Today is the Feast of St. Maria Goretti, who died defending her virginity and also in the attempt to prevent her killer from committing a terrible sin.
The story of her appearance to him, Alessandro Serenelli, in prison, and his subsequent conversion and life of holiness is the very stuff of Christian hope.
I am so disappointed when I hear Catholics, in particular, dismiss a person who has had a real conversion because in his “past life” he was a sinner. Isn’t that what we pray for? The conversion of sinners? Aren’t their lives to be celebrated rather than reviled? In a way, the abuse of a truly converted soul because of past sins is a rejection on the Holy Spirit, a rejection of Christ’s saving Sacrifice, a rejection of the Father’s bountiful love.
We are not Protestants who think that our sins remain, merely covered over or by some bookkeeping ignored. When we confess our sins and amend our lives those sins are gone, removed forever through the washing of the Blood of the Lamb. Though our sins be as red as scarlet, they are cleansed as white as snow. Though we have their memory, though we will always feel a need to do penance, those sins will not be held against us in our judgment. And there is no sin so great that the infinite power and love of God cannot remove from our souls, provided we ask.
Maria, 11 years old, before she died, forgave her 20 year old killer who, when he couldn’t rape her, stabbed her 14 times with a thick chisel-like awl. She later appeared to him and gave him 14 lilies. He became a model prisoner and earned early release, at which time he sought out Maria’s mother, who forgave him and took him to herself as if he were her own son. His life became a paragon of devotion and there is even talk of his cause.
His conversion involved abundant forgiveness from those whom he wrong. It required intercession in heaven to obtain graces. This is one reason why I regularly pray “pro inimicis… for enemies”, those who have recently done me terrible harm. I believe they could be great paragons to emulate, and among them maybe a truly great leader in the Church.
Maria Goretti’s canonization in 1950 was so thronged with people that, for the first time, the ceremony was moved out of the Basilica into the square. Her mother attended, as did her killer.
In 2015 my friend Fr. Carlos Martins, through his apostolate Treasures of the Church, brought the body of St. Maria to make a pilgrimage tour through these USA. In his talks and videos he tells her story and about Alessandro’s amazing conversion.
This is a beautiful saint to invoke in these confused times when the ideologically driven are trying to twist the very nature of man in sheer defiance of His will.
She is a mighty intercessor and I am told by my exorcist friends that demons react violently to her very mention, not just her relics.
My 1st class relic of St. Maria Goretti.
Here is a snippet from the sermon Ven. Pius XII gave for the canonization of St Maria Goretti, whose feast is today.
Pius, the Last Roman Pope, from about 1950 onward, seeing what was going on in society called for greater purity. What would he think about today?
The place: St. Peter’s Square, completely jammed
The date: 24 June 1950
The occasion: the canonization of St Maria Goretti
Full text HERE.
What you hear Pius XII say in the recording:
Perchè, diletti figli, siete accorsi in così sterminato numero alla sua glorificazione? Perchè, ascoltando o leggendo il racconto della sua breve vita, così somigliante a una limpida narrazione evangelica per semplicità di linee, per colore di ambiente, per la stessa fulminea violenza della morte, vi siete inteneriti fino alle lacrime? Perchè Maria Goretti ha conquistato così rapidamente i vostri cuori, fino a divenirne la prediletta, la beniamina? Vi è dunque in questo mondo, apparentemente travolto e immerso nell’edonismo, non soltanto una sparuta schiera di eletti assetati di cielo e di aria pura, ma folla, ma immense moltitudini, sulle quali il soprannaturale profumo della purezza cristiana esercita un fascino irresistibile e promettente : promettente e rassicurante.
Why, beloved children, have you rushed in such boundless numbers to her glorification? Why, hearing or reading the account of her brief life, so much like a pristine gospel narrative for the simplicity of its line, for the painting of its setting, for the very flaming violence of the death, were you touched even to tears? Why has Maria Goretti conquered your hearts so quickly, even to the point of becoming your favorite, your darling? Thus, there is in this world, manifestly overwhelmed and sunk into hedonism, not only a sparse crowd of the chosen, thirsting for heaven and pure air, but a throng, but an immense multitude, upon which the supernatural fragrance of Christian purity works an irresistible and promising allure: promising and encouraging.
Some visuals to go along with the sound.
Prayer to St. Maria Goretti
Oh Saint Maria Goretti who, strengthened by God’s Grace, did not hesitate even at the age of twelve to shed your blood and sacrifice life itself to defend your virginal purity, look graciously on the unhappy human race which has strayed far from the path of eternal salvation.
Teach us all, and especially youth, with what courage and promptitude we should flee for the love of Jesus anything that could offend Him or stain our souls with sin.
Obtain for us from our Lord victory in temptation, comfort in the sorrows of life, and the grace which we earnestly beg of thee (pause, insert special intention here), and may we one day enjoy with thee the imperishable glory of Heaven. Amen.
Our Father … Hail Mary … Glory be … St. Maria Goretti, pray for us!
GO TO CONFESSION!