Saint Maria Goretti
By Monique Marshall
It is one thing to die the death of a martyr; it is another to forgive those who caused your death. That is exactly what young St. Maria Goretti did on her deathbed.
Maria Teresa Goretti was born on October 16, 1890 in Corinaldo, Italy to Luigi and Assunta Goretti. She was the third of six children. They were a close-knit, hard working farming family as well as deeply devout in their faith. Maria would be baptized on October 17, 1890 and confirmed on October 4, 1896.
It was at the time of her confirmation that family was forced to move because they had become so poor they could no longer afford to farm their own land. They moved to small Italian village called Ferriere. Maria’s family settled here, finally finding work on the farm of a man called Count Mazzolini. Times were tough and the Goretti’s were forced to share housing with the Serenelli family. Signor Serenelli and his son Alessandro were difficult people to get along with but the Goretti did what they had to provide for their family. Three years after moving to Ferriere, Maria and her family lost their father to malaria. It was a difficult time for her family.
Little Maria grew into a quiet, strong, charming and modest young girl. She would attend Mass as often as possible with her mother and could not wait for the day she would receive her first Holy Communion. Though she worked hard at home, doing most of the household chores and watching over her younger siblings so her family could work the fields, she did so with the serious but cheerful attitude. The only “thorn in her side” at that time, was the constant unwanted advances from Alessandro, the son of the family the Goretti's lived with. He would often taunt Maria and make lewd and crude remarks and requests. Maria did her best to ignore Alessandro but he continued to confront her.
Maria received her greatest joy on June 16, 1901 when she received her First Holy Communion. This is what she had been hoping and praying for since her Confirmation, six years before. Though she was unable to attend school and play like other children her age, Maria was content knowing she had Jesus living in her and could receive Him whenever she desired now that she had made her Holy Communion. Nothing pleased her more than this.
Life continued to be difficult but Maria and her family remained close and devout, knowing the Lord would provide for them. Maria continued to grow in piety, beauty and strength and Alessandro continued to take notice of the pretty young girl.
It was a hot July 5th afternoon in the year 1902, while Maria was sitting on the stairs doing some sewing that Alessandro appeared before her. He forcibly grabbed her arm and led her back into the house, intent on having his way with her. Those lewd and crude thoughts he had been harboring for Maria were quickly becoming a reality. Maria refused his advances and fought Alessandro off. He was older and stronger than Maria, and quickly cornered her again. As he tried to advance upon her, she fought him off, saying, “No, no, God does not want this. It is a sin.” Alessandro paid no heed and Maria continued to fight, telling him she would rather die than commit this sinful act. Alessandro grew so angry that he stabbed Maria over eleven times, mortally wounding her.
Shortly after the attack, Maria’s mother returned home and found her daughter bleeding. She rushed Maria to the hospital and the doctors did what they could but her injuries were too severe. As she lay suffering from her wounds, she prayed to the Father and the Blessed Mother, and with her last breaths, forgave Alessandro for what he had done to her and begged her mother to do the same.
Maria Goretti died on July 6, 1902, at the young age of 11, a martyr for her faith. Yet her work here was not done. Alessandro was arrested, tried and convicted of murder and remained unrepentant in jail. It was while in jail, that Maria appeared to him in a dream, offering him flowers as a sign of her forgiveness. Alessandro was a changed man when he awoke. After spending 27 years in jail, he was released and went directly to Maria’s mother, Assunta, to beg her forgiveness. Her words to Alessandro were that if Maria had forgiven him, how could she not forgive him also. From that day forward, Alessandro referred to Maria as “my little saint”.
In April of 1947, the Catholic Church beatified Maria Goretti. Three years later, on June 24, 1950, Maria Goretti was canonized and declared a saint the Catholic Church. Her mother, Assunta, and her brothers and sisters, as well as Alessandro were all present at her canonization.
Maria Goretti’s feast day is July 6 and she is the patron saint of youth, young women, purity and victims of rape. She is an example of faith and conviction for her beliefs. Who among us can say that we would have does the same as Maria if faced with the same situation?
When we hear “the voice” telling us “no, no, it is a sin, God does not want this” do we heed that voice or do we brush it away and continue down the dark pathway of sin? Is it easier to just give in than to fight for our beliefs to the point of death? Can we forgive those who have hurt us or sinned against us? If an eleven-year-old girl can do it so can we. We need to look deep inside ourselves and find the strength to turn against sin and follow the path of our beliefs. We must find the ability to look upon the cross and see Jesus and tell ourselves if He can look upon the people who scourged and crucified Him and ask His Father to “Forgive them, they know not what they do”, then who are we to be any less forgiving.