Wholeness, Augustine, Lucrece, and Maria

Click here for a paean to St. Maria Goretti from ’09…

The virtue which makes life good has its throne in the soul, and thence rules the members of the body, which becomes holy in virtue of the holiness of the will. –St. Augustine

These days everyone strives for the great goal of “wholeness.” Shop green, eat clean, yoga, the right teas…wholeness awaits.

Now, I am not trying to make fun of anyone. The ancient Romans had a saying, Mens sana in corpore sano. A sound mind in a healthy body. Bodily temperance certainly aids us in the spiritual life.

But the ancient Romans also sang songs venerating one of their fabled heroines, named Lucrece. Lucrece had commited suicide when she concluded that her body had been ruined by the violation of a hostile invader.

St. Augustine answered by making his very important point: Personal integrity is found in the soul. We pray for bodily health and well-being. But no disease or violence of any kind can make a pure heart impure. And a pure heart is the center of genuine wholeness.

By the same token, of course, no bodily exploit can make an impure heart pure.

If a soul falls into unwholesomeness, the greenest grocery store cannot provide a remedy. Going to GNC or Trader Joe’s would just be a waste of time. Only contrition and penitence can purify the soul and make it whole again, by the blood of Christ.

So the real name of soul-body wholeness is ‘chastity.’ An honest soul governs an honest body. And the true heroine of chastity is not Lucrece of ancient Rome, but St. Maria Goretti of rural Italy.

The young farm girl willed only the good. When a young man tried to rape her, she prayed for him to repent and relent. She sought only to do God’s will. She did not choose death; rather, she was martyred because she refused to consent to a sin.

St. Maria’s body lies lifeless now in her shrine, wounded by repeated stabbings. She was killed 109 years ago. The man who killed her came to visit and pray–after he repented of what he had done, served his prison sentence, and then became a Franciscan.

He came to kneel at the feet of real wholeness. No body could be more ‘whole’ than one which is wounded like that of Christ.

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