Last week, James and I drove to Ocala to visit our friend, Maria.
Our friend happens to be a saint- Saint Maria Goretti to be exact. She is deceased and her body (covered in wax so you aren’t just staring at a skeleton) is being toured around the United States for the next few weeks.
Does that sound really strange to you? Let me try to explain-
Maria Goretti died at age 11. She was murdered, brutally stabbed because she wouldn’t sleep with her neighbor, Alesandro. The doctors tried to stop the internal bleeding from the 14 stab wounds and while they operated they could not offer little Maria any pain relief. Maria did not utter a sound in pain. The bleeding would not stop and her last words were, “I forgive Alessandro Serenelli … and I want him with me in heaven forever.”
While in prison (a 30 year sentence), Alesandro lived a dark and desperate life for six years. One night he had a dream of Maria in a garden where she slowly handed him 14 white lilies (a flower that symbolizes purity), one for each time he stabbed her. He was so overwhelmed with love and forgiveness that Maria had shown him he strove for the rest of his life to live a life of virtue and love.
When Alesandro was released from prison, he went to see Maria’s mother whom had already forgiven him and adopted him into her family sometime later.
Can you imagine?
The Catholic Church canonized Maria Goretti (publicly declaring that she is in fact a saint- we absolutely know she is in Heaven) on June 24, 1950. We celebrate her on July 6th. You can read a more detailed account about Maria here and about how someone becomes a saint here.
Many miracles have been attributed to the intercession of Maria Goretti. What does that mean? Since we know Maria is in Heaven, we ask her to join in our prayers and bring them to Christ.
Okay, so back to the part where I went to visit the body of a person I’ve never met personally. Is that still a bit strange to wrap your thoughts around? Let’s put it this way- If you were inspired by the way a person had lived their life, you would maybe go visit their grave stone to remember them if given the chance. Well, many people have come to love Maria- and because she is a saint with miracles attributed to her intercession- she has become a popular person to visit (You don’t have to visit her to ask for her intercession, a simple prayer will do!)
I went to see Maria with specific prayer intentions for friends, family, and myself. When I entered the church that Maria was in there was an instant sense of peace. The display she is carried in was lit up with beautiful lighting and they had large banners hanging up so that people waiting could read about her life.
James was smiling and staring at Maria while we approached. I’d like to think it was because they are good friends but I think it was more so because of the bright lights—I shall allow myself to think it was for both of those reasons!
I knelt down and placed my hand on the display. I was immediately overwhelmed with the thought, “His mercy endures forever.” Such a simple statement, but yet Maria continues to lead us to Christ- to point to Him in all things.
His mercy endures forever.
Let’s just sit with that truth.
His mercy endures forever.
What a beautiful promise- a striking reality.
St. Maria Goretti- our friend- pray for us.