Laudetur Iesus Christus!
Nunc et in aeternum! Amen.
Memorial of Saint Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr
Holy Mother Church, it’s hawt out there. Thank the Lord for beneficent persons who see little ol’ me walking home in the heat and humidity (it was disgusting this morning) and offered to give me a ride home. They were a Godsend. I have been downstairs all day in a pair of shorts and my swimsuit top because a t-shirt proved too warm for me. I told you my body doesn’t process heat well. And that’s with the AC on. Humbug. Offering it up as part of my Friday penance. Some priest is suffering in one way or another and needs the grace wrought through this little penance.
Never mind that though I am barely wearing any makeup, I can feel my face melting off and i feel like a hot mess. Bah. I detest heat. I hope I don’t go to Hell. Though it’s apparently really cold in the deepest pits according to Dante’s Inferno.
Anywho, enough of this heat talk …
Saint Maria Goretti was one of the first saints I really learned about when I began my lifelong love affair with hagiography (saints’ lives) and thus being a hagiophile (saint lover).
I first encountered her biography in the book by Father Lovasik: Illustrated Lives of the Saints, which I read to this day. I also found her biography in a long out-of-print book that was in the free book pile at my grade school when I was a student there: Saints Without Wrinkles: 13 Saints for Teenagers.
I loved her story of her dedication to God and her family. She would walk miles a day in any weather (including hawt Italian summers) to go to Mass and she looked forward to her First Communion. She had a genuine relationship with Christ and Our Lady and that overflowed in her relations with others.
Her mother was a widow and had to work the land with others who helped her. Maria’s duty was to help keep house. She also was in charge of the children. She mended, she cooked, she cared for and taught the children.
Though she was forced to grow up to an extent by her father’s premature death, she still maintained an innocence about her that imbued every aspect of her life. She was committed to maintaining her spiritual and physical purity no matter what adversity she faced.
Enter her adversary, Alessandro Serenelli, who was much older than she and was not so guarded about his moral purity.
Alessandro had a fixation with all things immoral. It is said he had an obsession with committing the perfect crime. He also kept inappropriate books and materials in his room of the house which he and his father shared with Maria’s family. Maria’s mother, Assunta, completely disapproved of his having those things in the house and his room saying that the home is a “little church,” which it is. Remember, sanctity starts at home and is to be taught to the children not just by words but by example.
Well, it’s no surprise that he would soon fix his sinful intentions on the young Maria who was growing into a beautiful young lady.
And he tried. He would make impure remarks to her or try to do things to her but she would fight them off as best she could. That only stoked the fires of his sin all the more.
And it was not like she could tell her mother or anyone because she was afraid for her life. When he would do or say his inappropriate things that she would rebuke, he would threaten her life if she ever thought of telling anyone.
She lived in fear of Alessandro and what he would do next and how he would growing bolder and bolder in his advances.
One day her mother was out threshing beans and she was at the house, taking care of the children and doing some housework. She was sitting outside mending some clothes when Alessandro called her into the house.
She said that she would not come in until he specifically stated what he wanted.
At first he would not say but then he said that he needed her to do something for her in the house.
Fearful but trusting in God, she went inside (she used to wear her Rosary around her wrist like a bracelet).
Once she got inside, he closed the door behind her and pulled a knife on her. He then stated his intentions and what he wanted from her. He wanted to steal her innocence.
She rebuked him repeatedly and told him that it was a sin, that he would go to Hell for it, and that God did not want it.
This only enraged him more and increased his determination to get what he wanted.
As she resisted his actions, he began to stab her repeatedly in the abdomen with the knife. I think he stabbed her altogether about 13 times.
She fell to the ground bleeding and wounded. He flees upstairs to his room to hide. She begins to cry for help saying what Alessandro did to her. He comes back and stabs her some more to silence her cries.
Then one of the young children begins to cry and Alessandro’s father calls Assunta to take care of the child.
Assunta comes back to the house and she discovered her “Little Madonna” laying on the floor bleeding profusely from her stomach.
She asks her what happened and who did it to her. She tells her mother that it was Alessandro and that he tried to take advantage of her.
She was taken to the hospital and operated upon but since her injuries were so severe, she could not be given any medications or anesthesia to ease the pain.
As she lay dying, a priest asked her if she forgave her attacker. She said that she did and that she wanted him to be in Heaven with her.
Soon after, she died and her soul went up to heaven. She was twelve years old when she died.
Alessandro was found guilty of murder, went to prison and was unrepentant about what he had done to Maria.
While in prison, he had a vision of Maria giving him a bouquet of flowers (lilies, I think). It was after that experience that he had a conversion and repented of his sinful life. He was released from prison and I think he spent the rest of his life as a tertiary in a Franciscan monastery.
