On July 06, the Catholic Church celebrates the feast day of St. Maria Goretti, a young virgin and martyr whose life is an example of purity and mercy for all Christians.
Maria Goretti is best known for her commitment to purity and the courageous defense of her faith at the young age of eleven that made her willing to undergo death rather than participate in a sin against God. She is also remarkable for the forgiveness she willingly granted her attacker as she lay on her deathbed.
Maria was born in Corinaldo, Italy on October 16, 1890. Her father, a farmer, died of malaria when she was young, and her mother had to work to support their six children.
Maria took care of the younger children while her mother worked, and she prayed the Rosary every night for the repose of her father’s soul. She grew in grace and maturity, and her cheerful obedience and piety were noticed by those around her.
On July 5, 1902, a neighbouring farm hand, Alessandro Serenelli, tried to rape Maria. On several prior occasions, Alessandro had harassed Maria with impure advances, all of which she has vehemently rejected. This time, he locked her in a room and tried to force himself upon her. She fought against him, shouting, “No! It is a sin! God does not want it!” and warning him that this was the path towards hell. When Maria declared that she would rather die than submit to this sin, Alessandro angrily grabbed her and stabbed her 14 times with a knife.
Maria was found bleeding to death and rushed to the hospital. As she lay dying, she forgave Alessandro for the crime he had committed against her, saying, “Yes, for the love of Jesus I forgive him…and I want him to be with me in Paradise.”
Although the doctors tried to save her, she died two agonizing days later, only eleven years old.
Alessandro was sentenced to 30 years in prison. He remained unrepentant until one night, eight years into his prison term, when Maria appeared to him, dressed in white, gathering lilies in a garden. She smiled, turned towards Alessandro, and offered him the flowers. Each lily he took transformed into a white flame. Then Maria disappeared.
From that moment, Alessandro converted and found peace. He repented of his crime and changed his life. He was released from prison three years early and begged forgiveness from Maria’s mother, which she duly granted.
Alessandro moved to a Capuchin monastery, working in the garden as a tertiary for the remainder of his life. He was one of the witnesses who testified to Maria’s holiness during her cause of beatification, citing the crime and the vision in prison.
Many miracles were attributed to Maria Goretti after her death. In 1950, she was canonized by Pope Pius XII, becoming the youngest Roman Catholic saint officially recognized by name. Her feast day is celebrated by the Church on July 6, and she is the patron saint of purity, rape victims, young women, and youth in general.
On her feast day in 2003, Pope John Paul II spoke about St. Maria Goretti at his Sunday Angelus, noting that her life provides an exemplary witness of what it means to be “pure of heart.”
“What does this fragile but christianly mature girl say to today’s young people, through her life and above all through her heroic death?” asked the Pope.
“Marietta, as she was lovingly called, reminds the youth of the third millennium that true happiness demands courage and a spirit of sacrifice, refusing every compromise with evil and having the disposition to pay personally, even with death, faithful to God and his commandments.”
“How timely this message is,” the Holy Father continued. “Today, pleasure, selfishness and directly immoral actions are often exalted in the name of the false ideals of liberty and happiness. It is essential to reaffirm clearly that purity of heart and of body go together, because chastity ‘is the custodian’ of authentic love.”
The LORD is good to all… Psalm 145:9
Today, as we pleasantly enjoy a summer breeze or tend our gardens, may we experience the grace to remember that all of us share God’s unconditional love. May we make our world a better place by putting one simple act of love in it whether the person seems to be “somebody or nobody.”
St César de Bus
Like so many of us, Caesar de Bus struggled with the decision about what to do with his life. After completing his Jesuit education he had difficulty settling between a military and a literary career. He wrote some plays but ultimately settled for life in the army and at court.
For a time, life was going rather smoothly for the engaging, well-to-do young Frenchman. He was confident he had made the right choice. That was until he saw firsthand the realities of battle, including the Saint Bartholomew’s Day massacres of French Protestants in 1572.
He fell seriously ill and found himself reviewing his priorities, including his spiritual life. By the time he had recovered, Caesar had resolved to become a priest. Following his ordination in 1582, he undertook special pastoral work: teaching the catechism to ordinary people living in neglected, rural, out-of-the-way places. His efforts were badly needed and well received.
Working with his cousin, Caesar developed a program of family catechesis. The goal—to ward off heresy among the people—met the approval of local bishops. Out of these efforts grew a new religious congregation: the Fathers of Christian Doctrine.
