A Simple Start
Maria Goretti was born in Italy on October 16, 1890 into a family of farmers. She was the third of seven children. Mr. Goretti died of malaria when Maria was only nine. Mrs. Goretti worked very hard to provide for all of her children. Some of the Goretti children helped their mother in the fields. Maria cooked, sewed, cleaned the house, and took care of her younger sister, Teresa.
The Goretti family lived in the same building as another man – a widower who had one son, named Alessandro who was about 18 or 20 years old. Maria cooked, cleaned, and mended for these two men in addition to the work she did for her own family.
The Ultimate Sacrifice
On July 5, 1902, Maria was eleven years old. She was mending a shirt while Teresa was sleeping. Alessandro was working in the field but he knew Maria would be in the house alone, so he returned and surprised her. Alessandro threatened to kill Maria if she did not give in to his advances. She did not give in, however, and told him that what he wanted to do was a mortal sin and that he would go to Hell. When she kept resisting, Alessandro stabbed her fourteen times.
Teresa woke up and began crying when she heard Maria’s shouts. The rest of the Goretti family came back from the fields and found Maria bleeding on the floor. They rushed her to the hospital where she went through surgery without any anesthesia because she was so weak. Maria’s wounds were too severe to fix and she endured all of the great suffering with patience.
Maria forgave Alessandro and told her mother that she would like to see him in Heaven. She died on July 6, 1902.
There’s Always Hope
Alessandro was captured soon after his attack on Maria. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison and spent a long time hardened and unrepentant. Then one night, about 6 or 8 years into his imprisonment, Alessandro had a dream that he was in a garden. Maria was also in the garden and gave him 14 white lilies. These flowers are symbols of purity and 14 flowers corresponded to the amount of times Maria was stabbed. Alessandro woke up from his dream a completely different man. He changed his ways and had a change of heart.
Alessandro was released from prison after 27 years instead of 30, and he asked for forgiveness from Mrs. Goretti, which she gave him. She told him:
“If my daughter can forgive him, who am I to withhold forgiveness.”
It is said that Alessandro prayed to Mara every day, referring to her as his “little saint.” He was even present at Maria’s canonization.
Alessandro became a Capuchin lay brother and lived in a monastery as a receptionist and gardener until he died in 1970.
Maria Goretti Lives On
Pope Pius XII beatified Maria Goretti on April 27, 1947 and canonized her on June 24, 1950. Maria is known as a martyr because she would rather die than commit a sin and then she forgave her attacker. She is one of the youngest Saints and is sometimes referred to as “the Saint Agnes of the 20th century! Her feast day is July 6 and she is often depicted holding fourteen lilies. She is the patron Saint of teenage girls, youth, crime victims, and young women.
It does not matter how young we are, Maria Goretti should remind us that we are all called to defend the truth and stand up for what we believe. It will not always be easy, but God will always be with us.
Saint Maria Goretti, pray for us!
“Let us love the cross very much, for it is there that we discover our life, our true love, and our strength in our greatest difficulties.” Saint Maria Goretti