When you love good and holy people it makes you want to be like them. Their words and deeds are admirable, they live their lives with such beautiful grace, and their service to the Lord and their neighbors is inspiring. I know some key people in my own life that continue to help shape my own soul as I truck along in my vocation as wife, mother, daughter, friend, etc. When you have the chance to really get to know someone well and can reach a spiritual intimacy with them, then they become critical to your very salvation and can help you become an instrument in the salvations of others as well. One such person has been an invaluable friend and model for holiness since I was 11 years old. She happens to be pretty famous—St. Maria Goretti.
I remember being very enthralled with the lives of the saints as a child and loved to flip through books to see beautiful pictures of these special people and read about their heavenly strength. They captured my imagination and I recall wanting to become saints just like them (I may have been slightly enamored with their fame, too!). Then at age 11, my religion teacher assigned a project where we had to give a presentation on a saint. I think I asked my mom whether there had been a St. Stephanie (my name, how modest) I could learn about to which she replied that there is a young saint named Maria Goretti, which is almost my middle name, Marie.
I struggled through the painful story of her attack and absolutely marveled at her purity, her bravery, and ultimately her supernatural powers of forgiveness. This girl had much to teach a kid like me. So, from then on, I thought about her often, prayed to her at night, and invited her to prayerful dialogue. Very naturally and without thinking (as kids can do so well) I became dear friends with a great saint. I had drawn so closely to her that I felt the kind of possessiveness you can feel toward family or friends, like, she was my saint. She was my Confirmation saint when I was 16, but I allowed myself to drift from her throughout my high school years.
Fast forward to college and during my very first semester I met my future husband. It’s pretty cliche but I knew I’d marry him. Or, I knew it was likely that if this didn’t work out like I suspected then it would be time for serious discernment (again) regarding religious life. This was my first real relationship and we faced college life and young adulthood together. We determined to remain abstinent until marriage and I can safely say that this. got. tough. To be completely honest, it took a good two or three years into our relationship before I finally became un-oblivious of my own sexuality and it was like, alrighty then, now I get it. Extra graces were required to keep us as pure as possible and I was sort of surprised at how we were able keep up with our promise.
Then at some point it hit me- this is no accident or coincidence. My dear friend St. Maria Goretti had been preparing my heart from childhood and she never left my side. I began to cling to her again as we approached the Sacrament of Marriage and she saw us right on through until we exchanged vows (major props to St. Joseph for protecting my husband—hubby was born on St. Joe’s feast day). What a nice story, right?
Well, I VERY naively thought that our wedding day would be some sort of finish line. In fact, the good fight became even trickier once we became husband and wife and began to practice natural family planning. My weaknesses and temptations are as present as always and St. Maria Goretti is a major aid in my daily struggle for chastity within marriage—yes, that’s a thing!
Her example is the perfect model for me as I navigate my vocation as a Catholic wife and it all started with becoming friends a long time ago. In addition to the aid she’s provided, our friendship inspired me to seek out other saints now that I’m an adult and to get to know them. If they had phones, St. Francis de Sales would be on speed dial. St. Maria taught me that prayers do mean something and that we are never out of the presence of God and all the divine company.