One of Caesar’s works, Instructions for the Family on the Four Parts of the Roman Catechism, was published 60 years after his death. He was beatified in 1975.
St Luigi Maria Palazzolo
Luigi Maria Palazzolo was born in Bergamo in the north of Italy on December 10, 1827. Although his family was well off, Luigi’s early life was not without its hardships. The youngest of several boys (sources disagree on whether they were 8 or 9 in total), he was the only one to live to adulthood, and at the age of ten, he was left without a father.
Always sensitive to the needs of the poor, after his ordination in 1850, Luigi’s life became one entirely dedicated to them – especially to abandoned children. His heart was moved by the plight of the poor boys he encountered in the streets of Bergamo. Taking over the running of a men’s oratory in one of the poorest parts of town, he placed himself amongst them, seeing to their care and education.
Saint Luigi Palazzolo was an ordinary man, an ordinary priest, whose holiness lay in his extraordinary openness to the movement of the Holy Spirit, responding unhesitatingly to needs as he encountered them, devoting his whole life to those who had been cast aside by others and for whom there was no other help.
St Giustino Maria Russolillo
Fr. Justin Maria Russolillo, the Founder of the Society of Divine Vocations, was born in Pianura (Naples, Italy) on January 18th, 1891. He was ordained a priest on September 20th, 1913. No sooner he became the pastor of Pianura on September 20, 1920, than he began working for the realization of his dream. That same year, the first community of the Society of Divine Vocations, which became known as the “VOCATIONIST FATHERS” came into being. The Society of Divine Vocations received its first Diocesan approval on May 26, 1927. It became a Congregation of Pontifical right on May 24th, 1947.
Fr. Justin established the Vocationist Fathers and their special charism to foster and promote vocations to the priesthood, religious life, and holiness among all God’s people. To carry on this vocational work Fr. Justin established the Vocationary, a special house of formation that would supply vocations to both religious order and diocesan seminaries.
The Vocationary was established especially to attend to the needs of those financially unable to attend the seminary and those who are still searching and discerning their vocation. By establishing the Vocationary, Fr. Justin focused his attention not only on candidates seeking a religious or priestly vocation but also on those who had left the priesthood or who were in danger of doing so. Thus, the Vocationary has often given life to those who had abandoned the active ministry.
Fr. Justin died on August 2nd, 1955 at Vocationist Fathers Motherhouse in Pianura.
On December 18th, 1997 Pope John Paul II recognized Fr. Justin heroic virtues and proclaimed him a Venerable. The ceremony of beatification was on May 7th, 2011 in Pianura (Naples, Italy), the birthplace of Fr. Justin.
The Vocationists’ spirituality stems from Fr. Justin’s conviction that all people are called to holiness. Their “first duty” is to be with God. Their ultimate goal is to achieve Divine Union. They are called to establish and live the relationship of “child, parent and spouse” of God on the pattern of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The Catholic Church, the Holy Family, and the Blessed Trinity are the heart and center of their spirituality, which may be summarized thus: “Ascension to the Trinity with the Holy Family in the Church.”
ST Maria Francesca of Jesus
Anna Maria lost her father at age four. In her teens she received a marriage offer from a local notary, but turned it down and made a vow of virginity. Her mother died when Maria as 19, and the girl moved to Turin, Italy where he became the friend of Marianna Scoffone, an Italian noblewoman who supported her as she visited parishes in the city, taught catechism to children, visited the sick in hospital, helped the poor and neglected. Marianna Scoffone died in 1882.
One morning after Mass at the Capuchin church in Loano, Italy, a stone fell from a nearby convent under construction, striking a young worker on the head. Anna Maria cleaned the wound and gave the man some money to live on while he recovered. The building was to house a community of women religious, and the sisters were looking for a spiritual guide. When they had heard of the incident in the church, they took it as a sign that Anna Maria was the person they were looking for. A Capuchin priest, Father Angelico Martini convinced her to enter the community, and after a year she joined them in the house. She took the name Sister Maria Francesca of Jesus, and on orders of Bishop Filippo Allegro, she became the superior and formation director of the group. Thus began the Institute of the Capuchin Sisters of Mother Rubatto.
In 1892 Sister Maria and some sisters went as missionaries to Montevideo, Uruguay and then spread their apostolate further into Uruguay and then Argentina. Mother Maria crossed to the Americas seven times, and was asked to begin a mission in the rain forest with Capuchin friars from Milan, Italy; she and six sisters stayed at the mission for three months. Eighteen months later, on 13 March 1901 the sisters, the Capuchin missionaries, and many of the faithful were martyred there.
