Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature
We have a mission. Have you accepted it? When I was young my family used to watch the old Mission Impossible series. We enjoyed the predicaments that Jim’s team used to get into along with the suspense of it all. Each show began with an assignment received in via a self-destructing tape. James Phelps was the leader of this espionage team who heard a voice on the tape giving them a potential assignment. After giving the problem, situation and risks, the voice would always close with, “Your mission, Jim, if you choose to accept it, is…” and then give the summary.
I don’t think they ever turned down a mission, and yet the voice gave them freedom. We have a mission and a voice that speaks to us each time we hear the gospel. This week’s gospel speaks of signs that accompany believers, signs that we often see in our canonized saints. I mentioned St. Gianna Molla in my homily last week. As part of the canonization process several miracles have to be identified and confirmed by experts as having no natural cause. In her case, both miracles occurred in Brazil were her brother had been a missionary doctor and priest. Here is an excerpt from the second miracle:
Miracle for CanonizationIn mid November 1999 a 35 year old Brazilian woman, Elizabeth Comparini Arcolino, was pregnant for the fourth time. …when she developed a hemorrhage that caused a deterioration of the placenta. ..
On February 11 …An ultrasound showed that …although the fetus was alive, there was no amniotic fluid. The radiologist testified that there was no amniotic fluid present to protect the child from exposure to the bacteria of the birth canal and from the external pressure of the uterus itself. This meant that both the child and mother were in serious danger of infection. ...In a desperate attempt to save the baby Elizabeth was put on a regimen of hydration of 4 liters of intravenous fluids per day with the intent of promoting the formation of amniotic fluid, without success… on February 15 the prognosis was that the baby would die. At the time, doctors …had studied the viability of pregnancies between 22-26 weeks with ruptured membranes…In every case examined in these studies, the pregnancy ended in spontaneous abortion within 60 days of when the membranes ruptured. …
Dr. Bicega and other doctors …recommended an abortion to save her life and gave her some time to make the decision. Elizabeth was a practicing Catholic and later testified that she knew in her heart that she could not choose abortion as an option and that she must try to bring the child to term. She was distraught and crying when the doctor came back for the decision. Elizabeth's husband Carlos Cesar, who was faithfully at her side, said that his wife was requesting a priest. He called the local parish priest …, Fr. Ovidio Jose Alves di Andrade. Dr. Bicega said she would return in 15 minutes with the documents for their signatures authorizing the abortive procedure.
One of Elizabeth's friends, Isabel, …overheard the recommendation about having an abortion. Isabel, inspired by her faith, hurried to the hospital chapel to pray to Mary to help bring some clarity to the situation befalling her friend. After spending some time in prayer she got up to leave and was surprised to see the bishop of the diocese, Bishop Diogenes Silva Matthes, pass by the door. … The Bishop immediately went to Elizabeth's room. After hearing the whole story he said "Betinha, (Betsy) we will pray and God will help us." … Shortly after the Bishop left, Fr. Ovidio arrived and began anointing Elizabeth with the sacrament for the sick. While he was anointing her Bishop Silva returned and brought with him a biography of Blessed Gianna Beretta Molla. The Bishop told Elizabeth "Do what Blessed Gianna did, and, if necessary, give your life for the child. … I said to the Blessed in prayer, ‘Now has arrived the opportunity for you to be canonized. Intercede before the Lord for the grace of a miracle and save the life of this little child." Elizabeth knew about Blessed Gianna and how she had died. …
… Elizabeth told Dr. Bicega she would try to carry her child to term as long at the child's heart continued to beat. Several doctors at the hospital indicated that this was madness as the child was already dying. …Elizabeth later testified that, for her, "Jesus' greatest miracle was to change the doctor's heart. She had been unmoved in her determination to perform the abortion, but one day she said to me, ‘Your faith has made me think a great deal. Even I have faith now so let's wait for the death of the fetus."
Elizabeth left the hospital and went to the home of Carlos Cesar's aunt, Janete Arcolino, who was a nurse. Dr. Bicego lent them an ultrasound instrument so they could monitor the heart beat of the child. … Fr. Ovidio later testified that the whole community continued to invoke Blessed Gianna asking for a miracle. …Dr. Bicega followed the pregnancy very closely and noted that during the whole time there was no accumulation of amniotic fluid. ...
Finally, when Elizabeth had reached her 32nd week of pregnancy …it was decided to deliver the baby by caesarian section. On May 31, 2000 Elizabeth gave birth to a daughter whom she named Gianna Maria after her celestial intercessor. The baby was healthy except for a twisted left foot which was later successfully corrected with an operation and physical therapy. …Elizabeth however, had serious complications. …she developed a severe hemorrhage and shock, losing more than 75% of her blood…her kidneys had shut down, her lungs collapsed, and she was lapsing into a coma. Finally, after multiple blood transfusions and three days in the intensive care unit, she recovered.
The newborn was sent home on June 17, 2000…In July 2001, Dr. Maria Engracia Ribeiro, a pediatrician, examined the child and found her to be perfectly normal and healthy, intelligent and lively with a strong personality. A subsequent examination on January 17, 2002 found no problems of any sort with the child's development. She … was in perfect health.
The case of the miracle was studied thoroughly by the "Consulta Medica" …and on April 10, 2003 it was determined that, despite the grave prognosis for the fetus and the mother as the result of the total loss of amniotic fluid at the 16th week of gestation, and despite medical treatment that failed to alleviate and was inadequate for such a grave situation, the positive outcome of the pregnancy, both healthy mother and healthy child, was unexplainable in medical terms. …
Elizabeth's obstetrician and gynecologist, Dr. Nadia Vieitez de Almeida, stated "Contradicting all logic and science, this pregnancy continued without infection, without premature labor and without any fetal anomalies. The destiny is that God sent us Gianna, who today is the pride of us all."
St. Gianna died as a result of sacrificing her life so that her unborn child in the womb could have the maximum chance at life. Divine Providence accepted her sacrifice and suffering and she was rewarded with Eternal Salvation. Thus it is very beautiful that her heroic virtue was acknowledged and confirmed by the Universal Church through two intercessory miracles involving two mothers and an innocent baby in the womb.