“St. Maria Goretti, in imitation of you and for love of Jesus, help me to forgive (insert name) for (insert how someone hurt, betrayed, or failed to love you).”
For almost the whole time we have been in Louisiana it has been muggy, foggy, grey sky, and rainy. As we entered Our Lady of Mercy church the sprinkling rain just began. Inside the church were hundreds of people praying the communal rosary and some still finding their seats (or where to stand in back).
We were standing in back, but soon a woman in a blue t-shirt whispered to us to go up the left aisle and sit on the front floor.
Here we were just feet away from the body (bones with a wax cover) of the youngest saint and martyr in the Roman Catholic Church. The saint who was stabbed fourteen times by an older boy who she knew well, because she wouldn’t submit to his advances. An eleven-year-old girl who had taken the role of mother in her home with five younger siblings because her father had died two years before from a mosquito carrying Malaria. The great saint who endured surgery on all fourteen of her wounds without any pain medication and without complaining. Her last words were directed to her murderer:
“I forgive Alessandro Serenelli… and I want him with me in heaven forever.”
Maria CHOSE to forgive.
The fruit of her immense pain and courageous mercy was:
- The conversion and holiness of Alessandro
- The act of forgiveness by Maria’s mother (she received Alessandro’s apology and adopted him as her own son)
- Miracles of healing by those who have asked for her intercession
The priest who introduced the story of St. Maria Goretti invited us to forgive with Maria’s help and out of love for Jesus. What struck me most was the call to forgive myself.
For the ways I fail, my weaknesses, my wounds, my lack of receiving and giving love, the ways I have hurt others, my sins, Lord Jesus help me to forgive myself.
This encounter with a saint who embraced Jesus’ mercy was a beautiful preparation for December 8th when the Jubilee Year of Mercy begins.
“Mercy will always be greater than any sin, and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive.” -Pope Francis
I really recommend reading Pope Francis’ introduction to the Year of Mercy at: Misericordiae Vultus