JULY 2017


By Fr. Tirso Villaverde


Women of faith to inspire us in the face of evil

It is almost certain that all of us have read about or seen on the news of all of the recent violence that has been taking place in various parts of the world. There was the attack on the London Bridge and other incidents in other countries. Then, there was the incident that hit close to home for everyone who reads this newspaper—namely, the events that have been taking place in recent days in Marawi on the island of Mindanao in our own native Philippines.

Maria Goretti (middle) is the Patron Saint of youth, young women, purity, and victims of rape. Feast day July 6. This photo was taken in 1902.

I am not bringing up these events intending this article to be a political statement, manifesto, or anything of that nature. Instead, I simply offer the lives of two women who are celebrated by the Catholic Church this month of July as examples of how to respond to those who wish to do harm to us or to others.

The first woman is St. Maria Goretti who lived in the late 19th century in Italy. She was only about 12 years old when she was martyred. Maria Goretti came from a poor Italian farming family and had no chance to go to school. She was illiterate all of her life. She made her First Communion towards the end of her life which meant that she was much taller, older, and less knowledgeable than members of her class.

Shortly before she turned 12 years old, Maria Goretti was already physically mature. One hot afternoon in July, she sat at the top of the stairs mending a shirt. Her 18-year-old neighbor, Alessandro Serenelli, dragged her to a bedroom and began to take advantage of her. Even while she was being raped at such a young and innocent age, Maria Goretti cried for help and begged her assailant to stop because it would offend God and he would risk condemning himself to hell.

Alessandro would not listen but, instead, kept striking at her with a long dagger.
When she was found, Maria Goretti was taken to a hospital. Unfortunately, her wounds were so severe that she would not recover. In her last hours, she not only received her last Communion but she even showed extreme compassion. She was concerned about what would happen to her family. She even was worried about what would happen to Alessandro. She died less than 24 hours after the attack.

Alessandro was tried and found guilty. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison. For a long time, he was unrepentant of his crime. However, after he had a dream or vision of Maria Goretti gathering flowers to offer to him, Alessandro had a change of heart. Upon leaving prison, his first act was to seek forgiveness from Maria Goretti’s mother. At age 66, Alessandro was among the quarter million faithful present at St. Peter’s in Rome when Maria Goretti was canonized a saint of the Catholic Church. His eyes were full of tears of joy.

St. Maria Goretti shows us that the Christian heart should have no room for hate even towards someone who may wish to do us harm. In fact, St. Maria Goretti shows that Jesus’ call to love one’s enemies is powerful enough to cause the conversion of heart of those who have inflicted violence onto others. St. Maria Goretti’s feast day is July 6th.

The other woman of faith is St. Kateri Tekakwitha who was just recently canonized a saint of the Catholic Church. St. Kateri was a native American who lived in the upstate area of New York in the 17th century. Her mother was a Christian Algonquin who had been taken captive by the Iroquois and given as wife to the chief of the Mohawk clan. At the age of four, Kateri was left orphaned as a result of a smallpox epidemic. She herself was left disfigured and half blind.

Kateri was adopted by her uncle who hated the thought of having Jesuit missionaries in the area. However, because of a treaty, he had no other choice but to tolerate their presence. For Kateri, the preaching and teaching of the Jesuits fascinated her.

For a long time, she had wanted to be baptized but was fearful of being reprimanded by her tribe. At the age of 19, she refused to marry a Mohawk man and she found the courage to accept baptism despite the harsh treatment she knew she would receive from her own tribe and family. This was when she took the name Kateri (Catherine).

As a Christian, Kateri’s tribe treated her like a slave. She faced great opposition from her people. She was left feeling isolated and her life was in constant threat of danger. Her own people wished to do her harm. So, Kateri escaped and made a treacherous journey to a Christian Native American village where she was able to live and grow in holiness.

Kateri teaches us that retaliation towards those who wish us harm is not the answer. Her own people were very willing to treat her with violence. In refusing to respond in like manner but choosing instead to grow in love for God and for others, Kateri became an example of Jesus’ call “love one’s enemies.” St. Kateri Tekakwitha’s feast day is July 14th.

Both of these women showed extreme courage and bravery. May their examples inspire in us a faithful witness to the inherent goodness with which God has created all human beings. May their prayers help us to bring to a conversion of heart those who may wish to inflict harm on us or on those we love. May these holy women teach us God’s ways of responding to the violence in our world.


Cardinal Blase Cupich presiding over Asian Community Mass at St. Henry, July 23

The Archdiocese of Chicago’s Asian Catholic Initiative will hold its First Asian Community Mass in honor of “Mary, the Mother of Cultures” on Sunday, July 23 at St. Henry Catholic Church, 6325 N. Hoyne Ave., Chicago (Hoyne & Devon) at 5:00 PM.

His Eminence Blase Cardinal Cupich will preside over the Mass with Asian priests as concelebrants.

A procession will take place before the Mass at 4:00 PM. Bring your Blessed Virgin’s image, banner, and flowers for the procession to be placed in front of the altar. A potluck reception will follow immediately after Mass. Parking is available at St. Henry, Loyola and Misericordia. Recommended attire is ethnic. For more information, contact Elvie Ocampo at 847-302-1759 or Sally Martinez at 773-715-7929.



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