Book Review— St. Maria Goretti: A Journey into Forgiveness and Redemption

Forgiving people who wronged you can be tough. Jesus constantly told his disciples to show mercy and forgive. People who have modeled excellence in virtue and holiness can be canonized as official saints in the Catholic Church. They reflect the light of Christ in the world.

Sometimes it seems like the saints are people who are inaccessible to the ordinary person. But when you break it down the path to holiness is simple (not the same as easy)— love like Jesus.

I had the pleasure of reading a book about an amazing saint who reflected Jesus’ love throughout her life— Saint Maria Goretti. Authored by Bret Thoman A Journey into Forgiveness and Redemption details the young saint’s life, death, and canonization process.

Saint Maria Goretti

Thoman begins his book with a chapter on Maria’s parents: Luigi and Assunta Goretti. I have sometimes doubted the impact I could have on my kids and their faith journey. I was reminded of the importance of showing love in the family after reading about the saint’s parents. Holiness is a habit not an isolated event. Maria didn’t randomly decide to follow Jesus. She experienced a personal love from her parents and witnessed the love they displayed to each other.

The book continues to chart out Maria’s life and describes her interaction with her parents, siblings, and faith. Thoman brings a realness to her story interweaving accounts from his pilgrimage to Italy and important places from Maria’s life. This alternating pattern between biography and personal pilgrimage captured my attention throughout the book.

I especially enjoyed the chapter on Alessandro Serenelli. It drew me into Maria Goretti’s story even more. I had some familiarity with her story and death but didn’t realize her murderer actually lived with her family for several years before he committed the horrendous act.

After the death of her father Luigi, Maria’s family had to share a house with the Serenellis. Alessandro came to consider the Goretti’s like a family and Maria as a sister. However, he began to make sexual advances towards Maria. He sunk further into this sinful behavior, and it eventually led to her death on July 6th, 1902, when he stabbed Maria to death after an attempted rape.

The harrowing details of Maria’s death in A Journey into Forgiveness and Redemption were uncomfortable to read at times, but it displayed how connected she was to Jesus until the end. Maria was able to forgive Alessandro even as she lay on the floor dying. Something I take for granted being a cradle Catholic is the notion of forgiveness. It sometimes seems like an idea into of a reality. Of course, we need to forgive (seven times seventy even!) but to forgive someone when you are in the most painful and horrifying situation is sanctity of another world.

Thoman’s book provided an intimate look into the Italian saint’s life. I enjoyed the number of details he gives of Saint Maria Goretti’s life, death, and the redemption of Alessandro. This book is an excellent read about a holy witness to the faith!

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Book Review― A Catholic Field Guide to Fairy Tale Princesses


“Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” ― G.K. Chesterton


I’ve always been a fan of fairy tales and fantasy stories. The appeal initially began with the wonderful plots and scenery. But it’s the character development (at least in Disney renditions of the fairy tales) that continues to enchant me to revisit these tales. In the book A Catholic Field Guide to Fairy Tale Princesses: Modern Virtues in Tales as Old as Time, author Therese Zoe Williams examines a panoply of classic and modern princesses and the virtues they espouse.

A Catholic Field Guide to Disney Princesses

One of the challenges Catholics faces is how to evangelize in a secular modern not in line with traditional Catholic Church teaching. Followers of Jesus know this world is not our home. It’s a pilgrimage towards the next reality― Heaven. But this doesn’t mean we should flee from worldly things completely or never engage with the present culture. Williams says it well, “If we are to be truly ‘in this world but not of it’ (cf. Romans 12:3), then we have to sincerely engage pop culture at large. The whisper of God is in everything” (p. 18).

Williams’ book is divided into four sections: The Official Disney Princesses, Other Notable Disney Princesses, Other Disney Women of Virtue, and Noteworthy Non-Disney Princesses. Each chapter includes a description and brief history of the fairy tale related to the princess. Williams also includes a section titled A Real-Life Fairy Tale where she focuses on a saint who exhibits the same virtue depicted by the fairy tale heroine. Chapters conclude with a prayer related to the virtue and/or saint.

This was a fun and quick read. Williams did a great job in showing how the virtues exhibited by Disney princesses are relevant to our lives today. I particularly enjoyed the Real-Life Fairy Tale section. Williams found appropriate saints throughout Church history to match their fairy tale counterparts.

If you’re a fan of fairy tales or Catholic hagiography you will find this book enjoyable. If you are a fan of both, then this is a must buy for you! Purchase your copy of A Catholic Field Guide to Fairy Tale Princesses: Modern Virtues in Tales as Old as Time today.


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