Today is the feast of St. Maria Goretti, a teenager who forgave the man who stabbed her so badly that she died a day later. Following the footsteps of her daughter, Maria’s mother and other family members forgave the assailant. He later repented and lived a life of penance and charity.
Forgiveness is just as important today as in the 1800’s when St. Maria lived. Here is a study and a modern day example of forgiveness to ponder, along with the youngest Saint ever canonized.
In 2015 a study of over 1000 older adults by researchers at the University of Missouri College of Human Environmental Sciences found that forgiving others protected against depression. Self-forgiveness didn’t affect much of anything. Being forgiven on the other hand, especially if you were a man, helped a lot. Suffice to say, forgiving others is not only holy. It can improve mental health. So to put a little twist on the story of St. Maria, she protected her mother, family, and assailant from a lifetime of anger, resentment, and mental torture in addition to leading them all on the road of sanctity.
We have all heard stories of people who are as forgiving as St. Maria Goretti. For those of you who can’t think of any such people I offer this piece of history.
In 2006, a lone gunman shot eight out of ten Amish girls he had lined up against their schoolroom wall, killing five before killing himself. Twenty-four hours later, leaders of the Amish community not only gave verbal witness of the need to forgive but also brought gifts to the murderer’s family and set up a charity fund for them. The gunman’s father cried in the arms of an Amish father for over an hour. Thirty members of the Amish community went to the gunman’s funeral. In terms of explanation, the leaders of the Amish community said very little. Forgiveness was simply a deep part of who they were, and are.
Below I have put links to a St. Maria Goretti website, the study I cited, and the history of the West Nickel Mines School incident.
St. Maria Goretti, pray for us.
Picture is public domain by virtue of being created over 70 years ago in 1923. On Wikimedia commons.