St Maria Goretti (1890–1902)

Today, we celebrate the Optional Memorial of St Maria Goretti. Find out more.
She was born in 1890 near Ancona, Italy but then moved to Ferriere di Conca, near Nettuno in the Province of Rome. Her family were poor tenant farmers. The family struggled particularly after the death of their father to malaria.The elder children along with their mother worked long hours in the fields and St Maria Goretti stayed at home cooking and sewing and looking after the youngest child, Teresa.

On the 5th of July 1902, their neighbour Alessandro Serenelliwho was 18, attempted to violate Maria who was twelve yearsold. She resisted him and told him that he would go to hell and that this was a mortal sin and that she would rather die than displease God. In a rage, he the stabbed Maria 11 timesand when Maria tried to reach the door, he stabbed her another three times.

When her family returned, they took her to hospital but she died of her injuries the next day. She forgave her assailant. Alessandro was promptly arrested and spent 27 years in prison. At first, he was unrepentant. However, one night he had a dream about St Maria Goretti, who handed him somelilies that she had picked from a field but burnt his hand when she offered them to him. He then became repentant and changed his life.

On being released from prison he immediately sought the forgiveness of St Maria Goretti’s mother. She said to Alessandro, that if my daughter can forgive you, who am I to withhold my forgiveness. Both of them attended Mass and Holy Communion together the next day. Alessandro would later spend the rest of his life as a lay brother of the Capuchin Friars Minor working as a receptionist and gardener. By all accounts, he became a very holy man and would pray daily to his “little saint”.

St Maria Goretti was canonised by Pope Pius XII on the 24th June 1950. Her mother and family were present as also was Alessandro Serenelli.

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