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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Tell Me About It

I didn't tell a lie. I really did plan to talk about Maria Goretti yesterday. I just put a few more paving stones in the road to Hell is all.

Before we talk about Maria, though, thank you all for popping over to vote for us at the Blogger's Choice Awards! Sister St. Aloysius is besides herself with glee. She may have to confess that. We're not sure. I think not. Contrary to popular belief, the whole point of being Catholic is to be happy at some point. Maybe not here on earth, though (we can ask little St. Bernadette about that one). Still, it's okay to have a some fun (as long as no one takes your picture and makes a calendar out of it).

Now! Onto Maria Goretti! Warning! My point of view may be slightly controversial. Bear with me.

Here was the question:

Sister Mary Martha!!
My roommate and I are in love with purity! We were wondering if you could write a blog entry about purity and chastity in young people, and how it is so neat! Also, are there patron saints of chastity? Christina

And from a reader:

Christina, you should check out Maria Goretti! When I was in high school, she was held up to us as a role model for chaste young girls.

St. Maria Goretti sprang to my mind, too. We have a whole host of virgin martyrs who lost their lives rather than lose their chastity. Most of them met a gruesome end. St. Cecilia was steamed to death in her own tub after she didn't die from being stabbed in the neck. St. Agnes lost her head. St. Agatha was tortured and burned and had her breasts cut off and finally lost her head. St. Catherine of Alexandra, St. Lucy....the list goes on.

Maria Goretti springs to mind , especially in reference to these modern day girls and their love of purity, because she was a modern day girl with a love of purity. A perfect saint match.

I guess.

Here's the thing.

I love St. Maria Goretti not so much for her love of purity, but for her tremendous capacity for forgiveness.

Wait. Maybe we need to tell the story of St. Maria Goretti.

Little Maria lived in a small town in Italy. She was only 12 years old in 1902. There was this goof ball guy next door who had a penchant for smutty magazines. There's a word we need to bring back into our vocabulary: smut. What a great word! Anyhow, the smutty magazines also gave him a penchant for little Maria. He made terrible suggestive remarks to her and harassed her constantly with his smutty ideas. She told him God wouldn't care for any of it and he would go to Hell.

But that didn't stop this goofenheimer. He told her he would be back and she better be ready to give in. And then he showed up one day, just like he said he would, and when she wouldn't give in, he stabbed her 14 times.

Maria didn't die right away. She also met a gruesome end. She was operated on with no anesthetic to no avail. She lingered overnight in the hospital, which gave her enough time to say, out loud, that she forgave her attacker.

Now that is saintly. Not that the rest of it isn't saintly. I just think that the very hardest part of what Jesus asks us to do is forgive, especially after we've been harassed and stabbed 14 times and operated on with no anesthetic. That's what I find most remarkable about Maria.

The goofenheimer, Alessandro Serenelli , was only a teenager himself when he murdered Maria, that's why he didn't get the death penalty or life. He spent 30 years in prison, much of it unrepentant until little Maria appeared to him in a dream and forgave him in person. Alessandro became a brother and lived a peaceful holy life until his death in 1970. So Maria saved her own soul and his. Alessandro and Maria's mother stood side by side at Maria's canonization.

We love Maria Goretti. I just don't think she's the greatest modern day role model for young girls, unless we're talking about a role model of what not to do. Not the purity part, or the forgiveness part. The TELL SOMEBODY part.

The truth is we do not want you to fully follow the example of Maria Goretti. If someone is harassing you and making terrible advances toward you, TELL SOMEBODY. No one but Maria knew what Alessandro had been up to. The two families lived side by side, sharing the kitchen even. Everyone had noticed that Alessandro was a little mean to Maria. I suppose they chalked it up to the fact that he was a teen. We all know how mean they can be to each other. Maria didn't tell anybody was was really going on.

I'm still a fan of the old virgin martyrs for shear purity.

And Maria Goretti for the power of forgiveness.


Anonymous said...

To lola with the heathen father, you are on the right track. My grandfather decided to get baptised at 94 years of age. My four children attended with my parents and I, it is an event we will never forget.

Anonymous said...

