By Andrea Gibbs
What happens when you take five children on a five-hour road trip? Only to stand in a two-hour line for a brief 15-second encounter with an international celebrity? Oh, and 13,000 other people have the exact same idea?
My family’s road trip to pray at the side of St. Maria Goretti’s relics was an adventure, and it was worth every “are we there yet?” I heard along the way.
In today’s world, there is a wide array of role models for kids. As a mother, part of my job is to guide them toward those who are worthy of their admiration. Thankfully, the Catholic Church has declared beautiful people as saints. These saints are amazing role models for our children, because they always point us toward Christ.
St. Maria Goretti is one of our saintly role models because of her martyrdom at the young age of 11 and her mature understanding of the faith. When Maria was stabbed 14 times for resisting the advances of an older man, some of her dying words wished him repentance so he could join her in Heaven. For me, Maria’s open forgiveness, where most of us would feel hatred or anger, is nothing short of a miracle.
For the month prior to our visit with her relics, we talked about Maria’s story almost daily. We talked about her family, the man who murdered her, her relics, canonization, and more. I wanted them to get as much out of the experience as they possibly could.
But the one thing I could not fully explain to them was the actual road trip to see her. This was an adventure we had to experience together. Many questions raced through my mind as we neared our destination: Did the kids really understand my teachings on forgiveness? Would they fully appreciate this opportunity to pray at the side of this great but tiny saint? Were they prepared for their own time of prayer in the church?
As we stood in line with thousands of others, I sighed, wondering when the stand-still line would ever begin to move. At that moment, my 10-year-old son whispered to me, “This is great! I was worried the line would be short.” I must have given him a confused look, because he went on to explain: “Can you imagine St. Maria being brought here all the way from Italy and having no lines of people to pray with her? This is the first time I have prayed for long lines of people.”
It came full circle for me that day. There is so much I can learn from young children—the children that have been declared saints and also those living under my own roof.
St. Maria Goretti, pray for us!
About the Author:
Andrea Gibbs is a wife and homeschooling mother to five kids. Her family leads student and adult mission trips to Guatemala. She has worked as a curriculum coordinator and teacher in early childhood education, a high school youth minister, and a speaker to Catholic teens. She has a deep affection for strong coffee, 19th-century British literature, dark chocolate, and all-things Latin America.
I’m so glad that was a wonderful experience for you and your children. You were wise to take them. I feel that we have raised our children to love God and his church. My son is a single father to a now 18th year old and I hope they go to church often. My son was offered the opportunity to move here from MT, shortly after we did to open a new office for his company. He asked if we could help with his son during the transition. Caleb was 9 then, and we were thrilled to have him for the school year. The first Sunday he was here, he went back into the room where Brother Senan was changing into his robes. When Caleb came out he was dressed as an acolyte and served ever since. I was both amazed and proud.
My daughter is Director of Music at the Ravena United Methodist Church, which has both a Methodist minister and a Catholic priest (other than saying this is in Seattle, I have no explanation for how that works.)