Innumerable are the values, morals and lessons that a parent must teach their children to raise them into mature, responsible and active Catholic adults. At the heart of all the teaching, the three most important foundations are that of love, faith and forgiveness. These three allow us to live whatever part of our life we are in not in our own sinful will but through God’s will.
- Love– truly seeking the good of others.
- Faith– seeing that we are part of God’s family and our actions either help or harm our family of all people.
- Forgiveness is essential for we will all fall into sin, so we must learn to ask for and receive forgiveness.
These lessons must continue to be witnessed at home as the surest way of learning them before the sin of the world leads children astray.
We must remember that no matter what age we are, God calls us to serve as a witness for Him. This Tuesday, July 6th, the Catholic Church celebrated the feast day of the youngest canonized saint – St. Maria Goretti who was martyred at the age of 11.
St. Maria gave up her life rather than allow Alessandro Serenelli to take away the purity she wanted for only God. At his attempt, she proclaimed “No! It is a sin! God does not want it!” In an act of violence due to her refusal, Alessandro stabbed her 14 times and left her to die. During her last hours before her death 24 hours later, she did not allow hatred or sin to enter her heart. Rather she proclaimed, “I forgive Alessandro Serenelli … and I want him with me in heaven forever.” (Who is St. Maria?)
That is powerful love, faith and forgiveness— to be dying from another person’s evil choice and to want more than anything that their attacker might know forgiveness and eternal happiness.
Alessandro spent 30 years in prison. During this time, he had a vision of St. Maria giving him 14 lilies symbolizing her forgiveness of the 14 wounds he had inflicted upon her resulting in her death. Her love and witness moved his heart so deeply that after he was released from prison, he went to seek the forgiveness of St. Maria’s mother, Assunta; and he sought a life of prayer and penance at a Capuchin monastery. He would eventually become a lay Franciscan brother.
Alessandro was present in the crowd on June 24, 1950, when St. Maria Goretti was canonized. Also in the crowd were St. Maria’s mother and siblings.
“It was a crowd so large that for the first time in its history, St. Peter’s Basilica—the largest church in the world—could not be used for a canonization Mass because it was too small to hold the faithful who desired to witness the event. Thus, St. Maria’s canonization was moved to St. Peter’s Square, being the first open-air canonization in history.” (Who is St. Maria?)1
Before his death, Alessandro wrote the letter below to the world to testify to the witness that St Maria Goretti had upon Him in his conversion:
“I’m nearly 80 years old. I’m about to depart.
“Looking back at my past, I can see that in my early youth, I chose a bad path which led me to ruin myself.
“My behavior was influenced by print, mass-media and bad examples which are followed by the majority of young people without even thinking. And I did the same. I was not worried.
“There were a lot of generous and devoted people who surrounded me, but I paid no attention to them because a violent force blinded me and pushed me toward a wrong way of life.
“When I was 20 years old, I committed a crime of passion. Now, that memory represents something horrible for me. Maria Goretti, now a Saint, was my good Angel, sent to me through Providence to guide and save me. I still have impressed upon my heart her words of rebuke and of pardon. She prayed for me, she interceded for her murderer. Thirty years of prison followed.
“If I had been of age, I would have spent all my life in prison. I accepted to be condemned because it was my own fault.
“Little Maria was really my light, my protectress; with her help, I behaved well during the 27 years of prison and tried to live honestly when I was again accepted among the members of society. The Brothers of St. Francis, Capuchins from Marche, welcomed me with angelic charity into their monastery as a brother, not as a servant. I’ve been living with their community for 24 years, and now I am serenely waiting to witness the vision of God, to hug my loved ones again, and to be next to my Guardian Angel and her dear mother, Assunta.
“I hope this letter that I wrote can teach others the happy lesson of avoiding evil and of always following the right path, like little children. I feel that religion with its precepts is not something we can live without, but rather it is the real comfort, the real strength in life and the only safe way in every circumstance, even the most painful ones of life.”
Signature, Alessandro Serenelli (Alessandro) 2
What a testament to one young girl’s faith, desire to remain holy, and to extend true forgiveness to another! May her example and the testament of Alessandro’s words lead us to realize our calling to be witnesses in our world today!
What love, faith and forgiveness are we growing within ourselves and teaching the next generation?
Do our children see in our families and in the media we allow in our home this same witness to purity and forgiveness?
To learn more about her story and to see the place where millions come to venerate, this pure child of God- check out this video or you can read a more detailed account here https://www.catholiccompany.com/magazine/st-maria-goretti-alessandro-serenelli-6088 of this young saint.
St Maria Goretti, pray for us!
Photo: Norbert Schnitzler, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
1 Who is St Maria? article retrieved from https://mariagoretti.com/who-is-st-maria/
2 Alessandro Serenelli: A Miraculous Conversion article retrieved from http://mariagoretti.org/alessandrobio.htm
Author: Laura Stephens, FF Homeschool Coordinator