“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”-Luke 23:34
Back in November of 2015, I got the chance to venerate the relics of St. Maria Goretti. I learned a lot about Saint Maria Goretti that night.
Too many people pay too much attention to the fact that Maria refused to give her virginity over to Alessandro and forget that she made an effort in fighting for her life. According to what I learned that night, Alessandro left the room after stabbing her nine times, rendering her unconscious. However, Maria regained consciousness while Alessandro was gone and dragged herself to the door to open the latch and scream for help. Unfortunately, Alessandro heard her opening the latch and proceeded to stab her five more times. The damage that Maria suffered from these stab wounds led to her death.
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. And yet, one moment of forgiveness changed everything. In prison, Alessandro Serenelli received a vision of Maria Goretti giving him fourteen white lilies, one for each time he stabbed her. Through 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 initially imprisoned. His crime broke up the entire Goretti family, 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, the priest who celebrated the Mass, 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 had 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.
I realize now that the pain people caused me was basically the collateral damage of whatever hurt they had to deal with. In spite of the things I suffered, the hurt that I endured in the past 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.
Dear sisters in Christ, I hope that you will find the strength in your hearts to do the same to those whom you find hard to forgive.
Saint Maria Goretti, pray for us.
1.Do you think you would’ve forgiven Alessandro the way Maria Goretti and her family did? Why or why not?
2.Are there any sins or crimes that you consider to be unforgivable? Why do you consider those things to be unforgivable compared to others?
Action: If you’re struggling to forgive someone in your life, check out the song “Losing” by Tenth Avenue North. Offer a prayer to Saint Maria Goretti and ask her to help you forgive those who hurt you and to forgive yourself as well.