Even if she had not been a martyr, she would still have been a saint, so holy was her everyday life.
~ Cardinal Salotti
Saint Maria Goretti whose feast is celebrated on July 6 is a virgin-martyr and one of the youngest canonized saints.
Maria lost her father to malaria when she was nine and since then her life was very hard. Her family was forced to give up the farm, their home and share a house with another family, the Serenellis. Maria looked after the household chores and watched her younger sister Teresa while her mother and brothers worked in the fields.
Maria, as a child grew up in holiness and only wanted to do what pleased God. To be loved by God and loving Him in return, she saw as a privilege.
One afternoon as Maria sat on the outside steps watching Teresa and doing her stitching, Alessandro, the Serenellis’s son who worked in the barnyard kept a close watch on her. Knowing that she would be alone, he returned to the house and attempted to rape her, threatening with a knife if she refused. Maria as young as she was, knew what he wanted to do was a sin and tried warning him but eventually ended up being stabbed fourteen times in the chest because she did not give in, while he ran away.
What amazes me is the last part of this account where Maria succumbed to her injuries but not to sin and she forgave Alessandro saying she wanted to see him in heaven, and she died a virgin. Not only that, hearing that Maria had forgiven him and due to her mother’s plea for mercy Alessandro was not sentenced to death. He repented after three years in jail soon after he had a dream in which “Maria was there and gave him lilies which burned immediately in his hands.” He asked for her prayers everyday and referred to her as ‘my little saint‘.
In my life, I bring to mind all those who have wronged me, I know I still struggle with forgiveness over petty issues but the life of this young saint who practiced completely the virtue of forgiveness till her last breath, inspires me to emulate her virtues. What also stands out is that she was bold enough not to give in to sin thus preserving her purity and Alessandro’s soul – such was her concern for her attacker, and lastly, the miracle her forgiveness produced in his life- he repented and later became a lay brother of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin.
The official prayer to St. Maria Goretti:
Oh Saint Maria Goretti who, strengthened by God’s grace, did not hesitate to shed your blood and sacrifice life itself to defend your purity, look graciously upon the unhappy human race which has strayed far from the path of eternal salvation. Teach us all and especially youth, with what courage and promptitude we should flee for the love of Jesus anything that could offend Him or stain our souls with sin. Obtain for us from our Lord victory in temptation, comfort in the sorrows of life and the grace which we earnestly beg of thee (state your intention here) and may we one day enjoy with thee the imperishable glory of Heaven. Amen.
One Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be…
St. Maria Goretti, Pray for us.