Lent is a time when many souls are attacked with temptations against faith – the worst and most agonizing of all temptations. In the midst of the crisis presently engulfing the Church, I would imagine that such temptations will test even the best of Catholics. Perhaps especially the best of Catholics. St. Francis de Sales, who often suffered these temptations, advises:
… not to fight against this temptation by contrary acts of the understanding, but by those of the will, darting forth a thousand protestations of fidelity to the truths which God reveals to us by His Church. These acts of Faith, supernatural as they are, soon reduce to ashes all the engines and machinations of the enemy.
For my part, one of the most powerful and consoling things to do is to think of the saints. The miracles of the saints could only be of divine origin. The kind of supernatural charity that confounds the world is found only in the saints of the Catholic Church. Where else can be found the likes of a St. Maria Goretti? Or, for that matter, her forgiving mother? Not to mention her murderer, who repented with great humility, did a lifetime of penance, and even attended his victim’s canonization ceremony? Such marvels are only imaginable as a Catholic Christian. But we don’t have to imagine them: they are real and tangible proofs of the truth of our holy religion. Dear fellow sinners, let this letter of the aged Alessandro Serenelli revive your spirit:
“I’m nearly 80 years old. I’m about to depart.
“Looking back at my past, I can see that in my early youth, I chose a bad path which led me to ruin myself.
“My behavior was influenced by print, mass-media and bad examples which are followed by the majority of young people without even thinking. And I did the same. I was not worried.
“There were a lot of generous and devoted people who surrounded me, but I paid no attention to them because a violent force blinded me and pushed me toward a wrong way of life.
“When I was 20 years-old, I committed a crime of passion. Now, that memory represents something horrible for me. Maria Goretti, now a Saint, was my good Angel, sent to me through Providence to guide and save me. I still have impressed upon my heart her words of rebuke and of pardon. She prayed for me, she interceded for her murderer. Thirty years of prison followed.
“If I had been of age, I would have spent all my life in prison. I accepted to be condemned because it was my own fault.
“Little Maria was really my light, my protectress; with her help, I behaved well during the 27 years of prison and tried to live honestly when I was again accepted among the members of society. The Brothers of St. Francis, Capuchins from Marche, welcomed me with angelic charity into their monastery as a brother, not as a servant. I’ve been living with their community for 24 years, and now I am serenely waiting to witness the vision of God, to hug my loved ones again, and to be next to my Guardian Angel and her dear mother, Assunta.
“I hope this letter that I wrote can teach others the happy lesson of avoiding evil and of always following the right path, like little children. I feel that religion with its precepts is not something we can live without, but rather it is the real comfort, the real strength in life and the only safe way in every circumstance, even the most painful ones of life.”
Signature, Alessandro Serenelli