While most children only stir in their sleep, Maria would often get up to pray. When morning arrived she would then wake the other children whom she dressed and fed after leading them in their prayers. She kept them occupied while she cooked, washed, mended - beside caring for the doves and pigeons. She had the noonday meal ready when the workers came in from the fields. In the evening she would tell her mother to relax while she put supper on the table, making sure her mother was served first and herself last. Often the meal just couldn't be stretched enough and Maria would do without food by excusing herself as being smaller than the rest and not needing much to eat. Marietta's sanctity was found here, amidst pots, pans, grease, dirt and diapers, one biographer of her's stated. Had she not died the death of a martyr of purity, she still was well on her way to sanctity merely by her daily life. Her martyrdom was the culmination of a life of sacrifice. The strength she received for her final triumph, preserving her chastity, was only possible because she had said "NO" to herself in the smaller things in life.
There were occasions where Maria would work by her mother's side in the fields, as when it was time to do the haying. She was a great help to Assunta who was deathly afraid of the snake. Every time they were encountered in the high grass Maria would come to her mother's aid by announcing her fearlessness of the creatures. Several times she even killed the snakes which boldly lingered on the path. Her bravery with these symbolically evil creatures seemed to foreshadow the fortitude of Maria when the serpent of impurity would later attempt to poison the purity of her angelic soul.
Maria was not confined to house and field, but would frequently go on foot to town with Teresa Cimarelli, her family's dear friend and her Confirmation sponsor, to sell their produce and make their necessary purchases. Many would remark how lovely she was: so quiet and modest, with the doves in her hands patiently awaiting a buyer. A storekeeper, from whose store Maria had made her purchases for three years, recalled her impression of the little one as always serious and a person of few words. Even Alessandro Serenelli admitted that she was never light-headed or talkative like other little girls. Frequently the storekeeper would give Maria a little treat, such as an apple, a cookie, or piece of candy. She would always thank her graciously and put it away in her apron pocket to take home as a reward for a little brother or sister, having some herself only if any remained. Although Maria enjoyed trips to town, she seemed as though she just could not stay far from home, and quickened her pace to return, greeting passersby respectfully. What a study in contrasts when one considers the young girls encountered in shopping malls today!<< Previous chapter | Next chapter >>