Saint Maria Goretti
Feast Day 6 July, Patroness of Modern Youth
by M.G., a high school student in Northern Virginia

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St. Maria Goretti is a reminder to us that young people can do good things for Jesus.  She was born in a poor farm family near Ancona, Italy in 1890, the oldest daughter of a peasant laborer.  The conditions of the family grew much worse when Maria's father died of malaria.  They were forced to move around a lot and finally settled down in Nettuna, a marshy area, as tenant farmers.  Her mother had to do field work but she watched over Maria who grew into a very happy but religious girl.

The family worked on the farm of a Count.  A fellow worker Giovanni Serenelli kept most of the profits from the farming, leaving the Goretti family quite poor and frequently hungry.  When Maria was given a treat from a neighbor or kind merchant, she would take it home to share with her brothers and sisters. 

Maria had to go frequently into a nearby village to sell produce and to buy supplies for her family.  While there she would visit the shrine of Our Lady of Graces.  Every night Maria would recite five Mysteries of the Rosary for the repose of her father's soul.  She helped her mother on the farm, in the house, and with the care of the other children.  She never complained because they were so poor.  In fact, she cheered up her poor mother and was a great comfort to her.  She went to Mass regularly even though it meant a two hour walk.  Maria also received the sacrament of Reconciliation as often as she could.

Alexander, the 18 year old son of Giovanni Serenelli began to order 11 year old Maria around to perform various difficult chores for him.  He was seldom happy with her work and often reduced her to tears over it.  About this time, Alexander also began making advances toward Maria.  She refused to have anything to do with him and said nothing to her mother about this for fear of causing trouble.

On July 5, 1902, Maria was mending one of Alexander's shirts while caring for her little sister Teresa.  Suddenly, Alexander came into their cottage and motioned Maria into a bedroom.  She refused saying, "No, no!  It is a mortal sin.  God doesn't want it.  If you commit it, you will go to Hell."  She struggled as much as she could.  Alexander panicked.  He stabbed her fourteen times in her heart, lungs, and intestines, and then fled to his bedroom, where he pretended to sleep.

When little Teresa awoke and began to cry, the family discovered Maria lying on the floor.  She survived for twenty hours in the hospital enduring surgery.  When asked if she forgave her murderer she replied, "Yes, for the love of Jesus I forgive him... and I want him to be with me in Paradise."  She died on July 6, 1902.

Alexander was convicted and sentenced to thirty years in prison.  During his eighth year of imprisonment, Maria appeared to him.  He saw her in a garden as a young girl, dressed in white, gathering lilies.  She smiled, came near him, and encouraged him to accept an armful of the lilies.  As he accepted them, each lily became transformed into a small white flame, then Maria disappeared.

This vision converted Alexander.  When he was released from prison after serving twenty-seven years, he asked Maria's mother for her forgiveness which she gave him and on Christmas Day he received Holy Communion with Maria's mother.  He then found a job as a gardener in a Capuchin monastery.  He worked there for the rest of his life.

Alexander testified to Maria's sanctity during her Cause of Beautification.  Almost fifty years after her murder  on June 24, 1950, Pope Pius XII, stood on the steps of St. Peter's in Rome and pronounced Maria Goretti a saint and martyr of the Universal Church.  Her mother attended, making her the first mother ever to see her child canonized.  The pope pronounced her as the Patroness of Modern Youth and set July 6th as her feast day.

St. Maria Goretti gives us the example of self sacrificing service to the family, heroic witness to the virtue of chastity and heroic witness to forgiveness of persecutors.  She had led a very ordinary life.  But in her simplicity, her great faith and love for God she was truly extraordinary.

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