Today is the saint’s day of one of my dearest saints, St. Maria Goretti, who along with St. Agnes, I invoke every day. She is a modern virgin martyr, a patron of chastity, teenage girls, and crime victims, and a witness and model of purity and forgiveness.
Maria was eleven years old, a poor Italian farm girl, when in 1902 Alessandro Serenelli, a nineteen-year-old farm hand and neighbor, tried to rape her. Alessandro had approached Maria a number of times before seeking sexual favors, but she had always refused; he had tried to rape her at least once before. This time when she refused him, he became enraged. She fought him, imploring him not to do what he wanted to do, a mortal sin, insisting she would rather die than submit. In the end, Alessandro stabbed her eleven times.
Before she died some twenty hours later, Maria forgave her attacker, and said she hoped to see him in heaven. Alessandro Serenelli was sentenced to life in prison for her murder, a sentence later commuted to thirty years. At first unrepentant, he told the local bishop a number of years later that Maria had visited him in a dream, giving him lilies, which burned away immediately in his hands. After his release, Alessandro visited Maria’s mother and begged her forgiveness. She forgave him, stating that Maria had forgiven him on her deathbed and she could do no less, and they attended Mass together. Alessandro reportedly prayed to Maria every day, referring to her as “my little saint.” He attended her canonization in 1950. Later, he became a lay brother of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, living the rest of his life as a gardener in their monastery. He died peacefully in 1970.
I pray every day not only that Maria pray for me in my quest for chastity, but that I might be able to forgive those who have hurt me, to release my hurts and wounds to the Lord, that He might heal me, and to forgive most of all myself.