St. Maria Goretti (1890-1902) was only 12 years old when she was brutally murdered by an attempted rapist. She was the daughter of a poor Italian farmer, and she spent most of her time caring for her youngest sister while her parents and other siblings worked in the fields. Her murderer, Alessandro Serenelli, was a neighbor who had repeatedly harassed and threatened Maria, though she did not tell her parents out of fear. Maria resisted his attack, saying “God does not want it!” While she was dying of her wounds in the hospital, Maria expressed forgiveness for Alessandro and hope that she would see him in heaven. Years after Maria’s death, Alessandro had a dream in which Maria appeared to him, and he sought out her mother’s forgiveness, which she granted him, even attending Mass with him the next day. When Maria was canonized in 1950, Alessandro was there at St. Peter’s Basilica. Her feast day is July 6.
“If my daughter can forgive him, who am I to withhold forgiveness?” — Assunta Goretti, Maria’s mother
Questions for Reflection
Maria Goretti’s story is very hard to hear; no one wants to think about a young person being the victim of such violence. Yet violence against children happens every day, all over the world, and even in our own communities. How are we called to respond? When have you experienced violence in your own life? How have you experienced forgiveness?