Today, 6 Jul 2012, is the feast day of St Maria Goretti, a young Italian martyr who preferred death to any consent to sin. She witnesses to our age the power of forgiveness that is found in Jesus, being able to pardon the person who mortally attacked her and to wish for his eternal salvation. Because her intercession in heaven obtained his complete conversion we know that her innocent life was exceptionally pleasing to God.
Maria Teresa Goretti was born in October 1890 into a family of farmers at Corinaldo, a town close to the east coast of central Italy. In the hope of making ends meet, her father moved his family in 1896 to Le Ferriere around 60kms SE of Rome. Her father died of malaria in 1900, so the family already struggling with poverty found life harder than ever. At every opportunity Maria would pray for her deceased father. Through these prayers she came to rely upon the Rosary and to appreciate the saving power of Jesus upon the Cross and the horror of sin. Cheerfully and helpfully Maria assisted her mother in teaching the three younger ones their prayers and with many household chores.
At Le Ferriere, her father had worked as a share-cropper. When his health weakened he was forced to accept the help of Alessandro and his father and to add them to his household. They definitely did not make life easy for the family, especially after their bereavement. In May 1902, Maria received her first Holy Communion, something she had ardently longed for. In June, Alessandro a 19 year old began making sexual advances to Maria, which she steadfastly refused. On July 5, as he tried again, Maria struggled and gasped that she would rather die than submit to this sinfulness. Alessandro stabbed her in anger several times and then fled.
Maria was found and taken to the local hospital where she knew she was dying. Desperately the surgeons tried to save her life, but soon realised that she was beyond mortal help. She was able to receive Communion for the last time and to say that she forgave Alessandro for the love of Jesus and hoped that God would forgive him also. Holding a crucifix, Maria passed into her eternal reward on 6 July 1902.
Alessandro was sentenced to 30 years jail. In 1910 Alessandro began to change his life, after a dream in which Maria appeared and offered him some lilies. When released from prison, Alessandro went to beg Maria’s mother’s forgiveness. In the process of beatification, Alessandro testified that Maria’s appeals had been for the safety of his soul and that she had urged him not to commit such a grave sin.
For more detail about St Maria Goretti’s holy life, read Dom Antoine Marie OSB’s account at http://www.clairval.com/lettres/lettre_1.php?id=2120100
Several miracles have taken place after asking for her intercession. St Maria Goretti is the patron of teenage girls and of the Children of Mary. Pope Pius XII said at her canonisation in 1950 ‘May the holy virgin and martyr pray to the Redeemer that each of us may joyfully follow her.’
Novena to Saint Maria Goretti
St Maria Goretti, strengthened by God’s grace, you did not hesitate, even at the age of eleven, to shed your blood and to sacrifice life itself to defend your virginal purity. Deign to look graciously on the unhappy human race, which has strayed far from the path of eternal salvation. Teach us all, and especially youth, with what courage and promptitude we should flee anything that could offend Jesus. Obtain for me from God a great horror of sin, so that, keeping my soul undefiled, I may live a holy life on earth and win eternal glory in heaven. Dear St Maria Goretti, I place this special prayer of my heart into your keeping ………………………., asking that you may obtain for me a happy outcome from God our Father. Amen.
St Maria Goretti, pray for us.
Our Father, Who art in heaven hallowed be Your Name; Your kingdom come; Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Amen. (3 times)