Last weekend, my daughters and I found ourselves early on a Saturday morning with an entire day just to ourselves. This is a rare treat in our bustling household, but on this day my husband had taken all the boys on a Scouting adventure and so we declared it a Girl’s Day.
For Girl’s Day we decided to go antiquing. We grabbed a cup of tea, to go, and headed out for Two Guys Antiques in Dumfries, VA. There is something so magical about antiquing, isn’t there? You get to sift through items that at one time belonged to someone else. Someone, probably, long since passed — and imagine their story woven into the fiber of the pieces.
Two Guys never fails to provide hours of entertainment for the girls and me. They head straight for the doll room and I always end up in the women’s clothing room trying on such beauties as pill box hats, mink stoles, and rhinestone brooches. We swoon and spin and once in a while we come home with a tiny vintage treasure. Last Saturday, we came home with a little porcelain doll with a cheerleader outfit for the girls, and I bought a humble pair of black leather gloves because they reminded me of my friend: St. Gianna Molla.
Up until a few months ago, I didn’t know much about St. Gianna. I knew that she had recently been canonized, going from Blessed Gianna to Saint Gianna, but that was about it. That is, until one of the women from our homeschool group commissioned a visit from Joe Cunningham, Professor Emeritus, The Society of St. Gianna Beretta Molla in Warminster, PA.
Mr. Cunningham stood in front of our group of thirty or so women and told the story of this saint that he knows so well. She was an Italian woman, a physician by training and a wife and mother by vocation. She was trying, just like you and me to live out her Catholic Faith by way of her vocation. This was, until she found out two months into her fourth pregnancy, that she had developed fibroma of her uterus, a condition that threatened her life and the life of her unborn child.
Despite recommendations to take a treatment that would place her unborn child in peril, she begged her doctors to spare the life of her child. Not only did she elect to take a lesser treatment which caused no harm to her baby, she told her husband, “I may be necessary to the children I already have, but I am absolutely indispensible to the life of this child that I am carrying.” She offered her body as a safe haven for her child and on the morning of April 21, 1962, Gianna Emanuela was born. Despite all efforts and treatments to save both of them, on the morning of April 28, amid unspeakable pain and after repeated exclamations of “Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I love you”, the mother died. She was 39 years old.
At the end of his talk, Mr. Cunningham informed all of the women listening that he had brought a pair of St. Gianna’s gloves that were given to him by the Saint’s husband, Pietro Molla. We were able to pick up, hold, smell and pray with those simple black gloves that held the essence of the Saint who we were coming to love. I could imagine her as she stroked the hair of her precious children while she wore those gloves. How important are the hands of a mother!
There are so many parallels between St. Gianna’s life and my own. Besides our obvious connection by way of our Faith, wifehood and motherhood, St. Gianna also loved fashion and even asked her husband for Italian fashion magazines as she lie ill. St. Gianna was the kind of woman I could picture myself being friends with — and if I truly believe what I proclaim each week in the Nicene Creed, “I believe in the Communion of Saints,” I can have faith that she truly is my friend.
I purchased the porcelain doll and the dainty black gloves with my sweet friend Gianna not far from my thoughts. Basically the only difference I could see between her and I in this moment is that St. Gianna died for her child and right now I get to live for my own. Who am I to deserve such a privlege?
Information about Gianna Emanuela’s birth and St. Gianna’s death taken from the Vatican website.
More information on St. Gianna Beretta Molla and the shrine in Warminster, PA is here.
Two Guys Antiques is located in Dumfries, VA along the Historic Route 1 corridor.
George Washington was once quoted saying, “Anyone who is anyone should go to Dumfries, VA.” If you do stop by the shop, ask for Mary. She is a Catholic parishioner of St. Francis of Assisi in Triangle, VA. Try to get her to tell you the story about the time she and her husband first took their two oldest children to Confession. It’s adorable.