Tomorrow (Tuesday) the Church celebrates the feast of St. Maria Goretti, a young girl who was stabbed to death, preferring to die rather than be raped. I thought I would offer five comments on this 20th-century 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! [more]
(2) It follows from this that it’s extremely important to instill the virtue of chastity in our youth. Of course this has given rise in recent decades to classroom programs that provide “sex education” or “chastity education.” Some of these programs have thinly veiled anti-natalist, secularist, and/or pro-homosexual agendas, and they all destroy innocence. Elements of these poisons on occasion have found their way into” Catholic” programs, to the consternation of many parents.
Catholics United for the Faith has been a leader in upholding the Church’s teaching and pedagogy in this crucial area for decades. For more general information, check out these two “Faith Facts” available online at www.cuf.org:
(3) Part of the problem, it seems to me, is that classroom programs too often 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 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 is simply throwing a child on skis down the mountain, often providing the very basis for a child’s becoming sexual active.
(4) 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.
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 be chaste, so at least we can 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. They thereby encourage promiscuity, and then they introduce girls and young women into the horrors of abortion as a rational exercise of the “right to choose.”
Christ has much more to offer young women than that.
(5) 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 duly authorized to 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 recreation and activities and habits as well as those of our children.
Growing in virtue is difficult work, but it’s also a work of grace. Let us today ask for St. Maria Goretti’s assistance:
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
This article originally appeared on the CUF blog, but surely the content is still as timely as ever!