Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Saint of the Day St. Maria Goretti

Maria Goretti was born on October 16, 1890 in Corinaldo, Italy, the daughter of poor sharecroppers Luigi Goretti and Assunta Carlini. Six years after Maria's birth Mr. Goretti moved his family from Corinaldo to Ferriere di Conca in search of work. The Gorettis moved in with the Serenelli family on their farm. Soon after the move Maria's father succumbed to malaria, leaving his wife, Assunta, to care for their six children. In the wake of this loss Maria "developed great strength and maturity," in addition to growing in grace and holiness. It was noted that Maria forsook playing in the dusty streets with the other children in order to cheerfully perform mundane household chores.

The highlight of Maria's short life was her first Holy Communion on June 16, 1901 in the Church of Conca. Her careful preparations displayed an eager anticipation to receive the sacraments.

Maria had long been sexually harassed by the twenty year old Alessandro Serenelli, the son of the couple with whom the Goretti's shared a house. Alessandro later wrote that "Looking back on my past, I can see that in my early youth, I chose a bad path which led me to ruin myself. My behavior was influenced by print, mass-media and bad examples which are followed by the majority of young people without even thinking. And I did the same. I was not worried. There were a lot of generous and devoted people who surrounded me, but I paid no attention to them because a violent force blinded me and pushed me toward a wrong way of life." On July 5, 1902 Alessandro attemted to rape the twelve year old Maria. The young girl fought her attacker, shouting "No! It is a sin! God does not want it!" When unable to subdue the young girl, Alessandro stabbed her fourteen times. Maria suffered for twenty hours while doctors struggled to save her life. All the while she prayed for Alessandro. She received the Anointing of the Sick a little over one year after her first Communion. Maria passed away the day after the attack while holding a crucifix and a medal of Our Lady.
Alessandro Serenelli was sentenced to thirty years hard labor - a short sentence because he was a minor. By his sixth year in prison Alessandro was on the brink of despair. As he lay in his cell one night he had a vision of Maria gathering lilies - the flower symbolic of purity. She smiled and encouraged him to take some of the flowers. As he took them, each flower transformer into a still white flame, after which Maria disappeared.

This apparition led to Alessandro's conversion. When his prison sentence was finished Alessandro retired to a Capuchin Franciscan monastery where he worked in the garden. He asked, and received, forgiveness of Maria's mother whom he accompanied to Christmas Mass at the parish Church where he also asked forgiveness of God and the community. He later testified at Maria's cause for beatification and accompanied her mother to Maria's canonization by Pope Pius XII on June 24, 1950. This was the first time a parent had witnessed her child's canonization.

Alessandro passed away on May 6, 1970 in the Capuschin Convent of Macerata, after writing his short testimony.

Maria is the patron saint: against poverty; against the death of parents; of the diocese of Albano, Italy; of children; of Children of Mary; of girls; of martyrs; of poor people; of rape victims; and of young people.

Official Prayer to St. Maria Goretti
Oh Saint Maria Goretti who, strengthened by God's grace, did not hesitate even at the age of twelve to shed your blood and sacrifice life itself to defend your virginal purity, 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 for the love of Jesus anything that could offend Him or stain our souls with sin. Obtain for us from our Lord victory in temptation, comfort in the sorrows of life, and the grace which we earnestly beg of thee (here insert intention), and may we one day enjoy with thee the imperishable glory of Heaven. Amen.
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father, etc.St. Maria Goretti, pray for us!

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