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I recently had the opportunity to venerate the relics of Saint Maria Goretti. My husband and I attended mass at the church where her relics were offered for veneration. After mass we stepped in line to view her relics, but we were soon asked to leave and come again later. The next mass was about to start. So we left, ate lunch, and came back. When we approached the waiting line again, it was now all the way out of the church and it wrapped around the church building. So we got in line with our umbrella in the pouring rain. We met a few people in front of us and behind us. They had come from all over including from other states. It was an exciting day in spite of the gray skies above. Standing in line for an hour gave me the opportunity to reflect on the homily that Fr. Carlos Martins had given earlier for mass. He told the story of Saint Maria Goretti. I always knew that Saint Maria Goretti was a saint of purity, but I never gave much thought to her willingness to forgive her murderer. Fr. Carlos pointed out that when we have mercy on someone, such as that which little Maria had for her killer, Allessandro Serenelli, great miracles can happen. His example was what had happened in the life of Allessandro Serenelli after Maria’s death.
If you are not familiar with the story of Saint Maria Goretti, let me tell you that it involves a bouquet of white lilies.
Little Maria was a peasant girl in Italy who tended the house while her mother worked on the farm. The house that her family lived in was shared with another farming family by the name of Serenelli. The Serenellis had a son named Alessandro. Being by herself one day, on July 5, 1902, Maria was overtaken by Alessandro. Alessandro had impure intentions for eleven year old Maria Goretti. Maria fought her assailant, but Alessandro, feeling angered that she would not give in to sin, stabbed Maria fourteen times. Maria was brought to the hospital in critical condition. In the hours before she died she was given the grace to reflect on how Our Lord Jesus Christ forgave her own sins. She was moved to have great mercy and forgiveness for Alessandro. Before she died she said, “I forgive Alessandro Serenelli and I want him with me in Heaven forever.” She expired on July 6, 1902. Alessandro spent many years in jail for her murder. For a long time Alessandro was unrepentant. Then one night when he was sleeping, Saint Maria Goretti appeared to him. In her hands she held fourteen pure white lilies. She handed him one lily at a time. One lily for each time that he had stabbed her. She told Alessandro that she forgave him for each time that he had stabbed her.
The mercy that little Maria had for her murderer caused great miracles to happen in the life of Alessandro. He became repentant. He confessed his sins and began to lead a holy life. He learned about his faith and began to read the Scriptures. He catechized the other inmates. The example of Little Maria’s great mercy in turn prompted Maria’s mother to also find forgiveness for Alessandro. Not only did she forgive her daughter’s murderer, she took Alessandro in and adopted him as her own son.
On June 24, 1950, in the presence of her mother, Assunta Carlini Goretti, Maria Goretti was canonized a saint. Her feast day is July 6.
On November 15th, the relics of Saint Maria Goretti were flown back to Italy. To find out if Saint Maria Goretti’s relics will be in your area in 2016, please visit the tour website HERE.
To find out what forgiveness is and how to forgive read what Fr. Carlos Martin has to say HERE.
At the end of Fr. Carlos’ video, he tells about a miracle that occurred to a man who was scheduled to have his arm amputated. The video also shows the home in which Maria Goretti lived with her mother and her siblings.
Please pray for the glorification of Alessandro Serenelli.
I have read that God’s love is infinite, but His Mercy depends on our willingness to be sorry for our sins and our desire to amend our lives. In this upcoming Year of Mercy, let us remember that repentance and mercy go hand-in-hand. Let us pray to the Little Saint of Great Mercy, Saint Maria Goretti, for her assistance in our daily spiritual battles. Great miracles can happen in our lives when we are willing to forgive those who have trespassed against us.