I’ve gone on my share of pilgrimages — some tinged with a little sadness, others so joyful I could barely stand it, but this pilgrimage to visit St. Maria Goretti touched me deeply in an unexpected way. I think it stirred my heart and challenged me unexpectedly.
Maria died a martyr’s death, murdered violently by a young man, Alessandro, who attempted to rape her. Her cries appealed to his soul, “It is a sin! God does not want it!” While the rape was thwarted, he fatally wounded her, stabbing eleven-year-old Maria over a dozen times. She survived into the next day, long enough to describe the scene with her assailant, Alessandro Serenelli, and to forgive him.
Alessandro served a thirty-year prison sentence for the murder. Upon his release, he sought Maria’s mother, Assunta, to beg for forgiveness. She forgave him, explaining that she could not withhold what Maria had already freely given him. So many feels this morning as I knelt close to St. Maria’s remains!
How could Alessandro face Assunta? How could Assunta offer her forgiveness? It is, for me, the action of the Divine Mercy, Christ Himself, who forgives us and asks us to do the same.
A growing devotion to the Divine Mercy in recent years, a visit to Cuba and meeting Pope Francis,Missionary of Mercy, and now, venerating the relics of St Maria Goretti, on this Pilgrimage of Mercy, well…I am certain that I will be entering into the Year of Mercy with an open heart.
Read her entire story, including the amazing account of how both her mother, Assunta, and her assailant, Alessandro, attended her canonization: Pilgrimage of Mercy: St. Maria Goretti.
If you have a chance to visit this moving display, you owe it to yourself to go. If it didn’t come to your town or you missed it, I’d like to offer one of my readers the pair of holy cards distributed at the church. One card is a prayer for Alessandro Serenelli, and was touched to the letter he wrote to the world. The other card, of St. Maria Goretti, has a prayer and was touched to her relics, making it a third class relic.
Leave a comment if you’d like a chance to receive this lovely reminder of the gift of mercy. I’ll select the recipient on November 5 with a random drawing.
Copyright 2015 Maria Morera Johnson.
Photos copyright 2015 Maria Morera Johnson. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Maria Morera Johnson, author of My Badass Book of Saints, Super Girls and Halo, and Our Lady of Charity: How a Cuban Devotion to Mary Helped Me Grow in Faith and Love writes about all the things that she loves. A cradle Catholic, she struggles with living in the world but not being of it, and blogs about those successes and failures, too.