Today is the feast day of Saint Maria Goretti. Ora pro nobis.
Mary (Maria, Marietta) Goretti was born in 1890 at Corinaldo, a village some thirty miles from Ancona, the daughter of a farm-labourer, Luigi Goretti, and his wife Assunta Carlini. Mary's mother consecrated her to the Blessed Virgin on the day of her baptism.
They had five other children, and in 1896 the family moved to Colle Gianturco, near Galiano, and later to Ferriere di Conca, not far from Nettuno in the Roman Campagna. Almost at once after setting down here, Luigi Goretti was stricken with malaria and died. His widow had to take up his work as best she could, but it was a hard struggle and every small coin and bit of food had to be looked at twice. Of all the children none was more cheerful and encouraging to her mother than Mary, commonly called Marietta.
On a hot afternoon in July 1902 Mary was sitting at the top of the stairs in the cottage. Living conditions for the little family of orphans were very difficult; they shared a kitchen with another family. This other one was motherless: the mother had died in an asylum, and the father was a drunkard. His son, 19 years old, began to pay much attention to Mary, and the little girl, who wished to remain pure for her beloved Jesus, begged her mother never to leave her alone.
Presently a cart stopped outside, and the neighbor, a young man named Alessandro, ran up the stairs. He beckoned Mary into an adjoining bedroom; but this sort of thing had happened before and she refused to go. Alessandro seized hold of her, pulled her in, and shut the door.
Mary struggled and tried to call for help, but she was being half-strangled and could only protest hoarsely, gasping that she would be killed rather than submit. Whereupon Alessandro began striking at her blindly with a long dagger. She sank to the floor, crying out that she was being killed: Alessandro plunged the dagger into her back, and ran away.
No one heard Mary's cries for help; it was only an hour or so later that a younger brother of Alessandro entered and found her bathed in her blood on the floor. Her love of purity had cost her fourteen grievous wounds, nine of which were very profound. She lived long enough to tell the priest who came to her in the hospital that she forgave her assassin and wanted him to be with her in Paradise. She received the Last Sacraments in peace and joy, dying on July 6, 1902.
The story did not end there. Alessandro was condemned to thirty years of prison. Gruff and totally impenitent, he was mistrusted by the guardians. But the bishop of the diocese, Monsignor Blandini, wanted to save his soul, and went to the prison, asking to talk with him. My son, he said, your bishop wants to greet you and comfort you. I didn't ask for your visit, and I don't need comfort or your sermons, was the reply. But when the prelate told Alessandro how, during her last minutes, Mary had forgiven him and wished to have him near her in heaven, the nonchalant young man was overcome. That is not possible! he exclaimed. Before the bishop left, Alessandro had fallen into his arms, weeping; and in the hours of solitude which followed, he began to pray.
Three years before the end of his term, for his good behavior he was set free, and in 1937, at the age of 55, he went to see the mother of the little victim. When he fell on his knees and begged her pardon, like her little daughter she gladly forgave him. They went to Communion in the little village church at Christmas; and there was no inhabitant who did not rejoice with a Christian joy in this new proof of the sanctity of Mary, to whom they all attributed his wondrous conversion. He later became a Franciscan brother.
Pope Pius XII beatified Mary in April 1947, and in June of 1950, she was inscribed among the Saints.
Image: Painting of Maria Goretti, circa 1929. (6)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff