St. Maria Goretti lived only twelve years on this earth. In those 12 years she exhibited a memorable ability for hard work and piety, for forgiveness and for faithfulness to her spiritual principles.
She is not remembered for miracles or for her great writings or for great speeches. She is, however, remembered for her ability to forgive and for her love of God. She is truly a model for our time.
In his book, Voices of the Saints, Bret Ghezzi gives us a brief synopsis of her life story: “In 1900, two farm laborers relocated their destitute families to an old barn near Nettuno, Italy. Luigi Goretti , his wife, Assunta, and their six children moved in with Giovanni Serenelli and Alessandro, his teenaged son. Soon after the move, Luigi died, leaving Assunta to carry on his work. Maria, her oldest child, who was ten, assumed the household duties and cheerfully supported her mother.
At twelve Maria was already a beautiful young woman. Alessandro, then nineteen, twice made advances toward her. She rebuffed him and kept his propositions secret because he had threatened to kill her. Only July 5, 1902, Maria sat atop the hovel’s stairs, mending Alessandro’s shirt. He stormed past her, ordered her into a bedroom, grabbed her, and attempted to rape her. “No! No! No!” Maria cried. “Don’t touch me, Alessandro! It’s a sin!” She resisted him with all her strength. Angered beyond control, he stabbed her fourteen times.
Maria survived a pain-filled twenty-four hours in the hospital. She showed more concern for where her mother would sleep in the hospital than for herself. Before she died, she forgave Alessandro and prayed for God to have mercy on him.”
Alessandro was sentenced to 30 years hard labor for the murder of Maria. During his incarceration, he had a dream in which Maria came to him and handed him a bouquet of lilies. The dream so profoundly affected him that he changed his life. When he was released from prison, he sought out Maria’s mother and asked her forgiveness and they attended Mass together in the church where Maria was buried. Fourteen years later, Alessandro, her killer, and Assunta, her mother, attended Maria Goretti’s canonization in St. Peter Square presided over by Pope Pius XII.
To the best that anyone knows, this was the first time that the saint’s mother, not to mention a saint’s killer, both attended the canonization of a saint. Forgiveness, faithfulness to virtue and hard work – what a legacy our new saint has given us. Her feast day is July 6, the date of her death. This is our official Parish Prayer invoking her prayers for us. Pray for it often.
PRAYER OF ST. MARIA GORETTI
Heavenly Lord and Father of us all, we gather as your people under the patronage of your saint, Maria Goretti. Through her example of virtue and faith may we draw strength. May her prayers guide us and sustain us in times of challenge as well as in times of joy. Give us the grace to love and forgive, the grace to struggle and to accept, the grace to believe and to act in good will and in hope. Through her intercession, may we be bound together as a unified community of faith to do your will and to bring the message of Jesus to our part of the world. We make this prayer through the intercession of St. Maria Goretti and in Jesus’ name.