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St. Maria Goretti

St. Maria Goretti by Julie Lonneman

Artist's Narrative:

Maria, born into a poor family in Italy, never learned to read or write. At the age of twelve, she received her first communion, something that she had desired for a long time. Several months after her first communion, an 18 year-old who worked for her father named Alessandro seized Maria, taking her into a bedroom, and attempted to rape her. Maria resisted, reminding Alessandro that his rape of her would be a sin for him. Alessandro responded by stabbing Maria fourteen times. She was taken to the hospital, where she survived for twenty-four hours. During this period, she forgave Alessandro, comforted her family, and received the Eucharist for the last time.

Alessandro was sentenced to thirty years in prison. During the early part of his sentence, he remained unrepentant for his horrific crime. One evening, Alessandro dreamed that Maria came to him, offering him flowers, as well as her forgiveness.

At this moment, Alessandro repented. Twenty-seven years after the crime, Alessandro was released from prison, went to Maria’s mother, and asked her forgiveness. In the calendar of saints, Maria is listed as a martyr, one who died for her faith. But the word martyr also means “witness.” Maria is such an important model of faith, not because she resisted her rape, but because she was a witness to the power of Christian forgiveness. By forgiving her attacker, she showed that Christian forgiveness extends to the most hideous of crimes. Such forgiveness is by no means easy. But when it is offered in a spirit of Christian love, it has the ability to transform not only the life of the one who is forgiven, but the entire world. In her act of forgiveness, Maria became an image of Christ for the entire world.
—ND Vision, University of Notre Dame

Italy, 1890-1902.

Her feast day is July 6.

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The daughter of humble sharecroppers, Maria and her family moved to the little town of Ferriere, Italy in 1899 in search of work .Desperately seeking to support his family, Luigi Goretti struck up a bargain with Signor Serenelli, who had a son named Alessandro. The two families lived together in a building owned by Count Mazzolini. 

Maria quickly matured in grace and holiness in the eyes of friends and other acquaintances. After losing her father to malaria, she developed great strength and maturity. Her charming modesty, cheerful obedience and the serious, but free acceptance of a hundred thankless home chores distinguished her from the other children who would play in the dusty streets of Ferriere. Perhaps the highlight of her life was her First Holy Communion, which she dutifully prepared for and awaited with great anticipation. She truly seemed to be advancing "in wisdom, and age and grace before God and men." 

Lured by the passions of his day and nurturing the dark side of his soul with impious reading and thoughts, Alessandro Serenelli had been a thorn in lovely Maria's side. He propositioned her on several occasions and harassed her with impure suggestions. On July 5, 1902, he would be denied no longer. As she once again rebuffed his sexual advance, shouting, "No! It is a sin! God does not want it!"  Alexander lunged to the deed, stabbing Maria 14 times. 

Doctors in Nettuno tried to save Maria's life to no avail. After 20 painful hours of suffering during which she forgave and prayed for Alessandro, Maria entered Heaven fortified with the Last Sacraments. Her last earthly gaze rested upon a picture of the Blessed Mother. It was July 6, 1902. 

Almost fifty years later on June 24, 1950, Pope Pius XII stood on the steps of St. Peter's in Rome and pronounced Maria Goretti a Saint and Martyr of the Universal Church to half a million people. He proposed her as the Patroness of Modern Youth and set July 6th as her feast Day. Her mother, and her murderer, attended the canonization ceremony together. 

Maria Goretti had led a very ordinary life. But in spite of her simplicity, her great faith and love for God made her truly extraordinary. 

Many recorded miracles, both spiritual and physical, have been worked through St. Maria Goretti's intercession. Worldwide, there are many places of devotion to St. Maria Goretti, such as the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Graces and St. Maria Goretti in Nettuno, Italy. 

Born: October 16, 1890 at Corinaldo, Ancona, Italy 

Died: Choked and stabbed to death during a rape attempt on July 6, 1902 at the age of 12 

Beatified: 1947 by Pope Pius XII 

Canonized: 1950 by Pope Pius XII; the ceremony was attended by 250,000 including her mother, the only time a parent has witnessed her child's canonization