A couple of weeks ago, a good friend of mine sent me a notice of the USA Tour of the major relics of St. Maria Goretti and suggested that I might want to join her in venerating these at St. John Cantius Church where they would be displayed October 12, 2015. This started quite a discussion beginning with my gut reaction of: “Are you kidding?” Without going into all the in-between back and forth arguments, I attended the viewing of these relics and was pleasantly surprised at how well the whole story of saint/sinner played out, Maria being the saint and her slayer, Alessandro Serenelli being the sinner. What I expected when I first received the invitation goes like this: the sinners, men are evil sexual predators and the saints, women are the poor victims of men’s lust. I know from dealing with my own demons, as well as my work with young men, this kind of thinking gets us nowhere.
I am part of a privileged group(s) and I know it. That doesn’t mean I always know how to respond to people who don’t share my status. One of the privileged groups I belong to is that of men. As a man I need some good coaching and training.
Upon visiting the museum set up in the basement of St. John Cantius’ I learned the story of the rehabilitation of Maria’s killer, Alessandro Serenelli. It’s an amazing story of reconciliation and recovery. In Serenelli’s words:
“I atoned for my sin. Little Maria was truly my light, my protectress. With her help, I served those 27 years in prison well. When society accepted me back among its members, I tried to live honestly with angelic charity. The sons of St. Francis, the minor Capuchins of the Marches, welcomed me among them not as a servant, but as a brother. I have lived with them for 24 years. Now I look serenely to the time in which I will be admitted to the vision of God, to embrace my dear ones once again and to be close to my guardian angel, Maria Goretti and her dear mother, Assunta.”
Now, I don’t think I’m ready to read here: “…and they all lived happily ever after”. No, I think we, especially we men, have a lot of work to do and Alessandro can be our patron saint if you will. Jackson Katz in the above TED talk gives us some real good ideas on where to start. I’ll leave it to Katz to take it from here.