St. Maria Goretti visiting Dallas

Nick Krause, Contributing Writer

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Photo courtesy of Angelica Rae Reyes.

St. Maria Goretti’s major relics are appearing in Dallas at St. Monica Catholic Church in Dallas on Nov. 3.

Veneration will occur from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and there will be a Mass at 7 p.m.

Maria Goretti is the youngest saint in the history of the Catholic Church.

She was martyred at the young age of 11 when Allesondro Serenelli, the son of the family that shared the Goretti’s house, attempted to rape her. St. Maria did not allow him to violate her, but her chastity came with a cost. He stabbed her multiple times, and she died of the wounds the following day.

“I forgive Alessandro Serenelli and I want him with me in heaven forever,” Goretti said on her deathbed.

St. Maria later spoke to Serenelli in an apparition while he was serving his prison sentence and forgave him.

From that point on, Serenelli, inspired by her spirit of forgiveness, chose to live a life of holiness, even becoming a Franciscan lay brother before he died.

During the papacy of Pius XII, Maria Goretti was declared a martyr and was beatified. On Jun. 24, 1950, Pope Pius XII canonized her.  She is the patron saint of youth, young women, purity and victims of rape.

Her relics are on a world tour, visiting nearly the entire United States, quite far from her usual resting place in Nettuno, Italy.

Fr. Stephen Bierschenk, University of Dallas and Holy Trinity Seminary alumnus and pastor of St. Monica Catholic Church, said that St. Maria’s life is especially relevant for the faithful at this time.

“We are about to be in a Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis on December 8,” Fr. Bierschenk said. “And St. Maria Goretti is considered to be an example of heroic forgiveness, because as she was dying from the wounds inflicted by her attacker, she prayed that he would repent and be forgiven.”

St. Maria is also an example of an unconditional forgiveness for which we all should strive.

“The example of Maria Goretti has a powerful message for all of us, because we live in a world in which there are people who hurt us, sometimes in little ways and sometimes in serious ways,” Fr. Bierschenk said. “Our first reaction is to strike back, but her example challenges us to open our heart [is] to the forgiving love of Jesus as she did, to be willing to not only forgive, but to pray for the good of someone who has hurt us. [Which is] not an easy thing to do.”

St. Maria’s relics will also stop in Tyler and Houston.

Fr. Bierschenk explained that the tour had another purpose besides inspiring the faithful.

“During the tour, in each place, people are invited to make donations to help with the cost of restoring [The Basilica Shrine of St. Maria Goretti] in Italy where her relics are kept,” Fr. Bierschenk said.

Fr. Bierschenk explained that the saint’s relics will be at St. Monica thanks to the initiative of a St. Monica parishioner.

“A parishioner here knew of this tour and their desire to stop in Dallas, and so she asked me if we would host the visit and with my agreement, she scheduled their visit here on Nov. 3,” he said.

The parish has been busy preparing for the visit, because they anticipate extremely high attendance.

“For more than a month, there have been many meetings and volunteers have been recruited, because it is expected that thousands will come to venerate the relic,” Fr. Bierschenk said.

Even Pope St. John Paul II made a point to visit her relics in Nettuno.

He would later say that St. Maria was an example of the truth of the Gospel of Joy.

“Those who were acquainted with little Maria said on the day of her funeral, ‘A saint has died,’ ” John Paul II said in a message for the centenary of St. Maria’s death. “The devotion to her has continued to spread on every continent, giving rise to admiration and a thirst for God everywhere.  In Maria Goretti shines out the radical choice of the Gospel, unhindered, indeed strengthened by the inevitable sacrifice that faithful adherence to Christ demands.”

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