Sunday, November 1, 2015

Windows to the soul

They say the eyes are the window to the soul. The eyes reveal so much more than we sometimes wish to reveal. Is it any wonder why people look away when they have something to hide? They cannot seem to look you in the eyes. There is a lot to be said for this. Our eyes, are indeed windows to our soul but also to our heart, and our emotions. They are the windows onto our life.

Which brings me to a question I want to ask you. Since today is the Feast of All Saints Day, I would like to ask: Have you ever met a saint? I am not talking about an official saint, declared by the Church. I am asking, have you ever had the feeling you have met or known a saint? I bet you have!

We all have a story of how we have been struck by someone's profound goodness, by their life. Many of us may have stories of a grandparent, an aunt or an uncle that touched our lives in a very deep way. For better. Some of us may have stories of how when we look back, we realize that there was something rather special about them; something beyond ordinary. We can't place our finger on it. So I am asking you, could it have been a kind of saintliness?

I recently had an experience that prompted me to realize how the eyes of saintly people give them away.

Just about a month ago, I traveled to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families. The event was set up as a series of conferences throughout the day. They were held at the local convention center. In the convention there were hundreds of booths set up with all sorts of Christian-Catholic initiatives and their information and material. This hall was enormous. It took days just to visit all the booths.

At the very back of the convention center, there was a line that curiously wound and looped through several other booths. I couldn't help but notice that all these people were standing in line to meet one little lady. This demure woman stood there for hours taking the time to listen to each person. You could tell that she listened with sincerity and genuine love. The people brought her their petitions; and shared with her the favors that her mother had granted them through her intercession.

In the Catholic church we believe that saints are our intercessors; our friends in heaven if you will. We do not pray to them. We ask for their intercession. In essence we ask them to pray for us. It's like as a friend for a favor. Who hasn't asked a friend to put in a good word for us when we need to get a job or meet someone else? Connections in this life help us quite a bit. Connections in heaven are even more powerful. They put in a good word for us to God and help us out in times of need. Pretty cool, huh?

So back to Philadelphia. This woman never tired. She never stopped smiling. Her look was so captivating. I had to meet her!

Her name is Gianna Emanuela. She is the fourth daughter of Saint Gianna Beretta Molla. St. Gianna, her mother, was a mother, wife and pediatrician from Northern Italy. She lived a saintly life alongside her husband Pietro and dedicated her life to her family and her practice, giving particular attention to the poor. In 1961, during the second month of her fourth pregnancy, Gianna developed a fibroma on her uterus. She was given three choices: to abort, to undergo a complete hysterectomy, or to remove the fibroma. She refused the abortion and hysterectomy knowing full-well that both would result in the loss of her child. She opted for the removal of the fibroma in order to preserve the life growing within her.

On April 21 1962, Holy Saturday of that year, she gave birth to her fourth child, Gianna Emanuela. However, she continued to have severe pain. She died seven days later due to complications.  Gianna Emanuela is a geriatric doctor but also dedicates her life to sharing the story of her mother. That is why she was in Philadelphia.

I had a special connection to Gianna Emanuela. When I was pregnant with my first son in 2012, towards my 15th week of gestation I had a sudden loss of most of my amniotic fluid. The doctor's could not explain what had taken place. I was hospitalized so that they could monitor me and the baby. The risk of infection was high. After three days in the hospital I was sent home on complete bed rest. I pleaded for prayers! There was not much left to do other than to pray and wait to see what would happen.

A friend of mine, who was friends with Gianna Emanuela, contacted her and asked her for her prayers. In particular for the intercession of her mother. I had already started asking her mother to pray for me as I had gotten to know of her story while living in Italy and knew she would understand my anguish. Needless to say, a month later, during one of routine weekly check-ups the doctor, in great shock, announced that all the fluid had returned. I could not believe my ears! Everything was ok. Just a few weeks later I gave birth to our son, Maximiliano.

So here I was, waiting in line to meet the lady who had prayed for me and my son a few years back. As soon as it was my turn I nervously blurted out my story to her in Italian. She paused, looked up for a second, contemplating my words and then turned to look at me in the most tender of ways saying: "Of course, I remember. Your friend who asked me is named...." I couldn't believe that she remembered!

I tell you, that day, I met someone that radiated such saintliness. Her eyes revealed a goodness deep within that is not seen every day. She transmitted something so unfamiliar and yet so markedly familiar. It was something that I could only recognize with my own soul. It was as if I saw something I yearned for but seemed out of reach. It dwelled within her; a goodness beyond any goodness I had seen. See for yourself in this picture:

Meeting Gianna Emanuela Molla in Philadelphia

Humility, sincerity, peace, generosity. All these virtues could be captured in her eyes and in her gestures; her demeanor. I suppose you would have to witness something like this for yourself. You would have to see it with your own eyes. I am sure you have. I am sure there is someone in your life who has touched you so profoundly that for one instant, it was all captured in their eyes. I'll bet you never forget their look. A look of love. What saints have you known in your own life?

P.S. bet you can guess the first picture, just by the eyes.


  1. beautiful Alejandra! Yes I have met saints in the making here on earth. God has a merciful heart to give us examples here on earth to emulate. GBU!

  2. Indeed Cecilia. Thanks for sharing and thanks for reading :)