Maria Goretti was born on October 16, 1890 in Corinaldo, Italy, to Luigi Goretti and Assunta Carlini. The Gorettis were a poor family who worked as sharecroppers in the Pontine marshes. Along with their six children, they lived with Luigi’s partner Signor Serenelli and his teen aged son Allesandro, whose mother had died.
Maria’s father died when she was just nine, so she assumed many of the household responsibilities while her mother worked in the fields. She cared for her siblings and the Serenellis, all in perfect charity. Her cheerful nature was well-known in Pontine, where most children her age would play in the dusty streets. Though unable to read and write, Maria knew and loved Jesus and Mary, and one of the most important events of her life was her First Holy Communion, for which she diligently prepared.
Because Allesandro had worked with sailors on the waterfront of Ancona, he was very worldly. His worldly outlook led to many inappropriate comments to Maria, as well as a sinful desire to be with her physically, though she was only eleven years old. On July 5, 1902, Maria was alone at the house. Allesandro propositioned her once more, and Maria bravely told him, “No! It is a sin! God does not want it!” and pleaded, for his salvation, that he would let her go. In his rage, Allesandro instead stabbed Maria 14 times. She lived for 20 hours in great pain, forgiving her attacker before she breathed her last.
Allesandro was sentenced to 30 years in prison. During his prison sentence, he fully repented of the crime after seeing a vision of Maria surrounded by lilies and forgiving him.
Allesandro and Maria’s mother, Assunta, were together almost fifty years later on June 24, 1950, when Pope Pius XII pronounced Maria Goretti a Saint and Martyr of the Universal Church to half a million people at St. Peter’s in Rome. He proposed her as the Patroness of Modern Youth and set July 6th as her feast Day, making her the youngest officially canonized Roman Catholic saint.
When Allesandro was released from prison, he went to live in the Capuchin convent of Macerata. He left the following testimony , dated May 5, 1961, which bears witness to the importance of avoiding pornography and the negative impact of much of the media, so prevalent in our times:
I’m nearly 80 years old. I’m about to depart.
Looking back at my past, I can see that in my early youth, I chose a bad path which led me to ruin myself.
My behavior was influenced by print, mass-media and bad examples which are followed by the majority of young people without even thinking. And I did the same. I was not worried.
There were a lot of generous and devoted people who surrounded me, but I paid no attention to them because a violent force blinded me and pushed me toward a wrong way of life.
When I was 20 years-old, I committed a crime of passion. Now, that memory represents something horrible for me. Maria Goretti, now a Saint, was my good Angel, sent to me through Providence to guide and save me. I still have impressed upon my heart her words of rebuke and of pardon. She prayed for me, she interceded for her murderer. Thirty years of prison followed.
If I had been of age, I would have spent all my life in prison. I accepted to be condemned because it was my own fault.
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, Assunta.
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