let us consider St. Maria Gorretti. This dear, pure twelve year-old child was brutally and repeatedly stabbed due to her refusal to let a young man have his way with her. She was hospitalized, but died the next day after publicly forgiving Alessandro. One can only imagine the sorrows her mother felt over Maria’s violently inflicted injuries and tragic death. The story does not end there however.
Eight years into his prison term, Allessandro experienced a disturbing dream in which he saw Maria picking flowers for him. Allessandro soon converted to Christianity. Twenty-seven years later, his first act of freedom was to visit Maria’s mother and beg her forgiveness. On Christmas, 1937, surrounded by a quarter-million brothers and sisters, Alessandro and Maria’s mother received Eucharist together in St. Peter’s Square.
Pope Pius XII observed that St. Maria is a "martyr for purity". Could her life have turned out any more perfect? Is she the least bit sad over the evil that befell her during her earthly life? Imagine St. Maria in heaven picking those flowers for her former attacker – a man she truly loves in the completeness of her Christian life with God. Those flowers may have been many different colors, but each one’s fragrance was Trust.
72 years and a few days later from that time of rejoicing in St. Peter’s Square, it is again a time to renew our Faith. Christ is among us; his loving presence graces us with an inward joy and peace beyond the world. When we gaze upon the life of the Child, we see many wondrous things – all of them point in some manner to trust.
"Let nothing disturb thee; nothing frighten thee. All things are passing. God never changes. Patience obtains all things. Nothing is wanting to him who possesses God. God alone suffices." – St. Teresa of Avila
Just days ago we celebrated the Feast of the Holy Innocents. Furious that he had been deceived by the Magi, Herod "ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under . . . Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more’" (see Mt. 2:16-18).
St. Quodvultdeus tells us in a sermon, "The [Holy Innocents] die for Christ, though they do not know it. The parents mourn for the death of martyrs. The [Christ] child makes of those as yet unable to speak fit witnesses to himself. See the kind of kingdom that is his, coming as he did in order to be this kind of king. See how the deliverer is already working deliverance, the Savior already working salvation. . . . How great a gift of grace is here! To what merits of their own do the children owe this kind of victory? They cannot speak, yet they bear witness to Christ. They cannot use their limbs to engage in battle, yet already they bear off the palm of victory" (excerpt from Sermo 2 de Symbolo: PL 40, 655).
The mothers of the Holy Innocents now understand the beautiful goodness the Christ Child brought forth from the evils of their children’s death. Their tragic cries have now turned to joy; what once seemed endless unhappiness was actually a pivotal point in the lives of the Innocents. Christ wiped every tear from their eyes.
As the model of Christian trust we turn to our Blessed Mother. We can only speculate as to how much she did or did not understand of the mysterious and wondrous life she was to lead as the Mother of God. Of this we are certain: Mary understood the meanings of suffering, trust, and Providence. From that moment the angel Gabriel announced "Hail, favored one!" (Lk. 1:28), to that eve in the cave at Bethlehem, to that heart-piercing agony she experienced at the foot of the Cross, the Virgin Mary was and is the exemplar of trust. She never attempted to remove herself from whatever God presented. Rather, her answer was: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word" (Lk. 1:38).
When some cross presents itself in our life, let us not fear; for the All-Powerful Child has plans for those whom he loves; plans of such unfathomable beauty and wonder that we would die of joy should we experience them too soon. Look beyond the surface. Gaze into eternity. See the Christ Child. Give yourself to him entirely that you may see what he is doing for you.
F. K. Bartels is managing editor of catholicpathways.com. He is a contributing writer for Catholic Online.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
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