Maria Goretti ‘knew God
By Chantal Switalsky*,
Youth Speak News Reporter
In July 2002, the world
marked 100 years since St. Maria Goretti gave her life rather than
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
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.
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
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
*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