I distinctly remember the trip we took to Orlando this past October. Two 15-passenger vans were packed with Ave Maria students and faculty as we went to venerate the relics of little St. Maria Goretti. And when I say little, I mean it. St. Maria Goretti was only 11 years old when she was brutally stabbed to death by Alessandro Serenelli. Refusing to submit to his advances and an attempt at rape, that little girl was stabbed 14 times. She died the next day from these agonizing wounds. Her last words were for her assassin. “For love of Jesus, I forgive him, and I want him to come with me to Paradise.” That little saint has had one big impact.
Fast-forward 7 months and I’m kneeling at the relics of another little saint. This time, I’m in Kolkata, India at the tomb of Bl. Mother Teresa. This little woman also has had a very big impact. What do they both have in common? Among other things, their deep love of Christ and their courageous forgiveness. Mother Teresa once said, “If we really want to love, we must learn how to forgive.” Take into account this story. One day, the soon-to-be-saint went to a local bakery asking for bread for the starving children at the orphanage. The baker, disgusted by beggars and enraged by her request, spat in her face. Mother Teresa calmly took out her handkerchief, wiped the spit from her face and said, “Okay, that was for me. Now what about the bread for the orphans?” The baker gave her the bread she wanted.
St. Maria Goretti and Bl. Mother Teresa serve as valiant examples of love and forgiveness. If we truly want to love another, we must learn to always forgive them. Yes, that means your younger sibling when they steal your clothes, your spouse when they forget to do the dishes, and your friend when they cancel on you last minute. If we are to love them, then we are to forgive them. And if we forgive them, then we truly love them.
On this the feast day of St. Maria Goretti, may we pray for the grace and the strength to forgive the Alessandros and bakers in our lives, following in the footsteps of these two little saintly women.
– Mary Kathryn Lee, Mother Teresa Scholar Class of 2016