The above photo is of St. Maria Goretti a few months before her martyrdom.
Today, July 6, is the Feast of St. Maria Goretti.
Maria Goretti is known as “the martyr for purity.” She was stabbed to death by her neighbor, Alessandro Serenelli, for refusing his sexual advances. She was only 11 years old when she died, but she already had a deep love for Jesus and refused to offend Him by sinning. Alessandro stabbed Maria fourteen times and she bled to death, the doctors at the local hospital unable to save her. With her dying breath, she forgave her murderer and prayed that he would be with her in heaven.
Years after the murder, the unrepentant Alessandro had a dream of Maria coming to him and presenting him with fourteen lilies. He understood that Maria had forgiven him, and he reformed his life. Released from prison for good behavior, he sought out Maria’s mother and begged her forgiveness. She forgave him and adopted him as her son. Alessandro lived the remainder of his years as a lay Franciscan brother and became known for his holiness and for his devotion to the memory of Maria. There is some talk that Alessandro may some day be canonized.
When Maria Goretti was canonized in 1950, both Alessandro and her mother, Assunta, were present.
Our culture doesn’t have much interest in purity. Not only are young people today discouraged from being sexually chaste, they are ridiculed for it. The best part of St. Maria’s story, in my mind, is not that she died rather than surrender her purity, but that she forgave her assailant and, through her intercession, empowered him to transform his own life from one of despair to one of hope. St. Maria’s legacy is one of fortitude and devotion to the will of God in the face of sin, and also of mercy and the transforming power of God’s grace.
St. Maria Goretti, pray for us!
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.