Witnesses of Forgiveness

St. Faustina wrote, “We resemble God most when we forgive our neighbors” (Diary, 1148).

Forgiveness means more than avoiding interaction with those who have hurt us. It may not be wise to try to restore a friendship with someone who has seriously wronged you, lest you expose yourself to further harm or abuse. But even if you have to stay away from the person that hurt you, you still have to let go of anger and forgive. Scripture is clear that as our Heavenly Father loves us, we are to love others.

In March 2015, His Holiness, Pope Francis, announced an Extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy beginning December 8, 2015.  As a result, from September to November of 2015 the major relics of St. Maria Goretti made a pilgrimage to the United States. Named the “Pilgrimage of Mercy,” it was the first time that her body traveled to the USA. This visit of the major relics of St. Maria Goretti was an effort on the part of the Holy See and Treasures of the Church to prepare and catechize the United States for this great celebration in the life of the Church.

Several of our family members were fortunate enough to attend the Visiting Tour of St. Maria Goretti’s relics, at various locations in these United States.  I wrote of this in a previous post, I will be Brave, and often find myself reflecting on that time spent with her.

The_body_of_Saint_Maria_Goretti_is_venerated_by_the_faithful_at_the_Cathedral_of_the_Holy_Cross_in_Boston_Photos_by_George_Martell___Archdiocese_of_Boston_via_Flickr_CC_BY_ND_20
Photo by George Martell/Archdieocese of Boston

Perhaps it is because

a constant reminder (of her)

(literally) travels with me every day, everywhere I go!

(giggles.)

There she is!

That’s a photo of St. Maria Goretti…sitting on the console of my car!

Beside her is the Archangel St. Michael and below rests the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

All 3 are the perfect travel companions & offer no back-seat driving advice, giggles!

On July 6th,  Catholics everywhere, celebrated the feast day of St. Maria.  I am grateful to have been with her relics and the personal ‘accountability’ challenge I received as a result was an unexpected blessing.

Many times we receive great gifts in life that simply pass us by unnoticed.

But this particular gift has been one (for me) that has had such a profound impact

that St. Maria remains in my car with me every place I go…

in hopes that I never forget all she has taught me.

Pope Francis has marked the feast of the young martyr St. Maria Goretti by calling the faithful to follow her example and be forgiving to those who wrong them.

The memory of Maria Goretti’s example should “encourage you to commit yourselves, like the Saint you venerate, to being witnesses of forgiveness,” the Pope wrote in a letter for the July 6 feast of the Italian who is known for having forgiven her attacker.

The young saint, who was killed at age 11 while resisting a rape, is renowned both as a martyr for chastity and as a witness of forgiveness: as Maria lay dying from wounds inflicted by her would-be rapist, Alessandro Serenelli, she prayed for his conversion.

Lauding Maria Goretti’s ability to forgive her attacker as she lay dying, Francis quoted the 2015 Bull of Indiction for the Year of Mercy, saying: “At times how hard it seems to forgive! And yet pardon is the instrument placed into our fragile hands to attain serenity of heart.”

This “generous offer of forgiveness,” he said, accompanied “the peaceful death of the young Marietta,” establishing for her killer the “sincere journey of conversion which, in the end, led him to taste the faithful abandonment in the arms of his merciful Father.”

In 1902, Maria was stabbed 14 times when Serenelli, then a neighboring farmhand who had made previous inappropriate comments and sexual advances toward her, attempted to rape her. She died in a hospital in the nearby town of Nettuno.

While in prison several years later, Alessandro converted after having a dream in which Maria handed him 14 white flowers that burst into flame. The flowers represented the 14 wounds he had inflicted upon her; the flames symbolized forgiveness. After being released from prison one of his first acts was to go to beg the forgiveness of Maria’s mother.  He later became a Capuchin tertiary and attended Maria’s beatification alongside her mother.  (Excerpts taken from CNA)

Three years after her beatification, one of the largest crowds ever assembled for a canonization – 250,000 – symbolized the reaction of millions touched by the simple story of Maria Goretti.  Among the quarter-million people who attended, 66-year-old Alessandro Serenely knelt and cried tears of joy.

“Even if she had not been a martyr, she would still have been a saint, so holy was her everyday life.” Cardinal Salotti.

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I know what it can feel like to offer sincere forgiveness to an offender.

I have felt the peace of Christ that comes when we do so.

I know the freedom which follows, when we extend this mercy to others.

And as a result…

I wish I could say I no longer struggle with offering forgiveness.

And…

I wish I could say that I offer it as automatically as St. Maria Goretti did.

But God is still perfecting that in me.

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And until that time comes, when I too can resemble more closely St. Maria Goretti,

what I can say is…

I desire,

with my whole heart,

to forgive all offenses joyfully!

(for love of Him.)

And because of this…

I do try harder to offer it,

even when it is difficult for me to do so,

because I recognize the great

peace

and

joy

and

freedom

which follows

IMMEDIATELY

after having presented this most prized gift, to self & others.

And even when the gift is not received straight-away, (as with Alessandro,)

I desire to forgive even that.

Let us all, with God’s grace, strive to reach the goal that her example sets before us.  Through her prayers to the Redeemer may all of us, each in our own way, joyfully try to follow the inspiring example of St. Maria Goretti, who now enjoys eternal happiness in heaven.

Image 7-6-16 at 5.29 PM
“He Loves, He Hopes, He Waits.” St. Maria Goretti

Who might you need to forgive today?

hugs n’ blessings to all those waiting to receive our forgiveness!

5 thoughts on “Witnesses of Forgiveness

    1. So very true! Because forgivesness comes from such a vulnerable space in our hearts, the risk we take when we present it (to ourselves & to others) can only be born from love. It is the only thing powerful enough to enable our intention to offer such a gift. Thank you for being so kind as to read and offer such a lovely comment! Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Profound and thought provoking. Forgiveness is such a liberating experience. Hearts at peace before God can only come with forgiveness and His Peace and Love to replace our upsets.

    Liked by 1 person

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