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Saint Maria Goretti

Saint Maria Goretti
  • Century: 19th & 20th Century
  • Patronage: Young Women
  • Feast Day: July 6th

Maria Goretti was born Maria Teresa Goretti, in Corinaldo, Italy.  She was the third of six children.  By the time she was six, her family had to give up their farm, move and work for other farmers, due to hard economic times.  Her father soon after became sick with malaria, and passed away when Maria was nine.   Maria would cook, sew, watch her infant sister, and keep house while her mother, brothers, and sister worked in the fields.  It was a hard life, but her family was very close, and worked hard to survive.  They even shared their living quarters with another family, which included Giovanni Serenelli and his son, Alessandro

On July 5th, 1902 when Maria was only 11 years old, she was alone, when 19-year old Alessandro Serenelli (whom shared the house with her) came in and threatened her with death if she did not do as he said, as his intent was to rape her.  She would not submit, protesting that what he wanted to do was a mortal sin.  She warned Alessandro that he would go to hell if she submitted.  She desperately fought to stop him, the 19-year-old farmhand from abusing her.  She kept screaming no, insisting that God did not want this, and this was a mortal sin.  He first choked Maria, but when she insisted she would rather die than submit to him, he stabbed her eleven times.  As she tried to reach the front door to get help, Alessandro stopped her by stabbing her three more times before running away.  Maria received a total of 14 stabs to the body.

Maria’s little sister Teresa whom she was watching, started crying.  When Serenelli’s father and Maria’s mother came to check on the little girl, they found Maria bleeding.  They took her to the nearest hospital where she underwent surgery without anesthesia, to no avail.  Halfway through the surgery, Maria woke up.  The following day, 20 hours after the attack, Maria expressed forgiveness for her murderer and insisted that she wanted to have him in heaven with her.  The hospital pharmacist told Maria, “Maria, think of me in Paradise”.  She said she would be glad to think of him.  Maria died of her injuries while looking at a very beautiful picture of the Blessed Mother, and clutching a cross to her chest.  She died as an Italian Virgin martyr, and is one of the youngest canonized saints in the Roman Catholic Church. 

Alessandro Serenelli was captured shortly after Maria’s death.  Since his age was that of a minor, he received 30 years in prison rather than life.  He remained unrepentant and uncommunicative from the world for three years, until a local bishop, Monsignor Giovanni Blandini visited him in jail.  Alessandro wrote a thank you note to the Bishop asking for his prayers, and telling him about a dream, “In which Maria Goretti gave him lilies which burned immediately in his hands”.  After his release, Alessandro visited Maria’s still-living mother Assunta, and begged for her forgiveness.  She forgave him, saying that if Maria had forgiven him on her deathbed, then she could not do less, and they attended Mass together the next day, receiving Holy Communion side by side.  Alessandro had a lasting conversion and prayed every day to Maria Goretti and referred to her as “ My Little Saint”.  He attended her canonization in 1950.  He also became a Lay Brother of the Order of the Friars Minor Capuchin, living in a monastery and working as its receptionist and gardener until he died peacefully in 1970.  Before his death, he revealed that he did not rape her, proclaiming Maria actually died a virgin. 

Practical Take Away

St. Maria Goretti was a young girl, who was dedicated to her family, helping them to survive the tough economic times, especially at the loss of her father to malaria.  She is also dedicated to God, and accepted being stabbed to death, rather than to submit to being raped – because it would not be pleasing to God.  She shows us that forgiveness is key to our own salvation, and on her deathbed she shown forgiveness to her attacker.  By this forgiveness, he too had a conversion, and spent the rest of his life in service to the Church.  We can learn a lot from this, one of the youngest saints of our church – that only by forgiving those that attack us in many ways, can we too, merit eternal life with Christ.  We have to keep our eyes focused on Jesus, and the life to come in Heaven, no matter what the cost.  She can help us to achieve this, if we only ask for her intercession.  What an example for us, from this humble, 11-year old Saint!