St. Maria Goretti, Chastity, and Modern Living

5 Jul

Tomorrow  the Church celebrates the life of St. Maria Goretti, a pious, young Italian girl who a little over a century ago was stabbed to death, preferring to die rather than give in to the demands of a rapist.

A few months back, my family viewed an excellent documentary on St. Maria Goretti entitled Fourteen Flowers of Pardon. Ignatius Press also has a fine video on this saint with accompanying study booklet.

A few thoughts on this beautiful saint:

(1) She is considered a “martyr” by the Church. That’s not a big deal at first blush, but think about it. She wasn’t asked to deny an article of the Creed. She wasn’t told by her assailant (who incidentally underwent a conversion in prison and was present at her canonization) to “reject Christ or die.”

Rather, she adamantly refused to cooperate in any form of sexual impurity. She accepted death rather than sacrifice her chaste virginity. She was a devout young lady who knew the seriousness of sins against the Sixth and Ninth Commandments, how they are more than capable of severing our relationship with Christ. She died rather than compromise her relationship with Christ, and so is honored as a martyr.

From this it is easy to see why St. Maria Goretti is a fitting patron saint for today’s youth, whose faith is undermined not only by poor religious instruction and secularist ideologies, but often in more concrete fashion by the pervasive sexual immorality of our culture.

Yes, virtue still matters!

(2)  It follows that it’s extremely important to instill the virtue of chastity in our youth, a task for which there surely is room for improvement! Part of the issue, it seems to me, is that classroom programs can easily turn into a “how to” class rather than a “now not to until marriage” class. The former is the providing of information, in other words “sex education,” while the latter is “chastity education,” or training in virtue. But even “chastity education” programs at times can overstep parental authority and provide graphic, private information at inappropriate times and in inappropriate ways.

When learning to drive a car or ski, the first thing we must learn is “How do I stop?” We are sexual beings. We are already oriented toward sexual activity. What we need is instruction and formation as to how to harness these natural urges in appropriate ways. Mere sexual instruction without a basis in Christian morality is simply throwing a child on skis down the mountain, sometimes providing the very basis for a child’s becoming sexually active.

(3) This is an area where the “culture of death” is shown to be hypocritical and illogical. We constantly hear about the woman’s “right to choose” abortion. Society tells us that we must defer to the decision of the mother, who must be accorded unbridled freedom in her deliberations.

Yet, proponents of classroom sex education, who frequently are also Planned Parenthood supporters, tell us that young people can’t control themselves.They can’t choose to be chaste, so the best we can do is help them be “safe” through extensive sex education. In other words, they tell us we’re only animals, that we’re biologically incapable of self control. So much for authentic “choice.”

Christ has much more to offer young women than serial “hook ups” and abortion.

(4) The development of the virtue of chastity in our children is vitally important, and this does require a certain amount of teaching on the part of parents and those who assist them. But even more, it’s all about our lived witness. We need Dads to avoid pornography. We need Moms to avoid soap operas and immodest dress. We need to be diligent in our own recreational activities, entertainment choices, and habits in addition to those of our children.

Growing in virtue is difficult work (see Catechism, no. 2342), but it’s also a work of grace. Let us ask for St. Maria Goretti’s assistance this week:

Father,
source of innocence and lover of chastity,
you gave St. Maria Goretti the privilege
of offering her life in witness to Christ.
As you gave her the crown of martyrdom,
let her prayers keep us faithful to Your teaching.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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