I’ve been watching a lot of videos from last year’s Steubenville conferences, and a few of them have been from the women’s sessions, focusing on the four cardinal virtues: Prudence (Wisdom), Justice, Fortitude (Courage), and Temperance (Self-Control or Chastity). Incredible women of God have been speaking to these young women (Jackie Francois, Mary Bielski, Leah Darrow) about coming to God, and what special creatures they are, creating as the climax of creation, as the perfection of God’s beauty on Earth. They have talked a lot about what it means to be a women in today’s society, what real love means, and what is worth waiting for. A few of the talks have brought up the story of St. Maria Goretti, a virgin and martyr who died at the young age of 11. She lived in Italy, and one day a neighbor, Alessandro, tried to sexually assault her. She fought off his advances, trying to get him to see the light, to save his soul from committing a mortal sin. He ended up stabbing her 14 times, and she died the next day. Before she died, she forgave him. He spent 30 years in jail for murder (not a lifetime because he was a minor), and had a major conversion experience. She became a saint within his lifetime. Before he died, he wrote this incredible letter:
I’m nearly 80 years old. I’m about to depart. Looking back at my past, I can see that in my early youth, I chose a bad path which led me to ruin myself. My behavior was influenced by print, mass-media and bad examples which are followed by the majority of young people without even thinking. And I did the same.
I was not worried.
There were a lot of generous and devoted people who surrounded me, but I paid no attention to them because a violent force blinded me and pushed me toward a wrong way of life.
When I was 20 years old, I committed a crime of passion. Now, that memory represents something horrible for me. Maria Goretti, now a Saint, was my good Angel, sent to me through Providence to guide and save me.
I still have impressed upon my heart her words of rebuke and of pardon. She prayed for me, she interceded for her murderer.
Thirty years of prison followed. If I had been of age, I would have spent all my life in prison. I accepted to be condemned because it was my own fault.
Little Maria was really my light, my protectress; with her help, I behaved well during the 27 years of prison and tried to live honestly when I was again accepted among the members of society.
The Brothers of St. Francis, Capuchins from Marche, welcomed me with angelic charity into their monastery as a brother, not as a servant. I’ve been living with their community for 24 years, and now I am serenely waiting to witness the vision of God, to hug my loved ones again, and to be next to my Guardian Angel and her dear mother, Assunta.
I hope this letter that I wrote can teach others the happy lesson of avoiding evil and of always following the right path, like little children. I feel that religion with its precepts is not something we can live without, but rather it is the real comfort, the real strength in life and the only safe way in every circumstance, even the most painful ones of life.”
Signed, Alessandro Serenelli
How incredible of a change of heart, where God could take a moment of shear vice and pain, and turn it into something so beautiful and full of love, self-sacraficing love. How incredible was and still is little Maria Goretti that not only was she able to forgive someone of a crime they committed against HER, but that she also wanted to stop him in the act to save his soul. And she was 11. So many of the saints were young and not experienced in the world when they died. Yet their young lives ran after Christ with a passion, and their influence has still stayed in the world. They dealt with sin and temptation just like any other human, yet they had such faith and conviction in the love of God that they could fight past that, could fight the Devil, and they TERRIFIED HIM.
We all have the ability to be those saints.
It takes work, but that should be our goal.
We strive for heaven. We strive for sainthood.
And we strive to get those we love into heaven, to take up their crosses and help them on their road to sainthood, too.