In a world obsessed with sex and self gratification the church holds up Maria Goretti as an example of purity and holiness. Born Oct 16, 1890 into a family of poverty stricken sharecroppers, Maria matured quickly into a holy and graceful young lady.
The existing images of her show an elegant young girl with long flowing black hair. On July 5th 1902 a young neighbour, Alessandro Serenelli attacked and attempted to rape her. She refused and he stabbed her several times.
She was taken to hospital and before she died she said, "I forgive him for the love of Jesus, and I pray that he may come with me to paradise."
While in prison for his crime, Allessandro had a vision of Maria. He saw a garden where a young girl, dressed in white, gathered lilies. She smiled, came near him, and encouraged him to accept an armful of the lilies. As he took them, each lily transformed into a still white flame. Maria then disappeared. This vision of Maria led to Alessandro’s conversion, and he later testified at her cause for beatification.
A few days before his death at the age of 88, Alessandro Serenelli who at the age of 18 had tried to rape Maria Goretti, and who later acknowledged that his repentance was due to her heavenly intercession, was asked if he had any advice to give to the youth of his day (this was the year 1970). He wrote the following words which have not lost their immediacy:
"I sincerely ask pardon of God and of the entire world for the crime which I committed against the martyr, Maria Goretti, and against purity. With all my heart I plead with you to avoid all immoral literature and shows, and whatever else will lead you into sins of impurity."
Alessandro would often repeat besides the picture of his victim: "I killed a saint, and now after 69 years of penance and prayer, by God's mercy I am going to join her in Heaven."
It was in June 1950 that St. Maria Goretti was canonized by Pope Pius XII before the largest throng of people- over 200,000- ever to attend a canonization ceremony. It was also the first time in history that a mother (Assunta Goretti) was present for the canonization of her own daughter!