About Saint Maria Goretti
When St. Maria Goretti’s parents held their newborn child for the first time, they hardly could have imagined that eleven short years later she would die a martyr and a saint. Yet, while her fate was unknown to them, her parents did much to help prepare her for that fateful day. From her parents’ knees, St. Maria Goretti was taught piety and devotion. Her mother and father were poor in goods of the earth, but they were rich in faith, a faith which they generously shared with their children. Because of their faith and their love of God, the family was happy, even though the often suffered from want.
Hoping to rise from their desperate poverty, St. Maria Goretti’s family moved to the Pontines Marshes. Her parents worked as tenant farmers in the disease-infested swamp and soon, a swamp-born disease would claim the life of her father, Luigi. His wife, Assunta, was then left to provide entirely for the children, while St. Maria had to take on great responsibilities, helping care for the younger children. Her mother considered St. Maria to be a blessing and after the girl’s martyrdom, she could not remember an occasion where St. Maria willfully disobeyed her. She was cheerful and she was also known to be generous, sharing her meager food with her siblings. St. Maria Goretti was also deeply devoted to Our Lady and wore a rosary around her wrist, so she could pray often.
At age 11, St. Maria Goretti made her First Communion with great devotion. Just a month afterwards, she was called to receive the double crown of martyrdom and virginity. On July 5, 1902, the 16 year tenant worker Alessandro pulled a knife on St. Maria, intending to force her commit a sin against the virtue of purity. Instead, St. Maria Goretti cried out “No! No! No! It is a sin—you will go to Hell!” Angrily, Alessandro stabbed her fourteen times and left her for dead. Since everyone was out in the fields, no one heard Maria’s cries for help. She was finally discovered and rushed to the hospital, but little could be done.
Despite her sufferings, she never opened her mouth to complain. After caring for her wounds, Dr. Bartoli told the incoming priest, “Father you have little to do. We are leaving a dying girl but you are finding an angel.” Before she died, she was asked if she forgave her murderer and she replied as only a saint could, “Yes, I too, for the love of Jesus forgive him… and I want him to be with me in Paradise… May God forgive him, because I have already forgiven him.”
Although St. Maria Goretti died praying for her murderer, it would be years later before he repented. After several years in prison, St. Maria Goretti appeared to Alessandro one night in a dream: she was standing in a field of flowers and holding white lilies out to him. Alessandro finally repented and St. Maria Goretti’s dying prayer had been heard. Imitating the heroic forgiveness of her daughter, Assunta also heroically forgave Alessandro; on Christmas Eve in 1937, the mother of St. Maria Goretti and the murderer of St. Maria Goretti attended Christmas together at the saint’s shrine.
More About Saint Maria Goretti
One of the youngest canonized saints, St. Maria Goretti was only 11 years old at the time of her death. Martyred for her desire to preserve her purity, St. Maria Goretti is an extraordinary example for young women, particularly in an age in which chastity and modesty is challenged and even mocked. As the patron saint of teenage girls and modern youth, St. Maria Goretti is an example of what it means to give oneself completely to Jesus, without fearing what the world may say or do.
Born on October 16, 1890 to an Italian farming family and given the name Maria Teresa Goretti, St. Maria Goretti was the third of seven children. Her parents, Luigi and Assunta, struggled with poverty, and when St. Maria Goretti was six years old, her family sold their farm and moved to work for another farming family. They took up residence in a home which they shared with another family, which included a man, Giovanni Serenelli, and his son, Alessandro.
When St. Maria Goretti was nine, her father became sick with malaria and died. Her mother, brothers, and sisters worked in the fields, doing what they could to provide for the family financially. St. Maria Goretti took care of the home, cooking, cleaning, sewing, and tending to her infant sister. Though the family worked very hard, they were also quite close and devoted to God.
On July 5, 1902, St. Maria Goretti was sitting outside on the stairs of her home, tending to her baby sister and sewing one of Alessandro’s shirts. Her family, along with Alessandro, were out tending the fields. Alessandro returned back to the house, knowing she was alone, and ordered her to do as he said. He threatened her, saying if she did not, he would kill her. As Alessandro attempted to rape her, St. Maria Goretti told him not to, that it was a mortal sin and he would go to hell. She fought against him, but Alessandro was a 19 year old farmhand, and was much stronger than she. She screamed to him that it was a sin, and that God did not want it, but Alessandro refused to listen. He began to choke St. Maria Goretti, and when she said she would rather die than submit to him, he stabbed her eleven times in the throat and chest (damaging her heart and lungs). St. Maria Goretti, badly wounded, attempted to reach for the door, but Alessandro stabbed her three more times before she could.
