Friday night concluded with a short period of Eucharistic Adoration. After hearing a talk about how God longs for us, we were led into a time for God to be with us. We were invited to simply spend time with Him who is mercy.

Our host, Dan Harms, set it up by talking about how loved we really are. “Adoration,” he said, “is an extension of the Mass. It’s a time for every single one of us to just fall in love. Tonight, He proves His love for us by coming to be present among us.”

Mercy Comes to Us

Our team priest, Fr. Mike Schmitz, processed in with Jesus. We sang two songs and then… silence. For about ten minutes, 3,452 people were silent before the Lord. “We’re so afraid of silence,” Fr. Mike said. “Pope Benedict said that the first language of God is silence. That’s why it scares us – silence is a great magnifier.” Those things we have in our hearts – good or bad – are magnified in the silence. So if we have fear, silence makes us more afraid. Anger, shame, temptation…you name it, and silence magnifies it.

But joy, peace, love… mercy? Those are all magnified as well. “Let whatever gets magnified be placed on this altar in front of Jesus,” Fr. Mike said, right before the silence began. “Right now the only thing I’m going to ask you to do is not argue with the truth that God loves you right now.”

St. Maria Goretti

After about ten minutes of almost total silence, Fr. Mike led us in a reflection on St. Maria Goretti. He told us the story of a thirteen-year-old girl whose dying wish was that her murderer would know God’s mercy and not go to hell. St. Maria Goretti is a patroness of purity – not just of her own purity, but that of her attacker, Alessandro.

As Maria was dying of the wounds inflicted by Alessandro, as her family called for the police to go capture her murderer, she said to her mother, “No, Mama, we have to pray for him.” Her family called for their priest, who was told by Maria, on her deathbed, to keep praying for him.

And so the priest kept going to Alessandro, for three years, despite how horribly Alessandro treated him. And after Maria came to Alessandro in a dream, presenting him with lilies (the symbol of purity), he woke up calling for the priest. The temptation would be to hide from God – but Alessandro called for the priest.

For the next 28 years that Alessandro was in prison, doing penance and praying, he was released… and the last place you’d think he’d go was the first place he went – to the Goretti home, to Maria’s mother. “Mama Goretti,” he begged, “I need to ask for your forgiveness.”

Mama Goretti replied, “My daughter has forgiven you; how could I not forgive you?”

When Maria Goretti was canonized, the Holy Father sat next to Mama Goretti. And Alessandro sat next to her.

Find Mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation

Tonight, we were all encouraged to run to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When we are at our worst, our Lord is at His best. When we want to hide, He goes looking for us. There’s nothing to fear.

God’s mercy is big enough to change a murderer into an invited guest – and a member of the family.

Quotables

You’re all precious little snowflakes, all unique flowers – but your sins are really boring.

When you stop running and you let God love you, everything changes.

That’s what this mercy can do: this mercy can take enemies and make them more than friends, it can make them family.

The best way we can give God permission to love us is to go to Confession and give Him our sins.

Written by Rachel Leininger
Rachel Leininger is the full-time chastity educator for the Archdiocese of Saint Louis' REAP Team retreat ministry. She's married to the excessively creative and unfairly gorgeous David. Her favorite things include decorating their home, everything Cardinals baseball, and coffee.