By Christina M. Sorrentino
"He who knows how to forgive prepares for himself many graces from God. As often as I look upon the cross, so often will I forgive with all my heart." (St. Faustina, 390)
The virtue of forgiveness is challenging for many of us. When someone confronts us with wrongdoing and causes us distress and misery, the pain that we endure from such torment can blind us from having the ability to seek peace and love. Anger, bitterness, and resentment can overpower us if we allow them to and harboring these feelings rents a space in our heart; a space that is reserved for the love of Christ alone. Being driven by these emotions can then become a roadblock to choosing forgiveness and being able to heal from any hurt and suffering that has been inflicted upon us.
The youngest canonized saint often known for being the saint of young people, chastity, and purity is also the patron saint of forgiveness; St. Maria Goretti. Although only a child she had a great spiritual maturity in that despite being confronted with violence and having mortal wounds inflicted upon her by her attacker she was able to forgive him before she took her last breath. St. Maria Goretti at only the age of eleven years old was stabbed fourteen times by her assailant, Alessandro Serenelli, and she chose to forgive him and not allow hate to harden her heart. Her final words before her death were, "I forgive Alessandro Serenelli...and I want him in heaven with me forever." How many of us would have been able to forgive as St. Maria Goretti forgave the man who stole from her not only the rest of her childhood, but the rest of her life?
It was because of St. Maria Goretti's willingness to forgive her attacker that six years later he had a conversion of heart. She appeared to him in a dream handing him fourteen lilies, which represented purity, and the number of flowers represented the amount of times that Alessandro stabbed her, which ultimately resulted in her death. Because of the forgiveness of this child her attacker was able to reconcile with God and seek peace and love himself by receiving the Sacrament of Confession from the Bishop and then asking for forgiveness from the mother of St. Maria Goretti, Assunta Goretti. Alessandro lived out the rest of his days trying to live a holy life even attending the canonization Mass by Pope Pius XII for St. Maria Goretti on June 24, 1950.
How often does forgiveness elude us? If we allow the light of Christ to radiate from the depth of our souls we too like the "Little Saint of Great Mercy" can offer to God our hurt and suffering in self-giving merciful love. It is through the gift of His grace that we can receive peace and love by opening our hearts to the virtue of forgiveness. "For human beings this is impossible, but with God all things are possible"( Matt. 19:26).