The relics of Maria Goretti travel to Jacksonville, Florida, on October 28, 2015.
Pope Francis has convened for this year, beginning in the month of December 2015, a special Jubilee of Mercy for the whole Church and the whole world.
This Holy Year is being celebrated to give everyone the opportunity to draw closer to God and experience his merciful love and, at the same time, for all of us to learn to practice this same merciful love with others. To prepare for this year and as an extraordinary example of mercy and forgiveness, the major relics of St. Maria Goretti are making a pilgrimage through the USA, touching the hearts of thousands of people.
Maria Goretti died at the age of eleven years old defending her purity, and she is the youngest Saint canonized by the Church. Maria worked on the family farm and also for two other families, performing domestic tasks. In one of the houses where she worked, Maria met twenty year old Alessandro Serenelli, who soon started proposing impure acts to her. She was a girl of deep faith and she had an impressive union with Jesus. She knew that what Alessandro was proposing to her was a sin, and she did not want either of them to offend Jesus in that way. But Alessandro was blinded by impure desires, so much so, that he used violence to try and get what he wanted. Maria did not give in at any time and defended her purity with all her strength, and even with her life. Alessandro brutally stabbed her 11 times and left her bleeding. Maria crawled to the door to ask for help and found herself again with Alessandro, who thrusts four more stabs to finish off the young girl. Maria died the next day in the hospital and her last words were: “I forgive Alessandro Serenelli. I want Alessandro to be with me in heaven forever”.
The story of Maria Goretti is precisely what today's world needs to hear, because what often reigns in the hearts of men is hatred and impurity. Many of the ills of today have their roots in these two vices. For this reason, a girl who values her purity so much that she prefers to die before seeing it taken away, and also knows how to forgive the one who causes her death, is an example for the whole world.
The relics of Maria Goretti are on pilgrimage through the USA giving an impressive testimony of forgiveness and purity. During the visit of the relics to Florida, the community of Jacksonville had the grace, along with thousands of people, to attend the veneration of the Saint’s remains. The doors of the Immaculate Conception Church where she was exhibited were open for 24 hours and a large number of people venerated the relics, asking for her intercession. Many people left the Church visibly touched, because for some it was the first time that they were so close to the remains of a Saint.
Let us hope that the example of purity and mercy of St. Maria Goretti take root in the hearts of all those who have visited her these days, so that we can say as she did to all those who have caused us harm, “I want you to be with me in heaven forever.”