St Maria Goretti – 06 July
Beautiful, pious farm girl, one of six children of Luigi Goretti and Assunta Carlini. In 1896 the family moved to Ferriere di Conca. Soon after, Maria’s father died of malaria, and the family was forced to move onto the Serenelli farm to survive.
In 1902 at age twelve, Maria was attacked by 19-year-old farm-hand Alessandro Serenelli. He tried to rape the girl who fought, yelled that it was a sin, and that he would go to hell. He tried to choke her into submission, then stabbed her fourteen times. She survived in hospital for two days, forgave her attacker, asked God‘s forgiveness of him, and died holding a crucifix and medal of Our Lady. Counted as a martyr.
While in prison for his crime, Allessandro had a vision of Maria. He saw a garden where a young girl, dressed in white, gathered lilies. She smiled, came near him, and encouraged him to accept an armful of the lilies. As he took them, each lily transformed into a still white flame. Maria then disappeared. This vision of Maria led to Alessandro’s conversion, and he later testified at her cause for beatification.
From a homily by Venerable Pope Pius XII at the canonization of Saint Maria Goretti
It is well known how this young girl had to face a bitter struggle with no way to defend herself. Without warning a vicious stranger burst upon her, bent on raping her and destroying her childlike purity. In that moment of crisis she could have spoken to her Redeemer in the words of that classic, The Imitation of Christ: “Though tested and plagued by a host of misfortunes, I have no fear so long as your grace is with me. It is my strength, stronger than any adversary; it helps me and give me guidance.” With splendid courage she surrendered herself to God and his grace and so gave her life to protect her virginity. The life of a simple girl – I shall concern myself only with highlights – we can see as worthy of heaven. Even today people can look upon it with admiration and respect. Parents can learn from her story how to raise their God-given children in virtue, courage, and holiness; they can learn to train them in the Catholic faith so that, when put to the test, God’s grace will support them and they will come through undefeated, unscathed, and untarnished. From Maria’s story carefree children and young people with their zest for life can learn not to be led astray by attractive pleasures which are not only ephemeral and empty but also sinful. Instead they can fix their sights on achieving Christian moral perfection, however difficult that course may prove. With determination and God’s help all of us can attain that goal by persistent effort and prayer. Not all of us are expected to die a martyr‘s death, but we are all called to the pursuit of Christian virtue. So let us all, with God’s grace, strive to reach the goal that the example of the virgin martyr, SaintMaria Goretti, sets before us. Through her prayers to the Redeemer may all of us, each in his own way, joyfully try to follow the inspiring example of Maria Goretti who now enjoys eternal happiness in heaven.