Something very important is taking place in our parish this weekend. Pope Francis has sent the body of St. Maria Goretti to the US in anticipation of the Year of Mercy to begin on December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. How powerful that the major relic of such a beloved Saint is to be in our parish on the Eve of All Hallows and All Saints’ Day. The wonderful staff here at Our Lady of Mercy has been preparing for weeks. While there is no possible way of knowing how many people may visit our church during this time, I ask that you be patient, kind, and helpful to any of our visiting pilgrims coming to obtain the grace of this pilgrimage to Maria Goretti, the Little Saint of Great Mercy.
As I have stated many times before, our parish shares an important role as a Shrine for the City of Baton Rouge and our Diocese. There is no time in which this will be more evident than during the weekend of All Saints’ Day. It is very possible that hundreds and hundreds of people may visit us. We have received numerous calls already from parishes near and far who are sending buses. We have arranged for additional security, additional portable restrooms, and outdoor jumbo trons.
The Parish Activity Center will contain a mini museum of artifacts from St. Maria Goretti’s life and a catechetical film.
I remind you that the Church will remain open all during the night, October 31st. The Divine Mercy Chaplet will be prayed every hour on the hour. The Vigil Mass schedule and the regular Sunday Mass schedule will remain as always. An additional 3:00 p.m. Mass on November 1st will be celebrated by Bishop Muench. Pilgrims will be allowed to venerate the relic between Masses. The Church Office will remain open on Saturday afternoon and Sunday to assist pilgrims and their questions.
I am convinced that this time will be a tremendous outpouring of God’s grace, especially upon those who bring their petitions and prayers for Maria Goretti’s intercession. Maria Goretti was 11 years old when she resisted the sexual assault from an 18 year old young man. She was stabbed 14 times and died the next day. As she lay in the hospital, she forgave her attacker before she died. She told her mother, “Tell Alessandro that I forgive him.” The young man was sent to prison and it was there that in a dream Maria appeared to him with a bouquet of flowers. It was then that he experienced a deep spiritual conversion and said, “Maria’s forgiveness saved me”. When he was released from prison, the first thing he did was to go to Maria’s mother and ask for forgiveness. He was present with her mother in St. Peter’s Square when Maria Goretti was canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1950.
Pope Francis has sent the body of Maria Goretti because she is such an outstanding example of the power of forgiveness and mercy. I especially hold in my prayers those who have been victims of sexual abuse, rape, or sexual assault of any kind– that the power of God’s grace will touch and heal with forgiveness.
Once again, I remind each and every one of us to be welcoming and patient with our many visitors. You are the face of Mercy. Let God use us as an instrument for his healing power.