Helen Bloodgood and her friend Patricia Bowers journeyed over two hundred miles to witness the pilgrimage of the major relics of St. Maria Goretti at Blessed Trinity Parish in Ocala. Bloodgood identifies with St. Maria’s experience and gains strength in her path of mercy and forgiveness.
“I felt it in my heart to come here,” said Bloodgood, who survived a violent attack and by the grace of God is able to show mercy for the man who sought to harm her. “I pray for him (her attacker) and his family every single day. I prayed for him while I stood beside St. Maria. I hope for him to be saved.”
Bloodgood and her family also have a special connection with St. Maria. When Bloodgood’s daughter was 13, she chose St. Maria Goretti as her Confirmation saint. Years later, Bloodgood’s mother passed away on the Feast of St. Maria on July 6, 2006.
“St. Maria is an influential saint in my life,” said Bloodgood. “It is never too late to seek forgiveness with the power of God. It is not easy, but it takes commitment.”
While St. Maria is universally known as the Patroness of Mercy, her greatest virtue was her unyielding forgiveness of her attacker at the age of 11 even in the midst of horrendous physical suffering, a forgiveness that would completely convert him and set him on a path to personal holiness. St. Maria Goretti is the youngest canonized saint in the Catholic Church’s history.
In March, Pope Francis announced an Extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy beginning December 8th with the opening of the Holy Door. This visit of the major relics of St. Maria Goretti is an effort to prepare and catechize the United States for this great celebration in the life of the Church.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that saints are examples to us of love for God and others, of heroic courage in practicing faith, and of concern for the needs of others. We also rely on their intercession when we present our needs to God in prayer.
The practice of praying to the saints is one of the most often made criticisms against Catholicism by our Protestant brothers. But it is rooted in a misunderstanding of what it means “to pray.” The verb “to pray” means “to ask.” It does not mean “to worship,” which the Catholic Church teaches is due to God alone.
Pastor of Blessed Trinity Parish welcomes St. Maria Goretti with great humbleness.
“This is a privilege,” said Father Pat. “St. Maria is a wonderful saint. I think our youth will be encouraged by her purity and accept the challenge of the year of mercy coming up; to be a forgiving people.”
It was Father Pat’s connections that led to the pilgrimage of St. Maria Gorett to arrive at Blessed Trinity, one of three visits to Florida in October. Father Pat received the invitation to host St. Maria Goretti from Father Carlos Martins, Director of Treasures of the Church, a ministry of evangelization that seeks to give people an experience of the living God through an encounter with the relics of his saints in the form of an exposition.
The veneration of relics is a communion with the heroes of our Christian faith, asking for their powerful intercession. Many people have reported outstanding blessings and conversions through this ministry.
5,408 people witnessed the pilgrimage of St. Maria Goretti at Blessed Trinity Parish, with 603 confessions heard by several priests during public veneration.
The relics of St. Maria Goretti also visited the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe on Oct. 30. Thousands of faithful, including busloads of school children participated and learned about the saint and venerated this patroness of mercy.