Collection: St. Maria Goretti
ARTIST: Brenda Nippert
Maria was born in Corinaldo, Italy, into the arms of Assunta and Luigi Goretti who worked as poor share-croppers. As 11 year old Maria was growing to be virtuous, 20 year old Alessandro Serenelli was indulging in pornography. Maria sat on the stairs sewing when Alessandro grabbed her, determined to rape her. He pulled a knife, but strong-willed Maria kept fighting, assuring him she would rather die than submit. He stabbed her fourteen times. She was rushed to the hospital half dead, and, unbelievably, she was concerned for Alessandro's soul. Before she passed into the serenity of Heaven, she forgave him.
In 1950, Maria became the youngest Saint in history and Assunta was the first mother ever to be present at her child's canonization. Alessandro was also there. He became a Capuchin lay brother and spent the rest of his life atoning for his sins. One young girl's courageous act of forgiveness calls each one of us to question ourselves. When we pray “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”, do we mean it? Truly forgiving is like opening yourself up to let God's mercy pass through you into the world. Imagine the world we would live in if everyone did that.
Her feast day is July 6.
Maria Goretti is unique in that she is the youngest canonized saint in the Church. She died tragically on July 6, 1902, at the age of eleven.
Born into poverty, her father moved the family when Maria was just six years old from the east side of Italy (near Ancona) to the west side (near Nettuno, about 40 miles south of Rome) in hopes of escaping the grinding poverty that was gripping the area.
Just three years later, when Maria was nine, her father died tragically. It fell to her at that time to raise her five siblings while her mother worked the fields to produce the crops with which they would both pay the rent and feed themselves.
This was a terrible time of trial and suffering for the whole family. For Maria it was especially difficult. Aside from having the responsibility of caring for her family, she had to also cook and clean for her two next door neighbors—Giovanni Serenelli and his son, Alessandro—who assisted her mother with the farm tasks.
It was also during this time that Alessandro began to develop an impure liking for Maria. The big 20-year-old would say rude and crude things to her, things that were inappropriate and embarrassing, and that would cause her to run away. However, at a certain point he began to make direct sexual advances towards her, demanding her virginity and threatening her with violence for non-compliance.
Finally, after many months of this, Alessandro forced himself upon Maria in an attempt to rape her. Though she prevented him from violating her, Alessandro brutally stabbed her numerous times. Maria died the next day in the midst of horrendous infection brought on by her lacerations. Her last words were, “I forgive Alessandro Serenelli... and I want him with me in heaven forever."
During his prison sentence Maria appeared to Alessandro and forgave him. That act of mercy and forgiveness—that act of love—filled Alessandro with contrition for his crime. It was also a turning point for him where grace entered his heart. From that point on, he lived a beautiful and converted life of holiness, eventually becoming a Franciscan lay brother.