A Reading from the Book of the Prophet Hosea 2: 16, 17c-18, 21-22
Thus says the LORD: I will allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart. She shall respond there as in the days of her youth, when she came up from the land of Egypt. On that day, says the LORD, She shall call me “My husband,” and never again “My baal.” I will espouse you to me forever: I will espouse you in right and in justice, in love and in mercy; I will espouse you in fidelity, and you shall know the LORD.
Reflection: " and you shall know the LORD."
St Maria Goretti (1890-1902) helped her widowed mother care for the famiy by working as farmers in Corinaldo, Italy. While her widowed mother worked the fields, Maria Goretti did house chores and cared for her younger sister. At the age of eleven she made her first Communion. The age of Communion was twelve but she begged the priest to let her receive Jesus earlier.
A few months later, a nineteen year old laborer who lived in the same house as the Goretti's tried to rape her. She screamed during the attack, "No! It is a sin! God does not want it!"
In resisting him, she was brutally attacked and was left for dead. He left her in the kitchen floor and went to his bedroom. She cried so loudly, that he returned to the kitchen and stabbed her several more times for a total of fourteen stab wounds. Then he locked himself up again in his bedroom. She had to undergo surgery without anesthesia because of her fragile state. Unfortunately she died 24 hours later.
On her deathbed she forgave her attacker and expressed her desire that he would some day be in heaven with her. St Maria Goretti was a witness of the Gospel in her few years on earth.
Alessandro Serenelli (1882-1970) was captured shortly after the murder. Because he was a minor he was sentenced to 30 years rather than life. His family life had been chaotic, living with an alcoholic father. Mental illness ran in his family. His mother tried to drown him three times. He left home at a young age and worked with sailors and his friends were those who lived by the waterfront. He read books that were lurid and violent. Five years later he came back to live with his father. They were farmers along with the Goretti's and lived in the same house.
In prison he lived in solitary confinement. For six years he remained unrepentant of his crime. Then he had his moment of conversion. In a dream, Maria Goretti visited Alessandro in his prison cell. His cell became a garden, bright and sunny. A beautiful girl whom he knew was St Maria Goretti was dressed in white. She presented him with fourteen white lilies for her fourteen stab wounds. She handed them to him one by one and each one turned into a small flame as he grasped it. The following morning, Alessandro Serenelli woke up a changed man. (1908)
She told him she had forgiven him. Alessandro Serenelli humbly accepted God's grace. He became a model prisoner. He was released in twenty seven years rather than thirty because he was a model prisoner. (1929)
In 1934 he begged St Maria Goretti's mother for forgiveness. Mrs Goretti said, "God has forgiven you, Maria has forgiven you, and I too forgive you." Both cried and embraced. And on Christmas day he attended mass and received Communion with St Maria Goretti's mother.
He testified during the cause of her canonization. In his final days he worked as a porter and gardener in a convent of Capuchin friars in the Marches. He was accepted as a lay brother.
The saints are here to help us. Alessandro Serenelli chose a bad path for his life. He attributed his bad ways to the world around him. Though he acknowledged many tried to change his ways, he was "pushed by a violent force" toward a wrong path. He wrote in 1961 that he was waiting to witness the vision of God, to hug his loved ones and to be next to his guardian angel (St Maria Goretti). He ended his days in prayer and penance.
" and you shall know the LORD." And he did with the aid of St Maria Goretti. How many times do we ask for help in our spiritual life? How many times do we know that we need help? God's providential grace works in our lives. He will send us someone who plays an important role in our formation and growth, someone who actively prays for us. God is patiently waiting for us. St Maria Goretti accompanied Alessandro Serenelli to the doors of heaven, to the peace that he had lost hope of ever reaching. .
PAPA was established during the difficult times of the clergy sexual abuse crisis. When one member of our family suffers, all of us are affected. As best as we can we are asked to forgive as God forgives.We ask for forgiveness and justice for the priests.
Pray daily the Prayer for Priests and the Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Spread the Word of God in our daily lives. The priest brings us Jesus in the mass. Thank a priest for his service, his dedication and his love for God and for us.
God Bless You.