Forgiveness, mercy and redemption all go together beautifully in God’s covenant with his chosen people. God shows us stories again and again in the Bible but also in our times through saints and holy people who live and walk in His light.
One of these amazing saints was none other than an 11-year-old girl. Her name was Maria Goretti.
She lived a relatively unknown life in Italy with her family. She was very pious and dutiful from accounts. When her father passed away, Maria worked very hard to care for her five younger siblings in the house as her mother had to work in the fields.
She had a difficult obstacle however; the neighbor who lived on the other side of their family’s sharecropper split residence had a 20-year-old son who lusted after her. Like many young men, the world had tempted him, and he had trouble differentiating what he wanted versus what the world told him he wanted.
On July 6th, 1902, the young man, Alessandro Serenelli, made the choice to try to force Maria to be with him. She defended herself so voraciously that he was unable to succeed. Enraged, he struck Maria 14 times with a metal file. Maria died the next day from the infection the puncture wounds brought on.
Her last words were: “I forgive Alessandro Serenelli … and I want him with me in heaven forever.”
Maria is known as the Patroness of Purity because of defending her honor so heroically but at the heart of her actions was the desire to help Alessandro not commit such a horrendous mortal sin. She pleaded with him to think of his own soul and what God would want from him.
However, Alessandro’s heart was hard as stone. He blamed the girl for his subsequent 30-year imprisonment and was such an angry inmate, he had to be in isolation. 6 years into his sentence,
Maria appeared to him and handed him 14 lilies one by one.
Alessando understood her sign of forgiveness and repented immediately. His demeanor was so transformed to one of peace and tranquility, that he was released 3 years early. Shortly after his release, Alessandro went and sought out Maria’s mother’s forgiveness.
On June 24, 1950, half a million people (the largest of any canonization up to that point and time) overflowed the largest church in the world: St. Peter’s Basilica which can only hold 50,000 people. Maria Goretti’s canonization was moved to St. Peter’s Square becoming the first open air canonization in history. Pope
Pius XII declared her a saint in the presence of her mother and her murderer.
Alessandro would go on to become a lay brother in the Capuchin Franciscans and work the rest of his life as general labor amongst them. He died May 6, 1970. Those who knew him admired and loved him and saw Christ in him.
What a radical transformation!
It’s what the world needed and still needs.
We all know someone who we wish would so perfectly find God’s forgiveness and healing. Alessandro is an amazing example of God’s grace working through a saint to help redeem a soul!
Forgiveness is a choice. It is one of the hardest things to do when someone hurts us or the people we love. It is so amazing Maria forgave the one who took her life in complete sinfulness. She was a radiating example of a true follower of Jesus Christ who forgave his executioners in the same way.
Then there’s her mother, who had to endure all this, also able to forgive the man who cut her daughter’s life short and caused so much suffering and anguish. Again, so inspiring and beautiful to see love in action.
And finally, it is the perfect example of redemption.
A truly hardened soul who was able to open himself to the all forgiving love of Jesus through St. Maria and be welcomed into the Kingdom by His Heavenly Father who rejoices so much the more for a truly remorseful soul.