If there is one thing that makes the Catholic Church glow in the dark, it is her message of redemption. It doesn’t matter how bad, how utterly vile and ugly the sin is, if you repent, there is redemption, even sainthood.
This photograph has been engraved in my mind since I first saw it some years ago. I have very recently read ( but now can’t find the article) that the old man sitting here Alessandro Serenelli has his cause for beatification sent to the Vatican.
We need a saint like him so much in todays toxic broken culture.
Now I have to confess that I am one of those people who have had difficulties with the way the sainthood of Maria Goretti (Whose mother is in the photo) has been touted. She is put forward as a saint of purity because she resisted Alessandro’s attempt to rape her and he then stabbed her so often that she died of blood loss a couple of days later.
I have worked with rape victims and the idea that resisting your attacker so he couldn’t rape makes you a saint is just nasty. What about the mother who was raped while her baby, having been snatched from his pram, was held against her with a knife to his throat to force the mother to submit? Is she not as saintly for submitting to such a foul act to save her child? And what about all those women prisoners during wars who have placed themselves in front of soldiers to save the young girls from rape? Not one of the women and children I have worked with were “impure” because they got raped. My disgust at this version of St. Maria’s life has made me avoid her.
But with the cause for Alassandro opening there is something much more profound, and dare I suggest, much more useful for rape victims and their hope of healing, is the fact that Maria completely forgave her murderer. Her forgiveness helped her mother forgive and that joint forgiveness helped him to find the God he has so far rejected.
In prison he converted and began the long and surely very difficult process of turning his life around. He had been a man who liked pornography and from that awful habit he went on to a disordered desire for the 12 yr old Maria.
I must admit I think Maria’s mother is a saint. She forgave the man who did such a terrible thing to her little girl. That is the most astonishing and grace filled act of forgiveness.
And all that forgiveness and grace worked. Alassandro repented; he completely turned his life around, so that he could sit on a little bench with Mrs Goretti on that day when Maria was canonised.