The Story of St. Maria Goretti
It was a hot, humid day in early July. After the meal everyone but Maria went back to their threshing. Maria sat sewing. She was only eleven years old but her father, Luigi Goretti, had died and her mother and brothers had to work in the fields, so the little girl was in charge of the household duties. They lived near Anzio, Italy, in a house they shared with Giovanni Serenelli, a widower, and his son, Alessandro, nineteen. This day Giovanni sat down to rest, saying he was sick, at the bottom of the stairs leading up to where they lived. On the landing at the top of the stairs Maria's little sister, Teresa, and a neighbor's baby girl were asleep on a blanket.
Alessandro was taken with Maria's beauty and had for some time tried to seduce her. He spoke obscenely to her, made lewd suggestions and threatened to kill Maria and her mother if she told anyone.
Now Alessandro, in an ox-cart in the field going among the stacks of beans, suddenly gave the reins to another and said he had to go back to the house to get something.
Alessandro jumped down from the cart. He spoke to his father dozing at the foot of the stairs and went up into the house. He said nothing to Maria and went to his room. He came out and called to her but she did not answer, going on with her sewing. This infuriated the hot-passioned youth and he grabbed the girl and dragged her into the kitchen and kicked the door shut. She fought him when he told her his intention. She cried, "No. It's a sin. God does not want it. You'll go to hell!"
Alessandro grew even more angry at her resistance, raised a knife and threatened her. She said, "No, no!" In a craze he struck her again and again with the knife. She shouted for help but the closed door was heavy and the noise of the threshing was loud. No one heard her. She fell to the floor, then dragged herself to the door. She opened it as Alessandro ran for his room. She screamed and this made him turn back. In a frenzy, he stabbed the girl six more times. Dropping the knife he rushed to his room and locked the door.
Alessandro's father, asleep, did not hear Maria's shriek, but he woke up to the loud crying of the babies. He jumped up, found Maria in a pool of blood, and yelled wildly to the threshers.
Maria's body was horribly mangled. It was a miracle that she was still alive. She could hardly breathe. Her mother fainted. They asked who did this terrible thing; she whispered, "It was Alessandro. He tried to make me do something that was a sin. But he couldn't make me do it. He couldn't. I wouldn't let him." She was taken to the hospital in a nearby town.
The police came to get the defiant Alessandro. A crowd of angry farmers surrounded the house. The police sent for more guards to take him away. The mob wanted to lynch him on the spot.
The doctors were astonished that the girl was still alive. Her pain-racked body was covered with blood. They said it was hopeless. They called for the priest. Someone said, "She is an angel."
Maria was burning with fever and suffering but she said, "I'm all right." Her mother, in tears, gave her the crucifix to kiss and that comforted her. The chaplain enrolled her in the Children of Mary and the blessed medal was hung around her neck on a green ribbon. She kissed the medal often. She forgave Alessandro, as she fervently received Holy communion for the last time. She said, "It is Jesus, whom I shall soon seen in heaven."
The pain grew worse. When her dear mother asked her to pray for all of them, she could no longer speak but her eyes said that she would gladly do so. And then Maria Goretti died. At the funeral, praying for her, almost all asked her to pray for them.
This young girl, beautiful in body and beautiful in soul, was canonized by Pope Pius XII on June 24, 1950. Her mother was present. Her feastday is July 6.
The Holy Father, speaking of Maria, saw her as "the perfect fruit of the kind of Catholic home where the family prays." This, he said, was the perfect "old way of education" which cannot be replaced. He said that this little unlearned farm girl, "a humble daughter of the people has been supremely exalted." He stressed the wholeness of her life. She, above all, stands for purity, but also for love of the spiritual over the material, docility to parents, harsh daily labor and sacrifice in poverty, and a great love of Jesus in the Eucharist and devotion to his holy Mother.
Since her death, Maria has been the instrument of numerous cures and miracles, including the conversion of her murderer.
The Holy Father observed during her canonization that Maria longed "to ascend to heaven by the only road that leads there, which is religion, the love of Christ and the heroic observance of his commandments."
Maria Goretti is an excellent model and intercessor for today's Catholic youth, confronted by a sea of immorality poured out on the world by the modern media. She offers children and young people a refuge, protection, a serene spirit and the deep joy of the pure of heart.