I have briefly mentioned a little bit about my faith in previous posts and on March 26th I will be officially joining the Catholic church. I will be receiving my first holy communion and confirmation. In confirmation, you choose for yourself a confirmation name, or the name of a saint. Your patron saint will serve as your inspiration and guide in living a holy life. I have never been good at choosing names. Naming my children involved epic discussion, research, trial runs and frustrations, for both myself and my husband. This time however, it is all down to me.
I started by reading a few guides online. They ask you to reflect on how you want your patron saint to guide you in life. What you wish to achieve in life? for example. This initially felt like a huge ask. Is it even possible for me to aspire to be saintly? Is it wise to see my goals so high? Isn’t that just setting myself up for failure? I had to take some time to reflect on this for a little while.
I discussed this topic a little with my husband, but not in great detail. He is what is known as a Cradle Catholic and it’s been a long time since his confirmation. He wasn’t very helpful when it came to offering up advice on how to choose a saint to aspire to. I knew that it needed to be a name I was proud to announce to everyone. A name I could truly associate with on a personal level.
“Catholics honor saints as heroes and heroines in faith. We look to them as examples of how to live holy lives, and we pray for their intercession, trusting them to present our prayers to God. Many Catholics have a patron saint to whom they are devoted. It may be a saint whose name or profession they share or someone who inspired them to live a better life.”
My research taught me a great deal about the truly inspiring female saints I had to choose from (although I know I would have been allowed to choose a male saint). I feel that I can relate to a female saint on a much deeper level, so this narrowed down my search a lot. I have been thinking a lot about what defines me as a person. I can put a lot of labels on myself as society likes to help us do. Wife, woman, photographer, small business owner, daughter, aunt. The one that sticks out the most for me is mother. The term covers a lot. My children are my everything. I would give up my last breath so that they could carry on. I know it sounds dramatic, but I am sure I am not the only mother to feel this way. Above all other labels society puts on me, I am a mother to my 3 glorious children and I will be until the day I cease to be. And then I hope to live on in my children’s hearts.
I decided to look at saints who were also mothers and found a few and narrowed it down to three.
St. Monica: Persistence-St. Monica is the mother of the great St. Augustine, but she had to suffer a lot for her son. When he was young, he lived a sinful life and ignored his mother’s pleadings to return to the Christian values she had taught him. Monica refused to give up on her son, praying for him and begging him to give up his sinful life. Eventually her persistence paid off and Augustine became a priest.
The Blessed Mother: Virtue- Mary is the perfect example of a virtuous mother, but sometimes she can seem almost too perfect! Yet she faced many hardships and difficulties. She lived in poverty and had to travel to a strange land (Egypt), far away from family and friends, when she was a very young mother. She also had to watch her beloved Son suffer greatly. Mary understands the struggles we face as mothers, and her intercession is especially powerful since she is so close to Jesus.
St. Gianna: Sacrifice– We often think of saints as men and women who lived long ago, but St. Gianna is a modern day saint who was not only a mother but also a pediatrician, and tireless volunteer in her community. She made the ultimate sacrifice by giving her life so that her child could live. Diagnosed with a tumor on her uterus, she refused to terminate her child or have a hysterectomy and endured a painful and difficult pregnancy and childbirth. She died shortly after giving birth to her fourth child who still lives today. Her feast day is celebrated on April 28.
Whilst I can relate to all three of these saints in a lot of ways, I feel that I am more drawn to Saint Gianna. Perhaps because she is a modern day saint.
Gianna Beretta Molla (1922-1962) was an Italian pediatrician who sacrificed her own life in order to save that of her unborn fourth child. This is a sacrifice I understand on a deeply personal level. To understand why this is, you can read about my beautiful sister here . My sister is an inspiration to me, as is anyone who would risk losing their own life in order to protect that of an innocent. I believe that this act is one which encompasses everything that motherhood is about. This does not mean that I hold any ill feeling towards mothers who have chosen to make the decision to terminate a pregnancy on health grounds either. I am also a firm believer that it is every woman’s right to choose whether to continue a pregnancy or not, but that is a whole separate issue.
Patronage: St. Gianna is a patron saint for mothers, physicians, and unborn children.
Canonization: Gianna was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 24 April 1994, and canonized on 16 May 2004. It was the first time in the history of the Church that a husband witnessed his wife’s canonization.
“The miracle recognized by the Catholic Church to canonize Gianna Molla involved a mother, Elizabeth Comparini, who was 16 weeks pregnant in 2003 and sustained a tear in her placenta that drained her womb of all amniotic fluid. Because a normal term of pregnancy is 40 weeks, Comparini was told by her doctors the baby’s chance of survival was nil. Comparini said she prayed to Gianna Molla asking for her intercession, and was able to deliver a healthy baby despite the lack of amniotic fluid.”
In his homily at her canonization Mass, John Paul II called Molla “a simple, but more than ever, significant messenger of divine love.”
So, I have come to my decision that I would like my confirmation name to be Gianna. I am not sure how those around me with take it, but it is something that resonates with me. I know that I have the option to change my mind before March, and I am willing to let my choice reside in my heart for a while. By declaring Saint Gianna my patron I am hoping to live a life as meaningful, and thoughtful of God as she did. Being volunteer within her community as well as a remarkably brave woman and protector of children, both her own and those she treated as a doctor I can understand why she was recognised in this way. I can only hope that I am able to be as brave.