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St Maria Goretti
Faith Traditions, Saints

Walking with the Saints: St. Maria Goretti

A frequently quoted mantra in our home is that your story starts and ends with mercy. It is written on the white board that holds family announcements. It is brought out when mistakes are made, feelings are hurt and we desire to make amends with ourselves, those we’ve hurt, and especially with the Lord. Mercy is lived out in our home in very tangible ways. Without mercy, there can be no love, for we are all flawed as humans, and breathing mercy allows us continually begin again on our path to heaven.

How blessed we are to be part of a Church that preaches and lives a Gospel message of mercy; a Church which lifts up those within the Church as models and companions with whom we should strive to know more fully.  In a society where role models are frequently found from the front cover of a supermarket magazine, it is heartening to see the story of Maria Goretti shared and spoken of by so many of our youth. She is a relatively new saint in the church and a young one as well. Her virtues of purity, fortitude, and mercy are living examples of the power of forgiveness, and we hold tight to them in our everyday lives bearing witness to the grace that mercy can bring. 

St. Maria Goretti

Saint Maria Goretti was born into a poor Italian tenant farming family. She had no schooling and no ability to read or write. Her family shared a home with another family after the death of her father. She was at the age of twelve when one of the older sons came into the home and attacked her. Though she fought this attack, she also continually reminded the young man, Alessandro Serenelli, that this was a mortal sin and would send him to hell for his actions. She was stabbed repeatedly and died shortly after. Upon her deathbed, she forgave her attacker.

Serenelli was sentenced to thirty years in jail. While in jail, he received a vision of Maria in a dream, bringing him flowers, one for each wound he had inflicted upon her. From that point on, his life began a new course and his first act after being released from prison after 27 years was to go to Maria’s mother and beg forgiveness.

Devotion to this small but faithful martyr grew, and in less than half a century, on June 24, 1950, Maria Goretti was declared a saint. Her mother, sisters, and brother attended her canonization, along with her attacker Alessandro, who had joined the Capuchin friars.

Allowing ourselves to walk with Maria Goretti is akin to the hard task of learning to love Jesus like a child. In her, we see a strong and pure desire to love and serve the Lord. She is not a saint who was well catechized. She could not quote Scripture. Her witness of purity and mercy is simple and fervent. Reading her story, one can feel this, as from her deathbed she desires to be in heaven one day with her attacker. She pleads for him from heaven, teaching us that prayers go beyond death; that God can make all things new. Her mercy gives us courage to forgive the deepest wounds against us or our family and to trust that mercy can heal and redeem.

In Maria Goretti, we have a beautiful saint to whom especially our youth, but all of us as well, may seek intercession for pure hearts and minds. We also receive the gift of a saint whose life began and ended with mercy. Saint Maria Goretti, pray for us.

Saint Maria Goretti’s feast day is July 6. She is the patron saint of purity, victims of sexual assault, young girls, and mercy.

This article first appeared at CatholicMom.com

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Lent in the Home
Faith at Home, Faith Traditions, Family, Keeping Kids Catholic

Lenten Family Traditions in the Home

Living liturgically gives a rhythm to the daily life of a catholic family. It is no mistake that mother nature corresponds her seasons to that of the church. I love the peaceful anticipation of Advent and the white calming snow that accompanies it. Just as necessary is the rain and grey skies of Lent while looking forward to green grass and blooming flowers of an Eastertide. As a mom of many, tying traditions to these liturgical seasons helps my family enter into the season with a prayerful spirit and also helps draw us closer together as a domestic church.  Here is a list of some we have practiced over the years.

  1. Burying the Hallelujah: The word Hallelujah is not used once during the season of Lent. It is not even used on Sundays. Hallelujah comes from a Hebrew expression which means praise the Lord. It is a term of joy and celebration. Burying or hiding the Hallelujah is a type of fasting of celebration and builds the anticipation for that first Easter shout!
  2. Crown of Thorns: We take a circular grapevine wreath and fill it with toothpicks. Every time a member of the family does a good deed or a sacrifice, they get to remove one of the toothpicks with the goal of all the thorns being removed by Easter.
  3. Family Rosary or Divine Mercy Chaplet: An increased focus on family prayer.
  4.  Cleaning out the pantry: Our week of Mardi Gras is usually when we use up all the snacks and treats to prepare for a dryer period of food in the house during Lent.
  5. Stations of the Cross at our table: A dear friend of ours made us a long thin board that we place upon our dining room table. Upon it we place 15 small candles. We have a book we have used for 18 years called The Story of the Cross by Mary Joslin. The book used to be read by Dad but is now passed around the table as we now have a table of readers. We turn off the lights and read a station, light a candle and sing the Stabat Mater. As the kids have gotten older, we have added in the Latin. This tradition is my favorite.
  6. Amon’s Adventure by Arnold Ytreeide is another story that we have read throughout our Lent. We use it as an Advent calendar except the treat is the quality family time.
  7. The decorations in our home for Easter do not go up till Easter. It is always joyful to decorate on Easter Sunday with flowers and linens and decorations that remind us of the triumph of the cross and that Easter is celebrated longer than just a day.
  8. The Passion of the Christ directed by Mel Gibson: As our kids have gotten older, this has become a rite of passage. This movie we usually wait till confirmation, as the content is not new, but the imagery adds depth to the strong themes of this movie.

Family traditions plant seeds of faith within the hearts of our children. From Mardi gras to meatless Fridays there is much we can do within the walls of our homes to enter into the Lenten season.  I once had a vision of my son as a young adult hearing about stations of the cross and being mentally drawn back to our dining room table where he attended stations every Friday during Lent as a child. His hand lit held the flame to light the candle and he remembered. I hope and pray that none of my children fall away from the church as they grow into adulthood but the gift of knowing that each tradition we establish within the walls of our home forms a positive memory of Christ’s love and presence makes it worth every bit of effort.

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