Friday, July 6, 2012

St. Maria Goretti

The body is precious to God for the Son of God took flesh in order to save humanity, body and soul, not just the soul. This is one reason why sins against the flesh are wrong. Today’s saint died as a martyr of chastity, allowing herself to be stabbed to death rather than be raped. Work is necessary to care for the body and so let us pray with Pope Benedict today that all people may have work that helps them meet their physical needs. Our reflection is from James Cardinal Stafford, the former archbishop of Denver who has held several positions in the Roman Curia. The following is from a homily he once gave at Fatima.

I recall how deeply I was affected by the canonization on June 24, 1950 of the youthful virgin-martyr, Maria Goretti. Present in St. Peter’s Square on that occasion were both her mother and her murderer, Alessandro Sernelli. At the time, I was seventeen years of age. Her witness to purity and courage became the polar star of my generation. Her martyrdom began on July 5, 1902. The family of her assailant shared the same house with the Gorettis. It was located above an old barn among the poor farmers of the Pontine Marshes south of Rome. Her assailant, Alessandro, was 20 years old at the time of the attack on the 12 year old Maria. He later testified that Maria appealed to him to stop his assault for the safety of his soul and urged him not to commit such a grave sin. Before dying of stab wounds the following day, she forgave him and prayed that God would forgive him. St. Maria Goretti understood that purity was intimately connected with the dignity of the human body. She was aware the Church taught that it was not the soul but the body which will arise glorified. With the Church she confessed each Sunday, “I believe in the resurrection of the body.” She witnessed to the mystery that the Incarnation and resurrection of Jesus are the true laws of nature, of the flesh and of the physical. St. Maria Goretti, pray for us!

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