Father Thomas Rosica, CSB
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 19, 2008 (Zenit.org).- As we had Sunday off — another brief Roman synodal weekend — I took advantage of the free time and flew to Milan to spend the day with the family of St. Gianna Beretta Molla in Mesero, near Milano.
For the past 10 years I have been blessed with the gift of their friendship, and accompanied them in the years leading to the canonization of this great woman saint, wife, mother of a family, medical doctor and lover of life, in May 2004 at the Vatican.
St. Gianna’s story is unique in that it is the only case in Church history where the saint’s husband and children are still alive (three of the four are very well and all my age.) This morning I celebrated Mass in the room of Pietro Molla, now 96 years old, surrounded by the three Molla children — Dr. Gianna Emmaunela, Pierluigi, and Laura — and their families. Several close family friends and relatives also joined us.
Pietro Molla is a pillar and rock — a man of extraordinary faith, simplicity and holiness. I am certain that the story of holiness did not end with Gianna, who died in 1962 at the age of 39. In fact, the cause for the beatification and canonization for St. Gianna’s brother, Frei Alberto Beretta, a Capuchin missionary in Brazil, was opened last year in Bergamo, Italy.
Following Mass we went downstairs and enjoyed a simple “pranzo” with the Molla family, sharing of how the great story of St. Gianna’s life is spreading around the entire world. What came together for me today were the lofty words of cardinals, bishops, a prefect, biblical experts, a Pope and patriarch, spoken in Rome during a world Synod of Bishops on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.
In that family home in Mesero, I was with people who possessed a library containing the life and words of Jesus, a community of ordinary Milanese folks who took the Beatitudes seriously and lived by them each day. We may speak of the communion of saints in theological terms, but today I experienced it very much in flesh and blood terms — this group of people was and is for me the reality of communion of saints in real time: a husband of a saint, children of a saint, nieces and nephews of a saint. They are like us. Their love of God and neighbor, their fire and dynamism will indeed burn away the sadness and evil in the world today, not with harshness but with fiery love and ordinary kindness.
While Benedict XVI was in Pompeii on World Mission Sunday, lighting that part of Italy on fire, and while I was in Mesero allowing the Mollas to let their evangelical fire surround me, Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, the retired prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, was in Lisieux France, presiding over the beatification ceremony of the married couple Louis Martin and Zélie Guérin, parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux.
St. Gianna and her family and friends, Louis, Zélie, St. Thérèse and their family, remind us what this synod is all about: going beyond the words of Scripture to encounter the living Lord who invites us to become what we read. And in the process to bring hope, peace and healing to our broken and hungry world.
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Basilian Father Thomas Rosica is the Vatican’s English-language press attache for the 2008 world Synod of Bishops. A Scripture scholar and university lecturer, he is the chief executive officer of the Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and Television Network in Canada, and a member of the General Council of the Congregation of St. Basil.