Sister, Thank you for yet another fascinating post.

I have a question for you about holy water. I understand there are two types - the kind consecrated by a priest (that I use to cross myself when entering and leaving church), and the kind from shrines such as Lourdes.

I am wondering what Catholics are required to believe about these two types of holy water vs. what we might believe from Catholic small-t tradition (as you've called it in other posts.)

Do we believe consecrated water has special powers of healing the sick, or the ability to ward off evil?

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your information on Maria. I had nightmares about it for many years. I don't think that the repulsion that I somehow associated with her violent death was an appropriate way to think of her sanctified life. I'm glad that I read of this and can appreciate her youthful saintliness.

Janelle said...

Thank you! This was fantastic! (And still is.)

pianomanda said...

I have a question about St. Cecilia.... I consider her my personal patron saint, as she is the patron saint of music and music is a huge part of my life - Cecilia is even my confirmation name. However, in all of the stories I've ever read, I don't remember reading that she was steamed to death after beheading didn't work. I thought she bled to death. Where did you get this information, if you don't mind my asking? :)

slimsdotter said...

Your posts are fascinating and always make me think. Speaking from my experiences as an ER nurse, you are very right about the importance of Telling Someone who will believe and help. Having said that, I will admit that my favorite part of this post was your use of the word "goofenheimer". My dad used to use that word and I haven't heard it for years.

Anonymous said...

According to Dr. Pius Parsch, St. Cecilia was first placed in a tub to be suffocated and then bled to death after three strokes of the sword failed to cut off her head.

I hope this helps.

Brother Juniper

Janelle said...

New Advent has an article on St. Cecilia with all the gory details:
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03471b.htm .

Denise said...

Good job in bringing out the important modern lesson in this saint's story.

Daniel Anselmo said...

So many pure saints... Only sometimes I, as a male, may ask: what about some patron saint of "male" chastity? I mean, I do take St Cecilia, St Maria Goretti, et al. as patrons for my own purity... But sometimes I would like an example of my same gender. May I think in the great St. Joseph. Any other ideas?

Anonymous said...

St. Aloysius Gonzaga

Helen said...

I like to think of St. Maria Goretti as trying to protect Alessandro's purity rather than her own. I cannot believe that a girl or woman who is forced becomes impure, but that the impurity rests solely on the attacker. And yes, I also admire her great capacity for forgiveness.

Catherine Lucia said...

Another good virgin martyr: Blessed Maria Clementine Anuarite Nengapeta. It's a mouthful, but a beautiful story. In fact, I'll email it to Sister right now...

Catherine Lucia said...

