July 6th is the feast of St. Maria Goretti! Goretti is an eleven-year-old Italian girl, who died hours after being stabbed fourteen times. She lived in a farming community in the late 19th century. A teenage boy named Alessandro Serenellis gave her a terrible threat: “Allow me to have sex with you, or I will kill you!” When she refused, he stabbed her in a rage.
Maria lived for several hours after she was stabbed. She was in a state of torment as the doctors unsuccessfully tried to save her life. Alessandro was arrested and imprisoned for decades. Maria is known well as one of the youngest martyrs, and canonized saints, in the Catholic Church. But a lot of us don’t know the rest of the story…
What is the Rest of the Story?
After eight years of imprisonment, Alessandro had a vivid dream that he says he could not distinguish it from reality. His prison bars faded to reveal him standing in a field of flowers, where a young girl dressed radiantly in pure white approached him. She carried fourteen lilies, which she handed him one by one. Suddenly he realized the girl was Maria, handing him one flower for each stab wound he inflicted upon her. Maria smiled and said, “I promise, your soul shall someday reach me in heaven.”
Maria’s dying wish, told to a priest who gave her Last Rights, was to see her murderer in paradise with her. As Jesus advocated for His killers on the cross saying, “Father, forgive them!” so also did Maria pray her attacker would join her in heaven.
How many of us would be able to say that?
Does This Apply to Our Lives:
How many times have we gotten angry when someone cut us off on the highway? Yelled in frustration when someone took “our” parking space at the grocery store? Complained that our neighbors played music too loudly? Pitied ourselves when a friend griped about their own problems on the phone without giving us any consideration? What crimes have actually been committed against us that cause us anger? How upset can we react to such inconsequential incidents?
Here was an eleven-year-old girl, taken from her mother and siblings after her father died several years before, just trying to live her life virtuously, according to God’s will, who paid the price of purity with her life. Even though she would not have been morally culpable if she had simply allowed her attacker to take advantage of her body, she was unwilling to let him put that sin on his own soul. She died not only defending God’s design, but protecting the boy who threatened her.
How many of us would be able to do that?
Challenge: Lead Others to Virtue:
It is much easier to just let people make mistakes! To say nothing when we see wrongdoing? We even allow others to sin when we’re in a position to help them! How simple is it to just turn our backs and say, “I am not my brother’s keeper”, than it is to step up and lead our brothers and sisters in Christ?
There are opportunities every day to lead others to virtue and to choose to forgive wrongdoings. Do we take those opportunities to follow Christ on the Cross as Maria Goretti did?