Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Final Letter of Alessandro Serenelli
Yesterday, July 6, the Universal Church celebrated the feast of St. Maria Goretti, virgin and martyr of purity, a remarkable girl who chose death rather than to give in to the advances of her murderer, Alessandro Serenelli. She is a stark contrast in our time where promiscuity seems to be the norm and chastity is held with so much contempt and ridicule. Much has been written and known about this saint and model of chastity, but we must also remember that Alessandro, though a confessed murderer, led a life of repentance after his conversion through the intercession of St. Maria Goretti.
I do think that little attention is paid on the saint’s other outstanding virtue which is charity. There is something so heroic about how she practiced this virtue that is not too common among children of her age.
First, Maria Goretti’s charity is supernatural. Maria steadfastly refused the advances of Alessandro protesting that what he wanted to do was a mortal sin and that it would bring him to hell. Even in a dangerous situation like this, Maria gave more importance to the soul of her attacker rather than her own safety. She did this out of her great love for Jesus and fidelity to His commandments. I do think this speaks volumes about Maria's level of spiritual maturity at such a young age and it definitely speaks praises of her parents who instilled in her these godly virtues. Secondly, while she was dying in the hospital, Maria expressed forgiveness for her attacker and stated that she wanted to have him in heaven with her. Now, this is really something. Who among us can offer forgiveness so readily when even feelings of resentment seem too hard for us to let go at the slightest injury or contempt? The story does not end here. Some time after her death, Maria appeared to Alessandro, offering him 14 flowers – representing the number of times he stabbed her – and consequently this vision made a huge impact on Alessandro's disposition, who during his period of imprisonment was unrepentant and uncommunicative. Even beyond the grave, she was thinking and praying for Alessandro’s conversion. Indeed, she practiced the virtue of charity to the highest degree, for what can be any greater act of charity than to desire the salvation of the soul of your enemy?
On the other hand, Alessandro asked for forgiveness and lived a life of repentance as a Capuchin laybrother until his death in 1970. I think we can all relate to this man in his struggles. His life is a message of hope to all of us especially to those who feel they have done so many "unforgivable" sins in their past. The good news is that there is redemption and that it is never too late to do what is right. Below is a short letter he wrote on his deathbed that I want to share with you all.
"I'm nearly 80 years old. I'm about to depart this life. Looking back at my past, I can see that in my early youth, I chose a bad path which led me to ruin myself.
My behavior was influenced by print, mass-media and bad examples which are followed by the majority of young people without even thinking. And I did the same. I was not worried.
There were a lot of generous and devoted people who surrounded me, but I paid no attention to them because a violent force blinded me and pushed me toward a wrong way of life.
When I was 20 years-old, I committed a crime of passion. Now, that memory represents something horrible for me. Maria Goretti, now a Saint, was my good Angel, sent to me through Providence to guide and save me.
I still have impressed upon my heart her words of rebuke and of pardon. She prayed for me, she interceded for her murderer. Thirty years of prison followed. If I had been of age, I would have spent all my life in prison. I accepted to be condemned because it was my own fault.
Little Maria was really my light, my protectress; with her help, I behaved well during the 27 years of prison and tried to live honestly when I was again accepted among the members of society.
The Brothers of St. Francis, Capuchins from Marche, welcomed me with angelic charity into their monastery as a brother, not as a servant. I've been living with their community for 24 years, and now I am serenely waiting to witness the vision of God, to hug my loved ones again, and to be next to my Guardian Angel and her dear mother, Assunta.
I hope this letter that I wrote can teach others the happy lesson of avoiding evil and of always following the right path, like little children. I feel that religion with its precepts is not something we can live without, but rather it is the real comfort, the real strength in life and the only safe way in every circumstance, even the most painful ones of life."