Wednesday 2 September 2020

Alessandro Serenelli A Story of Forgiveness - Charles D. Engel

Alessandro Serenelli
A Story of Forgiveness
Charles D. Engel
ISBN 9781681925585
eISBN 9781681925592

I had just finished reading Saint Maria Goretti Teenage Martyr for Chastity by Glynn MacNiven-Johnston part of the CTS 20th Century Martyrs Series from the Catholic Truth Society when I became aware of this volume. That book was a moving and powerful read. This one was just as moving and powerful. This is not a large volume, but it will have a big impact. I could not put this book down. I highlighted 15 passages my first time reading this book. And I will likely return to it and read it again. 

It was incredibly powerful to read of the change of heart, and the changed life of this man. To read about how he became a man of service and a man of prayer. That people from all over the world wrote to him to ask for him to pray to Maria for them. And his own devotion to her is an incredible witness. Many will be aware of the story of Maria, but fewer aware of his, but we are told:

“Despite how the story has been told, however, it was never just her story.”

And after reading this volume I completely agree. Her own words to him, and her actions while she was dying are a powerful witness. But those words are prayers bore fruit. We are told of her words of forgiveness:

“Over time these extraordinary words of pardon were often repeated, first by those who themselves had heard them spoken. These words of mercy made this sexual assault quite different from similar stories in the news.”

Later we are told:

“In 1908, Alessandro, still unrepentant, experienced what came to be regarded as his moment of conversion. The change that radically transformed him began with a dream. In Matthew’s Gospel, God spoke to Saint Joseph in a dream, urging him first to take the pregnant and unwed Virgin Mary as his wife. In dreams, Joseph was also told to flee into Egypt to escape Herod, and then later to abandon Egypt and return to his homeland. God can speak to us in dreams, and this is how he chose to reach Alessandro. In a dream, Maria Goretti visited Alessandro in his prison cell.”

Later we are told that:

“In the autumn of 1910, the bishop of Noto, Giovanni Blandini, at the prompting of a fellow bishop and of Maria’s earliest biographer, Carlo Marini, visited Alessandro. No doubt this was an extraordinary visit, for while prisons have chaplains, it is rare that a particular inmate would receive a visit from such an important clergyman. The bishop wanted more information about Maria, for devotion among the people for the young girl had never diminished. On the contrary Maria’s popular cult was growing.”

As the cult of Maria grew, so did the number of people approaching Alessandro for prayer and intercession. 

“Over time, Alessandro also began to receive prayer requests from near and far. He was a man of prayer and repentance, and it became part of his vocation to pray on behalf of others, particularly to Maria, his own intercessor.”

And he prayed and sent out prayer cards. This book goes on to talk about a possible future canonization of this man. It states:

“In a small Catholic Truth Society booklet titled The Canonization of Saints, Monsignor P. E. Hallett points out that “whilst we are at liberty privately to venerate and invoke the intercession of any one whom we may think to be in heaven, the Church will not allow any act that betokens religious honor or cultus to be paid publicly to anyone whom she has not declared ‘blessed.’” The Church reserves to herself the prerogative of canonization, or the listing of the names of the saints.”

And it recounts those with a devotion to this man and working towards his cause. Part of the description of this volume states:

“Many people are familiar with the story of Saint Maria Goretti and her grisly murder at the age of eleven. On her deathbed, she said of her killer, “I forgive him, and I want him to be with me in heaven.”

But how did her incredible forgiveness affect her murderer? While it took years, Maria’s offer of mercy eventually transformed Alessandro’s life.”

And that is what we have in evidence in this volume. A life changed. A life of devotion and hard work. A witness to the power of forgiveness, and the power of God to transform. And a life that witnesses of the power for forgiveness, of grace, of mercy. A fantastic volume that we could all learn from. There is a letter written by Alessandro a few years before his death is in this volume. It is deeply moving. The witness of Maria has been touted for year, now the fruit of that story is coming to light as the transformed life of Alessandro is being brought to the light. And as we are told to not light a lamp and put it under a bushel, there are those who are telling this story so that it will shine forth. 

An excellent read that I highly recommend. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2020 Catholic Reading Plan!

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