One wonderful thing about having a life in Christ is that we are no longer defined by our pasts. Even if, like me, you’re a cradle Catholic, you can probably think of a time when God changed your life forever. Cradles and converts alike are all given the same grace, just like the workers of the vineyard all receiving the same wage, no matter how long they worked.
The fact that the owner of the vineyard gave each of the workers an equal wage is actually a fair and generous thing. God doesn’t play favorites. And since we are all equal in God’s eyes, we are compelled to see those who come into the faith late in life as equal to those who were raised in the faith from the beginning.
One example of a woman who found her place in the Church and held onto her unique identity while being unified with Christ is Dorothy Day. When she attended Mass, she noticed that both the rich and poor, educated and uneducated, were kneeling side by side. However, she was also an activist. After she converted to Catholicism, she worked with Peter Maurin to create the first Catholic Worker House of Hospitality, located in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York. She also created the Catholic Worker newspaper, which presents articles in relation to Catholic social teaching. It’s still around today, being sold for a penny a paper. I would often find issues of the Catholic Worker around my college campus.
In contrast, take a look at Saint Gianna, a contemporary of Dorothy Day who lived in Italy. She was a cradle Catholic who studied to become a pediatrician. In her young adulthood, she spent time discerning her vocation. On the one hand, she wanted to be a missionary like her brother and work in Brazil. On the other hand, she was majorly in love with Pietro Molla. In the end, after a pilgrimage to Lourdes, she decided to marry Pietro. They had a happy life together and Gianna made sure that being a doctor never conflicted with her Catholic faith, to the point that she flat-out refused to perform an abortion to someone who asked.
While it’s amazing that Gianna lived such a modern lifestyle at a time when women were expected to “stay in the kitchen,” the greatest act in Gianna’s life was a testament of selflessness and sacrifice. When she was pregnant with her 4th child, the pregnancy came with some health complications. If she kept the child, she would risk her life and possibly never have children again. In spite of the health issues, Gianna decided to put the life of her child ahead of her own. She was able to deliver her fourth child, but it came at the cost of her own life. The faith that she grew up with gave her the strength to lay down her life for her child.
As the Gospel of John said:
“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13
Today, that child, Gianna Emanuela Molla, carries her mother’s legacy along with the rest of her family. Saint Gianna was canonized in 2004 and is the patron saint of mothers, doctors, and unborn children.
Gianna Molla and Dorothy Day are both amazing women who defied society’s expectations of what a woman should be. They were unified in Christ, and yet their lives couldn’t be any more different. Today, I hope that you will meditate on today’s passages and be thankful for the diversity of people within this one holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church.
Which of the two modern Catholic women did you identify with more? Why?
How do you think we can imitate Dorothy Day and Saint Gianna?
Action: Pray a Rosary for those who are unemployed and/or homeless and for women who are in crisis pregnancies.