There was a soft voice inside me suggesting that I should visit and venerate the relics of Saint Maria Goretti during her tour in the United States. I took action and told my husband we had to go. He was on-call for work that weekend when her relics came to our hometown of Charlotte, but he took a chance, and we went with my two kids. I thought that it was a privilege to go to see her.
When we arrived at Saint Thomas Aquinas Parish, where her relics were, I admired the incredible organization of the event. Many volunteers showed visitors where to go, from the parking lot to the chapel. I really appreciated that because I was not familiar with the parish, and I am sure that this courtesy was helpful to many people just like me.
When we arrived there was a waiting line inside the church, but the relics were not there. They had taken the casket away to clean the glass, so we waited for ten minutes. Suddenly, the Knights of Columbus escorted her relics inside. When they brought her in, I instantly started to perceive a powerful energy. It was as though my soul recognized being close to something deeply important.
I felt a strong emotion and my eyes welled up with tears. I know that is my immediate reaction when I have a spiritual encounter with something holy. I told my husband that I was feeling something, and asked him if he was feeling it too."Yes, I feel at peace," he replied.
Like everyone else, I was only able to venerate her relics for fifteen seconds due to the line of waiting people. To help the line move faster they didn't allow pictures, and I wasn't able to finish my prayer. Even so, it was a powerful experience.
I had nothing special to ask for her intercession. I just wanted to see her. In exchange, I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit through the relics of Saint Maria Goretti. I have had similar experiences before and during pilgrimages (in Saint Alphonsus Parish in Rome, and the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Paris, for example) so I was attentive.
I reminded myself that we are both body and soul, and God does amazing things through both. My eleven-year-old son didn't find this visit meaningful. His first reaction was, "What's the big deal with a wax figure?" I know that this is all you see when you look with your physical eyes.
Years ago, while venerating relics in another local parish in Charlotte, NC, I asked Saint Gerard to intercede for my friend so that she could have the baby she wanted so much. Now she has a beautiful baby daughter.
But that day when we visited Saint Maria Goretti's relics, my husband didn't receive a call from his work until the exact moment that we arrived home. I don't call that a coincidence; that was a miracle!
You see, I don't expect to see big signs or miracles, like heaven opening and angels singing, the way Hollywood portrays such things. Instead, I am open to enjoying the daily miracles God gives us.
What did I learn?
Saint Maria Goretti is a popular patroness of the youth, but she also inspires people to forgive, since she forgave the young man who attacked her, even though he was not sorry for what he did at the time of her death. So if you are looking for a patron saint of forgiveness to help free you from resentment, you can find inspiration through her life.
As Our Lord said in the Gospel of Matthew 5: 7-8, 12:
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.
God did not create us to experience sin, suffering, and death, but despite our resistance to His will, He continues to offer us eternal life. We are called to live according to the spirit. (Read Romans 8:1-13.)
There are beautiful words of hope in this Bible passage: "If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you." (Roman 8:11)
For those of us here on earth, we can see clearly that this is true.
How many years have passed since Maria's life was ended? And yet I was able to encounter her, alive more than ever, and I know that many people experienced the same thing.