ST Maria Domenica Mantovani
Born on 12 November 1862 in Castelletto di Brenzone, Italy, Maria Domenica Mantovani was the first of Giovanni and Prudenza Zamperini’s four children. She grew up in this small farming village and attended elementary school up to the third grade. Her intelligence, strong will and good sense made up for her incomplete education. She learned a healthy, balanced piety from her parents and at an early age was drawn to prayer and to helping others.
In 1877, when Maria Domenica was 15 years old, Fr Giuseppe Nascimbeni arrived in Castelletto as curate of the parish. As Maria’s spiritual director he encouraged the young girl to play an active role in the parish by visiting the sick and teaching catechism. Fr Nascimbeni, who desired to enter into the lives of the townspeople to lead them to God, found Maria Domenica to be a zealous “collaborator”. Her life of prayer and her love of God and others continued to expand under the care and direction of this austere, holy priest (beatified 17 April 1988).
On 8 December 1886, before a statue of Mary Immaculate, Maria made a private vow of perpetual virginity. She felt that God was calling her to be consecrated to Him. This profound love for the Virgin Mary was characteristic of Maria Domenica, who allowed herself to be guided by Mary and to follow Our Lady’s motherly example in caring for souls.
In 1892, Fr Nascimbeni founded the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Holy Family with four women, to promote parish life and any activity that would help the spiritual and material well-being of people in need. Maria Domenica assisted him in the foundation and was made Cofoundress and Superior General. She was given the name “Mother Maria of the Immaculate”, and to the sisters and townspeople she was simply known as “Mother”.
She was faithful in assimilating and putting into practice the formation she had received from Fr Nascimbeni during the “preparatory years”, carefully passing it on to the sisters and novices who were entrusted to her care. Mother Maria’s life of prayer was exemplary; she was noted for her complete trust in Mary Immaculate and always sought guidance for the direction of the congregation and the direction of the souls of her “daughters” at Our Lady’s feet.
Mother Maria felt her own “littleness” in front of the greatness of what God was calling her to do, especially since she, after Fr Nascimbeni, became a reference point and a model for the townspeople who came to her for counsel and comfort. With deep faith, however, she would say: “The Holy Family, for the great and mysterious project [that God is calling it to], has chosen me as its Cofoundress…, knowing that the Lord uses the least qualified, little, unknown instruments to do great works…. I am tranquil and convinced that the Institute, the work of God, will be provided for and guided by Him”.
The sisters were put under the direct care of Mother Maria in their spiritual and apostolic formation. Their charism was one of service to the poor and needy of the villages, achieved through the religious instruction of parishioners, assisting the sick and elderly in ther homes and working with children in nursery schools.
Mother Maria constantly transmitted to all around her a feeling of great peace and was known for her goodness, humility, and also firmness when needed. In 1922 Fr Nascimbeni died, and Mother Maria continued to guide the growing religious family with constancy, simplicity and dedication. She herself died on 2 February 1934 in Castelletto di Brenzone.
Today the Little Sisters of the Holy Family can be found in Italy, Switzerland, Albania, Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay. They are dedicated to serving children and youth, families, priests, the elderly and the disabled in parishes.
St Maria of Jesus Santocanale
Carolina Concetta Angela Santocanale was born on 2 October 1852 in Palermo to nobles from the house of Celsa Raele; she was baptized on 3 October. She received her First Communion at the age of eight.
At the age of nineteen she was called to the bedside of her ailing grandfather who died a short while following their encounter. As a result of the encounter she met Mauro Venuti who soon became Santocanale’s spiritual director. She soon became the target of marriage offers but she felt a strong call to religious life in which she was torn between the contemplative cloister and working with the poor and the sick. It was at the age of 21 that she agreed to become the President of the Daughters of Mary in the parish of San Antonio in Palermo.
Santocanale contracted a disease during this period and endured sixteen months of severe pain but managed to stave off the disease in 1887. Due to being torn between the contemplative and the active religious life she hoped to combine the two together and decided to join the Secular Franciscan Order – the promotion of the order in 1887 from Pope Leo XIII inspired her to turn towards the order. On 13 June 1887 she received the Franciscan habit as a professed member of the Secular Franciscan Order; she assumed the new name of “Maria di Gesù”.
