English: Painting of Maria Goretti. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Father Ron was so inspiring this morning at Mass at Saint Mary Catholic Church. I am abandoning my normal format to make sure this message gets through. As I reflected on the readings that were chosen specifically for her optional memorial, as well as the story of her life that Father Ron had read for part of his homily, I realized that if we took the attitude of this 12-year-old girl towards the virtue of chastity, we would have very few young people who struggled with purity before marriage. It may have been an inference that Father Ron made to the fact she is a model of purity that is much-needed in this world today, but I think the thought I had expounds on his inference.
The thought was that if every person would consider death over impurity, in other words that they would prefer to die than violate the commandment of God to save sex for the Sacrament of Matrimony. Imagine the young man who is trying to pressure the girl he is dating to take this relationship to the next level that is told that his girlfriend would prefer that he just kill her and not violate her purity. Understandably, this sounds crazy for those parents that have daughters that are dating the guy that might actually take her up on it.
However, if we look at this from the other side, maybe it might shine some light on the wisdom here. What if every time a woman, young or old, was to offer her purity to a man in a way that incited his flesh to desire to take her as his own in a way that was meant for the marriage bed, he informed her that he would rather that she were to kill him, and not cause him to desire to violate her purity. I imagine myself preferring to be stabbed in the heart with a knife, rather than ever be incited to violate a woman’s purity.
If you look at the life of Saint Maria Goretti, you may understand this line of thinking a little better. For my part, I will probably develop this idea just a little better before I ever share it with our youth, but if we look at this line from the gospel chosen for the memorial of Saint Maria Goretti, it might shed an even brighter light on the purpose and meaning of the reference I made above to preferring death to sin.
(John 12:24-26) : Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life* loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.
Furthermore, in the first reading, Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians…
(1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a): The body, however, is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body; God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? But whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Avoid immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the immoral person sins against his own body.* Do you not know that your body is a temple* of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body.
Finally, the collect prayer from the beginning of Mass is the best prayer to encapsulate my hope in the intercession of Saint Maria Goretti in my life and the conversion of the whole world…
O God, author if innocence and lover of chastity, who bestowed the grace of martyrdom on your handmaid, the Virgin Saint Maria Goretti, in her youth, grant, we pray, through her intercession, that, as you gave her a crown for her steadfastness, so we, too, may be firm in obeying your commandments. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen!