Saint Maria Goretti

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Someone brought up St. Maria Goretti to me recently and I have to admit that my first thought was “I’m not really that interested in her.” I didn’t think that I, as a working mom of five and as a writer, have much in common with an 11-year-old Italian girl who resisted rape and died because of it. In college, I even went to the town she was from and didn’t bother to visit anything to do with her short life. My mistake.

St. Therese, on the other hand, is a saint that I’ve had a long relationship with – ever since I was 13 and decided I didn’t like her. I had seen a poorly made cartoon about her and decided she just wasn’t for me. When I shared these thoughts with my youth minister, however, she asked me to make a bet with her. She made the following wager: if I read St. Therese’s autobiography Story of a Soul and still didn’t care for the Little Flower, the youth minister would never mention her again. If, however, I did like her after reading, I had to take her as my Confirmation saint. You can guess how that turned out – my name became Caitlin Elizabeth Therese.

Therese has showed up for me many times in my life, showing me how the “little way” is always the right way, even when I’m working towards my big goals. In addition, her simple statement that her “vocation is to love” has struck me time and time again by its undeniable truth and simplicity for my life. Today, her teachings about abandonment have helped me understand both Maria Goretti and my own life better.

She understood that the only thing that matters is uniting ourselves with God’s will so that we can  be with God in heaven.

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Therese said, “Now, abandonment is my only guide. I can no longer ask for anything except that God’s will may be perfectly accomplished in my soul.” Wow. What a statement. In my 20s, when I was traveling, earning degrees, working toward career goals, and starting a family, I wouldn’t have known where to start with complete abandonment to God. But young Maria did. She understood that the only thing that matters is uniting ourselves with God’s will so that we can  be with God in heaven. Even when the horrible crime of sexual assault was made against her, she forgave the young man and prayed that he would join her one day in heaven. Can you imagine? That sort of total abandonment certainly makes little Maria a giant of a saint.

While I can only aspire to abandonment like Maria’s and Therese’s, in my late 30s I have begun to understand it a little bit more. As I raise my children, write manuscripts, and continue life’s journeys with all its joys and sorrows, I realize how little I can control, but how God is present in everything. When I am busy with my endless list of to-dos and praying that I am raising my children right or that my writings will be fruitful, the only thing to do is give them to God. After all, what matters is not how well a book sells well or if a child gets good grades, but whether I am giving everything to the Lord and loving the people He has put in my life. 

Therese says that the way to practice abandonment is to live in the present moment. Don’t worry too much about the future. This doesn’t mean to not put in the work that has been given to you or to not have work or life goals. But rather, to appreciate the day you are in and recognize that God is in control.

Saints Maria and Therese, pray for us!

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Caitlin is an author and parish librarian with a career working in Catholic communications. Her first book “Detective Thomas and the Biggest Question” was released in September and there are more in the works! Caitlin has a big heart for the universal Church, her children, the Catholic imagination, and building local community.

CONNECT + FOLLOW Caitlin Bootsma at:
Instagram: @theinkyswan
Get her book “Detective Thomas and the Biggest Question” for middle grade readers thru Our Sunday Visitor + on Amazon here. 

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