St. Maria Goretti’s baby sister, Teresa, had been sleeping; however, with all of St. Maria Goretti’s screaming, the baby woke up and began crying. When no one quieted her, St. Maria Goretti’s mother and Alessandro’s father came in from the fields to investigate. They found St. Maria Goretti bleeding and rushed her to the nearest hospital, where she underwent surgery without anesthesia. The doctors attempted to save her; however, it could not be done. During the surgery, St. Maria Goretti woke up and told the doctors to leave her that way, allowing for God’s will to be done. She died in the hospital 24 hours later, after having expressed forgiveness for her murderer. At the time of her death she was staring at a picture of the Virgin Mary and holding a crucifix to her heart.
Alessandro was arrested shortly after the attack took place. In a deposition to the police, St. Maria Goretti’s mother revealed that Alessandro had sexually harassed Maria, even attempting to rape her twice before, but that she had not told because he had threatened death. Alessandro was to be sentenced to life in prison; however, since he was a minor in the eyes of the law, his sentence was commuted to 30 years imprisonment. Alessandro admitted to attempting to rape St. Maria Goretti several times before, and that he had decided to kill her because she would not comply. He remained unrepentant and uncommunicative for three years. At that time, he was visited by the local bishop. After this visit, Alessandro wrote a note to the bishop, thanking him for his prayers and telling him of a dream he’d had, in which he saw Maria giving him lilies which immediately burned up in his hands.
When Alessandro was released from prison, he visited St. Maria Goretti’s mother, who was still living. He begged her for her forgiveness. St. Maria Goretti’s mother, Assunta, told him that she did forgive him – that if her daughter was able to forgive him from her deathbed, how was she to do any less? Assunta and Alessandro went to Mass together the following day, receiving Holy Communion side by side. It is said that Alessandro prayed to St. Maria Goretti every day, calling her “my little saint.” Later in his life, he joined the Capuchin Franciscans as a laybrother, working as a receptionist and gardener. He died in 1970, at age 87.
St. Maria Goretti was canonized in 1950. Present at her canonization were her mother and four remaining siblings. Assunta was the first mother to attend the canonization of her child in church history. Also present that day was Alessandro. St. Maria Goretti’s body is kept at the Basilica of Nostra Signora delle Grazie e Santa Maria Goretti in a city south of Rome. Her remains are kept inside of a statue that lies beneath the altar, which some have believed to be her actual body, leading to the thought that her body lies incorrupt (however, this is not the case). The feast day of St. Maria Goretti is July 6, which is the day she entered into eternal life in heaven.
Patronage of St. Maria Goretti
St. Maria Goretti is the patron saint of chastity, sexual abuse/assault and rape victims, young women, purity, and of forgiveness. Because of St. Maria Goretti’s dedication to her own purity (as well as that of Alessandro), her patronage is sought by those who share this dedication – as well as those who struggle with temptations toward acts against chastity. In addition, St. Maria Goretti is considered a patron of forgiveness, since she was able to forgive the man who murdered her even as she lie on her deathbed. In situations where forgiveness seems impossible, the example of St. Maria Goretti serves as a reminder that with God, this is certainly possible.
St. Maria Goretti in Art
Depictions of St. Maria Goretti in art show her as a wavy-haired young girl dressed in either the simple clothing of a farmgirl, or wearing a white dress (which signifies her purity). Also symbolizing her purity, St. Maria Goretti usually holds in her hands a bouquet of white lilies and a palm branch.
Prayers of St. Maria Goretti
Prayer to St. Maria Goretti
Oh Saint Maria Goretti who, strengthened by God’s grace, did not hesitate even at the age of twelve to shed your blood and sacrifice life itself to defend your virginal purity, 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 (here insert intention), and may we one day enjoy with thee the imperishable glory of Heaven. Amen.
Prayer for the Young Attending a Dance or Party
Dear Saint Maria Goretti, The world teaches that we must please others in order to be popular. Conscience demands that I please God more than one who asks an evil thing in the name of false love. Teach me by your example to instill into others a real respect for modesty and purity. Through your powerful intercession, help me to make of this evening an occasion for helping others to become spiritually stronger. Grant that others may see in me reason to change their ways, if that be necessary, and that I may have the courage to resist any temptation to sinful conduct. Let others be led closer to Jesus and Mary by my example.
Oh Little Saint who wanted to be popular only with your Divine Master and His Blessed Mother, help me to imitate you. Amen.
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father, etc.
St. Maria Goretti, pray for us!
St. Maria Goretti Prayer
St. Maria Goretti,
Help me to live a life of holiness as you did…
To serve others in all that I do,
To seek purity,
To forgive always,
And to want for nothing more than to be with Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Prayer to St. Maria Goretti
Charming Saint Maria, and true child of Mary the Mother of Jesus, you were so young but already so strong in resisting a cruel temptor and preferring to die a martyr.
How greatly we need today—when chastity is often discarded—
more models and intercessors like you!
Multiply faithful Children of Mary for her glory and that of her Son.