By Karen Zainal
Vengeance dominates the tide of social media these days. Sometimes it comes in the form of mob justice descending upon the perpetrator of a crime inadequately punished, other times as smaller and subtler smears against those who have wronged us.
But perhaps we could spend some time pondering on the perennial tug-of-war between two opposing forces: Vengeance and Mercy.
The desire for revenge is rooted deep in us
We want those who hurt us to hurt, those who shamed us to be shamed. Whether we inflict the retaliatory attacks ourselves or by inciting others, the root of that thirst is one and the same. Sometimes we confuse the desire for revenge with the desire for justice, and certainly there seems to be an overlap. But if we’re honest with ourselves, we know that at some point the streams diverge. Justice ends (ideally) in some kind of restoration, whereas unabated revenge ends in destruction.
Vengeance seeks to destroy the other party
Often we don’t realise that in the process it destroys a part of us as well. What feels like ointment on the surface, could it not in fact be poison that seeps into our hearts?
On the other hand you have Mercy. Where vengeance seeks to destroy, mercy seeks to redeem. There’s no doubt that mercy presents itself as a heavy demand on the one who has been wronged. Anyone who claims it is easy does not know what they are talking about. Mercy is epitomised by a Man of Sorrows who, while nailed to the cross prays for those jeering at Him, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Perhaps such radical mercy is a weight none of us can bear. But when we truly contemplate the effects of such a mercy, perhaps we would at least desire the capacity for it.
The story of Maria Goretti
No story of radical mercy has captivated me as much as that of Maria Goretti, an 11-year-old girl from a small town in Italy who died a most tragic death in 1902. Maria’s neighbour, 20-year-old Alessandro Serenelli, had developed some kind of a sick and vile desire for the girl. When Alessandro attempted to rape Maria, her resistance and insistence that she would rather die than yield to him propelled him into an unfathomable rage, which ended in him stabbing her no less than 14 times.
As she lay dying on the hospital bed, Maria’s last words were: “I forgive Alessandro…and I want him with me in heaven forever.” Those words make me tremble; it’s as if Jesus Himself had whispered those words into her ears.
A killer is saved by a dream
Meanwhile, Alessandro was not immediately contrite. He was even reported to have said in court that Maria would not have died had she just given in to him. However, a few years into his prison sentence, Alessandro recounted a dream to the visiting Bishop in which Maria appeared to him and handed him 14 lilies, as if a symbolic reminder of her forgiveness for each stab wound inflicted. Profoundly moved, he began living a converted life.
Alessandro was released from prison in 1929, after serving 27 out of 30 years. After being rejected by several communities, he found lodging at a Capuchin Franciscan monastery, where he began living a quiet life working in their garden as a lay brother. Said Alessandro, “Maria’s forgiveness saved me.”
On Christmas of 1934, he sought his victim’s mother, Assunta Goretti, and got on his knees to beg for her forgiveness. And imagine this: that night they attended Christmas vigil Mass together at their parish, and received Holy Communion side by side. Before the stunned congregation, Alessandro asked for God’s forgiveness and for the pardon of the community. Assunta later even adopted him as her own son. She said, “Maria has forgiven you, and surely God has forgiven you. Who am I to withhold my forgiveness?”
If Maria’s mercifulness wasn’t miracle enough, the chain of events it precipitated surely were.
The power of mercy
An excerpt from a public letter written by Alessandro Serenelli, dated 5 May 1961:
At the age of 20, I committed a crime of passion, the memory of which still horrifies me today. Maria Goretti, now a saint, was my good angel whom God placed in my path to save me. Her words both of rebuke and forgiveness are still imprinted in my heart. She prayed for me, interceding for her killer. Thirty years in prison followed. If I had not been a minor in Italian law I would have been sentenced to life in prison. Nevertheless, I accepted the sentence I received as something I deserved. Resigned, I atoned for my sin.
“Little Maria was truly my light, my protectress”
With her help, I served those 27 years in prison well. When society accepted me back among its members, I tried to live honestly. With angelic charity, the sons of St. Francis, the minor Capuchins of the Marches, welcomed me among them not as a servant, but as a brother. I have lived with them for 24 years. Now I look serenely to the time in which I will be admitted to the vision of God, to embrace my dear ones once again, and to be close to my guardian angel, Maria Goretti, and her dear mother, Assunta.
May all who read this letter of mine desire to follow the blessed teaching of avoiding evil and following the good. May all believe with the faith of little children that religion with its precepts is not something one can do without. Rather, it is true comfort, and the only sure way in all of life’s circumstances—even in the most painful.
St. Maria Goretti, one of the Church’s youngest canonised saints, did not live to see the fruits of her mercy, and there’s no guarantee that we would see the fruits of ours in this lifetime either. But nonetheless, may the life of St. Maria Goretti, brief yet so intimately configured to the Divine Mercy of Jesus, sprout lasting fruits of mercy in our own hearts.
