St. Maria Goretti

Born in Corinaldo, Ancona, Italy, on October 16 1890; her farmworker father moved his family to Ferrier di Conca, near Anzio. Her father died of malaria and her mother had to struggle to feed her children.

In 1902 an eighteen-year-old neighbor, Alexander, grabbed her from her steps and tried to rape her. When Maria said that she would rather died than submit, Alexander stabbed her with a farming instrument.

As she lay in the hospital, she forgave Alexander before she died. Her forgiveness would not end with her death, however.

Alexander was captured and sentenced to thirty years. He remained unrepentant until he had a dream that he was in a garden. Maria walked toward him, handed him fourteen lilies – one for each stab wound that he inflicted – and then promised that he would reach Heaven one day. When he woke, he was a changed man, repenting of his crime and living a reformed life. When he was released after 27 years he went directly to Maria’s mother to beg her forgiveness, which she gave. “If my daughter can forgive him, who am I to withold forgiveness,” she said.

When Maria was declared a saint in 1950, Alexander was there in the St. Peter’s crowd to celebrate her canonization. She was canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1950.

She is called a martyr because she fought against Alexander’s attempts at sexual assault. However, the most important aspect of her story is her forgiveness of her attacker — her concern for her enemy extending even beyond death.

St. Maria Goretti’s feast day is July 6. She is the patroness of youth and victims of rape.

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