Category Archives: Saints

Maria Goretti introduced her murderer to Jesus

Alessandro SerenelliI think there is much to learn of the martyr-saint by the person who killed her. Alessandro Serenelli killed the 11 year old Maria in 1902 and then spent the rest of his life in penance until the Lord called him home on May 6, 1970.

He spent 27 in prison (released in 1929). What I take as a prompting of the Holy Spirit, Serenelli asked for forgiveness on his knees Maria’s mother, Assunta Goretti, on Christmas night 1934. According to the world, Assunta caved. According to divine justice and mercy Assunta extended forgiveness to him because of her faith in Jesus Christ, and that on her deathbed, Maria forgave him.

In a 1961 letter found 10 years after Alessandro’s death –so in 1980– we know his thoughts:

When I was 20 years-old, I committed a crime of passion. Now, that memory represents something horrible for me. Maria Goretti, now a Saint, was my good Angel, sent to me through Providence to guide and save me. I still have impressed upon my heart her words of rebuke and of pardon. She prayed for me, she interceded for her murderer. Thirty years of prison followed.

If I had been of age, I would have spent all my life in prison. I accepted to be condemned because it was my own fault.

Little Maria was really my light, my protectress; with her help, I behaved well during the 27 years of prison and tried to live honestly when I was again accepted among the members of society. The Brothers of St. Francis, Capuchins from Marche, welcomed me with angelic charity into their monastery as a brother, not as a servant. I’ve been living with their community for 24 years, and now I am serenely waiting to witness the vision of God, to hug my loved ones again, and to be next to my Guardian Angel and her dear mother, Assunta.

Alessandro also relates that Maria appeared to him showing him the face of Christ.

The balance of Alessandro’s life was lived in a Capuchin friary as a Tertiary Franciscan (a secular Franciscan) working as the gardener and porter. It can be said that Maria brought her killer to Christ’s redeeming love. Alessandro testifies that the Capuchin friars welcomed him as a brother and not a servant or murder.

Pope Pius XII canonized Maria on June 24, 1950. A first for the Church was that the saint’s mother was present for the ceremony with the four remaining siblings. Pius said that the young saint was a witness to the value of purity of soul and body but she is also known for “mastery of the spiritual over the material, for docile love of her parents, for sacrifice in harsh, daily labor, for poverty accepted as the Gospel teaches us to accept it, for love of prayer and of Jesus in the Eucharist, for charity in her heroic forgiveness [of her murderer].” A million people were in Vatican City for the canonization.

Over the years I heard that Alessandro was present for the canonization but there is no hard evidence indicating such a gesture. No matter, Saint Maria and Alessandro are great examples of conversion and mercy … what the Christian life is all about.

Saint Thomas the Apostle

St Thomas 13th cent MSSaint Thomas the Apostle is celebrated by the Christian Churches today. Not much is known of Thomas but John’s gospel plugs us in at some very key moments in the Lord’s mission.

He’s the apostle –one of the 12– that tradition says brought the Good News to is today called India. Thomas died a martyr’s death. Likewise, Thomas is famous for wanting to see, to have concrete proof of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. But I wonder if this is the most important part of Thomas’ life. Something tells me there is more than this apostle’s famous query: “not unless I probe the side of Jesus will I believe…” This 13th century German illumination illustrates the biblical narrative.

The Lord blesses us, in his beatitude as he prepares to return the Father: he gives the grace to know at some fundamental human level that those who do not have such sight and tactile proof may believe. That’s Good News for which to give thanks. Thomas had his God-mission; what is your mission for the Kingdom?

Sts Peter and Paul

Peter and PaulA meditation on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul

“Conduct yourselves with fear in the time of your sojourning” (1 Peter 1:17).

These are the words of the great Apostle Peter, words that have a dual foundation: heavenly inspiration and personal experience. By divine inspiration, Peter, a simple fisherman, became a teacher of the people, a pillar of the Faith and a powerful miracle-worker. According to his own experience he learned that all of his wisdom and power was of God and, because of that, one should possess the fear of God. No other fear, except the fear of God.

The foolish one becomes frightened only when lightning flashes and thunder cracks but the wise man fears God every day and every hour. The Creator of lightning and thunder is more awesome than both of them and He does not appear before you, from time to time, as lightning and thunder rather He is continually before you and does not move away from you. That is why it is not enough, from time to time, to have fear of God, but one must breathe in the fear of God. The fear of God is the ozone in the suffocating atmosphere of our soul. This ozone brings purity, easiness, sweet fragrance and health. Until he had become strengthened in the fear of God, Peter was only Peter and not an apostle, hero, teacher of the people and miracle-worker.

O my brethren, let us not rejoice before the harvest. This, our life, is not a harvest but rather, it is a sowing, labor, sweat and fear. The plower lives in fear until he has gathered the fruits from the field. Let us also delay our rejoicing for the day of harvest, for now is the time for labor and fear. Will I be saved? This question should torment every one of us, in the same way that the plower is tormented by the question: “Will I reap the fruit of my labor in the field?” The plower labors and fears everyday. Let us also labor and fear “all the time of our sojourning” on earth.

O awesome and powerful Lord, sustain us in Your fear.

To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.

Take from the Prologue from Ochrid

Saints Peter and Paul

Ss Peter and PaulWe honor the great apostles of the Church, Saints Peter and Paul. Across the Christian community they are celebrated today. The Gospel reveal the wonderful words to Jesus, such as “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” and “Lord you know that I love you.”

Peter and Paul set the standard: they sometimes get relationship wrong, as in the denials (and persecution) of Christ. Both reject the Jesus at first but the Lord has the final say. Both show their willingness to be open to grace which I find striking and inviting. My patron, Paul, on the other hand, gives us sublime spiritual theology about Jesus Christ, the Church, grace, generativity, and much more for the Christian life.

The dual feast today gives us a clear example of how to live in a profound complementarity with Christians so that our witness can deeply nourish the spiritual life of the Church and generate the hundredfold Christ promised us.

Let us pray for the unity of the Church!

Saint Barnabas

St BarnabasWhen he converted to Christ from being a Cypriot Jew, Joseph changed his name to Barnabas, a name that means “son of encouragement.” Barnabas seems to be the cousin of John Mark, the author of the Gospel of Mark.

Barnabas’ conversion was total:  all of his money and property were given to the Church (Acts 4:32); he completely and unreservedly gave his life to Jesus. Like Paul, Barnabas was an apostle without being part of the 12. The Lord sent (the meaning of the word ‘apostle’) him as a powerful missionary and preacher; he worked with Saint Paul. Barnabas’ concern was to advocate that pagans (unbelievers) could be baptized as Christians without being circumcised. “The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch…for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (Acts 11).

The Episcopal and Lutheran liturgical calendars note Barnabas as an Apostle and a martyr. Biblically, Barnabas is mentioned 27 times in the New Testament. He exhorted the Antioch community: “With steadfast purpose of heart remain with the Lord.” Good advice for all Christians.

Some will say that Barnabas was the first bishop of Milan and is credited with bringing Clement to Christian faith (who later became the 4th bishop of Rome). Saint Barnabas was martyred by stoning.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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