life and legacy of St. Maria Goretti In this day of widespread
impurity among youngsters, it is good to know that an eleven-year-old
girl fought against a sexual attack by a youth who planned
carefully to seduce her. When she refused his advances, he
flew into a rage and fatally attacked her with a knife. Her
name is Maria Goretti, martyred in this twentieth century
because she refused to commit an act of impurity with a young
man named Alexander.
It happened one day that he became furious over her refusal
as she fled from the field where his first attempt took
place. Later that day she went to lunch with her family
but her attacker slipped away to hide for several hours.
For a whole week there was no trouble, but then as she made
the beds with none of the family in the house, he had entered
quietly from behind and grabbed her. She fought him off
and finally he quit saying, "If you tell your mother, I'll
kill you both!" He left the room and she locked the door
behind him and stayed there until her mother returned and
scolded her for not preparing the meal while Alexander laughed
at her discomfort. Since he had threatened to kill not only
her, but also her mother, she told no one. But Alexander
did not give up. He followed her constantly, waiting and
watching like the proverbial cat and mouse. His threat rang
in her ears, constantly chilling her, and yet prayer gave
God would not forsake her! A few days later, Alexander called
out, "Maria, I have a torn shirt that needs mending. I shall
need it to go to mass tomorrow; I'm leaving it on my bed."
Although she felt like refusing, , she consented to be of
service. Alexander went out to harness the team of oxen.
He asked Maria's mother, Assunta, to take his place. "I
forgot my handkerchief," he explained. "I'll be right back."
Meanwhile, Maria was seated on the second floor landing
watching her baby sister, Teresa, and mending Alexander's
shirt. He brushed past her. Once inside the kitchen he called
out in a harsh voice, "Maria, come in here!" She refused.
He grabbed her and pulled her inside, threatening her with
a knife. She pulled herself free screaming for help, but
the sounds of the threshing drowned it out. She hid behind
the table for protection. He knocked it aside and trapped
her. "Are you going to give in, or must I kill you?" he
yelled. She struggled to get away, twisting, screaming and
biting, repeating again and again, "No, I will not!" "Why
not?", he argued. "It is a sin, Alexander. You will go to
hell if you do it." The brute in him took over and he said
later that something inside of him had snapped and in a
mad rage, he plunged the knife into her breast, abdomen,
and various parts of her body.
Thinking she was dead, he flung the bloody knife across
the room and angrily went into his room and locked the door.
When he failed to return, the mother became worried and
sent Mariano to see what had happened. The young brother
found Maria on the kitchen floor, her clothing soaked in
blood. He ran and yelled for the mother. Assunta entered.
A loud cry broke the stillness of the air. In tears, the
mother, assisted by another woman, quickly tried to bind
up her wounds to stop the bleeding. "Who did this, to you?"
the mother asked. "Alexander", Maria whispered. "But why?"
her mother sobbed. "Because he wanted me to sin and I would
not," she said softly. The medical report read as follows:
"there were: two wounds on the inside of the right arm;
wounds on the right side of the thorax; six wounds on the
back; one along the vertebral column; three wounds on the
left between the lines of the scapular and the para-vertebral;
another wound below these; small wound to the side; vast
wound in a straight line on the abdomen; contusion on the
right elbow; small bruise on right knee; two small bruises
on middle quarter of front surface of right leg; four of
these wounds injured the right auricle and left lung; five
penetrated the abdominal cavity."
There were 14 knife wounds and many bruises because of her
fight to stay pure. Since the wounds were treated without
anaesthetic, Maria was in extreme pain. Maria uttered no
sound during the two hours. Finally, she lost consciousness
in the morning she awoke and the chaplain reminded her of
how Jesus had pardoned his murderers and Maria said, "I
too pardon Alexander and wish that some day he join me in
heaven." The priest brought Holy Communion. Her eyes were
filled with tears of joy. The next morning the police came
to draw up formal charges against Alexander. Maria answered
questions briefly and patiently. When alone with her mother,
she told Assunta that Alexander tried other times to seduce
her and threatened to kill her and her mother if she told.
The Sacrament of the Sick was administered and for three
hours she battled with an invisible enemy shouting: "Alexander,
let me go! No, no you will go to hell! Mama, Help!" Meanwhile
there was much excitement outside.
Domenico, a farmer, hitched up his cart and went to get
a doctor. The news spread quickly. An angry mob gathered
in front of the house. Meanwhile Count Mazzolini had called
the police. The bloody knife was found. "Alexander!", "Where
is he?," they shouted. They found his door locked and began
to break it down. At that moment the police arrived on horses.
They quickly took charge of the situation and handcuffed
the dazed young man. Finally, the doctor arrived and all
were required to leave the room. A horse drawn ambulance
had been called and arrived after four hours. Maria was
growing weaker from loss of blood. Her mother climbed in
the ambulance with her as her brothers and sisters kissed
her goodbye. In a cloud of dust, the ambulance passed the
killer, as he walked between two mounted police tied to
each saddle. He was perspiring and covered with dust.
News spread like wild-fire. A quiet crowd met Maria when
the ambulance arrived at the first aid center in the small
town of Orsenego. An angry mob gathered in Nettuno as Alexander
arrived at the prison. Back at the hospital the chaplain
heard Maria's confession. About three o'clock that afternoon,
a long gasp seemed to tear out her lungs; the light in her
eyes went out as she breathed her last. It was July 6, 1902,
the Feast of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus. Meanwhile,
Alexander imprisoned in Nettuno, was transferred to Regina
Coeli prison in Rome before standing trial. After denying
his guilt, he then gave false testimony. Because of this
he escaped the death sentence and was sentenced to thirty
years at hard labor. Later, a priest cam to see him. He
turned on the cleric in a rage. "Soon, Alexander, you will
want me," the priest said. "Maria will see to that." "Never",
the prisoner screamed, "I'll never want you, never!". In
the years which followed, he was known as a hardened criminal
with no regrets for the terrible murder he had committed.
One night in the year 1910, Alexander was asleep. Suddenly,
he heard soft music and detected a wonderful aroma of flowers.
A bright light shone in his eyes. "Maria," he cried, in
a frightened voice. Standing before him was a beautiful
young girl. She handed him flowers. They burned his hands.
He yelled in pain. She vanished.
He realized later that the burning sensation of the flowers
was a sign to him that the prayers of Maria would enable
him to accept the Divine Mercy of Jesus, and to reject sin
and its consequences of punishment in the everlasting fires
of hell. "I saw her" he cried. "Bring the priest!" The jailers
laughed at him. "If you have anything to say then write
to the priest", they answered callously. Alexander wrote
a complete confession asking God's pardon. After serving
his sentence, he asked pardon of Maria's mother and accompanied
her to the Christmas mass. There in the parish church, he
spoke before the hushed congregation; he acknowledged his
sin and asked God's forgiveness and pardon of the people.
Later, he took up residence at a Capuchin monastery working
in the garden as a third order Franciscan, called a tertiary.
Forty years later on June 24, 1950, according to certain
reports, the murderer and the mother attended canonization
of Maria Goretti.
The highest honors of the Church were bestowed on her by
Pope Pius XII in the great piazza outside of St. Peter's
basilica in Rome. Today her remains are encased in a beautiful
wax image in the crypt of the Basilica of Our Lady of Grace
in Nettuno. St. maria Goretti, patroness of youth is still
helping, not only the young, but people of all ages and
from all countries throughout the world. Her life and legacy
lives on. Love's bravest choice is simply this: Choose God
over sin and eternal joy over eternal damnation. Choose
life! Choose to be a saint.