Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Town Hall Meeting, Harvest Tour of Homes, and a Pilgrimage to St. Maria Goretti

The title itself would make anyone tired, no? My life revolves around home -- cooking, cleaning, writing, minding the kids, singing, praying -- so it's unusual for me to be so very busy as we were this weekend, but you'll see it was all good.

Saturday morning, Michael and the kids went to a town hall meeting with JEBush. I think Max looks like a young Republican already. They had a great time and were very much impressed with the things he had to say. I was sorry to miss it, but I wanted an hour of quiet before the Harvest Home Tour (a fundraiser for our public library). Here's a lovely write up in the local newspaper.

I was so honored to be asked to participate and had a good time in a townhome that was comfortable and beautiful, designed for both privacy -- with little nooks for reading or writing -- and openness. Max was in his element, driving the patrons to the four different houses, and I'm sure hamming it up as well. Don't we clean up nicely? I had my books on display and especially enjoyed speaking with the teachers and librarians who were kind enough to tell me how much they love my older books on plant parts and graphing. 

I like this painting of little Maria because it captures her youth and innocence, even in her seriousnes
Then it was off to Charlotte, NC to venerate the relics of St. Maria Goretti. Check out the tour schedule and if she's in your area, go visit. She is the youngest saint to be canonized and ever since her feast day (July 6th) this year, she's been on my mind. She is the little saint of mercy, of forgiveness, and of chastity because she refused the sexual advances of a young man, Alessandro. Enraged, he stabbed her 14 times. She endured surgery without anesthetic. The following day, before receiving Holy Viaticum, with her eyes fixed on the Crucifix, she forgave Alessandro with these words, "Yes, for the love of Jesus I too pardon him, and I want him to be with me in heaven." She died at the Vesper hour on the Feast of the Precious Blood while the Passionists, in a nearby church, were chanting Isaiah 63:1-2: Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bosra, this beautiful one in his robe, walking in the greatness of his strength. I, that speak justice, and am a defender to save. Why then is thy apparel red, and thy garments like theirs that tread in the winepress?
Alessandro didn't just take a life; he destroyed a family. You see, Maria's father had died the year before from malaria, and without Maria's help, her mother Assunta couldn't care for the younger children. They were all given away. Can you even imagine the grief of this mother? But she forgave him too. Alessandro had had a complete conversion in prison. 
But why this yearning to venerate the skeletal remains of St. Maria? I cannot quite explain it myself except that saints come into our lives when we need them most. As Dagny remarked, it's a strange custom but one that is part of Church Tradition. Years and years ago, probably when I was around 8 or 9, my mother had mentioned the little saint and how important it was to forgive. My mother didn't tell me Maria's story but still she remained in my heart. Little did I know what a big part she would play in my own life. You see, I too have an Alessandro in my life, and although I'd like to think I've forgiven and forgotten, it is still something I grapple with. I take the Lord's Prayer seriously and this sentence gives me pause: "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." Ouch. If I won't completely forgive the inexcusable, then what about all the inexcusable things I've done? Yes ... this forgiveness is a serious business. Our parish priest reminds us often, "You do not have to reconcile or be friends to forgive. It's an act of the will, so  just do it." That is what I do on a daily basis and if I'm having a hard time, I ask God to remember that I have the *desire* to forgive even if I cannot do it well at times. We should all be so heroic as little Maria. 
I didn't think we could make a pilgrimage because of the commitment we'd already made for the Harvest Tour so a dear friend's mother in CT went for me earlier (taking along our family photo), waited in line for two hours so that she could spend 15 seconds in front of the reliquary to ask for healing in our family. She didn't press for any explanations but simply did this out of the goodness of her heart. God bless her. Upon receipt of her letter, I wept. 
The Reliquary of St. Maria Goretti
This is a wax figure that has the skeletal remains of St. Maria Goretti
And it stoked the fire to go even more! We checked the schedule one more time and as luck would have it, the Church hosting St. Maria's reliquary would be open all day and all night for veneration!!! Yes, we could do this. It didn't matter what time we arrived. Of course, what would normally take 3 hours took us 5 due to a couple of bad traffic jams, but we were not worried. It was a time to pray. The church would be open ... and it was beautiful.
I cannot express the joy, the quiet hush of prayer. Even at 1 o'clock in the morning, the church was about half full of pilgrims. Priests, young couples, older people, families with many children sleeping on their parents' laps. Some were wide awake. Others were whimpering but there was so much peace. We were all drawn to this little saint. The line moved in an orderly fashion and there was no rushing or jostling -- it was a time to pray. I couldn't stop the tears from coming knowing St. Maria has been praying for me for so many years. I am thankful  my family agreed to go on this trip at a crazy hour. I couldn't have made it alone ... not with Harry. So thanks be to God for everything. And thank you St. Maria for drawing us closer to you. We hope to meet in heaven. Please pray for us!
Assunta said this portrait most resembled Maria. Assunta is the first mother to attend the canonization of a daughter!
Maria was just a few months shy of 12 when she was killed in 1902.
CS Lewis has a brilliant essay on forgiveness that is worth several readings.

For a small gem of a book, see St. Maria Goretti: in Garments all Red, and there's a lovely Italian movie as well.


Mirka Breen said...

Look at Max there, barely a kid anymore. Jeb should hire him!

Johnell said...

Fascinating story. And what a handsome young man. I hope you are feeling better as well.

Leandra Wallace said...

Wow, I had no idea about any of this. It was interesting to read! And it sounds like the atmosphere at the church was lovely. There's nothing like feeling peace.

Becky Shillington said...

I learn so much from you, Vijaya! Your son is so handsome and grown up. How exciting for him to get to attend the town hall meeting! I loved learning about St. Maria--thanks so much for sharing.

Vijaya said...

Mirka, Max would LOVE that!

Johnell, the saints never fail to fascinate me.

Leandra, the Catholic church is full of strange and incredible things. I'll be a student for life.

Becky, time's a flying! I love sharing what I'm learning.