Saint Maria Goretti is certainly striking for her heroic virtue of chastity, but what is perhaps even more striking is her forgiveness. Maria was not just relieved to have died without losing her virginity. What makes her witness fully Christian is the forgiveness she showed to her attacker. Her forgiveness was contagious to the point that even her own mother was able to forgive the man who stabbed her daughter to death. We could even say that her forgiveness merited the conversion and sanctification of her attacker. The attacks on purity, on innocence, on the weak, on the young and the vulnerable are so deplorable and awful. What is even more awful, however, is when the disgust at these crimes leads to the impossibility of offering forgiveness. The attempted rape and murder of a child turns a human being into a monster. Is there any way to redeem a monster? It takes the heart of a child, of a young girl who says, “I want him to be with me in heaven.” How could she want such a thing? Because she has seen the brokenness of humanity with the eyes of faith, through the gaze of Christ, and her heart is filled with God’s love: “Those who are well do not need a physician, the sick do.” We will all die: some will die as virgins, some will die as monsters. God’s grace, His mercy and forgiveness is able to heal and save all who approach Him with humility, contrition, and hope. Our place in heaven will be as large as the forgiveness our hearts find for those who offended us.
One of the greatest challenges for someone who has begun to pray regularly is detachment from any measurable effects of prayer. There can be nagging thoughts questioning the quality or effectiveness of our prayer. There could be the longing for something extraordinary to happen while we pray: a great feeling, a vision, extacy, transports of love, a voice, etc. There could be disappointment if the intentions we carried with great fervor are not answered perceptibly. These let downs can exasperate us to the point that we give up on anything beyond rote prayer.