True Glory implies a death. True Glory implies a death and we often will water it down, relativise this death. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” It obviously doesn’t always imply a bodily death but it always implies a death to self.
My mind turns to the saints, and so many are great models of this. For example, Gianna Beretta was born in Milan in 1922. She diligently dedicated herself to her studies, in 1949 she graduated in medicine and surgery and in 1952 in paediatrics. During that time she also applied her faith through generous charitable service among the poor and elderly as a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
She saw her profession in the field of medicine as her “mission’ and practiced as such. She married Pietro Molla in 1955 and by 1959 she had had three children, Pierluigi, Mariolina and Laura. In 1961, towards the end of the second month of pregnancy, she was touched by suffering and the mystery of pain; she had developed a fibroma in her uterus. Conscious of the risk that her continued pregnancy brought, she pleaded with the surgeon to save the life of the child she was carrying, and entrusted herself to prayer and providence. The child’s life was saved, for which she thanked the Lord. She spent the seven months remaining until the birth of the child in an incomparable strength of spirit and unrelenting dedication to her tasks as mother and doctor.
A few days before the child was due, although trusting as always in providence, she was ready to give her life in order to save that of her child: “If you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child – I insist on it. Save him”. 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. Her funeral was an occasion of profound grief, faith and prayer. “Conscious immolation”, was the phrase used by Pope Paul VI to define the act of Saint Gianna.
Her death was one of meaning, and her death gave life. Not just for her child, but for all who knew and loved her and even for us today.
I dream that our parish will awaken to this. We must not be afraid of dying to ourselves. True life cannot be had without a death to all that is meaningless. The Catholic life is a purpose driven life. The human person only really finds meaning if we pick up our Cross and follow Him. We must face the evil in our life. Glory is the radiation of meaningful life. Too often we spend our time looking for happiness, we think that we are made for happiness, but we misunderstand what that means. We are not made for happiness as if it is some psychological state, we are rather made for meaning and purpose, a life that fulfils our soul. I cannot understand why I should die to myself unless I see the meaning in it.
Fr Michael Thérèse