How many of us know physicians who not just live – but proclaim their faith in their practice of medicine? I hope you know at least some.
How many of us have heard that the Catholic Church is against science and progress in helping couples conceive and bear children? Probably quite a few.
How many of us can say we’ve met the son of a canonized Saint? Seems like unrelated questions don’t they? Allow me….
It was my joy and privilege last week to visit and bless the new Gianna Catholic Healthcare Center for Women located right in the middle of the City of New York (address: 15 East 40th Street, Suite 101, New York, NY 10016) and to enshrine an image and relic of St. Gianna.
The Gianna Center is named for one of our more recent saints — St. Gianna Beretta Molla, an Italian physician, wife, and mother who died at the age of 39 in 1962 rather than follow advice to abort her fourth child due to a tumor that would put her life at risk. Hers is a profound story of strength and trust in God – and I hope you read more about her life here. The Gianna Center, which opened last November, is operated by two young, dedicated and faithful physicians whom I’ve come to know and admire very much – Dr. Anne Mielnik and Dr. Kyle Beiter. These two heroic individuals, determined to practice their faith and their medical skills together, have “cast out into the deep” with laudable trust in Divine Providence.
These doctors offer a unique service in the archdiocese; they are specially trained in helping couples in the noblest quest of all – procreation of human life! Word must get out that there are morally licit, technologically savvy ways for couples who have been having difficulty conceiving a child to bring about new life. Word must get out about what is happening at the Gianna Center, because the false caricature that the Church is against science and technology has unfortunately become far too widely accepted.
When I heard these inspiring physicians talk on my radio show recently about the successes of the scientifically proven, ethically defensible ‘NaProTechnology’ and compare them to the world’s deadly answer to infertility – in vitro fertilization – I said “This needs to be on the front page of the every paper in the country!” These doctors do something others don’t – they listen. They walk this often deeply painful journey with couples and then try their hardest to find the root causes rather than give pat answers to “common complaints.” They use the latest advances in natural family planning – which is not the old rhythm method! – helping couples understand their own unique cycles and systems. And – if needed – they assist in correcting underlying problems so the couple can conceive naturally. This should be music to our ears folks! It is to mine!
A few moments in particular stand out from the inspiring visit to bless the Gianna Center. One was meeting a couple who had conceived a child through the work of the Center. The mom positively glowed as she talked of the upcoming birth of her baby! Another uplifting moment was witnessing the 7 or 8 doctors who were present take the St. Gianna Physician’s Guild Catholic Hippocratic Oath – that document of old, yes, but so needed to be proclaimed today – an oath which professes to protect the dignity of marriage, the integrity of the human person and the sacredness of human life – to provide true Catholic health care!
The other moment that stands out relates to that sort of puzzling question about meeting the son of a canonized saint. Well, guess what? The living son of St. Gianna, Pierluigi Molla, now 53 years old, was also present at this enshrinement event – and he spoke to us of his mom, the saint – St. Gianna! How ordinary she was to him, he said – he was only five when she died — and yet what a contemporary example of an apostle of life she is to us!
So join me in celebrating this joyful occasion – hope renewed for married couples, family life and Catholic health – care!
St. Gianna, pray for us!
The word must get out!
p.s. In this confusing world of ours, sometimes we need a bit of help in making sense of all of this. Fortunately the Church provides us with great wisdom and clarity in this area. See the following Church documents, including the latest which the US bishops approved just this past November: Life-Giving Love in an Age of Technology, Dignitas Personae, Donum Vitae, and Evangelium Vitae.