06 July 2010

Saint Maria Goretti

6 JULY 2010. O Blessed Innocent! Today the Church remembers Saint Maria Goretti, a young girl that was martyred for her faith and is one of the youngest of all canonized saints.

Born on 16 October 1890, Maria Goretti at Corinaldo, Ancona, Italy, Maria was born the third of six children to Luigi Goretti and Assunta Carlini. In A.D. 1896 Maria's family moved to Ferriere di Conca, and not long afterward Saint Maria's father died of malaria. She was only nine at the time of her father's death.

After the death of her father, the family was forced to move onto the Serenelli farm to survive. On the farm there was a young man that, though many years older than Maria, attempted to make sexual advances toward the young girl on several occasions. Always rebuffing him, Maria sought to remain chaste.

While Saint Maria's mother and siblings worked in the fields, Maria ofter stayed at home with her infant sister, taking care of the house. It was tedious and difficult work, but tradition tells that Saint Maria undetook this work without complaint.

On 5 July 1902, Maria was at home sewing and tending to her infant sister. Alessandro Sereneli, age 20, came into Saint Maria's home and threatened to kill her is she did not do as he said. He intended to rape her. However, Saint Maria protested, screaming: "No! It is a sin! God does not want this, you'll go to hell." Sereneli first choked Saint Maria, but as she continued to struggle he stabbed her eleven times. Then, mortally wounded, as she attempted to flee, Sereneli stabbed her three more times before himself running away.

Awaking to the noise, Saint Maria's infant sister began crying. Not long after, Sereneli's parents came to check on the crying child and found Saint Maria bleeding to death. Immediately, she was taken to the local hospital, where surgery was attempted on her without anesthesia. However, half-way through the surgery she awoke and insisted remaining awake. The surgery could not sustain Saint Maria's life. And, about 20 hours after her attack, and after having forgiven her attacker and saying that she wanted him with her in heaven, Saint Maria died from her injuries, clutching a crucifix and looking upon a vision of the Virgin Mary.

Saint Maria died on 6 July 1902 at the age of 12.

Shortly after the attack on Saint Maria, Alessandro Sereneli was captured. He was later tried and sentence to life in prison for his brutal crime, but because of he was a minor at the time, his sentence was commuted to 30 years. For many years Sereneli was silent and unrepentant. However, after a visit from a local bishop, Sereneli's heart began to soften. After being released from prison, Sereneli visited Saint Maria's mother, begging her forgiveness for his crime. She responded that since Saint Maria had forgiven him, she could do no less. Reportedly, they attended mass together the next day and received Holy Communion next to one another.

Sereneli said that while he was in prison, he had a vision of Saint Maria. He saw her in a garden, where she was dressed in white and was gathering lillies. She saw him and smiled. Then, approaching him she handed him an armful of lillies and as he accepted them they were transformed into a still white flame. Sereneli credited this vision of Saint Maria to his conversion and even testified in favor of her beatification.

Afterward, Sereneli said that he prayed to Saint Maria every day, and referred to her as his "little saint." He later became a lay brother in the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, and served as his friary's receptionist and gardener until he died in 1970.

Each of Saint Maria's three brothers credited Saint Maria's assistance, after her death, to having saved their lives.

Saint Maria was beatified by Pope Pius XII on 25 March 1945. She was canonized by Pope Pius XII on 24 June 1950. Both her mother, reportedly a first in the history of the Church, and Sereneli attended her canonization.


Oh Saint Maria Goretti who, 
strengthened by God's grace, 
did not hesitate even at the age of twelve 
to shed your blood and sacrifice life itself 
to defend your virginal purity, 
look graciously on the unhappy human race 
which has strayed far from the path of eternal salvation. 
Teach us all, and especially youth,w
ith what courage and promptitude 
we should flee for the love of Jesus 
anything that could offend Him or stain our souls with sin. 
Obtain for us from our Lord victory in temptation, 
comfort in the sorrows of life, 
and the grace which we earnestly beg of thee (for N.), 
and may we one day enjoy with thee 
the imperishable glory of Heaven. 


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