St. Maria Goretti

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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