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  Picture Of Crucifix  

The 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 her confidence. 

       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.

By Fr. John M. Martin, M.M.



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