By Mel Mantanona
St. Maria Goretti was at the sweet age of 11 when her 18-year-old neighbor, Alessandro, attempted to rape her. She was sitting on the steps outside her house sewing while the rest of her family were in the fields working. She stayed at home to cook, clean, and watch her youngest sister, Teresa.
When Alessandro grabbed her, she fought back and screamed at him, “No! It is a sin! God does not want it!” Maria warned him frantically that his actions would be a mortal sin and he would end up in hell. At this, Alessandro began to choke her. When Maria refused to submit, he pulled out a knife and stabbed her for a total of 14 times.
Maria was found later by her youngest sister and taken to the hospital when her family returned home. She underwent surgery without anesthesia, but the surgery wasn’t successful and she died about 24 hours later. On her deathbed, she worried for her mother and forgave Alessandro, hoping to see him in heaven one day.
Alessandro was caught and sentenced to 30 years in prison. He admitted to attempting to rape her on other occasions but remained unrepentant. It wasn’t until he had a dream one night that Maria handed him lilies that burned in his hand once he touched them. He felt the weight of his actions and became truly sorry. His life changed at that moment and upon his release from prison, he went straight to Maria’s mom to beg for forgiveness.
Maria was later beatified and canonized about half a century after her death. Her family members were present at her beatification, and Alessandro witnessed her canonization with tears of joy.
Her attacker became a lay brother for the Order of Friars Minor Capuchins. Maria remains today the patron saint of youth, young women, purity, and victims of rape. She is one of the youngest canonized saints. Her feast day is July 6.
Information and photo from Catholic.org and Giuseppe Brovelli-Soffredini