Today is the feast day of Saint Maria Goretti. I have reflected much on this great saint. It has brought to mind often my own beautiful granddaughter Elise. Maria was 11 and a half years old on the tragic day of her death. Elise will be turning 8 years old very soon. I also think about my two daughters who have grown to be remarkable contributors to society as well as beautiful mothers. They were given this great opportunity to live while Maria’s opportunity was short-lived. The simple synopsis of the story of Saint Maria Goretti via Wikipedia is this:
On July 5, 1902, Maria was sitting on the outside steps of her home. Knowing she would be alone, Alessandro Serenelli returned to the house and threatened her with a knife intending to rape her. She would not submit, however, protesting that what he wanted to do was a mortal sin and warning him that he would go to hell. He stabbed her fourteen times. The following day, 24 hours after the attack, having expressed forgiveness for Alessandro and stating that she wanted to have him in Heaven with her, she died of her injuries, while looking at a picture of the Virgin Mary, and clutching a cross to her chest.
The story gets all the more incredible. Maria chooses to forgive but her mom struggles with forgiveness. Alessandro, in prison, is visited by Maria who forgives him. He repents and once he was released, he visits Maria’s mother and begs her forgiveness. She forgives him and they attend Mass together the next day. When Maria was canonized a saint in 1947, both Maria’s mother and Alessandro were present. Alessandro became a lay-brother of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, living in a monastery and working as its receptionist and gardener until dying peacefully in 1970 at age 87.
Jesus forgave His persecutors on the cross. If one of our children or grandchildren was raped and killed, could we forgive as God calls us to forgive? It’s a question to pray about. What does God expect of us in situations like these? The world’s answer, lead by the father of lies, would be to take revenge and strike back. No mercy! You hurt or kill one of mine, I hurt or kill you.
I have learned much through prayer, scripture and the teachings of the church. God is a very merciful and loving God and we are also called to be merciful and loving. The prayer Jesus taught us even says:
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Let us pray we are never put to this test and for the health and welfare of all the people in our lives. May God have mercy on us. Amen.