“How can I make you happy?”
Most days I don’t really know the answer to this question—if you ask my husband he will tell you honestly he has been trying to figure that one out for thirty-plus years!
But we both know one thing that consistently makes me happy—a book.
As a publicist here at Pauline Books & Media, I am surrounded by books, and am blessed to work with many talented authors. Sometimes, however, God reaches out with his grace and touches me with the words of an author I will never have the opportunity to meet.
So when the bright, shining tome that is Journey of Our Love: The Letters of St. Gianna Beretta and Pietro Molla made its way onto my desk some weeks ago, I was irresistibly drawn to the color photograph of a smiling couple—so happy—so in love—so joyous. What was their secret?
Admittedly, I’ve been feeling quite jaded about marriage lately. Perhaps it is the changes that an empty-nest brings, perhaps it is the pending nuptials of my own adult daughter—everything so sparkling and new when compared to the day-to-day routine of decades of marriage. Whatever the issue, I did delve into the pages of this book with a degree of skepticism. After all, St. Gianna did not have to deal with the tedious issues of modern-day life—the woman achieved sainthood after all!
So I found myself both shocked and renewed by the exquisite beauty that is contained in these letters. Shocked by the truly ordinary, everyday lives Gianna and Pietro lived as a couple, and renewed by the spirit of love, joy, grace and sacrifice with which they did everything—even the mundane.
Through their faith in God, the Church, and each other, this modern-day couple truly did have it all. St. Gianna, a pediatrician, and Pietro, a successful engineer, met late in life for their times; he was 42, she 32 when they began their courtship. Yet as their love and family grew, they continued to support each other in their professions, in parenting, and in extended family and community.
So when I am telling my husband through gritted teeth to please, please, please write things down on the grocery list when we run out, I think—“See, God, saints don’t have to deal with this!” Then I read these love letters and there is a long list of items Gianna asked Pietro to bring when he joined her and the children at their summer vacation home, along with instructions on how to care for the children when she was not there.
When I am worried about silly things—like sharks at the beach—I think, “If only I had enough faith, I would never worry.” So I stand at the shore praying while my family cavorts happily in the water. Then I read how Gianna, despite being an accomplished physician, feared air travel and worried constantly when Pietro traveled.
There are days when work seems much more pressing or important than spending time relaxing with family or friends, and then I read of Pietro’s constant struggle with career demands and his desire to achieve balance in family life.
When I am too tired or too tempted with the tasks of the day to take the time to pray, I read Pietro’s words to Gianna while he traveled during her third pregnancy:
“Our love is true love, and if right now it has no spatial limits, neither will it have a time limit in the future. While I am so far from you, I feel it growing even more and I feel an even greater duty and need to thank the good God morning and evening and, more than at home, I dislike missing Mass even on weekdays and not saying the rosary before our Lady’s altar. This is because I have become more and more aware of the immensity of the graces the Lord has granted me in you, in Pierluigi, in Mariolina and in the little one we are awaiting.”(pg. 193)
It is this profound grace and gratefulness, this continued longing to make the other happy despite the circumstances of daily living that distinguish this saint and her husband as true beacons to modern-day married couples.
So let us ask our God, spouse, children, family, friends, co-workers and even strangers, “How can I make you happy?”
Would this one selfless question change our lives? Make us saints?
The answer is quite simply yes, yes—with God’s grace it can.
by Cathy G. Knipper, publicist at Pauline Books and Media