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Maria Goretti ‘knew God so well’

By Chantal Switalsky*, Youth Speak News Reporter

In July 2002, the world marked 100 years since St. Maria Goretti gave her life rather than betray God.

February 10, 2002

Copyright ©2002 The Catholic Register. All rights reserved.

One hundred years ago, a young girl gave her life rather than betray God whom she loved so dearly. Today, devotion to St. Maria Goretti is on the upswing among youth and the rest of the world thanks to the efforts of Robert Brideau, founder and director of the St. Maria Goretti Novena Apostolate in Ottawa.

Lost in the shadow of the upcoming World Youth Day celebrations, the summer of 2002 will also witness the centennial anniversary of the death of Maria Goretti, patron saint of youth.

This July will mark 100 years since the 12-year-old child died of stab wounds inflicted upon her by a lustful teenage boy and 50 years since she was canonized by Pope Pius XII, pronounced a martyr of the universal church and declared the patronness of modern youth. Her feast day is celebrated July 6.

A novena to St. Mary Goretti was written in 1951, commemorating the one-year anniversary of her June 24, 1950 canonization Mass. It was printed and distributed for use in prayer dedications to St. Maria Goretti.

Meanwhile Brideau, originally from the Quebec countryside not far from Ottawa, picked up a copy of the novena while visiting the city and took it home. He said the photograph on the front cover drew him to the booklet.

But it wasn’t until Brideau was in desperate need of employment that he paid much notice to the novena. He began to pray it and soon he got his job back. Thus he soon began his quest to make Maria Goretti known to the world.

In 1977 he founded the apostolate. He published an article featuring St. Maria Goretti in an American magazine, LEAVES, and offered to send a free copy of the novena to anyone who wrote in and asked for one. He was overwhelmed to receive more than 2,000 requests — he had only 100 booklets available and the novena had gone out of print in 1976.

According to Brideau the purpose of the novena is to "increase awareness of young people that they have their own saint to pray to." Ideally, he aims to promote daily prayer to St. Maria Goretti among youth.

He contacted Salvator Mundi Communications, a publishing company willing to print and distribute the novena and the project began to take off.

"I was told Maria Goretti was a really peculiar saint to try and work for," Brideau chuckles, a smile creeping into his voice. "I realize now that this meant if she didn’t want something to happen, then there was nothing you could do about it."

From the very start obstacles arose. Salvator Mundi Communications decided that the front cover would need a new photograph and when none deemed suitable hired an icon painter. And then the technological difficulties began. Luckily it all came together on the same day that the novena was scheduled for printing.

Brideau attributes this to the guidance of St. Maria Goretti herself.

Brideau’s work is very much a selfless job. Humbly, he said, "I am doing this because I love the saint and I think she can help young people emerge in their faith."

The dream has since expanded with the goal of worldwide distribution and the creation of a national shrine to the saint. This is coming to fruition as Brideau recently received word that an outdoor shrine is being erected at St. Maria Goretti Church in Laflin, Pennsylvania.

"She is important because she is a saint who knew God so well," Brideau explained. "She is someone to pray to who understands the problems of youth and realizes the importance of faith for young people."

For a copy of the novena write to the apostolate office: 111-2400 Carling Ave., Ottawa, Ont., K2B 7H2.

The Novena to St. Maria Goretti is available through most religious bookstores for $3 (Cdn).

*Switalsky, 19, is a first-year student at the University of Toronto and is in her second year as a member of The Register’s Youth Speak News team.

 
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