Maria Goretti was born on October 16th, 1890 in Italy. She came from a very poor family that struggled to make ends meet. Her father died when Maria was nine years old leaving her mother and siblings to tend the farm so that they could live. Maria stayed home and watched the youngest child as the others worked. Even though it was a difficult life for all of them, they were faith filled people.
A young man, Alessandro Serenelli, was a neighbor and he began make sexual advances towards young Maria. She kept putting him off telling him that it would be a mortal sin and that she would have nothing to do with his sexual advances. Finally, after several months of this, he attacked her forcibly trying to rape her. This little eleven year old girl fought off this 20 year old large boy. He finally told her that he would kill her if she didn’t give him what he wanted. She told him that she would rather die than commit this terrible sin. Alessandro tried strangling her and she fought him and he then stabbed her eleven times. When she then tried to make it to the door, he stabbed her another three times. The youngest child in the house began screaming and Alessandro ran away.
When Maria’s siblings and mother got to her, she was still alive. They immediately took her to the hospital, but the damage was so severe that they were not able to help her. The doctor working on her said to her, “Maria, think of me in paradise”. She responded, “I will think of you gladly.” The next day, Maria told her mother that she forgave Alessandro and wanted to see him in heaven with her. Shortly after, Maria died while holding a crucifix and staring at an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Alessandro was arrested shortly after the incident. He not only admitted the attempted rape and murder, but also said that he had been trying to seduce her for quite some time. Because of his age he was sentenced to thirty years in prison, instead of life imprisonment. A priest came to visit him in prison and Alessandro went in to a rage and began howling and lunging for the priest. After that, Alessandro hardly ate and was nervous and filled with despair. It was then that Maria appeared to him in a vision and told him that she forgave him. She was surrounded by lilies, the flower symbolic of purity. From that moment on, Alessandro was a changed man. Real peace entered his heart and he was an ideal prisoner. After serving his thirty year sentence, Alessandro went to a Franciscan Monastery and they accepted him as a lay brother. He went to visit Maria’s mother to ask her forgiveness. Marie’s mother said that if her daughter could forgive him, she would also. They actually attended Christmas mass together in the local parish church and Alessandro spoke before the people acknowledging his sin and asking for God’s forgiveness and the pardon of the community.
Forty years later, on June 24, 1950, Maria was canonized in St. Peter’s basilica in Rome. Alessandro, now firmly converted to the Lord, attended the canonization. He died on May 6, 1970 in the Capuchin convent of Macerata. A few years before that, Alessandro wrote that Maria was sent to him to guide and save him. He said that her words of both rebuke and forgiveness were etched in his heart. He called Maria his light, and his protectress and he anxiously awaited seeing her and her mother in heaven.
Maria is considered a virgin and a martyr because she gave up her life to keep God’s commandments. I think that her outpouring of mercy and deep care for the one who offended her show us a glimpse of the Divine Mercy that God pours out on us. For an eleven year old, she accomplished so much. God’s Divine Mercy triumphs in His Saints.