Three 20-something women trying to figure out what it means to be lay, Catholic, and modern all at once.

July 7, 2009

Courage in Art

Yesterday was the feast of St. Maria Goretti, and you should check out Julian's thoughts about this amazing saint, posted yesterday. Meanwhile I wanted to share with you a quick thought and a link.

When I realized it was her feast day yesterday morning, I went immediately to do a Google Image Search of her name to find an icon that we could put up on the blog. Aside from a grainy image of her incoroupt body, the only images I could find were in the sappy wide-eyed innocent holy card style. I grew up with those images, and I love them in a way, but they never do her, or any saint justice.

Of course I also grew up hearing the story of St. Maria Goretti repeated, as it is often done to catholic school girls, to me and my friends. But it wasn't until college, when a feisty Dominican professor told us on the verge of tears the story of her martyrdom that I really was moved by her life and death. He told a story of bold, almost rash, courage which defied the world and its false promises, and then, when victorious, turned gentle and gracious. I didn't look around when he finished the story, but I was certain there wasn't a dry eye.

So when I look at those sickly/innocent drawings of a little girl, I see none of her strength. St. Maria Goretti is all the more remarkable for having been a young girl when she died. But she was no child--she was more adult, and yet more innocent, than I will ever be, and to think of her as a sweet little school girl is to miss the point.

Then, stumbling through Google Images, I came across this stunning painting, by Noah Buchanan for the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in Lacrosse, Wisconsin. Maria Goretti stands, facing us, engaging our eyes, in front of the Blessed Virgin Mary. But most striking of all is Allessandro Serenelli, her murderer, bound on the floor, reaching up to the lily Maria is giving him. This painting, to me, tells the whole story, with its pain, its grace, its strength, and its love.

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