She travelled across Palermo from door to door giving alms to the poor and to the sick to whom she devoted her life and work to; she became recognized for her backpack of supplies. She decided also to establish a branch of the Franciscans in order to do this and thus established the Capuchin Sisters of the Immaculata of Lourdes on 8 December 1909. The congregation was approved on 24 January 1923 as an Institute of Consecrated Life of Diocesan Right on a diocesan level from the Archbishop of Palermo Alessandro Lualdi.
Santocanale died in the week following the approval of her order in 1923. Her funeral was celebrated on the following 29 January and her remains were later moved to the church of her institute on 24 October 1926. Pope Pius XII recognized her congregation in 1947 as an Institute of Pontifical Right and Pope Paul VI issued a decree of praise for the order in 1968.
The beatification process commenced on 2 April 1982 under Pope John Paul II with the declaration of the title Servant of God being conferred upon her and the commencement of a diocesan process.
Upon the completion of the tribunal’s work the Congregation for the Causes of Saints validated the process on 19 September 1991. The postulation compiled the Positio on Santocanale’s life and works and submitted it to Rome in 1992 for further inspection.
John Paul II approved her life of heroic virtue and on 1 July 2000 proclaimed her to be Venerable.
The miracle required for her beatification was investigated and was validated in 2005; Pope Francis approved the findings in regards to the miracle on 14 December 2015 which allowed for the beatification of Santocanale to take place; it was celebrated in Monreale on 12 June 2016 and Cardinal Angelo Amato presided on the pope’s behalf.
Pope Francis canonized Santocanale on 15 May 2022.
ST MARIE RIVIER
Anne-Marie Rivier was born on December 19, 1768, in the village of Montpezat-sous-Bauzon in the mountains of southern France. When she was only 16 months old, little Marinette (as she was known to her family) had a terrible accident. Falling off a high bed, she fractured her hip and ankle. Crippled and unable to walk, she used her hands to drag herself around on her back.
Every day, Marinette’s mother brought her poor crippled child to church. Every day for four years, she prayed before a statue of the Pietà – one sorrowing mother to another. And every day, the little child lying on the mat learned from this simple yet powerful witness of her mother’s faith and grew herself in devotion to our Blessed Mother, entrusting herself to her care. And she made a promise that if she were ever to be cured, she would devote herself to the education of children.
On September 8, 1774, the feast of Mary’s Nativity, little Marie unexpectedly found she could walk, and she received a second, further healing three years later on August 15, 1777, the feast of Our Lady’s Assumption.
Marie Rivier lived during a time of great turmoil. In 1789, social and economic pressures erupted in the French Revolution. No one was unaffected by the changes which swept across the country, including a systematic campaign to remove the Catholic Church and Christianity itself from every part of French existence. At the time it began, Marie was running a school in her hometown, having been rejected by a nearby convent due to her poor physical health.During a time of anti-religious sentiment and persecution, including the expulsion of religious congregations from the country, Marie became a rock in the midst of the storm, leading secret prayer services when there was no priest to say Mass and continuing to catechize the local community.
When the authorities confiscated the school building in 1794, Marie moved her school to the nearby village of Thueyts, where on November 21, 1796, she and four other women dedicated themselves to God and became the first Sisters of the Presentation of Mary (the feast of Mary’s presentation in the Temple being celebrated on November 21).It is a great testament to the courage and faith of this woman that she would found a new religious order in such an unwelcoming time and place. And a testament, too, to the strength of her witness of faith that so many women followed her. Just a year later, when the first members made their religious profession, they had already more than doubled in number.
St. Marie Rivier would be a good patron for catechists who work in hostile anti-Catholic, anti-Christian, or anti-religious environments. Whether they risk their jobs, their status, or even their lives for the sake of bringing Christ to others, they can find in the boldness and zeal of the Woman-Apostle an inspiration and a friend.
Devasahayam Pillai, who was born a Hindu in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu and converted to Christianity in the 18th century, became the first Indian layman to be declared a saint by the Vatican on Sunday.
Devasahayam was born on April 23, 1712 in Nattalam village in Kanyakumari district, and went on to serve in the court of Marthanda Varma of Travancore. After meeting a Dutch naval commander at the court, Devasahayam was baptised in 1745, and assumed the name ‘Lazarus’, meaning ‘God is my help’.
