Ablaze: Stories of Daring Teen Saints by Colleen Swaim is a book that looks at eight teens who lived extraordinary virtue. Six are saints, and two are Blessed. I enjoyed the book as it had questions to contemplate throughout and gave challenges for the teen. I read this over the summer with my older teenager, and she would pick a challenge to complete each week. I had never heard of Saint Maria Goretti before. However, her story intrigued me so much that I had to find another story about her. I had Goretti by Samer Naoum on the bookshelf that my sister gave me years ago, and I hadn’t gotten to it yet. This book is a short dramatization of her life.
I won’t go into great detail about her life as you can read details easily online. When she was 12, an 18-year-old man tied to rape her, and she fought him off, telling him it would be a sin. He got so angry with her that he stabbed her multiple times. She was taken to a hospital, and she verbally forgave him, stating she wanted to see him in heaven with her. Her attempted rapist was sent to prison, and at some point, he had a dream about her. She handed him lilies that burned his hands. He woke up a repenting man. After being released from prison, he begged her mom for forgiveness and became a lay-brother at a monastery. Her mother and her assailant were both at her beatification.
What struck me was how fast she was able to forgive him. Jason Evert, who wrote the introduction to Goretti, says it perfectly, “She knew that his eternal soul was worth more than her earthly life. It is unimaginable charity.”
I think this struck me the most because we do not live in a society that quickly forgives or a society that worries about the souls of sinners. In fact, we do just the opposite. When someone does something hateful or sinful, we tend quickly to place labels on them. These labels typically end in -phobic or -ist. Then it seems that the expectation is to hate them and wish evil on them. If someone doesn’t, those -phobic or -ist words are quickly directed towards them.
I constantly feel pulled by society to hate the -phobic and -ists of the world. The way it is spoken about in the media, this hatred is righteous. We are “virtuous” if we reciprocate hate with hate.
I tell my kids often, “If you hate a hater, all that happens is you become a hater.” It is never righteous to hate a person. Righteous hate only belongs in hating sin, not the sinner.
CCC 1933 The teaching of Christ goes so far as to require the forgiveness of offenses. He extends the commandment of love, which is that of the New Law, to all enemies. Liberation in the spirit of the Gospel is incompatible with hatred of one’s enemy as a person, but not with hatred of the evil that he does as an enemy.
Would Maria Goretti be justified if she spoke ill of her assailant on her deathbed? He was an -ist, a rapist. What good would have come from her hating him?
Unfortunately, my society is engrossed in “virtuous” hate. We don’t focus on the sins; we focus on hating the person. I have yet to see any good come from it. We need to change strategies and encourage our media to do the same.
1 Jn 3:14-15 Whoever does not love abides in death. All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them.
Mt 5:44-48 I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.