Mother Declared Venerable Gave Her Life for Her Baby

“Do everything with joy!” A young Italian wife and mother named Maria Cristina Cella Mocellin wrote these words to her husband in 1985.

Maria, whom the pope recently declared venerable, was a loving and holy woman who understood the sanctity of her preborn baby’s life—so much so that she delayed treatment for an aggressive cancer so that he could live.

Maria had beaten cancer in her teens, but when she was pregnant with her third child, the cancer returned. Like St. Gianna Beretta Molla, Maria refused treatments that could harm the baby.

She gave birth to a healthy baby boy named Riccardo in 1994, then started treatments, but the cancer had already progressed. She died a year later.

Because Maria wrote letters to her husband and her children, and because she kept a journal, we have a record of her many inspirational words—words that show the wisdom she seemed to have had from the time she was a young girl.

Below are just a few of our favorites with a brief reflection on how we can apply her words to our lives as we work toward building a culture of life.

“Riccardo, you are a gift for us. It was that evening [after finding out the cancer had returned], in the car on the way back from the hospital, that you moved for the first time. It seemed as if you were saying, ‘Thank you Mamma for loving me!’ And how could we not love you? You are precious.”

Maria understood that her son was a gift. Those of us who fight daily for babies and who try to teach about the sanctity of all human beings also understand that. But it’s one thing to understand it and a completely different thing to live it. Maria lived her convictions. This is something we all must do. What it looks like in our individual lives will vary, but we cannot effect change or inspire people if all we do is hold a belief. Acting on it is imperative. In the Gospel of Matthew, Christ taught: “Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” Let us all pray that we find a way to let our lights shine so that we lead others to Christ.

“I think that there is no suffering in the world that is not worth bearing for a child.”

Though Maria said this, it could easily have come from Christ. In that case, it would be changed just a bit to say: “I think that there is no suffering in the world that is not worth bearing for you, child.”

Christ endured immense suffering on the cross for us. There is nothing He would not have done for us. He didn’t have to take human form. He didn’t have to suffer. He did so because He loves us.

Maria gave her life for her child. We are not all called to give our physical lives for our children—or someone else’s children—but we are all called to give a piece of ourselves to our loved ones and even to people within our communities. So let us remember that there are innumerable selfless acts we could perform every day for those around us. These acts may entail some suffering on our part, but they are nothing compared to Christ’s sufferings. Let us all pray that we have the courage to act charitably and to give of ourselves.

“Lord, show me the way: it doesn’t matter if you want me as a mother or a nun, what really matters is that I always do your will.”

Maria wrote this as she tried to discern her vocation in life. She found that vocation as a wife and mother. But this is a question we can ask God every time we have to make a big decision. God is there to guide us, so we must reach out to Him and ask for that guidance. Let us remember to invite Him into every aspect of our lives. And let us pray joyfully that we have trust in His love for us so that we never question His will.

“Everything is a gift, even a disease, because if lived in the best way it can really help to grow.”

It’s easy to find joy in the happy events in life, but when we suffer, we tend to push God aside. We may tell ourselves that He must not love us, that He must have forgotten us, or that a “good God” wouldn’t allow bad things to happen. We may even begin to lose faith in Him. But God allows us to endure suffering in this world so that we become stronger and so that we grow closer to spending eternity with Him. Further, we must remember that, when we suffer, we can—and should—unite our suffering to Christ’s on the cross. We can also offer up our suffering for someone else—a soul in purgatory or someone here on earth. When we do this, we grow spiritually. So let us pray that we use God’s help to create blessings from life’s challenges.

“As light comes after darkness, so, after despair, rediscover joy.”

Dark days can make us feel dreadful. They can bend us so far that we feel like we might break—or even shatter. During these times we must turn to God in prayer and in hope. He has never turned anyone away from Him. But hope requires us to act. It is not just wishful thinking. When we have hope in the Lord, we take an active part in turning the dark times to times of joy. We do that through faith—faith in His love for us, faith in His compassion, and faith in the promise of eternity with Him. Things may not always turn out like we want them to, but we must remember that a “no” answer to our prayers does not mean God isn’t listening or that He doesn’t love us. It just means He has something better planned for us. Let us pray that we learn to discern His will.

As we contemplate this holy woman’s life, let us also thank God for faithful women like Maria. And let us pray that the light she allowed to shine will ignite a flame in us so that we, too, may do everything with joy.

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About the author

Susan Ciancio

Susan Ciancio is the editor of Celebrate Life Magazine and executive editor for the Culture of Life Studies Program.