Summer break is in full swing at our house. Our days include sleeping in, tending our family garden, and playing outside. But there is another thing that happens when my kids spend the majority of their time together, fighting.
Whether it is taking someone else’s toy, hurt feelings, or the occasional physical fight, sibling fighting happens. As parents, my husband and I have to neutralize the situations and use this opportunity to correct and educate our kids. This leads to conversations about forgiveness and reconciliation.
Our goal is to have our kids fight less and to help restore their relationships when feelings are hurt. We look to the Saints to help teach our children about different topics and Saint Maria Goretti, whose feast day is celebrated on July 6th, is a beautiful example for learning about forgiveness.
Saint Maria Goretti
Very little is known about Saint Maria Goretti’s short life. She came from an impoverished farming family in Nettuno, Italy. She was only eleven years old when she was attacked and killed by her older neighbor, Alessandro.
Saint Maria was dedicated to following God’s will and even during her attack was telling Alessandro to not rape her because it was a sin. Unfortunately, because of the wounds she sustained from the attack she died a day later. Even on her deathbed, she expressed mercy and forgiveness towards Alessandro, stating that she forgave him and wanted him to be in Heaven with her.
Alessandro was sent to prison for thirty years for his crime. He was angry and unrepentant. One evening Saint Maria came and visited him in a dream in his prison cell. She presented him with lilies that turned into flames when Alessandro took them from her.
It was after this experience that Alessandro’s life was changed. He finally showed remorse for his actions and converted his life. After being released from prison, he begged Maria’s mother for forgiveness and she granted it to him.
As devotion to the young martyr grew, many miracles were attributed to Saint Maria. This led to her being formally recognized as a martyr, beatified, and canonized as a Saint, all less than fifty years after her death.
Saint Maria Goretti is the youngest canonized Saint in the Catholic church. Also, because of the large gathering of people who wanted to attend her canonization Mass, including Alessandro himself, her Mass was held outside at Saint Peter’s Square, making it the first open-air canonization in church history.
Handprint Lily Craft
A fun craft to do while talking about Saint Maria Goretti’s life is handprint lilies. Lilies are the type of flower she presented Alessandro with when he was in prison. They represent purity and chastity, two values that Saint Maria is well known for.
We follow the instructions from Debbie Chapman's website. We talk about how Saint Maria forgave Alessandro and how it is crucial for us to forgive as well. In our house when a fight occurs, our kids know that they not only have to apologize but also ask for forgiveness.
Pasta Pescatore for Dinner
Our family loves pasta, so celebrating another Italian Saint with a pasta dish is an easy dinner for us. The region in Italy where Saint Maria Goretti is from is known for tomatoes and seafood. We got the idea of making a simplified Pasta Pescatore from Haley Stweart’s cookbook Feast!. The traditional dish calls for multiple types of seafood like calamari, mussels, shrimp, and clams.
Pasta Pescatore means “fisherman’s pasta” so it can be any variety of seafood, with tomatoes or in a tomato sauce, over pasta. We have even scaled it back to just a piece of fish over noodles with cherry tomatoes.
Saint Maria Goretti gives us great insight into how we are to live, especially when it comes to forgiving others as well as being pure of heart. May we strive to live up to the example of Saint Maria Goretti, not only on her feast day but every day. Saint Maria Goretti, pray for us.