You know when you drive your kids on a five hour road trip to stand in line for two hours for a brief 15 second encounter with international celebrity, only to find out that 13,000 other people had the same idea? Yeah, that just happened. Our road trip to pray at the side of St. Maria Goretti’s relics was an adventure with five young kids and worth every “are we there yet?”
In today’s world, kids are offered a wide array of role models to choose from. As a mother, part of my job is to help guide their eyes and hearts towards those that are worthy of their admiration. Luckily, the Catholic Church has a head start on this category and declared a beautiful group of people to be saints pointing us towards Christ.
St. Maria Goretti is truly unique as a role model for kids due to her young age of 11 and her mature understanding of the Faith. When Maria was stabbed 14 times for resisting the sexual advances of an older man, some of her dying words were to wish him repentance so he could join her in heaven. For me, as an adult, Maria’s open forgiveness where most of us would feel hatred or anger is nothing short of a miracle.
For the past month, we had visited Maria’s story almost daily to prepare for this trip. I had talked through all of the questions my kids asked about the young saint, her family, her murderer, her relics, canonization and more. I wanted them to be able to get as much out of this experience as they possibly could. The one part of the experience that I could not fully explain to them was the actual road trip to see her. This would have to be an adventure which we would figure out together as the day progressed. Many questions raced through my mind as we neared our destination. Did the kids really understand my teachings on forgiveness? Would they fully appreciate this opportunity to pray at the side of this great but tiny Saint? Were they prepared for their own time of prayer in the church? Why did Perkins have to take so darn long to cook our meal?
As we stood in line with thousands of others, I sighed aloud, internally wondering when this stand-still line would ever begin to move. At just that moment, my ten year old son tapped me on the back and leaned in to whisper “This is great! I was worried the line would be short.” I must have given a confused look because he went on to explain “Can you imagine her (St. Maria) being brought here, all the way from Italy and having no lines of people to pray with her? This is the first time I ever prayed for long lines of people.”