Friendship with a Saint
“The saints have a tendency of seeking out our friendship,” I can recall my godmother saying to me one day after school. “They take great pleasure in knowing us and loving us”, she continued, “and they delight very much in doing so!”
As one might imagine, this was quite a compelling conversation with my godmother. It was so impactful that her words have not only remained with me over the past ten years but have also become a living reality. On multiple occasions, I have been blessed to experience this phenomenon of the “saints seeking out my friendship”, and having many favors fulfilled via these heavenly aids. One of these occasions has been during my time at Ruah Woods, which just came full circle this July.
God Hears Our Prayers
A few years ago, Ruah Woods was gifted with an altar stone from one of our seminarian interns. It was such a fitting gift since we had just received permission from the Archbishop of Cincinnati to reserve the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle on campus. The altar stone had been discovered and rescued from an antique shop, which is no fitting place for a sacred treasure. Instead, the stone was gifted to our ministry in order to be installed in the altar for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. However, the stone was missing the required first-class relics from at least two saints, and at minimum one of the saints is to be a martyr. On the day that this was discovered, my co-worker and I were devastated. “How could we use this stone anymore without relics?” we thought to ourselves. “Perhaps we could just find relics to put inside?” But the only problem was: where does one even begin to look for relics for an altar stone? Not knowing where to go, I said aloud to my colleague, “Well — if God wants us to have the relic of a martyr, He will make one fall into our laps.”
The VERY NEXT DAY, I learned that Jesus meant what he said when he told us, “ask, and you shall receive” as my best friend, Jeff Stephens, came over to my house to visit. He had just returned home from his pilgrimage to Rome, and he had a gift for me. He handed me a small package, wrapped in brown paper. I opened it up, and to my surprise, inside was a small reliquary with a first class relic of St. Maria Goretti, virgin and martyr! I about fell over, after I shouted in excitement! “You have no idea what you have just done!” I told him. I explained the whole situation to him, and asked if we could use the relic for the altar stone. Overwhelmed and a bit confused, he said to me, “John David, I really want you to have it. But I just so happened to have brought another one home as well.” I yelled again in excitement — I could not believe my ears! “You have TWO?!? What made you think to bring two?” I exclaimed. “But this other one,” he added, “I brought it home for myself.”
Understanding his intentions, I responded “You are right, Jeff. I’m not going to take these from you or use them in a way you didn’t intend.” It was only right that I surrender my wishes, but just as I conceded, Jeff had one more surprise. “You’re not going to believe this,” he said, “but I actually have a third one as well.” This time, I believe I let out a sound quite louder than before, as I cried “OH MY GOSH! You have a THIRD one?!?!” Yet again, Jeff had a separate plan for this relic of St. Maria Goretti than what I suggested. However, he was willing to reconsider his intention. He asked if he could have a couple of days to think and pray about it.
A few days later, a couple of friends got together in the evening with Jeff to hangout. After we finished eating dinner, Jeff got up from the table and said, “John David, I have something for you.” After retrieving a small package, wrapped in brown paper, he told me, “I decided that since this relic isn’t even mine to begin with, and it belongs to the Church, it should be used in the way the Church intends. I would like to give this relic to Ruah Woods for their chapel.” Handing me the relic, he added, “And by the way, today is Maria Goretti’s feast day.” And you guessed it, dear reader, another “joyful shout” bellowed out from my chest and I practically fell out of my chair. I was beside myself with how faithfully and quickly God was acting.
Sharing the Good News
That following Monday, I could not wait to share this great news with our staff! After telling everyone the story, I was having a mountain top experience. I knew that God was speaking, and that Maria Goretti was watching over us. This inclination was affirmed as Emily Macke informed me that St. Maria Goretti is not only fitting for the work we do at Ruah Woods because of her youth and her powerful witness to purity, but this sweet little girl was also interceding for us when Ruah Woods first started.
In the spring of 2010, Emily found herself in Nettuno, Italy, praying before the physical remains of the youngest saint in Church history. She prayed for St. Maria Goretti’s intercession because Emily was developing a ministry for youth at Ruah Woods, and was just a couple of months away from beginning. She asked that Maria Goretti pray for whatever way this ministry is carried out, and for whatever it will be called. As Emily continued to think and pray about this new ministry, she attended Mass on July 6 of that same year, which is St. Maria Goretti’s feast day. As she prayed during Mass that day, Emily was inspired by the Greek word “Kenosis” and became moved. She presented this name to the team, and after it was received, Kenosis grew to be a Theology of the Body discipleship opportunity for youth in our archdiocese, which was well loved and respected. Of course, one can only assume, was with the assistance of this little saint of great mercy.
St. Maria Goretti, Ora Pro Nobis
To bring things full circle, Jeff has been able to serve at Ruah Woods this summer as our seminarian intern, and to finish what he helped implement. On July 6, 2020 — the staff at Ruah Woods celebrated St. Maria Goretti’s feast day by placing her relic under the altar and attending Mass in our private chapel. We continue to seek her intercession, along with our Lady and St. Joseph’s, as we beg our Lord to renew the earth and await His victorious coming. Today, I invite you to seek her intercession and to pray with us, as we say:
Oh, Saint Maria Goretti who, strengthened by God’s grace, did not hesitate even at the age of twelve to shed your blood and sacrifice life itself to defend your virginal purity, look graciously on the unhappy human race which has strayed far from the path of eternal salvation. Teach us all, and especially youth, with what courage and promptitude we should flee for the love of Jesus anything that could offend Him or stain our souls with sin. Obtain for us from our Lord victory in temptation, comfort in the sorrows of life, and the grace which we earnestly beg of thee (here insert intention) and may we one day enjoy with thee the imperishable glory of Heaven. Amen.
Finally, I invite you to be inspired by John Paul II’s message written about St. Maria Goretti on the 100th Anniversary of her death, in which he quotes the little saint as she shares her intuitive words of encouragement, still very much needed today, “Be brave, God will help us.”
John David Kimes,
Ruah Woods Press High School Curriculum Consultant
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