Gianna. Working in Maternity for 50 years and being associated with a Nadine Hale who was very knowledgeable regarding Gianna -they were both from the same part of Italy, I obtained a little book called ‘Mother’s Manual’ at the Franciscan shrine in Washington DC. I bought about 10 of them and passed them out to nurses and to a friend who was having trouble becoming pregnant. She had been married 5 years. After making a novena with this manual she became pregnant, and had 5 children in the next 5 years.
    Many times when there was a difficult or prolonged labor, some of us labor nurses would walk the hall praying with this wonderful book. This was many years (early 60’s) before the great advances we have made in watching and monitoring a laboring mother and fetus.
    Thank you Jesus for granting this miracle under the banner of Gianna – her sacrifice and that of her family is beyond human understanding and must be seen with the aid of divine grace…….

  2. marthawrites says:

    We have a Gianna in our family–Sophia Gianna–who will be a healthy one-year-old in a couple of weeks. Our daughter’s fifth child, conceived after three miscarriages, and carried to term in spite of our daughter having a serious illness during the fourth month of her pregnancy is, we all believe, the result of fervent prayers to St. Gianna and to our daughter’s active support of the pro-life cause. Devotion to saints does make a difference!

  3. rodin says:

    This beautiful story reminds me that a few weeks ago one of your contributors mentioned a friend, pregnant with twins, who was having problems that threatened the life of one of the babies. She, as I recall the name she used was mamajen, asked for prayers. St. Gianna did not occur to me so I prayed to a Solanus Casey that several of us here were asking for help for a sick priest. The priest has recovered. It would be nice to know how mamajen’s friend is doing. Dare I ask?

  4. Sandy says:

    A beautiful account and the 10 points at the end, Father, are really important. I call on the saints and angels EVERY day! That is thanks in large part to my upbringing and the wonderful nuns who made the saints real for us. I have had many miracles for my family through the intercession of the saints and dear Mama Mary.

  5. Joan M says:

    I found the official web site and, after reading some of it, forwarded the link to my son. He and his wife are experiencing infertility. Perhaps Saint Gianna will intercede for them.

  6. Kathleen10 says:

    This is a great story. I wonder how many times we miss the miraculous because we just don’t ask.

  7. cblanch says:

    We named our 2nd daughter after this lovely Saint! Gianna Genevieve just turned 3 in March. She also has a 2nd cousin with the same name!

  8. Alan Aversa says:

    Wait, so Bl. John Paul II had at least one confirmed miracle? What was it?

    Also, my ICKSP parish is the only one named after St. Gianna (at least in the U.S.):

  9. AA Cunningham says:

    “Wait, so Bl. John Paul II had at least one confirmed miracle? What was it?” Alan Aversa

    Sister Marie Simon-Pierre on Her Cure From Parkinson

  10. mamajen says:

    This is indeed an amazing story, and I appreciate learning about saints who I didn’t even know existed! I do pray often to saints and ask for miracles if there is something particularly troubling going on. St. Therese is a personal favorite of mine, and I believe my prayers to her have been answered on a couple occasions–no major miracles, but things that meant a lot to me. I find that when I put my faith completely in God despite my fears or reservations, the situation always resolves in a good way. As someone who always like to know what to expect, taking leaps of faith is very difficult for me.

    One thing about this whole story that kind of bothers me:

    “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.”

    Natural birth after a cesarean (not to mention two) is rather risky to begin with, and this baby weighed over 11 lbs! I cannot understand why someone would take that risk unnecessarily. Hopefully there is some good explanation that I’m not aware of other than she heard these other stories of c-sections gone wrong and was scared to have another one. I’m glad it worked out, and I greatly admire her resolve during her final pregancy, but I don’t believe in taking unnecessary risks and then invoking God’s help.

  11. Tom Piatak says:

    Both amazing and inspirational.

  12. sparks1093 says:

    I teach pre-confirmation and I have developed the habit of presenting two saints to the students at the beginning of each class so when they pick a patron their knowledge base is greater. Tonight the students will learn of St. Gianna Beretta Molla. Thank you for sharing this marvelous story, Fr. Z!

  13. carolinmd says:

    I learned about St. Gianna after the death of my first grandchild, which died from similar complications as Elisabete experienced. It was a devastating experience, and the baby died at 19 weeks gestation. My daughter became pregnant with another child three months later, not expecting any more complications.
    Having “met” St. Gianna just after the first child died, my prayers went to her for a safe delivery for the next baby. I forgot her name by this time, only remembering her intervention in saving the other children, and just referred to her as the “lady of the babies”. It was just today, reading this article I realized this was that lady.
    My daughter went into labor with the second child almost ten weeks early, requiring an emergency cesarean because the baby was breech. She weighed just three pounds, was tested as totally deaf, and in need of heart surgery. The baby was immediately transferred and rushed to the NICU ward of a major nearby hospital. I left my daughter, who had to remain hospitalized after the surgery, to be with the baby. Out of desperate necessity, I baptised her myself, and prayed to anybody and everybody who would listen, but in particular, to my “lady of the babies”.
    The next day, the baby’s heart had stabilized, and the original hearing evaluation was declared to be incorrect, they found her hearing was normal. After five weeks in NICU the baby was released with no further complications.
    She is now nine years old, and as normal and beautiful as any child can be.
    Although my daughter is a denier of any divine intervention, my personal belief is that a very special “lady” was close at hand to help clear the way for this little girl to live.
    My daughter had two more high risk pregnancies that produced beautiful, healthy children, and both deliveries were natural child birth, even after having had the first by caesarean.

  14. albizzi says:

    My wife was very worried about the pregnancy of our first daughter Caroline. She feared for unknown reasons that Caroline wouldn’t bear her child to term or even give birth to an abnormal child.
    I suggested that we take a vow to come to St Gianna’s tomb and pray once the child was born. The child, a boy, was born in perfect health and her mother was fine and we were so happy that a few days later we drove the road to that small village between Torino and Milano and did as we promised.

  15. cathgrl says:

    mamajen, you missed something …

    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 5k was what the mother prayed for. That part wasn’t answered … The baby was 2.2 pounds.

  16. esiul says:

    Hello Fr. Z.
    Nothing “off here and there” re you speaking and thinking in Italian and your writing.
    Where did your name Zuhlsdorf come from? Of course your father, do you speak his
    language too? You are a most interesting person, much admired for your traditional stand.
    This was a beautiful miracle you described for us. Thank you.

  17. Alan Aversa says:

    Fr. Z, which book on miracles did you use in seminary? I’m looking for a good one that documents saints’ miracles like this “jaw dropping” on of St. Gianna. I only know about TAN Book’s one on Eucharistic miracles. Thanks

  18. sedulus says:

    As physician, I wouldn’t classify this account of an unexpected medical outcome as a miracle.

  19. mamajen says:

    @cathgrl Isn’t that referring to the fourth pregnancy? The part I quoted was describing the third pregnancy.

  20. Supertradmum says:

    This is fantastic. What a great miracle (or two). I have a question, can one pray for a miracle to heal a mental or emotional problem of a person who has been under psychiatric care, for example, or do requests for miracles have to be in the realm of the physical?

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