Feast Day: 6 July
Saint Maria Goretti was born on 16 October 1890 and was one of six children, to Luigi Goretti and Assunta Carlini. She is an Italian virgin-martyr and is one of the youngest canonised saints. In 1899, Maria, the daughter of a humble farmer, moved with her family to the little town of Ferriere, Italy, in search of work. Luigi Goretti, seeking desperately to support his family, struck a deal with a farm owner to work the land in exchange for a place to stay. Luigi, however became very ill and so the owner called in Signor Serenelli and his son to take over. When Luigi Goretti died the two families lived together. While Maria’s mother, brothers and sister worked in the fields. Maria took over household duties. Though the family’s circumstances were extremely difficult, they were very close and loved God.
Pursuit of holiness
Maria was renowned for her cheerfulness and piety. Her charming modesty, cheerful and unhesitating obedience to freely accept the hundred and one thankless home chores, singled her out from the other children who would play in the dusty streets of Ferriere.
One afternoon, eleven year-old Maria was sitting on the outside steps of her home. Like every other day, she was doing housework when Alessandro Serenelli, the son of the family they lived with, made sexual advances to her. She refused to accept this; angered by her rejection, he stabbed her fourteen times. She was taken to hospital instantly, but she would later die of her injuries. As she was lying in hospital she told her mother she has forgiven Alessandro Serenelli and wants to see him in heaven with her. Her last earthly gaze rested upon a picture of the Blessed Mother. It was 6 July 1902. She was less than 12 years old. Yet as young as she was, she made a choice, a choice based on her faith, hope and love.
Her attacker was arrested, convicted and jailed. He spent 30 years in prison. Those would be the most transformative years of his life. For the first three years of his imprisonment he remained unrepentant and uncommunicative. While in his cell, he had a dream; Maria appeared to him and in her hands were fourteen flowers. One for each stab wound. This was her forgiveness and his conversion. When he was released from prison he visited her mother to beg forgiveness. She gave it to him saying if my Maria can forgive you who am I not to. From there he became a lay brother in a monastery, wanting to offer his life to the one who saved him. He died peacefully in 1970.
Blessed to Saint
Maria was beatified in 1947, and then almost fifty years after her death on 24 June 1950, in the famous St. Peter’s basilica in Rome, Maria Goretti was declared a Saint and Martyr to half a million people, by Pope Pius XII. Her mother and her murderer attended the canonization ceremony together.
Maria Goretti had a very ordinary life. She was from a small town in Italy, born to poor parents; yet through her faith and devotion to God, her ordinary life was made truly extraordinary. This was the triumph of the little girl loved God and hated sin.
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.
Why I like Saint Maria Goretti
When I first heard about Saint Maria Goretti, I wanted to know more about her. Her desire to love God with all her heart and follow His Word in such a profound way was inspiring to me. In her following of Christ, she imitated Him in His forgiveness of those who killed Him. She desired to see her killer in heaven. Through her example, I grew in a deeper understanding of Christ’s teaching. Through her life, I came closer to God and I desire to help others do the same. This is the story of how one’s forgiveness can transform another.