| By Elizabeth Johnson

St. Maria Forgave Her Attacker

Feast Day: July 6

Claim to fame: St. Maria Goretti is the patron saint of youth and young girls and also of rape victims and abused children.

Little Known Fact: Maria’s family was so poor that she was not able to attend school and learn to read and write. Because of this, her mother was certain that her daughter would not be able to make her first Communion, since she would be unable to learn the catechism. Maria, however, was on fire with desire to receive Jesus in holy Communion, so she arranged with a woman in the village to teach her orally, and she was able to answer all of the priest’s questions perfectly. After she made her Communion, she began to instruct her younger siblings in the faith.

What Made Her a Saint: Maria Goretti was not quite 12 years old when she was attacked by a 19-year-old neighbor, Alessandro Serenelli. When she refused his sexual demands, he stabbed her 14 times. As she lay dying in the hospital, she said she forgave Alessandro and wanted him to be with her in paradise. Six years after her death, Alessandro saw her in a vision, in which she gave him lilies that turned into white flames. As a result, he repented. When he got out of prison, he went to live at a monastery, where he served the monks for the rest of his days.

Best Quote: The best quote in the story of St. Maria Goretti comes not from her, but from her mother.  When Maria’s killer was released from prison after 27 years, he went to Maria’s mother to ask for her forgiveness. “If my daughter can forgive him, who am I to withhold forgiveness?” The two then attended Christmas Mass together and received Communion.

How She Died: Maria died of stab wounds three months shy of her 12th birthday.

Prayer: God our Father, source of innocence and lover of chastity, you gave St. Maria Goretti the privilege of offering her life in witness to Christ. As you gave her the crown of martyrdom, keep us faithful to your teaching. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.