St. Maria Goretti, was born in Corinaldo, Italy, on October 16, 1890. Her parents were very poor farmers of the Pontine Marshes. Her mother taught Maria to love God very much and to hate sin above all things. Better death than sin, became her simple rule of life. The martyr of purity as she is known grew into a beautiful young girl, with shining chestnut hair, even features, and a glorious smile reflecting a rare simplicity for such a becoming girl, that of a soul with modesty and humility. She was genuinely loved by everyone.
Her martyrdom came by the violent act of a nineteen year old boy who coveted her, was enraged that she continued to spurn his lewd advances. One day he came with a knife, demanding her surrender, or else he would kill her.
With a prompt courage, and the heroism of faith far beyond her years, Maria refused, crying out: "It is a sin. God does not want it." Fourteen times the cruel knife pierced her virginal body. Death came the next day, July 6, 1902, the feast of the Most Precious Blood, surely no coincidence. She was barely twelve years old. This little Saint prayed pardon for her murderer: "I forgive him ... May God forgive him... I want him with God in Paradise like the repentant thief."
She was canonized by Pope Pius XII, June 24, 1950. Her murderer was in attendance. His name was Alessandro. He became despairing in prison and unrepentant until the Saint appeared to him in his cell. As a result he reformed his life. After serving his sentence, Alessandro took up residence at a Capuchin monastery, working in the garden as a tertiary. He died there in 1970. Before doing so he wrote this:
"Little Maria was really my light,
my protectress; with her help, I behaved well during the 27 years of
prison and tried to live honestly when I was again accepted among the
members of society. The Brothers of St. Francis, Capuchins from Marche,
welcomed me with angelic charity into their monastery as a brother, not
as a servant. I've been living with their community for 24 years, and
now I am serenely waiting to witness the vision of God, to hug my loved
ones again, and to be next to my Guardian Angel and her dear mother,
Maria's mother, Assunta, accompanied him to Christmas Mass in the parish church where he spoke before the hushed congregation, acknowledging his sin and asking God's forgiveness and the pardon of the community.
Prayer to Saint Maria Goretti
O Saint Maria Goretti who, strengthened by God's grace, did not hesitate, even at the age of twelve, to shed thy blood and sacrifice life itself to defend thy virginal purity, deign to look graciously on the unhappy human race which has strayed far from the path of eternal salvation. Teach us all, and especially youth, with 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 ... and may we one day enjoy with thee the imperishable glory of Heaven. Amen.