SAINT MARIA GORETTI (1890-1902), virgin and martyr – Patron saint of children, purity, young girls and rape victims
Today marks the feastday of Saint Maria Goretti, a young virgin and martyr whose life is an example of purity and mercy for all Christians.
Maria is best known for her commitment to the virtue of purity and the courageous defense of her faith at the young age of eleven that made her willing to undergo death rather than participate in an act she felt would offend God. She is also remarkable for the forgiveness she willingly granted her attacker as she lay on her deathbed.
Maria was born in Corinaldo, Italy on October 16, 1890. Her father, a farmer, died of malaria when she was young, and her mother had to work to support their six children. Maria took care of the younger children while her mother worked, and she prayed the Rosary every night for the repose of her father’s soul. She grew in grace and maturity, and her cheerful obedience and piety were noticed by those around her. On June 16, 1901, Maria received her First Holy Communion.
On July 5, 1902, a neighboring farm hand, Alessandro Serenelli, who was twenty years old, tried to rape Maria. On several prior occasions, Alessandro had harassed Maria with impure advances, all of which she vehemently rejected. This time, he locked her in a room and tried to force himself upon her. She fought against him, shouting, “No! It is a sin! God does not want it!” – warning him that this was the path towards Hell.
When Maria declared that she would rather die than submit to his sinful desires, Alessandro angrily grabbed her and stabbed her 14 times with a knife!
Maria was found bleeding to death and rushed to the hospital. After 20 painful hours of suffering during which the doctors tried to save her, she prayed for Alessandro and forgave him for the crime he had committed against her, saying, “Yes, for the love of Jesus I forgive him…and I want him to be with me in Paradise.” On July 6, 1902, at the age of eleven years old, Maria entered Heaven fortified with the Last Sacraments of the Church.
Alessandro was sentenced to 30 years in prison. He remained unrepentant until one night, eight years into his prison term, Maria appeared to him in a vision, dressed in white, gathering lilies in a garden. She smiled, turned towards Alessandro and offered him the flowers. Each lily he took transformed into a white flame. Then Maria disappeared.
From that moment, Alessandro converted and found peace. He repented of his crime and changed his life. He was released from prison three years before the end of his term, and begged forgiveness from Maria’s mother, which she duly granted. He also later testified at Maria’s cause for beatification.
Many miracles were attributed to Maria Goretti after her death. On June 24, 1950, she was canonized a saint by Venerable Pope Pius XII in Saint Peter’s Square in Rome, becoming the youngest Roman Catholic saint officially recognized by name. At the official ceremony of her canonization, 67 year old Alessandro Serenelli knelt among the quarter-million people who were present and cried tears of joy.
Her remains are kept in the crypt of the Basilica of Santa Maria delle Grazie e Santa Maria Goretti in the city of Nettuno, south of Rome, Italy.
We commemorate her feastday on July 6.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org and mariagoretti.org)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Proper for Saint Maria Goretti)
“Father, Source of innocence and Lover of chastity, You gave Saint Maria Goretti the privilege of offering her life in witness to Christ. As You gave her the crown of martyrdom, let her prayers keep us faithful to Your teaching.
“We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”