So last night, at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Sugar Land, TX, I had the privilege of attending Mass in honor of St. Maria Goretti, whose relics were being venerated. The church was packed. I honestly haven’t seen a church so crowded outside of Christmas and Easter. The line to venerate the reliquary was almost a mile long and I’m very certain I’m not exaggerating when I say that. My dad and I, however, were lucky to get a seat in the church.
It was during the Homily that I learned about St. Maria Goretti’s intercessory power and how America has a special relationship with her. For one thing, her brothers immigrated here and started families. A descendant of one of Maria Goretti’s brothers was present at Mass. American troops also used the basilica in Nettuno as a base when they invaded Italy. They also taught baseball to the people of Nettuno and currently the city has the best baseball team in all of Italy. I also learned she’s excellent with healing people whose legs or feet might be amputated.
I got to venerate her twice. Not knowing how long the line will be, I grabbed my Rosary and made sure that it touched the reliquary while I was in line to receive communion. When I was in line to venerate her properly, I received two prayer cards that touched the reliquary. Through reading the cards, I learned that anything that touches the reliquary becomes a third class relic, so I made sure that my ring touched the reliquary. I was only there for a short fifteen seconds both times, but I felt an amazing power from both of those moments.
I own third class relics now. It’s seriously amazing.
The most amazing thing that I learned from the story of St. Maria Goretti is the power of forgiveness. The priest who gave the homily, Fr. Carlos Martins, gave a great detailed story about the life of St. Maria Goretti. It broke my heart to know that Maria Goretti had to take care of her family at such a young age. It disgusted me that a 19-year-old boy lusted after an 11-year-old girl so much that he was willing to kill her in order to get his way. He wasn’t even sorry for killing her and tried to say that she attacked him. The judge, of course, didn’t believe him. If this story was done on Law and Order: SVU, Alessandro would’ve been completely unsympathetic. And yet, one moment of forgiveness changed everything. Alessandro Serenelli received a vision of Maria Goretti giving him fourteen white lilies, one for each time he stabbed her. In this kind gesture, Maria Goretti told Alessandro that she forgave him.
After receiving that vision, Alessandro Serenelli repented. He was released from jail three years before the actual end of his sentence because of how different he was from when he was imprisoned. He ended up breaking up the entire Goretti family through his actions and yet when he approached Maria Goretti’s mother on Christmas Eve, she chose to forgive him. He became a Franciscan and devoted his life to God. And in spite of what everyone thought about him, Alessandro chose to forgive himself.
Fr. Martins asked everyone to pray a litany asking St. Maria Goretti to help them forgive the people who’ve hurt them and to most of all forgive yourself. I prayed this litany during the Offertory hymn. It was a powerful experience for me because I have no idea if the people who’ve hurt me were even sorry for what they did. And yet through forgiving them, I chose to let my anger go. At this point in my life, I realized that the hurt that I was put through led to me finding my strength. So as unlikely as it sounds, if you are one of those people that hurt me and you are reading this, know that I love you as my brother or sister in Christ and that I forgive you and that I am praying for your happiness.
I’m gonna go more into the power of forgiveness in a later post. If you want to see what I experienced, there’s a video of the livestream on St. Theresa’s YouTube channel. It clocks in at 2 hours, but it’s worth watching.