Thursday, November 5, 2015

Maria Goretti the Merciful

Two days ago I made a quasi-pilgrimage to visit the major relics of Maria Goretti in Dallas. (I can't honestly call a 20-minute drive a real pilgrimage.) Strangely enough, the relics were not displayed at St. Maria Goretti parish, but at the even more architecturally modernist St. Monica.

I have visited relics before, but never any that drew such a large crowd. The line when I arrived lasted about an hour. At other times of the day pilgrims were reporting 3-4 hour waits. A shuttle was bringing people over from a local Protestant church that had offered its parking lot for use. One lady helpfully told those standing in line that they could easily skip ahead and sneak in through another door.

On the approach to the church, I was accosted by some well-meaning devotees selling books and laminated prayer cards. The narthex (lobby?) featured an audio loop of a priest telling the story of St. Maria's extraordinary forgiveness. Inside the church, Knights of Columbus divided us into two efficient lines. Accosted again by devotees insisting that I take a last-minute prayer card, I offended them greatly by turning them down, all while also trying to ignore the very loud video presentation playing on the projection screens. Two Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre—their Knight husbands apparently taking a smoke break—stood elevated in the sanctuary overlooking the steady stream of pilgrims.

Maria herself was a small girl when she died. She was murdered during an attempted rape at the age of eleven by a twenty year-old man. Her hair is slightly lighter than it appears in most paintings and statues of her. Everything except her hair is covered while resting in the reliquary.

While praying in the pews after venerating the relics, I reflected on the content of the presentations which still bombarded everyone inside the church. Specifically, there was much ado about Maria's pious forgiveness of her rapist while she was dying, and no talk whatsoever about her refusal to submit to his impurity. What a change from the little girl's canonization ceremony, which concluded with P. Pius XII asking the crowds of youths, "Young people, pleasure of the eyes of Jesus, are you determined to resist any attack on your chastity with the help of grace of God?"

Resistance to evil is no longer in vogue; forgiveness—whatever that now means—certainly is. And if the recipient of that forgiveness is a pedophile rapist? What better way to herald in the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy?


  1. Emphasis on forgiveness and mercy is not the problem (my eyes are quite weary from being rolled every time I look at another apocalyptic Rorate article), it's forgetting everything else that is. This is one such example: when I learned of Maria Goretti as a child her refusal to compromise her purity and her forgiveness of her murderer were the two integral parts of her sanctity. To remove either piece from the narrative is a travesty.

    Come to think of it, I skipped this to get some needed mercy for myself in the confessional.

  2. I am under the impression the previous pastor would have loved to host the relics, but it was too much of a burden on the parish. I know the current pastor of St. Maria Goretti... I go to a school run by his TOR province.

    I agree with the first commenter.

    I hope it was not like this at St. John Cantius in Chicago. It certainly was not like this at the Austrian cathedral where I had the chance to venerate the major relics of St. Thérèse. We went in, had Mass then it was a free-for-all in the best way possible to go pray before the casket. It all felt very natural to me, without any hint of being obnoxiously overwhelmed by the (well-meaning...) piety police.