Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

Forgiveness Transforms And Redeems Lives

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Thursday, July 6, 2017

Photo of St. Maria Goretti attributed to February 13, 1902, about five months before she was attacked by Alessandro Serenelli.

Maria Goretti was not even 12 years old when she rebuked the attempted rape by her 18-year-old neighbor July 5, 1902. After the death of her father, she and her family became so poor that they had to move in with neighbors. Alessandro Serenelli, the 18-year-old who attempted to rape her was so angered at her refusal, that he used an awl and stabbed young Maria more than a dozen times. She was rushed to a nearby hospital, operated upon without benefit of anesthesia, and died less than 24 hours later… but not without first forgiving her attacker. And upon her deathbed she received the sacraments, and offered forgiveness to her attacker. But her forgiving was not yet fully complete.

Judges in Serenelli’s case considered his mental capacity, and noted that he wasn’t as mature intellectually as he should have been, considered a strong family history of mental illness – which included several brothers – along with his alcoholic father, and his life of penury, and meted a measure of mercy to him in his sentencing, and instead of life imprisonment, he was given 30 years.

Following his conviction of her death, Alessandro Serenelli sat in prison three years thereafter as an angry and unrepentant young man, until one night he had a dream in which Maria appeared to him and offeried to him a new life of forgiveness.

A local bishop, Monsignor Giovanni Blandini, then visited him in prison, to whom Serenelli wrote a thank you note to the Bishop asking for his prayers and told him about the dream, “in which Maria gave him lilies, which burned immediately in his hands.”

From that moment Alessandro Serenelli became a changed man.

Following his release from prison, Alessandro visited Maria’s mother Assunta and sought her forgiveness. She forgave him, and said that if Maria had forgiven him on her death bed, then she could not do less, and together they attended Mass the next day, and received Holy Communion along side each other.

Maria was beatified April 27, 1947 by Pope Pius XII in Saint Peter’s Basilica, and her mother Assunta was present. And on the evening of the ceremony, the Pope walked over and greeted her.

Three years later, on June 24, 1950, Pope Pius XII canonized Maria as a saint, and called her the “Saint Agnes of the 20th century.” Maria’s mother Assunta was also present at that ceremony, along with her four remaining sons and daughters, including Maria’s attacker Alessandro who had become a lay brother of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, lived in a monastery and worked there as a receptionist and gardener until he died peacefully in 1970, aged 87.

Maria Goretti may be known for her purity, but her willingness to forgive stands as a testament to her heroic holiness.

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