Beautiful sunny day and the line was long - took over 30 minutes to traverse from outside the cathedral to inside and up to the altar for a 15 second viewing. The crowd and the wait were not off-putting. It made it more of a pilgrimage and built the anticipation. It was also greatly cheering to see such a huge, diverse group of people (all ages anyway). You have to love that so many people would make the effort (the parking being one challenge - I rode my bike) to view the relics of this Italian 11-year old girl who died in 1902.
I got chills just viewing the pictures on display, primarily the one of Maria's mother who ended up adopting the murderer as her own son! The Truth is stranger than fiction: imagine a story where a male tries to rape and then ends up killing a young girl. He's completely unrepentant. The child forgives him anyway. The child's mother forgives him. And the murderer himself repents. That sounds like a very unrealistic movie to say the least. Seeing the mother and murderer together sort of made my head spin, as if it was an alternative universe. Which, of course, the Kingdom is.
Eventually I made my way closer and closer for my 15 seconds. Two Knights of Columbus guys stood on either side, like the Swiss guards by the Pope. I wondered what St. Maria might think about this, about how her remains travel around the world. I thought it a way of being amenable to the Spirit's movements even after death, and how we should be amenable to being moved around, and shaped, by God in life.
The body was smaller than I expected. I touched the glass casket and prayed. Both to Maria and the perhaps-a-saint-one-day (as a priest said in a video) Alessandro Serenelli. I saw him piously kneeling and saying prayers before a simple shrine in his bedroom. It doesn't get more inspiring than this. Jesus lives, and the faith that moves mountains is seen clearly in the lives of Maria and Alessandro.
A happier ending one could scarcely hope for: mother a peace, killer's soul saved, and Maria in Heaven and canonized on earth.