Last Tuesday was the feast of Saint Thomas the Apostle. The Way of the Fathers has an interesting post on Thomas and the traditions and facts known about his ministry in India after the death of Christ. I always felt that Thomas got kind of a bum rap. None of the other apostles had cause to doubt the Resurrection as they were present when Jesus appeared in the Upper Room. Thomas wasn’t so fortunate. Mary Magdalene found the empty tomb in John’s Gospel and assumed the body of Christ had been taken. Why is she instead remember as the “Apostle to the Apostles?” And Luke tells us that the Apostles don’t believe Mary Magdalene and the other women when they pass on the angels’ message that Jesus has risen from the dead. Why do we single out Thomas?
One possible reason for that is that Thomas was told the truth by the Church, who we can always trust on matters of faith and morals. Doubting the Church on such matters is a serious issue.
Another interpretation is that Thomas wasn’t doubting Christ’s resurrection as much as an act of will refusing to believe that Christ was indeed alive. After all, Thomas had been through the pain of losing Christ once, and by believing in the Resurrection without proof, he risked going through the pain of that loss all over again. I like this explanation since it gives Thomas the best and most flattering explanation of his supposed doubt.
An interesting idea I once read as well is that it was important that Thomas, called “Didymus” which means “twin,” acknowledge Christ in person as risen from the dead. This tradition states that Thomas was called Twin because he looked so similar to Jesus, so it was important to record the fact that Thomas not only was seen by witnesses with the Risen Christ, but to acknowledge him as Jesus. This way it couldn’t be claimed the Apostles were merely parading Thomas around saying that he was Jesus. Just like you never saw Superman and Clark Kent at the same time, you had to see Thomas and Jesus together at the same time in order to make sure someone wasn’t playing a fast one.
Friday was the feast of Saint Maria Goretti. Her father died when she was a little girl, lived on a farm run by her mother, who was also raising Maria’s brother and sisters. On July 5th, 1902, when she was eleven, a neighbor decided he wanted to have sex with her, and when she was unwilling, attempted to rape her. Crying out, “No, it is a sin,” Maria continued to resist, until he ultimately stabbed her 14 times and left her for dead. Maria clung to life until the next day when she died. While dying from the wounds inflicted during the assault, she told her mother that she had forgiven her assailant, Alessandro Serenelli, and hoped he could join her in heaven after his death.
Serenelli was eventually convicted in her death and spent many years in prison unrepentant. One night, however, he had a dream in which Maria Goretti appeared to him and told him of her forgiveness and offering him 14 lilies, one for each stab wound. From that day on he was a changed man. After completing his sentence, he visited Maria’s mother and asked for her forgiveness. Mrs. Goretti gave it to him, saying that if her daughter had forgiven him, there was no reason for her to withhold her own forgiveness. The next day they attended Mass together and received Communion side by side.
Maria Goretti was canonized on June 24, 1950 with her mother and her murderer in attendance. Serenelli ultimately became lay member of the Capuchin order, working as a gardener and receptionist.
Maria Goretti’s devotion to her purity, even sacrificing her life, rather than have even a passive acceptance of impurity on her part or her attacker’s, is an example we should all strive to follow. Sexual sin is all around us in today’s society, with many people being lionized and celebrated for their sexual sins.
Saint Maria Goretti, pray for us.