[Karen Zainal lives in Singapore where she works with people with special needs. She is a blogger, an artist, and a Catholic convert. Thanks to her for permission to publish this essay. You can read more of her work at her blog here.]
By Tom Quiner
In light of the Democratic Party’s embrace of socialism, it is worth contrasting its effectiveness when compared to free enterprise using real world examples. A perfect comparison is Cuba vs. Hong Kong.
In 1961, Cuba embraced unabashed socialism while Hong Kong embraced unabashed capitalism.
Interestingly, Cuba owns some nice assets, such as productive agriculture thanks to their rich soil; such as 7% of the world’s Nickel and Cobalt reserves; such as 20 billion barrels of oil reserves (top 20 in the world); such as tourism, thanks to their beautiful beaches. Oh, and their people were well-educated.
By contrast, Hong Kong had nothing except a harbor and uneducated people.
When the Castro brothers took over then-capitalist Cuba, how did they leverage their nation’s considerable assets? Under their new socialism system, per capita GDP rose from about $2500 in 1961 to about $4000 by 2007.
By contrast, Hong Kong’s per capita GDP grew from about the same starting point as Cuba in 1961 to over $30,000 by 2007.
To make this really simple, the Hong Kong economy grew more than 7 times faster than Cuba, as you can see on the accompanying chart. And that was with practically no assets.
When they started out, the per capita GDPs of these two countries were in alignment with global averages. But the economic drag produced by socialism, and the corruption that usually accompanies it, has ground Cuba into the dirt.
Interestingly, the Corruption Perceptions Index produced by Transparency International ranks Hong Kong as the 15th least corrupt public sector in the world (ahead of the United States’ 19th place ranking) compared to Cuba’s abysmal 63rd place ranking.
I present this data in the humble hope that a few socialist wannabes will rethink their infatuation with Cuba and the Castro brothers.
By Tom Quiner
“You are pathetic for believing and spreading such garbage!”
What sparked this intense outburst? The meme above which appeared on our Facebook page. The meme reveals the incoherence of Democratic politicians when it comes to born alive legislation. The responder was livid and continued:
“This is probably the very worst lie that the far right is spreading! It is ugly and untrue. No doctor is killing babies once they are viable, and definitely once they are born! If continuing to spread this lie because you want votes-it is just sickening.”
Iowans for LIFE is non partisan. Our mandate is to defend the gift of life from conception until natural death. As the Democratic Party becomes increasingly anti-life in their public policy pronouncements, they are increasingly finding themselves in IFL’s crosshairs.
So, is the meme a lie?
Sadly, no. Let’s look at the issue in a simple question & answer format:
When is a baby in the womb viable? The age of viability keeps changing thanks to medical advances. When Roe was decided, the age of viability was 28 weeks; today, it is 24 and in some cases, the markers have been moved to 21 weeks.
Is there really any distinction between a 24 week old human being in 2018 compared to one in 1973? No, there’s not. It takes a leap of faith to think otherwise, but that is the leap of faith abortion advocates make. If you think about it, a human being is not viable for a number of years after birth. They will die of hunger or exposure without the intervention of their mother and father.
By the same token, human beings in a coma or afflicted by dementia or other ailments are not viable without intervention. Viability is not a rational or moral standard for defining human dignity.
Ok, but be honest, no doctor is killing babies once they are viable, right? Sadly, wrong. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 5597 abortions took place in the U.S. when the unborn person was 21 weeks or later. These numbers are for 2015 and include data from only forty states. Some states, such as California, don’t collect this data, so the numbers are actually much higher. Here in Iowa, nine abortions took place when the unborn person was 21 weeks or older.
Ok, but “no doctor is killing babies once they are born!” Right? Tragically, wrong. Dr. Kermit Gosnell is the most notorious example. Prosecutors believed Dr. Gosnell killed hundreds of newborns who survived his late term abortion procedures. He was ultimately charged with seven counts, convicted on three of them, and is serving a life term in prison without the possibility of parole.
That’s but one example. Can you name one other? As you might guess, abortionists don’t like to admit their “failures.” Their job is to kill the baby in the womb, even if that baby is on the cusp of being born. So statistics are spotty. Nonetheless, data from the Centers for Disease Control identify 362 deaths to babies that initially survived an abortion for the ten year period beginning in 2001.
What happens if a baby survives her abortion? Watch the undercover video below of a conversation between a Washington DC abortion doctor and a pregnant woman. She pointedly asked what happens if the baby survives the abortion. His response:
“I mean, technically, you know, legally, we would be obligated to help it, you know, to survive. But, you know, it probably wouldn’t. It’s all in how vigorously you do things to help a fetus survive at this point.” [Emphasis ours.]