Maria Clementine was a robust defender of her own purity and that of her fellow sisters. One Saturday, she called upon herself to defend a group of sisters who were being hassled by an impure youth of a close village. Maria Clementine told him, “Sababu gani? What is this? Why do you want to do bad things with my sisters? Go away! We forgive you, but go away.” The man, ashamed, left and did not return.
Maria Clementine was devoted to virgin martyrs such as St. Cecilia, St. Agnes, and St. Maria Goretti. She wished to mirror their fortitude in defense of their purity, even until death. She also was very devoted to Mary and avidly read the works of St. Alphonsus Liguori. In late 1964, civil war tore apart Zaire. On one side was the government, opposed by the rebels, called Simbas. The Simba rebels waged a fierce campaign of violence, killing and wounding Catholic priests and religious and Protestant missionaries. The leader of a group of these rebels told the sisters that they would protect them from the arriving Americans. They commanded that they accompany their group. Armed, they were not to be argued with. Maria Clementine and her fellow sisters were wary of the men, but had no choice. They packed their bags, consisting of meager possessions—for Maria Clementine, a few clothes, and a bit of food, ever-so-scarce in rebel-occupied towns—and followed the men. Maria Clementine put her most treasured possession, a statuette of Our Lady from Italy, in her pocket. The sisters got on the cotton truck and prayed the Rosary while the Simbas sang and danced in the back. The sisters soon realized the Simbas’ true plans as they heard the obscene, impure words of their song. The sisters continued to pray as the rebels drove on, terrorizing and looting towns along the way. Eventually, they made their way toward Isiro, Zaire. As they traveled, they met up with the commanding officer of the Simbas, called Colonel Yuma Deo. At his command, the sisters were stripped of their religious objects—however, miraculously, Maria Clementine’s statuette of Our Lady was kept safe in her pocket. Upon their arrival at Isiro, the headquarters of the rebels, they parked outside the home of Colonel Ngalo of the Simbas. The sisters were commanded to go to another house. One of the officers ordered that Maria Clementine stay behind. The Reverend Mother knew his impure intentions and insisted on staying with her. Ngalo finished his supper, came outside, and declared his intent to take Maria Clementine as his wife. The Reverend Mother argued, saying that she had taken a vow of virginity to Christ. Colonel Yuma Deo became enraged, yelled, slapped the Reverend Mother, and took both sisters into the house. Ngalo made advances toward Maria Clementine, who protested, saying, “What you are asking is impossible. I cannot commit a sin. Kill me instead.” Ngalo reacted violently, but sent them back to be reunited with the other sisters for supper when they refused to eat. Sister Maria Clementine asked the other sisters for prayers during the meal—prayers that she may stay true to her virginity until death. After the meal, a man came for Maria Clementine and another sister, Jean-Baptist Bokuma. Drunken Colonel Olombe ordered that they get in the backseat of the car in vain. The sisters were beaten with the butt of his gun. He broke Sister Bokuma’s arm in his rage. Sister Maria Clementine said, “I don’t want to commit this sin! If you want to, kill me. I forgive you because you don’t know what you are doing.” Olombe hit her in the head with his gun. “This is just as I wanted it,” she said as she fell to the ground. Olombe gave the orders, and two rebels stabbed her in the chest. Olombe then shot her through the heart with his revolver. Her fellow sisters witnessed the assault from the verandah and were told to remove the body, which they did. Sister Maria Clementine died at one o’clock on December 1, 1964.

Anonymous said...

Sister, have you ever seen Corn Smut? It is a black, ugly, fungus-like growth that infects an ear of corn and ruins it. If you ever see it, you won't forget it, as it is very, very yucky looking. Smut is a perfect name for impure images.

Anonymous said...

dear sister mary martha,
I really liked this post.
could you also talk about matteo ricci in one of your next blogs. Why isn't he a siant? iknow that a miracle is needed, but there are a lot of saints from his time period that had sketchy pasts. and wouldn't it be nice to have the saint who practically started christianity in china? isn't that itself sain worthy? also wouldn't the canonization of matteo be a signal to china that the catholic church respects the chinese church's culture and its own unique mannerisms?

Anonymous said...

Sorry I've shown up late to the party, Sister. Fine post. Just one thing, though: The young gentleman in the suit and the Hitler 'stache is not Alessandro Serenelli, Maria's killer. He's Alessandro Goretti, Maria's brother. Apparently, the family referred to him by the diminuitive form of his name, Sandrino (much the way they called the future saint Marietta; they seem to have been a pretty informal bunch).

Worse mistakes have been made, though. When Time ran an article on St. Maria's canonization, it included a photo of Assunta Goretti flanked by a man in black, some years her junior. Though the accompanying caption identified the man as Serenelli, it later emerged that he was none other than Fr. Mauro Liberati, C.P., postulator for St. Maria's cause.

I don't know about you, but I wouldn't have wanted to be in the guilty staffer's shoes when Mrs. Luce found out.

Patty M said...

Dear Sister,
I stumbled onto your posts by accident while reading about St Maria Goretti, and read here about the other virgin martyrs. It made me very sad. My question is this, to you as well as the other bloggers: How do you keep from getting depressed and discouraged (and too often afraid) of all the evil and horror occurring daily in this world? I am a very devout Christian, and I do have faith in Jesus and trust in him. I pray constantly. I do not fear for myself nearly as much as I fear for others; i.e., abused children and others. It breaks my heart at times to the point of despair. What are some other coping skills that will help? How do you deal with the day-to-day atrocities that are constantly in the news? Thanks and God bless you all.
Patty M, Georgia

Unknown said...

St Charles Lwanga