Tuesday, July 7, 2009

St. Maria Goretti: The Strength and Courage of a Pure Heart

Since I had the day off work, yesterday morning I woke up early with the determination to resist the snooze button and to get out bed and go to morning Mass. Some days I’m not a morning person, and today was one of those days. Well, to make a long story short, I ended up trying to go 8 a.m. Mass, didn’t quite make it, and by sheer grace ended up in a neighborhood near my apartment in front of a Church with a 9 a.m. Mass. Perfect. I was more than a little surprised, though, when I saw the celebrant walk out in a red garment. Red? It's a martyr's feast day? Who is it? As soon as the priest made the sign of the cross, I remembered. It’s July 6th - the feast of St. Maria Goretti.

St. Maria Goretti is one of my all-time favorite saints. She is a “modern” saint, dying in 1902 at the young age of twelve. St. Maria has an amazing story. Even though she was just a young girl, she had the strength and courage to prefer to die rather than give up her purity.

She grew up near Nettuno, a small city on the coast of Italy. One hot afternoon in July she was approached in her house by a young man named Alessandro, who tried to rape her. Maria refused to give up her purity, saying over and over again “No! No! It is a sin! God does not want this!” Many years later, Alessandro stated that at this moment something inside of him snapped, and he ended up stabbing Maria fourteen times.

St. Maria forgave Alessandro on her deathbed, stating that she wanted him to be with her in heaven someday. Alessandro had a profound conversion of heart during his prison sentence, and later he joined the Brothers of St. Francis.

Pope Pius XII gave a beautiful address on the occasion of her beatification, praising the courage and strength of this young girl. I read it often, and each time I am struck by the depth and beauty of this remarkable girl’s life. Pope Pius XII says that the characteristic virtue of young saints, especially martyrs for purity, is strength of soul. It requires great courage, he says, “to live firmly . . . amidst the baseness of the world. . . we must admire the strength of pure hearts.” It takes great courage and strength to stand up for purity and to live a life that is dedicated to protecting it in the world. It is my hope that we might all have the same strength and courage of St. Maria to live a pure, chaste, courageous life today and everyday :)

(St. Maria Goretti: In Garments all Red, Fr. Godfrey Poage, TAN Books and Publishers, 1950).

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