Saint Maria was born of a poor family at Corinaldi,
Italy in 1890, the third of six children. When she was nine, her family's situation grew
even worse, when her father died of malaria. Her family being too poor to pay for Masses
in her father's memory, every night Maria would recite the five Mysteries of the Rosary
for the repose of her father's soul. She was of a pious nature and often at prayer. She
spent a difficult childhood assisting her mother in domestic duties. The family was able
to survive by working for a man named Giovanni Serenelli and his teenager son Alessandro.
In 1902, 20-year-old Alessandro Serenelli began ordering 11-year-old Maria to
perform difficult chores, none of which could be completed to his satisfaction. Alessandro
also began making advances on Maria. She refused, he grabbed her, and demanded that she
submit to him, but she told him that it would be a sin. Angry, Alessandro stabbed her to
death, with Maria preferring to die rather than be raped.
She survived for 20 hours in the hospital, undergoing surgery without
anesthesia. Asked if she forgave her murderer, she replied, "Yes, for the love of
Jesus I forgive him...and I want him to be with me in Paradise." She died on July 6.
From a homily at the canonization of Saint Maria Goretti by Pope
...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 gives 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 this 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 and hazardous that course may prove. With
determination and God's help all of us can attain that goal by persistent effort and
Not all of us are expected to die a martyr's death, but we are all
called to the pursuit of Christian virtue. This demands strength of character though it
may not match that of this innocent girl. Still, a constant, persistent and relentless
effort is asked of us right up to the moment of our death. This may be conceived as a slow
steady martyrdom which Christ urged upon us when he said: The kingdom of heaven is set
upon and laid waste by violent forces.
So let us all, with God's grace, strive to reach the goal that the
example of the virgin martyr, Saint Maria 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......