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.
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!