Grace By Means of the St. Gianna Novena

Two years ago, I didn’t know who St. Gianna was. I was pregnant with my third son who was given a life-limiting diagnosis at 12 weeks. He passed away when I was 34 weeks pregnant. It was one of the most sacred and heavenly experiences that I believe I will ever feel in this lifetime. Even though this time was associated with intense sorrow, pain, and suffering, both physically and emotionally, it was also full of heavenly joy and triumphant love.

The year after my son passed away, I began seeking this high of heaven again. I wanted to know more about how such a painful and sorrowful experience could draw me closer to Christ; how it drew me towards gratitude for what Christ had done for us so that I could see my baby in Heaven again one day. I began to spend increasingly more time in biblical devotion, prayer, and even adoration as a non-Catholic at the time, all of which led to my conversion to Catholicism by the end of that year.

St Gianna Pray For UsAs a new Catholic, I wanted to know more about the saints. I believed that my baby, with a pure soul, was a little saint in heaven with more wisdom than even I have about why we suffer on earth. I began learning more about the saints by praying one novena a month. When the month of April arrived, I picked St. Gianna–or maybe she picked me. I began to realize how closely her novena coincided with my son’s last days, death, and birth. I saw that the novena to St. Gianna encompasses relatable topics such as those that walk through difficult pregnancies, and also includes prayers for family life, marriage, the sick, service organizations, and healthcare workers. I realized how perfect this novena was for the nine days before my son’s birth date. Even more astounding, her feast day aligned with the date we left the hospital without our baby. As I prayed that prayer, my desire to learn even more about St. Gianna grew.

Simultaneously, I had felt called to start a Catholic ministry to help serve other families who were walking through difficult pregnancies, or difficult pre-natal or post-natal medical challenges–including those who experience infertility, miscarriages, stillbirths, or child loss. I felt like there was much that could be done to educate others about Catholic ethics, blessings, rites, and funeral services while also drawing near to prayer.

Prayer was a main focus from the inception of Lily of the Valley Catholic Ministry as we prayed for St. Gianna’s intercession and asked for the Holy Spirit to guide us. I began to learn more about St. Gianna including her devotion to Mary, Our Blessed Mother. My journey with Mary was strengthened within my pregnancy as I had accepted my “fiat” or “yes” to carry our son until natural death. I decided to consecrate myself to Jesus through Mary around my first anniversary of being confirmed.

During my consecration to Mary, I learned that she is the one who distributes the graces that we offer up through intercessory prayer. These graces are obtained when we surrender and align our will with God’s will. I suddenly realized that all across the world, Catholics that I didn’t even know, had been praying the novena asking for St. Gianna’s intercession during the last days with my son; during my pregnancy; during his death; during his birth. People who didn’t even know me were offering up their prayers for us. Grace began to rain down on us when we needed it the most, and this was the same grace and subsequent peace that we felt in his birth and beyond.

Don’t get me wrong, there were excruciating days before, during, and after–and they still find me. But now I see that there is also so much beauty and joy and grace that comes when I root myself in prayer. Therefore, I have devoted my life, through my consecration to Jesus through Mary, to offering up my prayers for others, because I know and have experienced firsthand the power of intercessory prayer, and I want other families to experience this too.

FamilyMiraculously, here we are two years after that day that we said goodbye to our son. It is only one year since learning about St. Gianna and praying the novena that had graced us when we could barely do more than just sit with Jesus in prayer. It is through this grace from God and the work of the Holy Spirit that we will be installing a first-class relic of St. Gianna, gifted to the ministry by her living daughter, at our local parish.

Novenas have their roots in Pentecost. We read in Acts Chapter 1 that Jesus spoke to the Apostles saying that the Holy Spirit was going to come “not many days from now”. He told his Apostles, including his Mother, to wait and stay in the upper room and pray, waiting for the Holy Spirit to descend. On the tenth day after Jesus’ ascent into Heaven, the Holy Spirit came down. This is why we pray our prayers of petition for nine days in waiting and then offer a tenth day in gratitude; for Our Lord is never outdone in generosity.

As we approach the coming Pentecost season, I am so grateful that Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit after his Ascension into Heaven, for I know that it is through the Holy Spirit that he has guided and continues to guide Lily of the Valley Catholic Ministry so that we may intercede on behalf of all of these families experiencing these immense crosses. It is through prayer that they can receive fortitude, that strength from the Holy Spirit, needed to carry on. We are just the hands and feet of Christ.

We invite you to pray with us, the novena to St. Gianna. Trust in Jesus and the graces will come to those in need. The novena can be found on our Facebook and Instagram accounts from April 20th through 28th, St. Gianna’s Feast Day.