Two other interesting events following Alessandro’s conversion are that: He testified to her sanctity for her beatification and that he and Maria’s mother received Communion side-by-side at Maria’s canonization Mass in 1950. This was the only time when a parent was alive to see their child canonized.
(All of the above information I have written from memory so there may be a some slight inaccuracies but I think I have it right)
Now how is Saint Maria Goretti connected to the Sacrament of Penance/Confession?
Well, because we all are sinners. Maria may have lived a life of heroic virtue but she was still human. She most probably sinned. And when she did, she went to Confession
I just went to Confession today. Next to the Eucharist, I love the Sacrament of Confession.
Why? Because it is through this sacrament that one encounters the depths of the loving mercy of God!
I am not tooting my own “sinner’s horn” but I have a rather checkered past with some things I have done. And the Evil One was having a field day with me for a very long time. I cannot even tell you how many sacrilegious Communions I committed.
But I had my “Saint Augustine experience” one night at 10 o’clock when I was in high school listening to Father Corapi (before his debacle). I remember washing my face, looking at my reflection in the mirror. “I need to go to Confession,” my heart told me.
Mind you, I had not been to Confession in a long while let alone made a valid one.
So I call my parish, knowing that it’s closed but figuring I would get one of the priest’s voicemails.
I went through to my pastor’s voicemail and requested an appointment for a Confession.
After I leave the voicemail, I resume watching Father Corapi.
My phone rings. It’s my pastor. He’s returning my voicemail.
We make an appointment for a few days later.
The day comes and I am sitting in the meeting room with him.
It took me a very very long time to make my Confession. But I did it with lots of tears.
And when I heard those words of absolution, they were the most beautiful words I have ever heard.
Because they are beautiful words.
When one makes a good Confession, one is not confessing to the priest, one is confessing to Christ in the person of the priest. It is not the priest who is forgiving you; it is Christ Himself through the ministry of the priest and His Church.
And I must admit that there have been times after that when I have not been in the greatest state spiritually and have either needed to go to Confession or that it would be good to make a Confession and there has been a degree of reticence for one reason or another.
And I have met other persons who have had the same experience and I think it is rather common with some of the faithful: they feel a degree of reticence to go to Confession because of shame or some other feeling.
But I have learned that all of those feelings are nothing but the Evil One playing with us. He does not want us to be forgiven. He does not want us to experience the mercy of God.
I have noted this especially with young people who struggle with sexual sins. They are ashamed of what they have done or what habits they have fallen into.
Again, this is the Evil One at work. He wants us to despair of God’s merciful love.
God wants us to come to Him when we fall. He wants to give us the grace to make us stronger. Every time we go to Confession, we are strengthened to resist temptation and sin.
Maria Goretti knew this and that is why she was so strong in her resolve to preserve her virginity and her purity even if it would have saved her life to just submit to her attacker’s desires. She knew that if she were to submit, not only would she be putting her soul in danger but her attacker’s soul would also be put in danger.
Some of us may not have been so resolute in the preserving of our purity in one way or another but that is no reason to fall into despair or continue on. We were made for Heaven. We were live our lives oriented to Heaven and to help others to Heaven by our example.
Maria Goretti shows all youth that it is possibly to live a life of extraordinary sanctity while being faithful to one’s temporal obligations. Maria was a busy child taking care of the home for her mother and yet she took the time to pray and attend Mass.
Her fidelity to Christ and His Church shone through into every aspect of her life but especially in how she perservered in purity.
If any of us has fallen into sin, be it sexual or another sin, we are not dirt, we are not suddenly less loved by God. God will always loves us and He always opens His arms wide to us. But we must seek the mercy of God with a contrite heart. We must not allow ourselves to fall into despair. Spit in the Devil’s eye by going to Confession.
It may be hard at first but it is more than worth it. If you feel reticent to confess your sins to the priest for fear that the priest will think less of you or anything like that, remember, he is bound by the Seal to never utter anything heard in the confessional either directly or indirectly.
Besides, some of my priest friends have told me that they just listen and send it to God. It’s not like they are taking notes.
That reticence is just the Devil trying to discourage you.
Again, spit in his eye and confess your sins in number and kind and experience the mercy of God. Momentary awkwardness passes into eternal grace.
All right, this heat is getting to me. I have to hit the hay. Waking up early tomorrow. Hopefully this heat will let up. Sorry if this post seems random. This is what heat does to my mind.
Have nice night!
I will probably go through and tweak this later on tomorrow or something to make it more on subject and cohesive. Bah.