Thursday, June 20, 2013

Saint Maria Goretti

Patron saint of youth, young girls, purity, forgiveness, crime victims

Born: October 6th, 1890    ~    Died: July 6th, 1902

Feast Day: July 6th
 Notable: Martyred at the age of eleven, Maria is the youngest canonized saint in the Roman Catholic Church.  Declared the Patroness of Modern Youth.  Her canonization nearly fifty years after her martyrdom was attended by her murderer, who had converted by that time.
Canonized By: Pope Pius XII on June 24th, 1950 in St Peter's Square before the half million people in attendance. 

Prayer to Saint Maria Goretti:
Heroic and angelic Saint Maria Goretti,
we kneel before you to honor
your persevering fortitude
and to beg your gracious aid.
Teach us a deep love for the precepts 
of our Holy Church;
help us to see in them
the very voice of our Father in heaven.
May we preserve without stain
our white baptismal robe of innocence.
May we who have lost this innocence
kneel humbly in Holy Penance;
and with the absolution of the priest,
may the torrent of Christ's precious Blood
flow into our souls
and give us new courage
to carry the burning light of God's love
through the dangerous highways
of this life
until Christ our King
shall call us to the courts of heaven. 

by, reprinted with permission
Edited by Northern Adams

The daughter of humble sharecroppers, Maria and her family moved to the little town of Ferriere, Italy in 1899 in search of work.  Desperately seeking to support his family, Luigi Goretti struck up a bargain with Signore Serenelli, who had a son named Alessandro.  The two families lived together in a building owned by Count Mazzolini.

Maria quickly matured in grace and holiness in the eyes of friends and other acquaintances.  After losing her father to malaria, she developed great strength and maturity.  Her charming modesty, cheerful obedience, and the serious but free acceptance of a hundred thankless home chores distinguished her from the other children, who would play in the dusty streets of Ferriere.  Perhaps the highlight of her life was her First Holy Communion, which she dutifully prepared for and awaited with great anticipation.  She truly seemed to be advancing "in wisdom and age and grace before God and men."

Lured by the passions of his day and nurturing the dark side of his soul with impious reading and thoughts, Alessandro Serenelli had been a thorn in lovely Maria's side.  He propositioned her on several occasions, and harassed her.

On July 5th, 1902, he would be denied no longer. She once again rebuffed his advances, shouting, "No!  It is a sin!  God does not want it!"  Alessandro lunged at Maria.

Doctors in Nettuno tried to save Maria's life, to no avail.  After twenty painful hours of suffering, during which she forgave and prayed for Alessandro, Maria entered Heaven fortified with the Last Sacraments.  Her last earthly gaze rested upon a picture of the Blessed Mother.  It was July 6th, 1902.

Almost fifty years later, on June 24th, 1950, Pope Pius XII stood on the steps of Saint Peter's in Rome and pronounced Maria Goretti a Saint and Martyr of the Universal Church to half a million people.  He proposed her as the Patroness of modern youth, and set July 6th as her feast day.  Her mother and her murderer attended the canonization ceremony together.  This was the triumph of the little girl who loved God and hated sin.  

Maria Goretti had led a very ordinary life, but in spite of her simplicity, her great faith and love for God made her truly extraordinary.  Many recorded miracles, both spiritual and physical, have been worked through Saint Maria Goretti's intercession.  Worldwide, there are many places of devotion to Saint Maria Goretti, such as the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Graces and Saint Maria Goretti in Nettuno, Italy.

Maria Goretti died a martyr before her twelfth birthday.  Young as she was, she made a choice--a choice based on her faith.  The Church holds up to the world the life, death, and faith of Maria Goretti.

For more information on Saint Maria Goretti, contact the website, or read up on the life of the saint in The Fifth Crimson Lily, by Tom Layton, just one of many books that have been written on the life of this saint.

Alessandro Serenelli

Maria Goretti's heroic story of love and forgiveness would not be complete without one of its first miraculous fruits: the conversion of Alessandro Serenelli, Maria's murderer.

An elderly Alessandro Serenelli praying before a 
picture of the young saint he martyred, Maria Goretti

Immediately after his brutal assault on young Maria Goretti, Alessandro was imprisoned temporarily in Nettuno and then transferred to Regina Coeli prison in Rometo to stand trial.  After vehemently denying his guilt, he finally broke down in the face of overwhelming testimony.  Since he was a minor, he was sentenced to only thirty years hard labor.

A priest came to see him soon afterward, and Alessandro turned on the cleric in rage, howling like a maniac and lunging at him.

In the days which followed, Alessandro lost his appetite and grew nervous.  After six years of prison, he was near the brink of despair.  Then, one night, Maria appeared to him in his cell.  She smiled at him and was surrounded by lilies--the flower of purity.

From that moment, peace invaded Alessandro's heart, and he began to live a constructive life.  After serving his sentence, Alessandro took up residence at a Capuchin monastery, working in the garden as a tertiary.  He asked pardon of Maria's mother and accompanied her 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.

Forty years later, on June 24th, 1950, Maria was canonized at Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome, with Alessandro's heart now firmly converted to the Lord.  A miraculous fruite of Maria's life, indeed!

Alessandro Serenelli died on May 6th, 1970, in the Capuchin convent of Macerata.  He left the following testimony, dated May 5th, 1961, as his spiritual legacy:

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 twenty 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 twenty seven 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 twenty four 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. 

I hope this letter that I wrote can teach others the happy lesson of avoiding evil and of always following the right path, like little children.  I feel that religion, with its precepts, is not something we can live without, but rather it is the real comfort, the real strength in life, and the only safe way in every circumstance, even the most painful ones of life.

Signature, Alessandro Serenelli

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