Most of us know the story of Maria Goretti, and the martyrdom that led to her canonization. Hers is truly a story of Love and Mercy, and she is the Patroness of Chasity, Purity, and Youths.
In 1902, an eighteen-year-old neighbor, Alexander, grabbed her from her steps and tried to rape her. When Maria said that she would rather died than submit, Alexander began stabbing her with a knife.
As she lay in the hospital, she forgave Alexander before she died. Her death didn't end her forgivness, however.
Alexander was captured and sentenced to thirty years. He was unrepentant until he had a dream that he was in a garden. Maria was there and gave him flowers. When he woke, he was a changed man, repenting of his crime and living a reformed life. When he was released after 27 years he went directly to Maria's mother to beg her forgiveness, which she gave. “If my daughter can forgive him, who am I to withold forgiveness,” she said.
When Maria was declared a saint in 1950, Alexander was there in the St. Peter's crowd to celebrate her canonization. She was canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1950 for her purity as model for youth.
We see here with the example of Saint Maria Goretti. What can we learn from her today? Taken from remarks by Blessed John Paul II:
- Her canonization showed Maria to the world as an model of courageous fidelity to the Christian vocation, even to the supreme sacrifice of life.
- St Maria Goretti is an example for the newer generations who are threatened by a non-commital attitude that finds it difficult to understand the importance of the values which admit of no compromise.
- Although she was poor and deprived of a school education, Maria, who was not yet 12 years old had a strong and mature personality, shaped by the religious instruction she had received in the family. This made her capable not only of defending herself with heroic chastity, but even of forgiving her murderer. Parents, living and teaching our faith is so important!
- Her martyrdom reminds us that the human being is not fulfilled by following the impulses of pleasure but by living life with love and responsibility. Maria Goretti calls us to be alert and vigilant “watchmen”, be the real champions of a new humanity.
As a martyr of purity, hopefully adolescents and young people will get to know her better.
Our Lady, whose name was given to Saint Maria Goretti, may the purest of human creatures help the men and women of our time, and especially young people, to rediscover the value of chastity and to live interpersonal relations in reciprocal respect and sincere love.