“His conversion did not go well with the heads of his native religion. False charges of treason and espionage were brought against him and he was divested of his post in the royal administration,” the Vatican said in a note in February 2020. According to the Vatican, “while preaching, he particularly insisted on the equality of all people, despite caste differences”, which “aroused the hatred of the higher classes, and he was arrested in 1749”.
On January 14, 1752, Devasahayam was shot dead in the Aralvaimozhy forest. He is widely considered a martyr, and his mortal remains were interred inside what is now Saint Francis Xavier’s Cathedral in Kottar, Nagercoil.
In 2004, the diocese of Kottar along with Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council and Conference of Catholic Bishops of India recommended Devasahayam for beatification. He was declared blessed by the Kottar diocese in 2012, 300 years after his birth.
During the midday ‘Angelus’ prayer in the Vatican that day, Pope Benedict XVI described Devasahayam as a “faithful layman”, and urged Christians to “join in the joy of the Church in India and pray that the new Blessed may sustain the faith of the Christians of that large and noble country”, the note from the Vatican said.
In 2014, Pope Francis recognised a miracle attributed to Devasahayam, clearing the path to his canonisation. He was approved for sainthood in February 2020 for “enduring increasing hardships” after he decided to embrace Christianity, according to the Vatican, which last November announced May 15, 2022 as the date for the ceremony.
While clearing Devasahayam for sainthood in 2020, the Vatican dropped ‘Pillai’ from his name, and referred to him as “Blessed Devasahayam”.
Saint Titus Brandsma
Born at Bolsward (The Netherlands) in 1881, Blessed Titus Brandsma joined the Carmelite Order as a young man. Ordained priest in 1905, he obtained a doctorate in philosophy in Rome. He then taught in various schools in Holland and was named professor of philosophy and of the history of mysticism in the Catholic University of Nijmegen where he also served as Rector Magnificus. He was noted for his constant availability to everyone. He was a professional journalist, and in 1935 he was appointed ecclesiastical advisor to Catholic journalists. In 1942, after much suffering and humiliations he was killed at Dachau. He was beatified by John Paul II on November 3rd 1985.
Saint Charles de Foucauld
Born into an aristocratic family in Strasbourg, France, Charles was orphaned at the age of 6, raised by his devout grandfather, rejected the Catholic faith as a teenager, and joined the French army. Inheriting a great deal of money from his grandfather, Charles went to Algeria with his regiment, but not without his mistress, Mimi.
When he declined to give her up, he was dismissed from the army. Still in Algeria when he left Mimi, Charles reenlisted in the army. Refused permission to make a scientific exploration of nearby Morocco, he resigned from the service. With the help of a Jewish rabbi, Charles disguised himself as a Jew and in 1883, began a one-year exploration that he recorded in a book that was well received.
Inspired by the Jews and Muslims whom he met, Charles resumed the practice of his Catholic faith when he returned to France in 1886. He joined a Trappist monastery in Ardeche, France, and later transferred to one in Akbes, Syria. Leaving the monastery in 1897, Charles worked as gardener and sacristan for the Poor Clare nuns in Nazareth and later in Jerusalem. In 1901, he returned to France and was ordained a priest.
Later that year Charles journeyed to Beni-Abbes, Morocco, intending to found a monastic religious community in North Africa that offered hospitality to Christians, Muslims, Jews, or people with no religion. He lived a peaceful, hidden life but attracted no companions.
A former army comrade invited him to live among the Tuareg people in Algeria. Charles learned their language enough to write a Tuareg-French and French-Tuareg dictionary, and to translate the Gospels into Tuareg. In 1905, he came to Tamanrasset, where he lived the rest of his life. A two-volume collection of Charles’ Tuareg poetry was published after his death.
In early 1909, he visited France and established an association of laypeople who pledged to live by the Gospels. His return to Tamanrasset was welcomed by the Tuareg. In 1915, Charles wrote to Louis Massignon: “The love of God, the love for one’s neighbor…All religion is found there…How to get to that point? Not in a day since it is perfection itself: it is the goal we must always aim for, which we must unceasingly try to reach and that we will only attain in heaven.”
The outbreak of World War I led to attacks on the French in Algeria. Seized in a raid by another tribe, Charles and two French soldiers coming to visit him were shot to death on December 1, 1916.
Five religious congregations, associations, and spiritual institutes—Little Brothers of Jesus, Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Little Sisters of Jesus, Little Brothers of the Gospel, and Little Sisters of the Gospel—draw inspiration from the peaceful, largely hidden, yet hospitable life that characterized Charles. He was beatified on November 13, 2005.